Once on This Island Sings Ahrens & Flaherty

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Once on This Island Sings Ahrens & Flaherty

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, July 18, 2018

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

The cast of the 2018 Tony Award-winning best musical revival Once on This Island joined together to present a wonderful tribute to their songwriters, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. The emphasis was on songs from the team’s flawless and electric output. The singers arrived decked out in their finest fashion; floral prints abounded. Subtle and strong support was provided by an instrumental team consisting of music director/pianist Alvin Hough, Jr., drummer Adam Wolfe, and bassist Alexandra Eckhardt.

Some of the highlights:

From Ragtime: David Jennings delivered “Make Them Hear You” with understated power, and Merle Dandridge offered up a breathtaking “Back to Before.” Later in the evening, Kenita R. Miller and Quentin Earl Darrington gave a fresh and thrilling version of “Wheels of a Dream,” and Darlesia Clearcy turned “Your Daddy’s Son” into a devastating aria.

From Seussical the Musical: one of the junior members of the cast, Emerson Davis, delivered a well-sung medley with a powerhouse voice and the boa handling skills of Julie Wilson. Later, in one of the most emotional moments of the evening, Darlington shared an enormously touching “Alone in the Universe” with his three sons. Aurelia Williams delivered a mix of soul and swing on the nonsensical lyrics of “Green Eggs and Ham.”

Rarely heard songs were included. Ximone Rose gave us something beautiful indeed with the soaring “Something Beautiful.” Mia Williamson was pure energy with “Can’t Sit Still.” And our charming hostess of the evening, Haley Kilgore, proved she could build a song like a much older pro with “In My Dreams.”

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."