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February 14, 2011

Concert recap: At This Performance, October 2011

by Jesse North

The latest installment of the At This Performance concert series brought big laughs Sunday night. The concert that gives Broadway understudies and standbys the spotlight saw performers choosing hilarious song selections and telling stories of their careers that had the audience in stitches. Producing artistic director and host of the concert series Stephen DeAngelis noted the importance of understudies in theater, acknowledging their future star power. Speaking of what Broadway would be like without these actors, DeAngelis said, “They’d be dying Snooki green and putting a broom in her hand.”

The night kicked off with At This Performance’s youngest performer ever—11-year-old Logan Rowland from The Addams Family. He sang Pugsley’s solo “What If” with polish and confidence while his parents video taped and took pictures from the audience. Rowland told the story of his first time going on in the role—co-star Nathan Lane made an announcement to the audience during the show’s curtain call that they had just witnessed his Broadway debut. Rowland’s Addams co-stars Mo Brady and Lisa M. Karlin duetted with “Crazier Than You,” but didn’t live up to the chemistry displayed by Colin Cunliffe and Jessica Lea Patty when they sang the song last October.

Brady’s solo follow-up song was a song called “I Won’t Have To Anymore.” Easily the night’s most emotional performance, Brady sang the story of a young man preparing to flee the home of his verbally and physically abusive father. Showing great emotional depth and vocal range, Brady’s performance was among the night’s most memorable.

Video: The Addams Family‘s Mo Brady sings “I Won’t Have To Anymore”

(Using an iPhone or iPad? Watch on YouTube)

The best performance of the night came next from Jennifer Sanchez, who performed Laura Benanti’s number “Model Behavior” from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. She performed the unbelievably fast-paced song with precision, hitting every comedic point on its staccato hurdles. Later in the night, Sanchez followed up her hilarious turn with a painfully cute rendition of Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am,” accompanying herself on guitar.

Video: Women on the Verge‘s Jennifer Sanchez sings “Model Behavior”

(Watch on YouTube)

Taking leave from Kelsey Grammer and Douglas Hodge’s final-show party, La Cage aux Folles understudy Bruce Winant sang an elegant “Song On The Sand” from the show, and followed it up with “If I Were A Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof that was filled with incredible gusto and joy.

Catherine Porter took the stage and offered a healthy chunk of standup comedy, in addition to her two performances. Fresh off her stint at the recently-closed Next to Normal, Porter joked about the short-notice tendencies of understudy notices and offered a fresh take on the Valentine’s Day standard “My Funny Valentine.” Highlighting the lyrics “Is your figure less than Greek / Is your mouth a little weak,” Porter encouraged audience members to not sing this insulting song to their significant others on the romantic holiday.

Video: Next to Normal‘s Catherine Porter sings “My Funny Valentine”

(Watch on YouTube)

Last to take the stage was de’Adre Aziza, most known for her fantastic performance in Passing Strange. As exciting as it was to see Aziza perform, she seemed misplaced in this concert. True, she did understudy the lead role of Pepa in Women on the Verge, but she had a featured role, was included in all the promotional materials for the show, and—let’s not forget—is a Tony-nominated actress. At This Performance caters to Broadway actors who have yet to make it as stars. As anyone who has seen Passing Strange would know, Aziza doesn’t fit into this category. Nevertheless, both her performances were filled with her signature deep-voiced, sultry fare. She performed Pepa’s solo “Island” from Women on the Verge, and the classic “Cry Me A River,” as an “anti-Valentine’s Day song.”

Video: Women on the Verge‘s de’Adre Aziza sings “Cry Me A River”

(Watch on YouTube)

Set list:
Logan Rowland (The Addams Family, u/s Pugsley)
“What If” from The Addams Family and “I Wanna Be A Dancin’ Man” from Dancin’

Mo Brady and Lisa M. Karlin (The Addams Family, u/s Lucas Beineke and Wednesday)
“Crazier Than You” from The Addams Family

Mo Brady (The Addams Family, u/s Lucas Beineke)
“I Won’t Have To Anymore”

Lisa M. Karlin (The Addams Family, u/s Wednesday)
“See What I Wanna See” from See What I Wanna See

Gabrielle Ruiz (In The Heights, u/s Vanessa, Carla, Nina)
“Breathe” from In The Heights and “Home” from Phantom

Jennifer Sanchez (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, u/s Candela)
“Model Behavior” from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and “The Way I Am” by Ingrid Michaelson

Bruce Winant (La Cage aux Folles, u/s Georges)
“Song On The Sand” from La Cage aux Folles and “If I Were A Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof

Catherine Porter (Next to Normal, u/s Diana)
“I Miss The Mountains” from Next to Normal and “My Funny Valentine” from Babes In Arms

de’Adre Aziza (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, u/s Pepa)
“Island” from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and “Cry Me A River” by Arthur Hamilton

Didn’t make it to the concert, Rushers? There’s another At This Performance concert tonight—Valentine’s Day—at 8 p.m. So if you don’t have a date, why not spend the night with some Broadway understudies? Head over to the Musicals Tonight website for tickets. Which of these performances was your favorite? Have you seen any of these actors gone on in the roles they cover? Tell us about it in the comments!

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