54 Sings Kander & Ebb’s Woman of the Year

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54 Sings Kander & Ebb’s Woman of the Year

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, November 29, 2017

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Woman of the Year was a moderate hit back in the early 1980s, due in large part to the glamour and star quality of its leading lady Lauren Bacall, and her two successors, Raquel Welch and Debbie Reynolds. Shorn of its dazzling stars, its excellent staging and high quality design, the score was revealed to be mostly rather ordinary with Fred Ebb’s lyrics more satisfying than John Kander’s music.

None of that is the fault of the hard-working, large cast of performers at the concert version presented at Feinstein’s/54 Below as part of their continuing series of rediscovering Broadway scores. Considering the short rehearsal time, everyone deserves a round of applause, especially the large ensemble squeezed onto the small stage to deal with such challenging material as “It Isn’t Working.”

Among the highlights of the evening were Hunter Ryan Herdlicka’s “Happy in the Morning,” Robert Cuccioli’s “Sometimes a Day Goes By,” and one of the great comic duets from Broadway, “The Grass Is Always Greener,” delightfully offered up by Dee Hoty and Anita Gillette. Curiously, the three numbers were consecutive in the second half of the show showing an odd balance in the score.

The Tess Hardings of the evening included Joyce DeWitt, Christine Pedi, Christine Toy Johnson, Eve Plumb, Luba Mason, Natalie Douglas, Klea Blackhurst, Julia Murney, and Hoty. As her romantic vis-à-vis Sam Craig, Bradley Dean, Kevin Zak, Brad Oscar, and Cuccioli all filled the role nicely. Also chirping in were Todd Buonopane, Robbie Rozelle, John Epperson, and Mary Callanan as other characters inhabiting their world. The charming host for the evening was Peter Filichia, with Robert W. Schneider, director, and Joshua Zecher-Ross providing musical direction.

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."