Beth Leavel: It’s Not About Me

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Beth Leavel

It’s Not About Me
Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, January 14, 2020
Reviewed by Marilyn Lester

Beth Leavel

The title of the show, It’s Not About Me, is, of course, an irony. The show was decidedly all about her––Tony Award winner Beth Leavel, who began the festivities by belting this number from her last Broadway outing, The Prom (Matthew Sklar/Chad Beguelin). This witticism set the tone for what was to come, with “funny” being a prime ingredient in the talent mix. Leavel is one of those brassy, belting Broadway broads––actor-comediennes of a tradition embodied by the likes of Ethel Merman, Elaine Stritch, Jo Anne Worley, Andrea Martin, and others. Leaval doesn’t disappoint in this regard; she ad-libbied and mugged her way through Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You” (Anything Goes), substituting the lyric “Feinstein’s 54 Below” for the word “you.” How funny was she? The answer lay in the reactions of her longtime musical accompanist. Bass player Michael Kuennen frequently cracked up at her foolery and drummer Perry Cavari was seen consistently grinning from ear to ear. Accomplished music director/pianist Phil Reno, who also engaged in repartee with the diva, was clearly enjoying the escapades along with providing a steady hand on the keys.

There were more antics. Leavel produced her Tony Award and allowed it to circulate in the audience. She gave out a gift, a small promo card of herself, suitable for framing, and she otherwise entertained with gusto and animation––telling several choice stories about her younger days in NYC (with funny bits about that pre-technology world). Along with career highlights she revealed her next project: her role as Amanda Priestly in the upcoming musical of The Devil Wears Prada. (Ironically, this role, filled by Meryl Streep in the 2006 film is part of a switcheroo: Streep is playing Leavel’s role in the film version of The Prom.) In the category of roles not yet played, but desired, were Mama Rose’s numbers, “Some People” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from Gypsy (Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim). Sondheim was again represented with “Not While I’m Around” (Sweeney Todd) and “Children Will Listen” (Into the Woods), delivered with seriousness of purpose. It was in this mode that Leavel sang David Friedman’s “I’ll Be Here with You,” dedicated to “all the Moms here.

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By show’s end, Leavel’s audience was firmly planted in happyland. The diva aims to please her dedicated fan base and she succeeds. It’s apparent that she cares about and is grateful for them, and so she works diligently to keep her connection with her audience vibrant. Wrapping up, as she began, with a number from The Prom, Leavel left them wanting more with “The Lady’s Improving” (Sklar/Beguelin).

Marilyn Lester

Marilyn Lester left journalism and commercial writing behind nearly two decades ago to write plays. That branch in the road led to screenwriting, script-doctoring, dramaturgy and producing for the stage. Marilyn has also co-authored, as well as edited, books. It seemed the only world of words she hadn’t conquered was criticism, an opportunity that presented itself via Theater Pizzazz. Marilyn has since sought to widen her scope in this form of writing she especially relishes. Marilyn is a member of the Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Women in the Arts and Media and The League of Professional Theater Women.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. ank yCaroline Aquino

    Sadly, Beth Leavel only has one Tony Award. (Her character in THE PROM had two.)

    Thank you. It has been corrected.

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