By Edward Kliszus
It’s a packed house at 54 Below. The excitement is obvious as the audience waits for this night of 54 Sings Broadway’s Greatest Hits! with a cast of superstars.
Tonight’s host, Scott Siegel, welcomed everyone to tonight’s show. He announced the first artist, Stella Katherine Cole, who sang Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music accompanied by pianist John Fischer. Looking lovely in a blue dress, Cole sang wonderfully, delightfully characterizing the charm and beauty presented in the song.
From My Fair Lady came a song fitting the love-struck character Freddie. Luke Hawkins sang a swing version of On the Street Where You Live. Hawkins looked sharp in a dark sports jacket, black shirt and tie, and black and white tap shoes. Hawkins tap danced between verses to the audience’s enthusiastic verbal and hand-clapping accolades.
Lianne Marie Dobbs Hello Young Lovers performed from the King and I. Dobbs possesses a rich sound, fast vibrato, and dramatic presence, ably intensifying the loveliness and passion of the song.
The pace slowed to Gershwin’s richly romantic Embraceable You sung by the talented up-and-coming artist Anaïs Reno. It’s a charming rendition indeed.
From Hamilton, the dramatic and dapper Ryan Knowles sang You’ll Be Back. The audience enjoyed Knowles inviting them to sing along on the last chorus, which they did with aplomb.
The vivacious Stella Katherine Cole returned to sing Poor Johnny One Note from Babes in Arms.
Anaïs Reno sang a gentle swing version of Cole Porter’s I Love You. She possesses a richly colored voice and lower register to characterize the romance and charm of the song.
In the song Me and My Shadow, Luke Hawkins and Ryan Knowles returned to recreate a 1962 duet with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr.. Nicely done and enthusiastically received by the audience. Hawkins added his tap-dancing to everyone’s delight.
Brazilian artist Pedro Coppeti performed the Anthem from the musical Chess (1986). Much like a nationalistic prayer, Coppeti’s rendition was poetically pensive and spiritual. This was an interesting choice from the music of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of the musical group Abba.
Lianne Marie Dobbs returned to sing Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner’s What Did I Have I Don’t Have Now. Marvelous, dramatic, powerful.
From La Cage a Folles, Jerry Herman’s I Am What I Am was performed by Ryan Knowles. Knowles aptly demonstrated his range and his rich lower register that contrasts beautifully with his powerful upper intones.
Excellent MC work by Scott Siegel. Working from a script, he ably introduced each song, its provenance, and tonight’s soloists. He recognized Feinstein’s/54 Below staff and the generous contributors who funded internet-based performances for 200 artists during the pandemic.
A cabaret musical venue is a marvelous way to educate and entertain live audiences in-house and worldwide about America’s contributions to Musical Theater Art through the magic of high-quality live streaming and incredible musical and dramatic artists.
Who doesn’t love songs from the American Songbook, especially when performed by fabulous artists at the peak of their powers? The soloists were varied in their styles and drama, richly contributing to the overall spirit of the songs and the stories they tell.
Pedro Coppeti sang the opening in Portuguese for the song The Circle of Life from the Lion King for the finale. Backing him on stage were Luke Hawkins, Ryan Knowles, and Stella Katherine Cole.
The cast came forward for bows, applause, and well-earned standing ovations.
Music direction and piano accompaniment by John Fischer.
Featuring Scott Siegel, Stella Katherine Cole (280,000 TikTok Followers), Pedro Coppeti (Shrek The Musical national tour), Lianne Marie Dobbs (Man of La Mancha, Always: Patsy Cline), Luke Hawkins (Carnegie Hall, Cirque du Soleil, Broadway), Ryan Knowles (The Lightning Thief), Anaïs Reno.
Here is our review of Liz Callaway at Feinstein’s/54 Below.
Readers may also enjoy our reviews of The Four Alt Wives of Henry VIII, Theatre Forward’s Gala Red Carpet, Naama Gherber at Birdland, Ann Kittredge at Birdland, Mia Pinero at Feinstein’s/54 Below, John Lloyd Young at Cafe Carlyle, and Make Them Hear You.