Review by Brittany Crowell
If you happen upon Birdland Jazz Club on a rainy Monday in New York City, stop in for the Brat Pack – a fun play on Rat Pack and Broadway and a delightful mashup of the two, featuring four talented up-and-comers in the Broadway world who jam on classics with a 6-piece orchestra and some new orchestrations (from arranger / pianist / music director Isaac Hayward).
The Rat Pack featured many amazing singers throughout the years, but started out with big names of the early 50s like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr.. Birdland Jazz Club has a similar history. Starting in 1949, it saw the likes of Harry Belafonte, Lennie Tristano & Maxie Kaminsky on its stage.
What better way to celebrate the Rat Pack than at this historic club with modern, Broadway performers paying homage to old classics, many of which were pulled straight from the Broadway shows of their era? The Brat Pack’s song list also featured a few more modern Broadway hits such as “Aquarius” and Sondheim’s “It Takes Two”
Music director, Isaac Hayward, wrote many of the orchestrations for the pieces, adding a jazzy flair to some more recent Broadway tunes like Annie’s “Tomorrow,” and creating really fun mixes like Grease’s “You’re the One that I Want” integrated into Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s “Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” The band was wonderfully on point throughout the evening, jamming with the singers and taking full advantage of the form for occasional features throughout the lineup.
The performances were amazing, featuring solos from each of the four singers: Kathryn Alison, Sam Gravitte, Luke Hawkins, and Jelani Remy. Kathryn Alison held her own as the brat-woman of the group, bringing charm and vivacity to each of her songs and moments within the ensemble pieces. Sam Gravitte brought a youthful energy to the group and silenced the room with his rendition of “Unusual Way.” Luke Hawkins played the triple threat, featuring intensive and impressive tap in each of his songs, which I unfortunately could not fully appreciate (due to my seat, my view to the stage floor and his fancy footwork was blocked by other patrons). And last but not least, Jelani Remy grounded the whole group and led them seamlessly through the evening, bringing down the house with new orchestrations of “Get Happy / Happy Days Are Here Again” (a duet with Luke) and “Tomorrow.”
Brat Pack is a jam packed hour of fun. The June 12 show I attended was a revival of an earlier show in March and I hope that it becomes a more regular affair. I only wish I had gotten to see more of the performance; sitting to the side, I was sometimes blocked by performers sitting on the sidelines or other patrons trying to snag a bit of their burger between careening their head towards the stage. Make sure to arrive early to get the best seats to enjoy both the food / drink from the venue as well as the show!
BRAT PACK – June 12, 2023
Music direction by Isaac Hayward
Featuring – Kathryn Alison, Sam Gravitte, Luke Hawkins, Jelani Remy
Birdland Jazz Club
There is a $40 music charge and a $20 food and beverage minimum. Birdland is located at 315 West 44th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues) in Manhattan. For reservations, please call (212) 581-3080 or visit www.BirdlandJazz.com.