By Victoria L. Dammer
The thrill of the disco era returned to 54 Below on March 1 for an exciting night as the famous and glamorous nightclub opened the dance floor to all who came to take part in two sold-out shows of Turn the Beat Around.
Those in the room know the history of the legendary nightclub Studio 54, whose VIP guest list included Andy Warhol, Mick, and Bianca Jagger, the very young Brooke Shields, Halston, Liza Minnelli, John Travolta and so many more back in the 70s.
The owner of Emmanuel Pierre-Antoine Dance Studio treated guests who arrived early to dance lessons. Pierre-Antoine, the 2005 World Mambo Champion, exuded such verve patrons were drawn to get out of their seats and shake their booty.
Producer and director Scott Coulter treated the audience to a full band and live performances by some of NYC’s celebrated singers, including Susan Agin, Jessica Birago, Tyce Green, and Jessica Hendy. Other memorable performers were Michael Holland, Larry Lelli, Lorinda Lisitza, Anthony Murphy, Kelli Rabke, Devin L. Roberts, and Mike Schwitter.
Coulter brought a set list with 22 of the most popular tunes from the disco era. The evening opened with the sizzling 1976 mega-hit Disco Inferno, a song written by Leroy Green and Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey and originally performed by The Tramps from their studio album of the same name. Fans of the song revived its popularity when it appeared on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. But, magnificently, from the moment the song was over, there wasn’t one open space on the dance floor for the rest of the night.
Actor and singer Mike Schwitter performed a fantastic rendition of Barry Manilow’s Copacabana, a 1978 favorite, making 54 Below “the hottest spot north of Havana!” Susan Agin sang the number one Billboard Hot 100 Turn the Beat Around, first performed by Vicki Sue Robinson in 1976.
Continuing to treat everyone with outstanding music from the Bee Gees, Anthony Murphy captivated the room with his rendering of If I Can’t Have You, a song initially appearing on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and performed by Yvonne Elliman. Wow, the evening was sensational at this point and did not disappoint the club’s almost worn-out dancers.
Singer Tyce Green, bedecked in a two-piece animal print outfit, ignited the crowd with Hot Stuff, from Donna Summer’s 7th studio album Bad Girls (1979). All could agree the temperature was rising.
Ending the evening with the Academy Award-winning song Last Dance, performed by Donna Summer back in 1978 and sung by the entire onstage band, singers, and audience, was the perfect finish to an event that has now become a monthly occurrence. But, of course, the doors are always open at 54 Below, and you’ll feel like a disco VIP when the night ends.
Turn the Beat Around at 54 Below, 254 West 54th Street Cellar, New York, New York 10019.