By: Iris Wiener
He may be used to playing second fiddle, but his cabaret show on February 7th at 54 Below attested to the fact that he is a first rate performer and an incredibly clever and humorous writer. From an opening voiceover in which Marin Mazzie mistakes him for "the guy from Duck Dynasty," to the final notes of the poignantly placed "Life’s a Funny Proposition After All", Hildreth gave new meaning to the cabaret experience.
Hildreth is known for playing the quintessential number two, whether he’s standing slightly to the left of Benjamin Walker in Broadway’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, winning over Cinderella’s stepsister in Cinderella, or bringing ensemble work to the forefront in Peter and the Starcatcher. In his debut solo show, Hildreth proved that he is a leading man by every right. Accompanied by a six-piece band led by Charlie Rosen, the sharp performer was at home in the spotlight, comfortable and spirited at every story, joke, and note.
The most entertaining of performers know how to poke fun at themselves both on stage and off; Hildreth managed to tease at his eccentricities while pulling off the feat of turning a concert into an intimate conversation. His captive audience hung onto every last lyric of his carefully chosen songs and stories. In an opening number written by Alan Schmuckler, Hildreth crooned to his fans, "Tonight you’re here to see me!", after which he dedicated his show to "everyone who makes their living for number two…ahem, being number two."
Hildreth married affectively placed visual aids with song choices that showcased his talent and wit. Whether highlighting his role as a donkey when he was at a tender age, or sending out an ode to Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson co-star Benjamin Walker, his humor was aptly timed and whimsical. An especially fun moment arrived when Hildreth performed Eli Bolin and Sam Forman’s "Grimace’s Lament", a ditty from his ‘upcoming gig’ as the Hamburglar opposite Allison Williams in Das Hamburger. "Am I a monstrous blob?" he crooned. "Can people hear me sob?"
Though no one could steal the show from Broadway’s newest Grimace, Hildreth’s friends came out in droves to try. Cinderella co-star Santino Fontana joined him for "You’re Nothing Without Me", featuring special lyrics with which the star performers bickered hilariously. In a move that invoked the flamboyance and antics that made Peter and the Starcatcher a work of joy, alum Christian Borle brought down the house with Hildreth in the duet "Sisters" from White Christmas. Hearing these two gentleman croon "No one comes between me and my man!" while flitting girlishly was an enviable, one-time treat. The love for Hildreth was abundantly clear, with other guest second fiddles Celia Keenan-Bolger, Kate Baldwin, and Jason Danieley. Hildreth even slipped on his Bulgarian accent from his turn in Paper Mill Playhouse’s Can-Can for his rendition of "Who Said Gay Paree?" imbibing it with some new, comical twists.
Hildreth made note of the fact that in his youth he would play everything from trees, to dads, to Annie‘s Mr. Bundles. Now a center stage star at 54 Below, Hildreth called out the drama teacher who told him to be patient. "You’ll get work when you’re forty," he recalled her saying. With his showcase he proved that life certainly is a funny proposition, but that great creativity and a warm-witted, open heart will help the very best theatrical crooners follow their own dreams.