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Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

To celebrate his book, Robert W. Schneider put on a show that could have gone on until morning.

54 Below had quite a week last week. On Tuesday, September 6th, the club known as Broadway's Living Room presented Charles Kirsch's Backstage Babble Live!, featuring Broadway luminaries like Sweeney Todd himself, Len Cariou, and Mrs. Potts, Beth Fowler, sharing stories about their lives, their work, and The Great White Way. Five days later, on September 11th, the supper club presented FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT, featuring royalty like André De Shields (The Wiz himself) and two of the original Cabaret's Sallys, Penny Fuller and Anita Gillette. This is the kind of programming that gets a club a Tony Award for excellence, and it's the kind of programming that gets one a nickname like Broadway's Living Room. Every club and cabaret around the city has a brand, has a style, has a niche. The mainstay at Birdland is jazz greats (with some Broadway thrown in, time to time), at Joe's Pub, one can expect edgy, diverse, and eccentric, and at The Green Room 42 one can find innovative, flashy, and up-and-coming. There is an audience, there is a genre, there is a brand, and the brand at 54 Below is Broadway. Here, in the basement of the legendary Studio 54, where Broadway stars danced to disco and did dark deeds in dark corners, 54 Below brings the Broadway of yesterday, today, and tomorrow to the people.

And the people come.

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things It was an at-capacity crowd on Sunday, September 11th, as Robert W. Schneider welcomed all to this live celebration of his book FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS, and the shows to be found therein. With Maestro Michael Lavine leading the charge, Mr. Schneider served as host and Master of Ceremonies, sharing factoids and his own insights, both those featured in his book and those inside of his mind, while welcoming to the stage some of the greatest talents and significant contributors to the history of musical theater. It is not, on this occasion, appropriate to say American Musical Theater because the program Misters Schneider and Lavine planned included some Gilbert and Sullivan, performed by G&S expert Richard Holmes (who was introduced and aided in his performance by brother, Rupert Holmes). As, one by one, the glorious cast of Broadway's Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things brightest stood on the stage, recounting the tales, reliving the times, and replicating the tunes from the shows Mr. Schneider has chosen for his tome, the full 54 Below house of Broadway devotees grew more and more enamored of what was taking place. No mere cabaret collection of show tunes was this: this was musical theater Nirvana, as flamboyant and fascinating Amy Jo Jackson took on "Pirate Jenny" and Rupert Holmes waxed witty about just about everything, as Arbender J. Robinson stopped the show with, both, reminiscences and an otherworldly performance of "Low Down Blues" from Shuffle Along. There was no timekeeper, causing the storytellers to worry or edit themselves, a blessing because when Mr. De Shields talks, he takes his time, and when this Tony winner talks, time is golden. Nobody should ever censor Ed Dixon because Ed Dixon is one of the greatest storytellers alive, in any decade, and when he took the audience behind the scenes of No, No, Nanette, it was as though a time machine had transported all back to the days of Ruby Keeler, Helen Gallagher, and all the other delicious characters who have populated Mr. Dixon's life. The storytelling was so good that the performance of "Tea For Two" was, by the end of Dixon's story, superfluous but oh, so, divine.

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

The lovers of the Broadway stage, of the art form of musical theater, will always crave more, especially if it involves history. Excised songs are de rigueur, so Michael Lavine's performance of a Nathan Detroit song trimmed from Guys and Dolls was a treat. Belting is beautiful, so Mary Callanan's dive into "Some People" was warranted. History is everything, so every story told, every factoid explained, every gossipy giggle, every inside joke, and every inferred innuendo landed squarely in the hearts of each audience member, eliciting gasps of contentment, sighs of relief, and smiles, straight from the heart.

But it cannot be disputed that the biggest smiles were for the people who were there, the idols of Broadway who still will tell the tales of Hal Prince, of Carol Channing, of Galt McDermott, and of what it was like to be there when it happened.

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

In boxing, they use the term one-two punch. At 54 Below Robert W. Schneider used a one-two-three-four-five punch, each time, raising the bar higher and higher and higher until the audience could no longer contain themselves, and although all of Fifty Key Stage Musicals was gorgeous and fabulous and important, these five rounds were The Main Event.

Round one: Lee Roy Reams' Hello, Dolly medley, complete with Carol Channing impression, and tears streaming down his face during the Oak Leaf Monologue, left nary a dry eye in the house.

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Round Two: Anita Gillette and Penny Fuller's Cabaret medley (featuring Michel Lavine) had every heart racing and all the hands in the air.

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Round Three: Ed Dixon's masterful storytelling about No, No, Nanette left peoples' sides sore from the laughter.

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Round Four: André De Shields' uplifting sermon on life, followed by "If You Believe" raised spirits and raised hopes, leaving all joyful, and maybe a little bit tearful.

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Round Five: Company members from HAIR, Heather MacRae, Natalie Mosco, Deborah Offner, Marjorie "Mudra" Lipari, Arbender J. Robinson, and guest vocalist Molly Stilliens raised the roof with rousing renditions of some of the most beloved numbers from the legendary happening, interwoven with their memories of that original groundbreaking musical, ending with the entire audience singing along, and Mr. De Shields, notably, singing directly to the HAIR cast in harmony, from his seat in the front row.

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Truthfully, authentically, and sincerely, this is why cabaret and concert is more than just entertaining; it is important, it has value, it has meaning, it has history. This is why 54 Below has success and has a Tony - the stars of Broadway are at home here, their stories are perpetuated here, their work is relevant here. Shows like FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS: THE CONCERT! Are what one hopes for when making a reservation to a live music show in New York City, and they are what one has come to expect when passing through the doors at 54 Below.

Find great shows to see on the 54 Below website HERE.

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things
Rupert Holmes and Michael Lavine
Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things
Richard Holmes

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things
Arbender J. Robinson

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things
Amy Jo Jackson

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things
Mary Callanan

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things
Lee Roy Reams

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things
Anita Gillette and Penny Fuller

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things
Ed Dixon

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things
André De Shields and Sean Mayes

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things
"The Age of Aquarius"
Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things
Arbender J. Robinson and The Women sing "I Got Life"
Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things
Heather MacRae sings "Easy to Be Hard"
Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things
Molly Stilliens and Deborah Offner sing "Good Morning Starshine"
Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things
Marjorie "Mudra" Lipari, Natalie Mosco, and Arbender J. Robinson

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things
"Flesh Failures"
Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things
"Let The Sun Shine In"

Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things Review: FIFTY KEY STAGE MUSICALS IN CONCERT at 54 Below Is All The Things

Photos by Stephen Mosher.

Visit the Stephen Mosher website HERE.


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