|Photo by Monica Simoes|
54 Below is the new cabaret space/supper club below Roundabout's Studio 54 on 54th Street. The dark and luxurious decor made me feel as though I were stepping back in time.
For the 11:00 show, the doors were to open at 10:00 so we arrived about fifteen minutes early. That earned us a great table (so-called Vegas style seating, so you're sitting with strangers) close to the stage.
The audience was well dressed and excited. I spotted Ben Vereen (he was wearing a Bowler hat!) and Christine Ebersole sitting in a banquet together. Ben Vereen will play the room in July. After the show, Christine was chatting with the band...so maybe that's a sign that she'll sing there soon.
There was to a be $30 cover on top of the ticket fee (in our case, $70 plus fees). But because their kitchen wasn't quite ready, the cover was waived. This lent to a night about on par of Feinstein's, or maybe even a little cheaper. It's not necessarily a bigger room than Feinstein's, there were more tables so it was really packed, although not uncomfortably so. The drinks were a tad bit cheaper than Feinstein's and we were also treated to a complimentary charcuterie.
For years, I've been dying to see Patti LuPone in cabaret. During the run of Sweeney and the one time I've seen her in concert at the Vivian Beaumont, I always felt that the best of Patti was her intimate side. At cabaret, I always have the sense that you're just hanging out in someone's living room and this was on the ultimate side of that.
On the other hand, sitting that close to Patti LuPone brings a mixed bag of emotions. Of course, one feels the inevitable fear, but also the undeniable power of this larger than life lady. I sat front row several times during her run of Sweeney Todd and it's an unequaled experience.
The evening was a mix of elegant and low-brow - Patti's band, the Gypsy Drifters and Patti were dressed tuxes, hers sort of a sort of modified feminine tux. She looks trim and gorgeous. I have to add that she has one of the best smiles around - her teeth are beautiful! She didn't overdo it on the elegant, because of course, Patti's brilliant at the bawdy. Her jokes were definitely on the low-brow side.
Patti's show is dubbed Faraway Places, so she offered a selection of tunes that were often about traveling or destinations. It was a fascinating line-up and she belted them all out like nobody's business. Her voice is probably stronger than it ever was - so warm, so gorgeous, so thrilling!
I was most happy to hear "Pirate Jenny." Before the show, Kari and I speculated what the banjo would be used for and boy was I knocked over! This is one of my favorite songs and I'd never heard it sung live before. She followed it with "By the Sea" from Sweeney Todd - of course, this made me damn happy too.
One of her encores was an audience choice. Apparently, people were invited to tweet in choices and then she would draw one from those. With her back to us, she drew a card and muttered, "Fuck me," turned around, said, "Shit," and then proceed to loosen the new tin ceiling tiles with the most gorgeous and ferocious "Meadowlark" possibly ever rendered. It was an out-of-body experience!
The show was only about an hour and fifteen minutes, but it was so crammed full, it felt longer. I didn't take notes because I was too busy applauding, cheering and smiling until my face nearly broke, so in no particular order, this was (most) of the set list:
Gypsy in My Soul
I Wanna Be Around
Hymn to Love
I Cover the Waterfront
By the Sea
Come to the Supermarket in Old Peking
I Regret Everything
Nights of Broadway