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October 19, 2010

Concert recap: At This Performance

by Jesse North

Five hundred spotlights. That’s how many center-stage moments the At This Performance concert series has given to Broadway understudies since its inception seven years ago. During the Monday night concert, Erick Buckley—who understudies Uncle Fester in The Addams Family, was crowned number 500. At the time of the concert, he had yet to ever go on for the role.

That fact is what makes the At This Performance concerts so special—it honors actors who rarely get the glory. Musicals Tonight! artistic director Mel Miller introduced the night’s performers as “the backbone of American musical theater,” noting that they are the future leads of Broadway. The actors represented such shows as Fela!, The Lion King, A Little Night Music, and Memphis.

Typically, the performers perform solo, but since Colin Cunliffe and Jessica Lea Patty were both in attendance from The Addams Family, they sang the duet their characters share, called “Crazier Than You.” Rather than give the song a straight performance, the two acted out the song, using props.

Video: Colin Cunliffe and Jessica Lea Patty sing “Crazier Than You” from The Addams Family

They weren’t the only performers to duet. Abena Koomson and Adesola Osakalumi from Fela! performed a soft, soulful “Trouble Sleep.” For her second song, Koomson chose Stevie Wonder’s “The Secret Life of Plants” and delivered it with beautiful restraint and elegant movements.

Video: Fela!’s Abena Koomson performs Stevie Wonder’s “The Secret Life of Plants”

Buckley, the honored 500th performer, performed Uncle Fester’s lovesong to the moon, “The Moon and Me,” with wide-eyed wonder. His second song, “Is Anybody There?” from 1776 was a 180 in emotion, which Buckley performed with conviction and resolve.

Brian M. Love performed James Ingram’s “Just Once,” which was as smooth as butter. Memphis’s John Eric Parker took on Huey’s big number “Memphis Lives In Me,” while Cunfliffe performed “What Do I Need With Love?” from Thoroughly Modern Millie. Closing the concert, A Little Night Music’s Gina Lamparella had the audience giggling with Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich’s “Taylor the Latte Boy.”

Video: A Little Night Music’s Gina Lamparella sings “Taylor the Latte Boy”

Set list:

Ryan M. Love (The Lion King, u/s Simba)
“Endless Night” and “Just Once” by James Ingram

Colin Cunliffe and Jessica Lea Patty (The Addams Family, u/s Lucas Beineke and Wednesday Addams, Morticia Addams)
“Crazier Than You”

John Eric Parker (Memphis, u/s Delray, Bobby)
“Memphis Lives In Me” and “Azure Te” from Five Guys Named Mo

Abena Koomson and Adesola Osakalumi (Fela!, u/s Funmilayo and Fela Kuti)
“Trouble Sleep”

Erick Buckley (The Addams Family, u/s Uncle Fester)
“The Moon and Me” and “Is Anybody There?” from 1776

Natalie Weiss (Everyday Rapture, u/s Mennonites)
“I Think He Likes Me” and a song by Katie Thompson

Gina Lamparella (A Little Night Music, u/s Countess Charlotte Malcolm)
“Thinking of Him” from Curtains and “Taylor the Latte Boy” by Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich

Colin Cunliffe (The Addams Family, u/s Lucas Beineke)
“What Do I Need With Love?” Thoroughly Modern Millie

Jessica Lea Patty (The Addams Family, u/s Wednesday Addams, Morticia Addams)
“A Way Back To Then” from [title of show]

Abena Koomson (Fela!, u/s Funmilayo)
“The Secret Life of Plants” by Stevie Wonder

Adesola Osakalumi (Fela!, u/s Fela Kuti)
“If It’s Magic” by Stevie Wonder

At the end of the concert, host and casting director Stephen DeAngelis took the stage with a sly grin and some paper. He announced that he was going to (quickly) read the names of all 500 performers that have participated in At This Performance, and the reading proved how many understudies go on to become massive stars. Among the names of At This Performance veterans were Cheyenne Jackson, Jonathan Groff, Megan Hilty, Montego Glover, Krysta Rodriguez, and Jenna Ushkowitz. Point proven.

Did you attend the October At This Performance concert series, Rushers? What great performances have you seen during past installments? The next At This Performance concerts will be held October 31 and November 1—for more information and to buy tickets, visit the Musicals Tonight! website. Leave your understudy love in the comments below! Don’t forget to follow Stage Rush on Facebook and Twitter for on-the-go updates, news, and sightings!

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