By Ed Kliszus
It’s a full house at 54 Below, and the band is on stage warming up.
Billy Recce arrived at the piano dressed in a flamboyant, colorful suit and counted off the first song. He played and sang an opener, “Come Out of Whomever You are.”
From the onset, it’s important to note that we are hearing and seeing a living songwriter. While various interpretations of his work shall emerge over time, his original performances shall remain in the catalog of musical theater akin to Hoagie Carmichael, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Prince, Irving Berlin, and many others. We are witnessing history in the making.
Recce is a prolific composer and lyricist who knows his audience. His banter, sarcasm, wit, and humor are well received. He’s fresh, relevant, irreverent, and quick to lampoon those whose actions he reproves. He is rebellious and reflects his views through an evolution of personal expressions through song. His abilities are diverse, expressing himself in a mode of his choice best suited to empower his message.
The coterie of artists Recce invited to the club performs his songs with energy and enthusiasm, and his audience responds with glee. Chad Burris arrived to sing “Alma Arkansas,” a tune about home and its shortcomings for modern thinkers who escaped to New York City. Lesli Margherita followed with “Second Chances” from the musical Fowl Play, a political satire on a food service company Recce barely identified. In The Apology Musical, the chicken theme continued with Nathan Lee singing “From the Other Side of the Road.” Thani Brant came up to sing “Always Missing the Fun.”
Recce returned to the piano in a darker mode, singing “Who knew you were out in the cold, oh Elizabeth, what’s it like to die alone,” with violin obligato. Recce introduced Stanzi Potenza, who sang “Feeling Something” from the film Swallow.
The next songs came from the Recce’s play The Little Black Book, following a basic theme about Heidi Fleiss being down on her luck. Aisha de Haas came to the stage with “This Wasn’t Supposed to be My Life.”
Sugar daddies beware! Lauren Robinson sang “My Much, Much, Older Man.” It seems he has gout, no hair, soaks his teeth, and will need a walker soon. But his bank account, wow! Billy played a toy piano and Robinson a slide whistle.
Alyssa Wray sang “Summer in Nevada,” a pensive bluesy survivor piece.
Appearing in a full-length robe, Antwyan Hopper came to the stage for his powerful rendition of “Now More Than Ever.” I recall his fabulous performance as Memphis in The Life at NY City Center.
Wrapping up the show, Recce sang “Unironic Love Song” from the piano. Recce graciously thanked the performers, band, producer, and 54 Below staff. It was an evening of musical merriment indeed. We’ll be hearing from Billy Recce, he’s just getting started!
For Now More Than Ever: The Songs of Billy Recce
Thani Brant, Chad Burris, Karl Josef Co, Roger Dawley, Tyler Joseph Ellis, Mia Gerachis, Nathan Lee Graham, Aisha de Haas, Will Harden, Antwayn Hopper, Sarah Kleist, Lesli Margherita, Kelly McIntyre, Jayda Mendiola, Stanzi Potenza, Lauren Robinson, Analise Scarpaci, Jacob Simon, Alyssa Wray
For 54 Below
Livestream Director: KJ Hardy Creative & Programming Director: Jennifer Ashley Tepper Lighting Director: Danielle Verkennes Sound Supervisor: Amanda Raymond Executive Producers: Steve Baruch, Richard Frankel, and Tom Viertel
254 W 54th St. Cellar, NYC 10019
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