Sunday night, Feinstein’s/54Below hosted a banquet of widely diverse selections from the work of collaborators Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty as honored by CCM otherwise known as the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Onstage talent was accomplished, represented oeuvre impressive and entertaining.
Our host tonight, impresario/director/vocalist Scott Coulter, graduated CCM in 1993. He’s stayed in touch and taught Master Classes at his alma mater. In honor of the school’s 25th New York Showcase for agents and casting directors, program head, Dr. Aubrey Berg, asked Coulter if he’d put together an evening celebrating its gifted alumni.
Coulter suggested a salute to Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, the latter a CCM graduate. The pair were in beaming attendance. He then contacted alumni from the last 24 years drawing on a wealth of artists with Broadway credits. The early show ran like Swiss clockwork. (An entirely different one was presented at 9:30!)
Scott Coulter, Jessica Boevers Bogart
After Coulter’s charmingly besotted story about being roundly affected by the original 1990 production of Once On This Island (a Broadway revival is in development), we open with a vivacious “Journey To the Past” (Anastasia) as sung by Lexie Dorsett-Sharp, Carlyn Connolly, and Coulter. The three polished voices blend splendidly. Harmony is very fine.
“Times Like These” …a girl could use a dog… (Lucky Stiff) is delightfully rendered by Jessica Boevers Bogart who slips into character like a well fitting, zipperless dress. Bogart is sympathetic, delivers low key as effectively as soaring, and possesses comic timing. Kathryn Boswell’s “Under the Bridge,” (Anastasia- imminently opening on Broadway) demonstrates great skill in knowing what to restrain and when to let fly. Watch out Kelli O’Hara.
Kathryn Boswell, Victoria Cook
On stage, Max Chernin presents a stirring, character-credble “The Night That Goldman Spoke” (Ragtime), while from the bar area Lexie Dorsett-Sharp responds as Emma Goldman with round tones and powerful conviction. Both make the number come vibrantly alive. Also from Ragtime, we hear “Raining” as performed by Victoria Cook whose palpable pain, theatrical finesse, and every-woman persona lands a bull’s-eye.
The class of 2017, in New York for its program’s annual showcase, let loose with specially written lyrics for “I Was There” (Glorious Ones), an immensely moving anthem about why artists opt for hardscrabble life in the theater. Youthful hope and deep love of craft shone. Professor Berg spoke briefly, proudly surrounded by shepherded talent. CCM seems a hotbed of burgeoning aptitude.
Max Chernin, Lexie Dorsett-Sharp
Also Featured: Alysha Deslorieux’s big beautiful “Waiting For Life” which starts in character, but careens to simply grand vocal (Once On This Island); Preston Boyd’s uneven “Some Girls” (Once On This Island); Danette Holden’s “Back to Before” (Ragtime) evidencing superb control, pith, and range; John Riddle’s “Streets of Dublin” (A Man of No Importance), which displays his remarkable instrument, but interprets feeling as volume (gorgeous melody); Eric Sciotto’s low key lullaby rendition of “Solla Sollew” (Seussical); Mia Gentile’s “Notice Me Horton” (Seussical) with deft comic timing, but again, growing too big for the lyric.
Justin Patterson’s “Love Who You Love” (A Man of No Importance) is adroitly understated and direct (lovely cello); Sally Ann Tumas’s “Goodbye My Love” (Ragtime) reveals highly trained vocal subtlety; DeMone Seraphin starts “Make Them Hear You”, a tirade about injustice, with his hand in his pocket, killing the mood (lush, undulating piano); Alexa Green’s “Come Down from the Tree” (Once On This Island) is self conscious about sound, losing lyrical meaning.
Shoshana Bean offers an infectiously joyous “Mama Will Provide” (Ragtime); Jason Rieff’s “Human Heart” (Once On This Island) dramatically closes the show with backup by the company: The courage of a dreamer/The innocence of youth/The failures and the foolishness/That lead us to the truth…
I was fortunate enough to be among those in the BMI Musical Theater Workshop with Lynn and Steve and watched them become a team. It seemed like Kismet from the get-go. The multifaceted lyricist and composer have been collaborators for 30 years authoring accessible songs without losing specificity. They write smart, wry, exceptionally moving numbers and are, by the way, lovely people.
This is a worthy tribute.
Music Director/Pianist Ryan Shirar, Jacob Yates-Cello, Blake Allen-Viola- Yates and Allen CMM grads. Richard Oberacker, whose musical Bandstand is previewing on Broadway, sat in as pianist for one number.
Photos by Steve Friedman
Opening: Stephen Flaherty & Lynn Ahrens
Sunday April 2, 2017