Rainbow Sun Productions offered a night of THE SONGS OF Howard Ashman at 54 Below final night time and, since everybody loves Howard Ashman songs, Sam Gravitte and Jesse JP Johnson, Broadway World Cabaret simply needed to be there. Johnson and Gravitte did one track every however the potential for listening to them sing “One Jump Ahead” and “Dentist!” was lure sufficient to get us into the membership, whereas the performers beforehand unknown had been completely welcome to win over our hearts sufficient to get us to the following Rainbow Sun cabaret present. And as soon as these butts are within the seats, something is feasible.
The 9:45 slot at 54 Below is such a person expertise, present by present, as a result of there actually is not any telling what you are going to get. Sometimes the headliner is the likes of Anthonyh Rapp, and others it is a singing contest, however regardless of the present within the 9:45 slot, it is at all times an off-the-cuff, relaxed environment designed for having enjoyable. Seventy minutes of songs from Disney musicals and theatrical legend, offered by a manufacturing firm the main focus of which is inclusivity is correct in step with the 9:45 slot.
The mission assertion of Rainbow Sun Productions relies on the philosophy that each one tales shine vivid, so creators Eric Scherer and Katie Nail gathered collectively twenty-one completely different actors (theirselves included) to carry out nineteen completely different musical numbers from the Menken/Ashman Disney Musicals, Little Shop of Horrors, Smile, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and some songs written with out rating. Each and each one of many actors booked on the invoice had been proficient, lovely, various performers who’ve earned their spot on the 54 Below stage, despite various levels of expertise and talent set – a gaggle of actors curated with loving care by Nail and Scherer, who shared internet hosting duties and a script that was easy-going, gentle on historical past classes, heavy on reward of Ashman’s legend, and typically mercifully temporary as a result of, with such a music-heavy program, the clock may most likely not have dealt with rather more chatter. The twosome are each pleasant of their eagerness as producers and hosts, and although Ms. Nail solely carried out briefly in two completely different group numbers, her efficiency talents are obvious. As a performer, Mr. Scherer is energetic and enthusiastic, although there may be some query as to why he scheduled himself to sing “Be Our Guest” and “Friend Like Me” when, as charming as he’s, each songs are past his skillset. Still, it is the 9:45 slot, and if Eric was making an attempt a bit of exhausting to get on prime of those epic numbers, the viewers’s appreciation for his efforts was heartfelt.
It was tough to not respect such a beautiful assortment of candy actors so enthusiastic about their job for the night, from Jed Resnick‘s lovely puppet-play to Liz Felmming’s appropriately emotional paean to Disneyland. Allison Posner‘s comedy chops had been displaying and simply watching Michael I. Haber in motion was smile-inducing. Notably, Carrie St. Louis stepped manner out of Ellen Greene‘s shadow, whereas Joomin Hwang would have carried out Angela Lansbury proud – each actors gave memorable performances that make one hope for their very own upcoming solo exhibits.
In an attention-grabbing twist, each Blake Zolfo and Noah Zachary each gave such tender, introspective performances that, misplaced in a haze of dreaminess, this author stopped taking footage, snapping out of it simply in time to seize their last moments, whereas Danny Feldman and Sean Stephens had been sufficiently interesting to seize hearts across the room.
While Salisha Thomas and Dillon Klena did a pleasant job with “Suddenly Seymour” (particularly Thomas), the actors may very well be supplied a chunk of recommendation that many performers ought to hear and observe as effectively: simply since you are singing a duet with somebody doesn’t suggest you need to look at them all the time. There is an viewers that wish to see your faces, and whenever you stay in profile all the time (particularly in a three-quarter area), you chop them off from seeing your fairly money-maker. Mr. Klena additionally took a musical danger within the second verse by going up an octave, a danger that didn’t repay, particularly in a track so well-known and liked.
Klena’s was not the one misstep of the night. Every single performer was blissfully off-book… however individuals overlook strains typically. It’s okay. It’s preferable to look at an actor lose their place, want some assist, present their humanity – a lot better that than learn the phrases in efficiency. Mistakes occur and are at all times to be forgiven. So when the pleasant Teresa Hui wanted Musical Director Drew Wutke to immediate her throughout her marvelous “Aria For a Cow,” it solely made her all of the extra satisfying. When Mr. Stephens flubbed his strains throughout “The Straw Boater Rag” and pulled out his iPhone for some assist, it was comprehensible, significantly when he put the telephone away after discovering his place. When fabulous Darius-Anthony Robinson blended up verses of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and cried out “At least I dedicated to it!” the viewers roared with loving laughter. These are all moments of humanity that make the viewers love a performer.
Less of a human second and extra of a flat-out mistake is selecting to have a Whiskey after your solo and returning to the stage for the finale, having to virtually get down in your knees and browse your lyrics off of your telephone, which is what Mr. Robinson confessed was occurring simply earlier than launching into the difficult “Under The Sea.” This was the ultimate second of the night, the impression with which the viewers will go away the theater – an impression that displays on the actor, their colleagues, the producers, the manufacturing, and the membership. Those three fingers of bourbon may have, ought to have, and would have waited till the present was fully over, however Robinson’s option to imbibe got here up onto the stage with him, successfully diminishing the favorable impression he had left after his first quantity.
Top highlights from the night included Mr. Johnson’s “Proud of Your Boy” and a touching second throughout which Mr. Gravitte waxed nostalgic about his mom, Debbie Gravitte, having recorded her personal model of “Part of Your World” on her first album earlier than hitting it out of the park together with his personal model. The pinnacle of the night, although, was Arielle Crosby‘s efficiency of “Daughter of God,” a efficiency that each singer showing in a gaggle present ought to see as a result of each second of it confirmed the extent of high quality that may be given your viewers whenever you come to work ready – even when your job is simply to sing one track in a gaggle present.
This group present, by the way in which, was the 54 Below debut of 4 performers, Misses Crosby and Thomas, Mr. Robinson, and charming Ben Tracy, and since Rainbow Sun Productions now has a three-show observe file with the membership, hopefully, all the luxurious actors who appeared in THE SONGS OF Howard Ashman will be a part of them once more in future exhibits, particularly Tatiana Lofton, whose temporary moments within the Beauty and the Beast track “Something There” had been sufficient to tease the viewers with the promise of one thing extra. The subsequent time that Rainbow Sun Productions books into the 9:45 slot, it ought to be value trying out to see what Lofton and the remainder of the Scherer/Nail troupe have to supply – it’ll most undoubtedly match the 54 Below late present, the place enjoyable is the order of the day.
Find nice exhibits to see at the 54 Below web site HERE.
Rainbow Sun Productions was based by Eric Scherer and Katie Nail in August of 2018 after that they had been working collectively for a number of years at Actors Reaching Out, a 501c3 nonprofit that Scherer began when he was in highschool. The duo had plenty of concepts for tasks that did not essentially match with the mission assertion of the nonprofit, which is utilizing theater to advertise literacy and group outreach. Rather than limiting themselves, Nail and Scherer began Rainbow Sun Productions to have the ability to discover all of their concepts absolutely. The firm focus is “All tales shine vivid”, and their aim is to not solely bringing concepts to gentle however working with a various vary of artists to carry their tales ahead as effectively. Eric and Katie moved to NYC lower than 2 months in the past, excited to work with artists who’re primarily based right here.
Photos by Stephen Mosher