Feature: Meet 54 Below's Newest Board Members

Get to know some of the people shaping 54 Below's future

By: Apr. 03, 2024
Feature: Meet 54 Below's Newest Board Members
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Last year, 54 Below transitioned to non-profit status, a move that allowed it to continue supporting emerging artists amid the constantly changing entertainment landscape. They recently welcomed six new members to their distinguished board of directors. James Gunderson, Tom Hood, Howard Lee Morgan, Brian Kaltner, Lee H. Perlman and Susan L Raanan will join current members: Chairman of the Board Tom Viertel; President Steve Baruch; Managing Director Richard Frankel; Brenda Braxton, Actress, Entrepreneur; Robert L. Dilenschneider, President and CEO, The Dilenschneider Group, Inc.; Ken Greiner, Businessman, Board Chairman of The Vineyard Theater; Debby Landesman, Philanthropic Advisor; Stanley Richards, Deputy CEO, The Fortune Society, Inc.; and Lucille Werlinich, Chair of Purchase College Foundation.

We asked the new members a few questions to get to know more about the people who will be helping to shape 54 Below's future.

JAMES GUNDERSONFeature: Meet 54 Below's Newest Board Members

Mr. Gunderson was an in-house lawyer and executive for Schlumberger Limited in its New York and Paris offices, finishing his career there as Secretary, General Counsel and Head of Health, Safety, Environmental and Quality. After a second career as a corporate governance consultant, he focuses today on assisting education and arts-oriented nonprofits, as well as writers and artists interested in creating comic books.

If you had to pick, who are two or three of your favorite artists that you’ve seen at 54 Below so far?

For the artist who brings everything I look for in cabaret - incredible talent, presence and intelligence, I'll pick Patti LuPone. For sheer fun, I'm torn between the Skivvies (especially with Shannon Ford on the drums) and Joe Iconis.  For the artist I'm most interested in seeing again, that's Crystal Monee Hall.

What drew you to get involved in joining the board?

Cabaret is such a vital outlet for brilliant talent, launching so many of the greatest performing artists' careers, and allowing us to spend evenings with them even at the height of their success.  It's part of the heart and soul of the city that never sleeps. The chance to help support that at 54 Below?  How could I not?

Feature: Meet 54 Below's Newest Board Members TOM HOOD

Mr. Hood is a retired partner from the New York office of a major international law firm where he specialized in federal tax matters He is also involved philanthropically with other musical theater related New York organizations including, among others, City Center and the Entertainment Community Fund.

If you had to pick, who are two or three of your favorite artists that you’ve seen at 54 Below so far? Christine Ebersole, Kelli O'Hara, Melissa Errico 

What drew you to get involved in joining the board?

After frequent attendance at 54 Below shows,  I realized it was THE high quality successor to the great NYC cabaret spots of old; for example, the Algonquin Hotel.

Brian KaltnerFeature: Meet 54 Below's Newest Board Members

Mr. Kaltner is an engineer and inventor, as well as a avid theater goer and cabaret fan. He has been a 54 Below customer from the opening of 54 with Patti LuPone and is usually at the club more than once a week.

If you had to pick, who are two or three of your favorite artists that you’ve seen at 54 Below so far?

Three favorites: Unfair to limit it to three, but here,  1. Marilyn Maye (I could say 2 and 3 "greatest singer on the planet"  per Harry Connick, Jr. December 29,2019) 2. Leslie Uggams (part of our lives since childhood, hers and mine if anything, better at 80) 3. Grand Hotel Reunion (an exquisite display of the genius of Tommy Tune) and I’ll add one more: Patti LuPone's recent rehearsal performance.

What drew you to get involved in joining the board?

My long term and frequent visits to 54 (starting opening night with Patti LuPone to most recently Andrea McArdle). My fondness for staff  and management. The most important factor is the necessity of continuing the unique mission of 54 Below evidenced most recently by Grand Hotel (where else) and Leslie Uggams (in all ways our sweetheart) to April 10th's celebration of Marilyn Maye's 96th birthday, 54 is home to all this and superb presentations every night.  54 Below is the performing home of my dear Lee Roy Reams.

Feature: Meet 54 Below's Newest Board Members HOWARD Lee Morgan

Mr. Morgan is a venture capitalist, philanthropist, and strong supporter of musical theater and cabaret.

If you had to pick, who are two or three of your favorite artists that you’ve seen at 54 Below so far?

Christine Andreas, Marilyn Maye, Melissa Errico

What drew you to get involved in joining the board?

The American Songbook needs to be preserved and grown with the new Broadway musical theater.  New and younger audiences are key to  this love of musical theater continuing. Having been to 54 Below since it opened, I felt I could have more impact by contributing not only funds, but time to think through the way to do this. My wife and I had Morgan’s Cabaret in Philadelphia’s Prince Music Theater for 8 years and saw how much love audiences can give to cabaret performers who connect with the audience – so different than the giant rock concert world where it’s mostly about connecting with other attendees and being separated from the performers.

LEE H. PERLMANFeature: Meet 54 Below's Newest Board Members

Mr. Perlman is a lifelong New Yorker and has worked for the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) for 40 years serving in various roles, currently as President of GNYHA Management Corporation and GNYH Foundation, and Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative and Financial Officer of GNYHA. A dedicated volunteer and philanthropist, Mr. Perlman devotes significant energy to non-profits related to health care, education, and the arts. He serves on numerous Boards including Ronald McDonald House of New York, Musicians on Call, The Entertainment Community Fund, American Theatre Wing, Commonpoint Queens, UJA Federation of New York,  Berkshire Theater Group, and New York Convention Center Operating Corporation (Javits Center).

If you had to pick, who are two or three of your favorite artists that you’ve seen at 54 Below so far?

Brian Stokes Mitchell, Norbert Leo Butz, Married Couples Concert

What drew you to get involved in joining the board?

54 Below is going through an essential change to its business model and I thought my non-profit management experience could help. 

SUSAN L RAANAN

Susan L. RaananMs. Raanan is a native New Yorker and has served on several Boards focusing on issues of importance for New York City.  Most notably, she was the Chair of the MCC Theater Board from 2007 to 2022, leading the Board through MCC’s transition from rental theaters through the construction of their new two-stage multi-level home in Hell’s Kitchen, which opened in 2019.  Susan holds a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and is a Real Estate Broker in New York City.

What drew you to get involved in joining the board?

I’m delighted and honored to join the 54 Below Board and to support this unique and important venue.



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