Rachael Lily Rosenbloom (and Don’t You Ever Forget It!)
Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, March 13, 2017
Reviewed by Randolph B. Eigenbrode for Cabaret Scenes
Musical theater aficionados (read: theatre queens) packed into Feinstein’s/54 Below to worship at the altar of high camp for the first-ever staged concert of the 1973 Broadway flop Rachael Lily Rosenbloom (and Don’t You Ever Forget It!). With music and lyrics by disco wunderkind Paul Jabara (“Last Dance,” “It’s Raining Men”) and a book by Jabara and off-off-Broadway avant-gardist Tom Eyen, Rosenbloom originally billed itself as “the first intentionally campy musical in Broadway history.” In retrospect, this must’ve been a tough sell to a mainstream audience which probably wasn’t schooled in the affected and tongue-in-cheek style; it closed after seven previews.
This audience, however, needed no lessons in outré brilliance; they seemingly fawned over its leading lady Rachael (who gained the extra “a” in her name from the one that Barbra Streisand dropped). And why shouldn’t they? Bonnie Milligan, tackling the role with fabulous gusto, nails the 2nd Avenue cadence and has a foghorn belt that could wake the dead. Imbuing the role with just the right amount of heart, especially in songs like “Dear Miss Streisand” (which could be played solely for laughs), she is the personification of total package—actress, singer and comic. Someone get this girl a vehicle, pronto!
The overall production was the best concert I’ve seen at the venue and the cast was definitely the strongest. Jeremy Morse, as Ramond De La Troya, isn’t exactly Brazilian, but his zany charm makes up for it, finding self-obsessed humor at every turn. Anastacia McClesky, who always sounds great, outdid herself with roof-raising gospel-tinged vocals and proved she, too, could land a punchline. But it was Julia Mattison, as Stella Starfuckoff, who appropriated a coke-fueled Liza Minnelli meets Sue Mengers on a bad day characterization that gave Milligan a run for her money. Her “Broadway Rhythm” practically set the room on fire, and those who witnessed it will be talking about it for some time to come.
Yes, the show is creaky, particularly the weak second act, but with so much fun to be had, who cares? If producer Jennifer Ashley Tepper is smart, she’ll take this winner to an appropriate Off-Broadway venue (like New World Stages) and make stars out of everyone. And, finally, give Jabara the “Last Dance” he always deserved.