The much-anticipated cabaret 54 Below has finally opened! And they’ve opened with a real bang, a new cabaret act from Broadway legend Patti LuPone, that (figuratively) blows the roof off this basement boîte.
Entitled “Far Away Places” after a song popularized by Bing Crosby (which Patti gives a tender reading), the act looks towards places distant in both time and space, from Old Bilbao to 1970s New York City. The various songs add up to a search for a place packed with excitement and danger, with references both explicit and subtle to the excitement and danger that happened upstairs at Studio 54 in the late 70s.
And not just upstairs; the club itself occupies the space that used to be the ramshackle “VIP” room where Halston and Bianca Jagger (allegedly) snorted cocaine. Director Scott Wittman (also 54 Below’s “fairy godfather” creative consultant) makes sure that that thrilling tension permeates the act from beginning to end.
Not that LuPone needs that much help to be thrilling. This is one of those cabaret acts that climaxes every ten minutes or so, and Patti hits all of those climaxes out of the ballpark. Cole Porter’s kooky “Come to the Supermarket in Old Peking”, Johnny Mercer’s venomous “I Wanna Be Around”, Kurt Weill’s bloodthirsty “Pirate Jenny” – these songs sung by the belt-astic LuPone are an incredibly good thing. She’s giving it everything she’s got, and that’s a helluva lot.
She’s also marvelous in the act’s quiet moments, from the abovementioned “Far Away Places” to lovely songs from her most recent star turns in Sweeny Todd and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. A singer-actress as potent as Patti LuPone performing this kind of high-octane act is undeniably the stuff of cabaret legend. I wish “broken legs” to all of the performers who are to follow her at 54 Below, because she has set the bar very high indeed.
For tickets, click here.
For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.