Posts Tagged ‘marc shaiman’

Performance diary: MAKE IT BIG

April 28, 2014

The New York Pops celebrated its 31st birthday gala by honoring Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman for their three decades of writing music and lyrics for Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, the West End, movies, and TV. I snared a last-minute ticket and vicariously kvelled for Shaiman and Wittman, whose work I’ve watched and enjoyed from the beginning. It’s one thing to have your music recorded in the studio for a soundtrack album or original cast recording. It’s very cool to hear it coming out of a Broadway orchestra pit. But to get to witness a whole evening (well, 90 minutes) of a full orchestra playing your stuff at Carnegie Hall? Golden.

Some magic moments:

* the three gals who got famous playing the lead role of Tracy Turnblad — a curiously tan Marissa Jaret Winokur (Broadway), Nikki Blonsky (movie musical), and the now-svelte Ricki Lake (original John Waters movie) — belting out the opening number of Hairspray, “Good Morning, Baltimore”;

* Sophie von Haselberg reading a funny and loving poem that her mother, Bette Midler, wrote for Shaiman’s 50th birthday;

* Martin Short doing a lovely song called “Simply Second Nature” from the current London hit Charlie and the Chocolate Factory;

* Capathia Jenkins reprising her hilarious and roof-raising number from Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me called “(Let a Big Black Lady) Stop the Show.”

Some version of that last phenomenon had already happened earlier in the show when Jenifer Lewis came out to deliver the 11 o’clock number from Hairspray, “I Know Where I’ve Been.” Lewis let it be known that when it was freshly written, Shaiman and Wittman asked her to record a demo of the song. “So I like to think they wrote it for me. Everybody who’s sung it since then thinks the same thing. But bitches: I. Sang. It. First.” She proceeded to sing the hell out of it. The audience stood up. Including me.

4-28 big finale

The show closed, of course, with the rousing anthem that closed Hairspray, “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” with most of the original cast (Winokur, Clark Thorell, Corey Reynolds, Kerry Butler, Laura Bell Bundy, and Linda Hart), joined halfway by Wittman and Shaiman (above). I surprised myself by getting a little teary-eyed because, even out of its dramatic context, this catchy little pop romp still sneaks in its funky political punch, equivalent to the last speech in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: the world only spins forward.


Performance diary: Jenifer Lewis at 54 Below

July 25, 2012

“Only in New York”: that’s the kind of vibe that 54 Below, the recently opened cabaret in the basement of Studio 54 that calls itself “Broadway’s Nightclub,” strives to create. And my first time there tonight, it worked. The headliner was Jenifer Lewis, a mouthy comic singer and performer who’s toiled in New York theater, spent five years on a TV show called Strong Medicine, and once toured as backup singer for Bette Midler. Along the way, she acquired an adopted daughter and became a poster girl for bipolar disorder. All of that figures in her act, much of it special material created for her by her musical director, Marc Shaiman, who’s a gifted composer and arranger but more than anything else is kind of a great diva wrangler (Bette being his first and foremost diva). He’s a superb accompanist, in that he’s a nimble piano player but also strikes the perfect balance on stage between invisible partner and sweet all-purpose straight man. Well, straight man who’s as gay as they come. The original material will not be covered by other singers any time soon — “Black Don’t Crack,” about how female celebrities of a certain age don’t have to submit to Botox-face the way their white counterparts do, and “Sang Bitch,” a tribute to other beloved performers. The cover songs are surprising and, I have to say, very well-sung. Imagine Kiki and Herb with less onstage drinking and better pitch. The show, directed by Scott Wittman (Shaiman’s partner in crime and life), runs through Saturday July 28.


%d bloggers like this: