Like many of you, I remember when Scott Siegel would plant himself outside events giving out flyers to his slowly burgeoning show schedule. Here we are 500 plus concerts later with this particular series in its 21st year. Ending the season with a bang, Siegel celebrates the variety of dance on Broadway with a stage FULL of performers.
I first saw dancer/singer/choreographer Danny Gardner tap dance on a piece of board at one of vocalist Carole J. Bufford’s presentations and have followed him ever since. Give this man a Broadway musical. Celebrating “the Lin-Manuel Miranda of his day, George M. Cohan” (Siegel), Gardner exuberantly sings and with a kind of happy grace dances his way through “Give My Regards to Broadway” replete with cane. (Little Johnny Jones)
Jarrod Spector, Erika Nicole Mesa and The Company
One of the things Broadway choreography has done over the years is to reflect whatever popular dance is trending at the time. Honoring choreographer Jerry Mitchell we watch “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from 2000’s Hairspray. (Marc Shaiman/Scott Whitman) Erika Nicole Mesa, a small woman with a big, you-go-girl voice, plays Tracy Turnblad in duet with Jarrod Spector, an expert on the period’s sound. (Later his “I Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” from Bob Gaudio/Bob Crewe’s jukebox musical Jersey Boys- spotlights this.) Choreography is youthful and fun, incorporating glimpses of the era’s dance crazes.
“S’Wonderful” (Funny Face – George and Ira Gershwin) offers Gardner’s supple, theatrical waltz, partly with a microphone stand, partly with the pliant Mary Donnelly. “Bye Bye Blackbird” (Ray Henderson/Mort Dixon – Fosse -the Musical) with vocalist Rema Webb presents recognizable steps and gestures. Pronounced pelvises, manipulated hats, snapped or splayed fingers combine to fine effect. “Dancing Queen” (Abba – Priscilla Queen of the Desert) gives us disco.
Solo turns include Luke Hawkins boyish and bright song/dance version of “I Can Do That” (A Chorus Line – Marvin Hamlisch/Edward Kleban). And Kendrick Jones, first with the uber-cool “Dr. Jazz” (Jelly’s Last Jam – Jelly Roll Morton/ Luther Henderson and Susan Birkenhead) which suits him like his porkpie hat and sharkskin, then a terrific “Where’s the Beat” (Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk – Daryl Waters/Zane Mark/Ann Duquesnay and Reg E. Gaines).
Hawkins’ tapping is sharp and tight. Gardner’s (for himself) expressively extends/utilizes limbs. His show choreography demonstrates wide range, aesthetic composition, and a feel for history. Jones makes the art look deceptively easy, displaying various styles with impressive old school skill. His second number was, as Siegel says, a “master class.”
Vocal performances (with background dance) include Kelli Barrett’s lovely, leading lady rendition of “I Could’ve Danced All Night” (My Fair Lady – Alan Jay Lerner/Frederick Loewe). Siegel tells us Lerner hated the line, “All at once my heart took flight,” intending to replace it. He never did. “To this day, it gives me cardiac arrest,” the lyricist is quoted. Also Jillian Louis’ expansive “The Music That Makes Me Dance” (Funny Girl – Jule Styne/Bob Merrill) and Jeanette Bayardelle’s spirited “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” which oddly is not related to a Broadway show – why then? (This vocalist would fare better with the microphone a tad further away.)
An animated “The Room Where It happens” (Hamilton – Lin-Manuel Miranda) features Adan Gallegos as Burr, Luana Psaros as Hamilton (stranger things have happened), Pedro Coppeti as Jefferson, and Matthew Harter as Madison, all handling rap-like lyrics with buoyant attention. The BBTY Chorus and Dance Troupe, active throughout the show, swell sound and effect.
An ebullient “I Got Rhythm” lead by Danny Gardner (Anything Goes – Cole Porter) ends this evening, again with the entire company – “a cast of thousands,” quips Siegel.
Costumes for this production exhibit more thought than earlier shows. Most numbers coordinate color and indicate era. Keep it up!
Musical arrangements suit perfectly.
There’s nothing like a stage full of vivacious young tap dancers to send one out with a grin.
Photos by Sachyn Mital
Broadway By The Year – A One Night Only History of Broadway Song and Dance
Created, Written, Directed and Hosted by Scott Siegel
Choreographed by Danny Gardner
Music Director/Piano- Ross Patterson
Don Falzone-Bass, Eric Halvorson-Drums
The Town Hall
123 West 43rd Street