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amBroadway | Feinstein’s/54 Below reopens, Met looks to the future and more

Adam Pascal at Feinstein's/54 Below
Photo courtesy of Feinstein's/54 Below

I can’t believe I waited so long to return to Feinstein’s/54 Below,  the Broadway-centric nightclub venue in Times Square, which officially reopened last month after having been closed for 15 months. Until Broadway musicals reopen, the intimate cabaret performances at Feinstein’s/54 Below are probably the closest that one can currently come to experiencing genuine musical theater.  

In recent weeks, Jason Robert Brown (“The Last Five Years”), Joe Iconis (“Be More Chill”), Andrew Barth Feldman (“Dear Evan Hansen”), Beth Malone (“Fun Home”), Paulo Szot (“South Pacific”), and Orfeh (“Legally Blonde”) have played the venue. Looking ahead, the August roster includes Michael Feinstein himself, André De Shields (“Hadestown”), Norbert Leo Butz (“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”) and Jason Danieley (“The Full Monty”). 

“Our goal was to have an eclectic mix of 54 Below favorites and new artists, performers appealing to all demographics, and shows that related powerfully to this moment,” said creative and programming director Jennifer Ashley Tepper. 

On Tuesday night, I attended an hour-long solo show/career retrospective by Adam Pascal (who is best known for originating the role of Roger in “Rent”) in which he accompanied himself on acoustic guitar and sung through selections from “Rent,” “Aida,” “Something Rotten!” and “Cabaret” – plus a few non-showtune rock songs. Pascal, who will return to the venue next week, was in good spirits (joking about some misguided audition experiences and ill-advised rants on social media) and terrific shape vocally. A version of the show will also be streamed in August on Stellar.

“It has been incredibly meaningful to welcome audiences back to live performances and to share music in an actual room together,” Tepper said. “Nothing can replace actual human beings singing and playing, laughing and crying, clapping and cheering together, for songs and stories.”

In terms of safety protocols, all audience members must reserve a specific arrival time and present proof of vaccination at the door. The venue is sanitized each night in between 7 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. performances. 

As Met looks forward, young company invades its turf

Full length opera returned to Lincoln Center on Tuesday night with a performance in Damrosch Park of Rossini’s comic opus “The Barber of Seville” by Teatro Nuovo, a new company that specializes in Bel Canto period Italian opera. Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Opera’s 16-month-long series of free nightly streams of previously filmed opera performances finally ended last weekend. The Met will reopen in September with an ambitious new season that includes Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up In My Bones” (marking the Met’s first production of an opera by a Black composer) – so long as it is able to finish contract negotiations with the unions representing its workers. 

In Other Theater News…

Three preview performances of the Shakespeare in the Park production of “Merry Wives” were canceled last week due to a positive COVID finding within the company…”The Radio City Christmas Spectacular” will return on Nov. 5…Adrienne Warren, who won raves as Tina Turner, will return to “Tina” for a limited run beginning Oct. 8…The Broadway cast “Come From Away” will be performed in concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Sept. 10 to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

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