Scott Siegel, creator, writer and host of the “Broadway Originals” show (October 21, 2012), presented by The Town Hall as part of its eighth annual Broadway Cabaret Festival, scored a clever coup. The concept features performers from original or revived Broadway musicals, but on this occasion, two performers from a Broadway musical that never got off the ground were included. I’m talking about the ill-fated “Rebecca,” for which performers were signed and then left jobless when the financing collapsed amid accusations of fraud.
The would-be-stars, Jill Paice and Ryan Silverman, sang intended numbers from the intended “Rebecca” and both turned in appealing performances of worthy songs. Paice and Silverman sang a thrilling duet, “Help Me Face the Night.” Each also soloed, Paice with the stirring “Free Now,” and Silverman with “Oh My God.” This preview indicated that whatever the financial difficulties, the music held promise, and the segment was a highlight of the afternoon.
Other talent on display doing roles they handled in their respective shows was top notch. I tend to favor songs more up my alley, such as “Maria” from West Side Story,” sung excitingly by the highly appealing Matt Cavenaugh, or “I Ain’t Got Nothing But the Blues” from “Play On,” sung with bluesy passion by the inimitable Tonya Pinkins.
There was also “Ladies Who Lunch” from “Company,” a song open to various interpretations by stars who love to sing it. On this occasion Barbara Walsh gave the lyrics a mixture of disdain fueled by a few too many drinks and an outburst of great vocal power that climaxed the number. Earlier in the show she sang “Stop, Time” from “Big,” another occasion for her to show her strength. I also favor numbers like “You Could Drive a Person Crazy,” also from “Company,” sung most entertainingly by Elizabeth Stanley, who also dazzled with “Fever” from “Million Dollar Quartet.” Laura Osnes was very special with “How ‘Bout a Dance” from the underrated “Bonnie and Clyde.”
I am less enamored with the shrieking kind of numbers that have earned popularity even though I admire the talent doing the shrieking, like the fabulous Mandy Gonzalez singing “Breathe” from “In the Heights” and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” from “Dance of the Vampires.“ Ditto for the talented Lindsay Mendez belting “Bless the Lord” from “Godspell.”
I prefer songs like “Who Will Love Me As I Am?” from “Side Show,” as sung by Alice Ripley, fondly remembered for her performance in that musical. Ripley also sang “I Miss the Mountains” from “Next to Normal,” in which she also starred.
Tovah Feldshuh, decked out in red, had fun prancing about and singing the corny number “Sarava” from the show of the same name. One cannot lavish too much praise on Matt Cavenaugh, who returned to spiritedly sing “It Don’t Get Better Than This” from “Urban Cowboy.” Tonya Pinkins added to the show’s strength with a second number, “Under Water” from “Caroline, or Change.”
It is quite a challenge to line-up performers who have appeared in the original or revival of shows, and with the passage of time, the task grows harder. After all, Ethel Merman is no longer around. You get the picture. But Siegel met the challenge to provide an entertaining show, with musical direction by John Fischer and direction by the versatile Scott Coulter, who also provided back-up singing on two occasions.
The first show in this year’s Broadway Cabaret series starred Linda Eder on October 13, and the third program, scheduled for October 26, is “Best of Broadway By the Year,” with another roster of talent slated to perform. At The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street. Phone: 212-840-2824. Reviewed October 22, 2012.