Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Broadway star Gavin Lee honors Broadway and Hollywood legend.

By: Jun. 08, 2023
Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Twice nominated for the Tony Award, song and dance acting man Gavin Lee recently kicked things into high gear at Birdland with his one-man show STEPPIN’ OUT WITH Fred Astaire, and, frankly, there probably isn’t anyone better suited to the task of bringing Fred Astaire to the people.  Oh, sure, there are tap dancers, and good ones, working on the Broadway stage, the regional theater stage, and even the nightclub stage, but there is something special about Gavin Lee, in the way he presents the Astaire legacy, and in the depth of meaning that the legend has for him - and even though there are times when it seems like a Dick Van Dyke show might be more appropriate for the Broadway star, right now, it’s All About Astaire.

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Steppin’ Out With Fred Astaire, Gavin Lee explained during his May 29th performance, was something that started during the pandemic-imposed show business shutdown.  He shared a few words about research required to create his script, even though Astaire had been a lifelong favorite of his, right down to various (and somewhat exciting) brushes with the Astaire legend during his own life and career.  The thing about that research… it didn’t show.  For the entirety of the performance, listening to Gavin Lee talk about his idol, hearing the history, learning the tidbits - it didn’t sound researched and it didn’t sound rehearsed.  And that’s the key to a great club act.  It might be rehearsed within an inch of its life, just so long as it doesn’t come across that way.  Gavin Lee knew what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it, and he knew when to be economic about it, and when to be verbose.  And even though there were factoids already in place in this writer’s brain, there was new information imparted.   And, then, there was the relatable…

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Built into his script for Steppin’ Out..., Gavin Lee left room for the personal stories and his individual feelings, the things about a club act that bring the audience to the entertainer: their personal truth.  Part of that portion of the evening was dedicated to Lee’s youth, spent watching those black and white Fred and Ginger movies, movies like Top Hat, Swing Time, Shall We Dance, and The Gay Divorcee… and when Gavin told this, particular, story, his eyes shining and his smile twinkling, this writer could remember, viscerally, being a twelve-year old, sprawled out on the shag carpet in the living room in our home in Portugal, devouring every night of a weeklong Astaire and Rogers film series on our big, boxy, black and white TV.  When doing your tribute show, the most important thing is to make sure that you, yourself, are a part of the story, so that the audience knows who they are with.

Well… maybe the second most important thing.  There is, also, the matter of Gavin Lee’s musical program in Steppin’ Out.  

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Gavin Lee is a renowned tap dancer.  He is well respected for his skills, as well he should be because he is one of the best.  He often plays roles on the musical theater stage that involve terpsichore (though not exclusively), and he has been known to teach the art of tap from time to time.  It would, naturally, follow that there would be a fair amount of tap dancing in his Fred Astaire tribute show, and, true to assumption, there was - and it was, all of it, magnificent, the type of tap dancing that would make anyone happy because, as Broadway World Cabaret reviewer Bobby Patrick says, “Tappy make me happy.”  Even, though, with the necessity for tap dancing in an Astaire tribute show, even, though, with the high quality of the tapping in this Astaire tribute show (the precision!), this is a musical cabaret, and, thus, everything hinges on the music.  And, there, Gavin Lee did not disappoint.

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Because of his place in history as a great tap dancer, people can, sometimes, forget that Fred Astaire was a singer.  There is music that is associated with Fred Astaire, there was music that was written, especially, for Fred Astaire, there is, in fact, an actual Fred Astaire canon.  Yet, people only think of the taps.  Not Gavin LeeGavin Lee has curated a program of classic songs that simply serve to show the audience that the Fred Astaire catalogue does exist, and it is a thing of beauty.  With proper training as a vocalist and admirable skills as an interpreter, Gavin Lee provided Birdland with a palatable and pleasurable hour of music consisting of such songs as “Cheek To Cheek” and “We’re in the Money,” classics like “Lady Be Good” and “Puttin’ On The Ritz,” and the essential Fred Astaire-introduced “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “Pick Yourself Up” and because Fred Astaire had the greatest composers in the business writing songs just for him, Lee’s show becomes more than just a tribute to Fred: it becomes a tribute to the Great American Songbook.  WITH TAP DANCING.  Come on, now, what’s not to love?

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Charming Mr. Lee is aided in his pursuits, mightily, by Musical Director Brian Taylor at the Piano (and he is ON TOP of it… those taps come fast, and the band is with Lee, all the way), Corey Shutzer on Bass, and Rich Rosenzweig on Drums, and the production is slick, professional, and greatly entertaining, so much, so, that one suspects a person need not be an Astaire aficionado to enjoy Steppin’ Out With Fred Astaire.  One of Gavin’s fans from Spongebob, Poppins, Grinch, or any of his other acting roles might come to see a future production of this one-man show a Gavin Lee fan, and leave a Fred Astaire fan.  And, please, fates that surround us, may there be more productions and performances of Steppin’ Out With Fred Astaire because not only does the world need more Fred Astaire, it needs more Gavin Lee.

Find jazz shows and Broadway artists to see on the Birdland website HERE.

Visit the Gavin Lee Instagram page HERE.

Photos by Stephen Mosher; Visit the Stephen Mosher website HERE.

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland

Review: Gavin Lee Dances And Entrances In STEPPIN' OUT WITH FRED ASTAIRE at Birdland



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