By: Paulanne Simmons
March 9, 2020: We all like birthday parties. But Scott Siegel’s idea of a birthday bash is unique. Every month Siegel creates, directs and hosts a concert celebrating famous songs by famous people born in that month. The event takes place at Feinstein’s/54 below, and it features many performers who are well-known in their own right. The superb Ross Patterson is at the piano.
The March 8 birthday party saluted a variety of singers, from the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, to country artist Carrie Underwood, to rock/pop legend Elton John. Although many of these singers also write their songs, three slots were saved for composers: Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Scott embellishes each number with interesting facts: Karen Carpenter’s hit, “We’ve Only Just Begun” began life as a commercial for Crocker National Bank. Jon Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” was on the B side but became a hit because the DJs liked it better than the A side song. And the line “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend” in James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” inspired Carole King to write “You’ve Got a Friend.”
There were many highlights of the evening. But certainly, Jenny Lee Stern, who showed her great versatility when she belted the Cabaret classic “Maybe This Time,” took on a twang for “Before He Cheats” and partnered with Cooper Grodin for Lady Gaga’s “Shallow,” was a standout.
Ben Jones was a much warmer but equally supercilious Professor Higgins when he sang Rex Harrison’s “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.” Allison Semmes channeled Diana Ross, complete with dazzling smile, when she sang “Can’t Hurry Love.” And brothers John and Matthew Drinkwater’s rendition of Stephen Schwartz’s “For Good” was particularly moving.
And guess what? At the end of every show there’s a birthday present for everyone in the audience who was born in the celebrated month.
Feinstein’s/54 Below is at 254 West 54 Street, 54below.com.
April 21 @ 7pm is the date for April Birthday Show