Tonight, 54 Below presented Kate Baldwin and Aaron Lazar: All For You. The theater was packed, and viewers logged in from Italy, Canada, and the United States. A rhythm section and strings provided a lush accompaniment for the singers.
From the Audience to the Stage
The audience turned heads to see Baldwin and Lazar moving toward the stage from different places on the floor with wireless mics, singing an opening a capella introduction. The orchestra joined in for “One Second and a Million Miles” by Jason Robert Brown from The Bridges of Madison County. They held hands, delivered the song, and embraced.
Baldwin was gorgeous, wearing gold pumps with her red coiffure and curls. She was wrapped in an emerald green, sleeveless, full-length satin gown with a split on the left. Lazar was handsome and suave in a blue suit and gray shirt with a folded handkerchief in his breast pocket.
Chemistry and Artistry
Notable immediately, Baldwin and Lazar share powerful chemistry and artistic prowess, like the best of friends who finish each other’s thoughts. The audience applauded excitedly as Lazar and Baldwin thanked them and joked about the old disco club that once lived there. They segued into gentle comedic banter where Lazar repeated Baldwin’s words, which evolved into each repeating the other’s credits.
Repeating each other reminded me of how some siblings compete similarly. Still, better yet, I recalled the portentously romantic second-person dialogue between Cary Grant and Deborah Karr as Nickie and Terry in the final scene of An Affair to Remember. Nickie finally discovers Terry could not meet him in the Empire State Building because she was injured. People are moved to tears in the ineffable unfolding of the scene, especially when Nickie sees his painting in the back room with the orchestra rising to the romantic peak of the movie’s musical theme.
That Old Devil Moon and Il Mondo Era Vuoto
Baldwin sang “That Old Devil Moon” from Finian’s Rainbow by Burton Lane and E. Y Harburg. Lazar asked Baldwin to explain the plot of Finian’s Rainbow, which she did in about 30 seconds. She then noted Lazar’s starring role as Fabrizio in the Lincoln Center Production of Light in the Piazza. Lazar introduced the love song Il Mondo Era Vuoto by Adam Guettel (translated by Judith Blazer) and sang it in Italian to a grateful audience.
The duo thanked the musicians and pianist Luke Frazier, who introduced the rest of the orchestra.
There Once Was a Man
Baldwin and Lazar spoke of the musical Cats at the Wintergarden, leading to Baldwin’s subsequent 30-second plot summation.
From the Pajama Game, they performed the up tune “There Once Was a Man” by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. Baldwin moved to the bar while Lazar was on stage. Baldwin’s charming performance received excitement, flashing lights, and extended applause. The duo bantered a bit about their past shows and segued into Follies.
If Ever I Would Leave You
From Follies, Baldwin sang “Could I Leave You,” a delightful waltz by Stephen Sondheim, dramatically and beautifully performed.
The romance continued with Lazar singing “If Ever I Would Leave You,” from Camelot by Frederick Loewe. His performance was sumptuous, reflective, and romantic.
Lazar delivered his 30-second plot summation of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd this time. They sang, “Seems an Awful Waste, ” when Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney Todd hatched a macabre scheme to address a meat shortage. Baldwin slipped delightfully into an English accent for dramatic effect.
In a song summating how hard one must work to be successful and connect with others. Lazar performed the scene and song “Finishing the Hat” by Sondheim from Sunday in the Park with George.
You’ll Never Walk Alone
Baldwin sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Starting with a simple guitar introduction, the string ensemble gently accompanied as our chanteuse enchanted her audience.
Lazar appeared at the bar to mix with some of the patrons. Baldwin called out to remind him that “shots after!” and delivered a quick summary of the plot of Bridges of Madison County.
Our duo sang passionately as Francesca and Robert from Bridges, by Jason Robert Brown. They embraced as the lights dimmed and people sighed.
Lights raised a bit, an intro, and Baldwin sang “Always Better” from The Bridges of Madison County by Jason Robert Brown. It was sublime artistry indeed.
I’d Give it All for You
The finale duet was “I’d Give it All for You” by Jason Robert Brown from Songs of a New World.
Kate Baldwin and Aaron Lazar presented a sentimental, delightful journey through the American Songbook of the best of musical theater. Each song and setting was perfectly characterized, rapturously sung, and sparkling. The duo’s stories and anecdotes were charming and perfectly timed, and their exquisite duets were effervescent, expressive, and poetic. It was an evening of romance and joy! Hearing them with a complete rhythm section and orchestral strings was marvelous.
The instrumental arrangements were excellent. Special recognition is due to the 54 Below team for perfectly balanced sound and lighting.
For Kate Baldwin and Aaron Lazar: All For You
Music Director Luke Frazier
The American Pops Orchestra
Piano Luke Frazier
Cello Sean Neidlinger
Concertmaster Alexandra Jenkins Viola Jarvis Benson
Double bass Greg Watkins, violin Tiffany Weiss, Guitar David Sanders, Percussion Chris Barrick
For 54 Below
Livestream Director Becky Morris
Creative and Programming Director Jennifer Ashley Tepper
Lighting director Ashley Kok
Sound Supervisor Sarah Goodman
Executive Producers Steve Baruch, Richard Frankel, and Tom Viertel.
254 W 54th St. Cellar, NYC 10019
Tickets & Info: (646) 476-3551