A fun night like Feinstein’s / 54 Sings LIZA! – Chronicles of Times Square
With Scott Siegel and you know you’re going to have a fun and entertaining evening. Scott brought his talent as a host and the talent of some wonderful performers to 54 Below on Friday January 21st to sing the songs Liza brought to life on stage and screen. Its musical director, the multi-talented Ron Abel, accompanied the five artists on the piano, bringing new styles to established tunes.
Scott, as always, has an encyclopedic knowledge of Liza, but since most viewers already knew a lot about her, he kept his comments short; but I’m sure even the viewers learned something new about the EGOT winner.
First on stage was Lianne Marie Dobbs, wearing a sparkling gold sweater similar to the black number Liza’s Sally Bowles wore in the film. Ms Dobbs, who put on her own cabaret show in the city, started the evening with the film’s theme New York, New York, singing slowly and thoughtfully at first, ending in a catchy climax with Liza’s signature arm swing. It was a perfect opening number to warm up the audience on a cold evening in sleepy New York as he battled Omicron.
Jeremy Benton, fresh off the role of Fred Astaire in the York Theater Company production Cheek to Cheek, sang Lisa by George Gershwin, the song that gave Mrs. Minelli her name. As he took the stage, knowing his dancing skills, I was happy to see him wearing his tap shoes and he didn’t disappoint with a nice tapping interlude between verses. He really is a triple threat which I realized when I saw him sing and dance for the first time in the Off Broadway Cagney.
I first saw Hunter Ryan Herdlicka when he successfully played young Henrik in the Broadway revival of A Little Night Music with Broadway legends Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch. During these middle years, Mr. Herdlicka developed his voice into full force of emotion by demonstrating the singing The money tree, from The Act, with both sadness and bitterness.
Albert Nelthropp is a newcomer who was one of Mr Seigel’s “rising stars” at City Hall in 2019 just before the pandemic put many careers on hold. Albert successfully adopted a masculine point of view for one of Ms. Minelli’s strongest ballads, maybe this time and at the end of the song, you were really hoping that maybe this time he would have the girl. Now that the world is opening up, I think we’ll see more of him on stage.
Each of these talented performers wowed audiences with at least two songs over the course of the evening, and each song gave us a climax: Mrs. Dobbs’ thrilling closing note in I do not want to know, the tapping of Jeremy Benton accompanied by Ron Abel during I like a piano, the heartbreaking Mr. Herdlicka my own space and Mr. Nelthrop’s enthusiast Rain or shine.
Christine Pedi is an incredibly talented artist. Her ability to create medleys of popular songs with the vocals of Carol Channing, Barbara Streisand and of course Liza made her one of New York’s most popular performers. Tonight she did an ABBA mashup Mom Mia songs sung in the different styles of Liza. It was a tour de force for Christine and her accompanist, Ron Abel, as he had to keep up with the changes in the music. I think the humor in this number would have made me laugh even more if my mouth hadn’t remained open in amazement as I watched this woman transform into Liza. Mrs. Pedi is so well known for her impressions that it is truly wonderful to hear her sing songs with her own voice, which she has done with ring the bells and The world is spinning.
As most viewers knew, Liza had a special relationship with Fred Ebb, the lyricist for many of the songs most associated with her. The hilarious Ms. Pedi took a moment to speak earnestly about Mr. Ebb and what he has brought to Broadway theater in his artistic genius but also financially to artists in the community through his generous donations to Broadway Cares and The Actors. Funds that still benefit from his estate. After the past 18 months, when so many people in the community were out of work, these funds were crucial for those in need.
On another note, Mr. Siegel was able to help the Broadway community by continuing to produce, direct, write and host shows like this. This tribute to Liza was apparently a last minute addition to the 54 Below lineup and Scott was able to pull together a wonderful cast and present a great evening of entertainment for a very welcome audience. I look forward to what he will produce in the future as New York still struggles to continue his live performances.
Of course, the evening ended with Mrs. Minelli’s signature song, Cabaret, sung and played by the talented Mrs. Dobbs reminding everyone that there is no point in being alone in your room. Go out and be like Elsie.