By Brittany Crowell
If you stop by Studio 54 on the evening of the first Wednesday of the month, you’ll find something a little unusual for the cabaret-style venue. Seated in the basement of the original Studio 54, Broadway’s supper-club is hosting a monthly cabaret, “Turn the Beat Around” in which the 70s are alive again and a “love train” of performers dash on and off the stage in a quippy, 75 minute, high-energy disco romp.
If you’re looking for your standard sit-down cabaret, this may not be for you. Starting with a dance lesson featuring choreographer and rhythm champion Emmanuel Pierre-Antoine, the audience are encouraged to leave their drinks at the table and crowd onto the small dance floor to “boogie oogie oogie” along with the performers.
The performances throughout the evening are supported by powerhouse singers who bring their own sense of 70s style to the stage; some of my favorites were donning fur coats or stylish disco-sequined jumpsuits. The roughly 24 songs are performed in a medley approach with performers swapping places on the stage for (almost) unending sing-along, dance-along evening entertainment.
For those who didn’t want to leave their drinks and food for the dance floor, the venue does a really wonderful job of bringing the disco to you, utilizing the disco ball to send shimmering lights throughout the table set-up and at times flashing the house lights on the back walls along with the beat.
The crowd for the evening skewed towards those who had experienced the 70s first-hand, or close to it. At 32, I was one of few in the audience under their 40s, however, I think the evening has much to offer for all ages. Despite debuting half a century ago the song-list, curated by director-producer (and occasional vocalist) Scott Coulter is full of classics and hits; my guest and I knew the words to almost every tune.
If I were to offer one complaint, it would be the lack of diversity on the stage. At least half of the hit songs presented were performed and/or popularized by artists of color, predominantly African-American artists, however, less than 30% of the performer and musician base represented these communities. As a celebration of the disco era, while predominantly enjoyed by the white middle-class towards its end, the evening should ideally honor how the movement was started (in underground clubs by the African-American and queer communities).
That being said each performer and musician on the stage was stellar and brought their own personality to the pieces. Highlights were the amazing dance moves & angelic falsetto of Devin Roberts, the killer belts of Jessica Hendy & Susan Agin, and the psychedelic suit & rocker voice of one-song wonder Tyce Green.
If you’re looking for a night out and want to step back into the era of 70s NYC disco subculture, book your ticket! While the show has been around for 8 years, it’s finally gotten a monthly place at 54 Below, and is a great girls night out, or opportunity for friends to gather and dance the night away. And who knows, you may even see a doorman or an executive assistant from the original Studio 54 days there, reliving their youth.
TURN THE BEAT AROUND – Directed & Produced by Scott Coulter
FEATURING: Susan Agin, Jessica Birago, Scott Coulter, Tyce Green, Jesica Hendy, Michael Holland, Larry Lelli, Lorinda Lisitza, Anthony Murphy, Kelli Rabke, Devin L. Roberts, Matt Scharfglass, Mike Schwitter.
Music direction by Michael Holland. Presented by 54 Below: https://54below.com/events/turn-the-beat-around-54-below-celebrates-studio-54-2/