Five reasons to join me for a night underground.
By Jen Littlefield (Choreographer/Librettist)
No really, what are you doing Tuesday? Nothing, you say? What is there to do on a Tuesday night at 10:30pm, you say? I'm an adult and I'm asleep by 10, you say? Well not anymore. Because you are joining me, Susie Mosher, Brad Simmons, some amazing guests young and old, and their friends for Backstage at 54 Below.
This has become my new favorite ways to spend a weekday evening in midtown. The best part… NO COVER! You only have to spend $20 in food or drink. And let's be honest, you were going to spend $20 on booze anyway - you live in NYC, hang out in midtown, and are probably involved in the arts (as am I, just ask my poor, poor liver). But if you still need convincing, let me break it down for you, pros-list style.
1. Susie Mosher and Brad Simmons
Susie is hysterical. She is currently in Newsical the Musical and she hosts the sh*t out of this late-night, invited open mic. I'm so mad that there are no videos of her opening numbers from past Tuesdays because she rocks (if you happen to read this Susie, RECORD YOUR OPENING NUMBERS!) But here is a sample of her humorous singing:
And Brad Simmons plays the piano like a dream. A warm, fuzzy, melodic dream that you take with you even after you're awake. He sings too (with my friend Jodi, I had no idea. Thanks internet!):
This night is jam-packed with VOICES. And I mean serious voices. Susie has talented friends who are just as funny (Emily McNamara, Michelle Dowdy), who write their own songs (Tommy Walker, Jon Patrick Walker), and who just have killer pipes (Judy Mora, Jessica Vosk). I feel bad picking just one to show you, but I will because it's the only one up:
3. Susie and Backstage have special guests (that sometimes have special talents)
Every week has a few Broadway stars to perk your ears up. But my favorite was Sarah Rice, the original Johanna in Sweeney Todd. She brought a theremin. Yep, one of those electronic wave instruments that old sci-fi movies built entire scenes around. She played Chi il bel sogno… the aria… on a THEREMIN. And it was in tune. Ask Brad, he was playing piano. To understand what it sounds like, first listen to the beautiful version of it by my friend Shannon Kessler Dooley:
And now imagine it like this:
It was so weird and so cool. She let the audience try it too:
4. The other part of the night is reserved for student singers
To round out the evening, each week features singers from musical theater programs around the city. NYU, Marymount, Pace, UW Stevens Point, and more. This is my favorite part and why I started going in the first place. One of my former students, (and forever friend) Dylan, brings in two to four BFA students from the school of the week, and they sing a song to a full house of their soon to be peers and contemporaries. It's like the circle of life, New York Cabaret style. The first week of January, my student Hayley Anna Norris sang Fairy Mamma, a song written by David Gomez and John Michael Lyles from the musical "You Wish." She killed it:
And it's a gay LOVE STORY with a fairy mama twist. She was close... (Oh yeah, I wrote the book for "You Wish")
5. Do I even need a five? Are you seriously not convinced yet?. Just come on down and listen to some music while you laugh a little and drink a good manhattan, the bartenders know what their doing.
Tuesdays. 10:30pm. Backstage at 54 Below.
(You can DVR Parenthood, the tears will still be there when you watch it Wednesday)
JEN LITTLEFIELD is a freelance choreographer and writer with a few steady teaching gigs at Pace University and Concordia Conservatory. As she's come to discover, freelance is code for constantly working, so she is also a single gal who lives and lives-it-up in Hell's Kitchen. www.jenlittlefield.com
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