54 Below is the smart cabaret just underneath Theatre 54 in New York. It features the best of the Broadway performers who show up regularly between engagements on the legit stage, and its lineup has included Chita Rivera (she’s doing two shows on New Year’s Eve), Betty Buckley, Patty LuPone, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Brian d’Arcy James, Linda Lavin, Christine Ebersole, Jeremy Jordan and Andy Mientus (coming soon, from the recent TV series “Smash”), Kelli O’Hara, Sutton Foster, Andréa Burns and just about every other major talent that graces musical theatre.
The current attraction is Lee Roy Reams,who was featured in 42nd Street, La Cage Aux Folles, Applause and has worked with just about every major composer who spent the 20th Century writing tunes or the stage. In his current 90 minute gig at the club, he’s put together a stunning medley of tunes from shows he’s been in, not always on Broadway, but in stock, on the road, in tv specials, or in one case from a show (Seesaw) for which composer (Cy Coleman) wrote him a smashing tune (“It’s Not Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish”) only to have him lose the role to Tommy Tune, who won a Tony Award performing it.
He’s included it in his act, and you can see how easily he’d have won that Tony had he been allowed to do it on stage. Another medley from Mack and Mabel is a tribute to Jerry Herman,who has named it his own favorite of his scores.
As with so many other featured performers with talent, through the years Reams has picked up the fine points which separate the merely talented from those with genuine star quality. Those points are indefinable but recognizable when present, and they pop up all over the place when watching this triple threat entertainer. In addition to the training and instincts of a dancer, the voice that can croon and then belt, the timing that gets the laughs when delivering funny words, even the taste that helps choose the right material; in addition to all that, it’s in the way in which he handles his audience, in this case a celebrity-studded one with Annie author Martin Charnin, Broadway leading ladies Anita Gillette and Penny Fuller, “Theatre Talk” producer Susan Haskins and others sprinkled into the sold out cabaret theatre.
His audience was so responsive that the management has already asked him to return for an encore on December 1st. If you’re looking for a holiday season treat, check out 54 Below for reservation. There isn’t a bad seat in the house, and you’ll have the best time this side of The Book of Mormon, all the while munching on some better than average cabaret food, for about 60% the cost of an orchestra seat on Broadway.
If all this sounds like a commercial, it’s because I was impressed with this, my third visit to 54 Below. I’d seen Linda Lavin and Andréa Burns and now, with this truly fun evening shared with Lee Roy Reams, I could indeed become a spokesperson for the club. While these gifted artists wait for a suitable role on stage, what a cool way to allow them to strut their stuff.
Lee Roy Reams’ performance titled “My 40th Birthday” was November 10, 2013. The cabaret stage at 54 Below is busy just about every night of the week (here’s the calendar). While most performances are one night only, Jason Robert Brown is in the house for 7 performances, starting November 18th. 54 Below is located at 254 W 54th St, Cellar, New York, NY 10019.
Richard Seff, Broadway performer, agent, playwright, librettist, columnist adds novelist to his string of accomplishments, with the publication of his first novel, TAKE A GIANT STEP. His first book, Supporting Player: My Life Upon the Wicked Stage, celebrates his lifetime on stage and behind the scenes. Both books are available through online booksellers, including Amazon.com.
He has also written the book to SHINE! The Horatio Alger Musical which was a triple prize winner at the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF).
Each year, Actors Equity recognizes the year’s most outstanding supporting player with, appropriately enough, the Richard Seff Award.
He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.