Krysta Rodriguez

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Krysta Rodriguez

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, September 10, 2019

Reviewed by Joel Benjamin for Cabaret Scenes

Krysta Rodriguez

Fresh from starring as Megara in Hercules at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, Krysta Rodriguez appeared in a full-throttle act—unbelievably her first solo cabaret act—at Feinstein’s/54 Below. In fact, one of the best received numbers was “I Won’t Say (I’m in Love)” from that immensely popular musical written by David Zippel and Alan Menken.

From Spring Awakening she sang the anthem, “Don’t Do Sadness,” combined with “Blue Wind” (Duncan Sheik/Steven Sater), taking advantage of her experience appearing in that show. With the help of music director Ben Rauhala’s fresh arrangements for a small ensemble and two back-up singers, she breathed life into the song.

She invited two friends to join her on stage. With Andy Mientus, a theater buddy and former co-star, she sang “New York” (Annie Clark/Jack Antonoff), a sardonic, sad look at living in the city; with the personable Kathryn Gallagher there was a raucous nineties tribute, “Bitch” (Meredith Brooks/Shelly Peiken). The two made the title palpable. Rodriguez’s singing style, quite common in this age of hyperactive TV vocal competitions, pushes all the climaxes and vocal pyrotechnics.

However, she showed her acting chops in two songs in which she matched her rich voice with equally rich acting. The first, “Beyvita,” was a brilliantly satirical take on numbers from Evita. This very funny bit resulted from a ridiculous critique she received at an audition for that show. She sang the familiar selections from that Andrew Lloyd Webber/Time Rice super-hit in the style of several pop singers including Beyoncé Knowles. She was hilarious. 

Joined by the brilliant songwriter Joe Iconis (most recently of Be More Chill) on piano, she sang his “Ammonia,” practically a one-act play about a bored housewife who gets high on that cleaning product! Again, she was spellbinding.

The house was filled with a younger crowd which hints at a healthy future for the subtle art of cabaret. She rewarded them with “The Unsung Ana Vargas Medley,” the songs associated with her scene-stealing turn on TV’s late, lamented Smash.

Joel Benjamin

A native New Yorker, Joel was always fascinated by musical theater. Luckily, he was able to be a part of seven Broadway musicals before the age of 14, quitting to pursue a pre-med degree, which led no where except back to performing in the guise of directing a touring ballet troupe. Always interested in writing, he wrote a short play in high school that was actually performed, leading to a hiatus of nearly 40 years before he returned to writing as a reviewer. Writing for Cabaret Scenes has kept him in touch with world filled with brilliance.