By: Patrick Christiano
Tony & Emmy award winner, Leslie Uggams, returns to 54 Below with a marvelous new show, Only In New York.
November 12, 2022: Leslie Uggams’ return to the intimate supper club, 54 Below, is a cause for celebration. Missing in action for eight years while busy with film and TV projects, the Lady is back with a marvelous new show, Only In New York. Sporting a spikey new hair style that suits her playful, yet serious mood, she moved effortlessly through a beautiful selection of songs including iconic Broadway showstoppers along with songs she made famous or just loved. Her emotional connection to the music is profound, filled with seven decades of wisdom, and her soulful voice is strong displaying an impressive power and range.
Her show played tribute to all the wonderful things New York, her hometown, has brought her. And now can we talk? The Lady was in a decidedly playful mood and ready to share funny stories from her journey in show business. Beginning in Harlem at the age of nine, she has been performing for close to seven decades now and is an authentic legend with Tony and Emmy award winning credentials. The Lady was never less than authentic, and her show was cabaret at its finest served by a consummate artist.
She opened with a soaring “Something’s Coming,” from West Side Story, connecting with the audience beautifully and moving right into “Only In New York” from Thoroughly Modern Millie, followed by, “My Own Morning,” from Hallelujah, Baby!, which she sang in the Broadway show. She owned the song, before pulling out all the stops on another Jule Styne stunner, with an altered lyric, “Don’t Rain on My Parade, from Funny Girl.
She paused a moment to share a riotous story about singing the Rogers & Hammerstein’s, “June is Bustin Out All Over,” from Carousel, at The Capital in Washington D.C, before singing the improvised version that has made her famous in every gay bar across the country. Next, she hit all the right notes on “Hello Young Lovers,” from The King and I, followed by a haunting rendition of the John Lennon and Paul McCartney classic, “Yesterday/Yesterdays.
She weaved an enchanting spell on the Jule Styne, Comden, and Green classic, “Being Good Isn’t Good Enough,” from Hallelujah Baby! She won the Tony singing this song and has been singing it for 50 years. “The more I sing it, the more I feel I must do it,” she commented.
Speaking about the composers she was blessed to work with and referring to her dear friend the composer, Jerry Herman, who died in December 2019 she said. “Jerry is the most positive man I ever met. And she shared a gift he gave her when he surprised her with an unexpected telephone call asking if she would like to go on the road that summer, for 8 weeks, with Carol Channing and Andrea McCardle in a little show to be called Jerry’s Girls? That little show ran for 48 weeks, eventually coming to Broadway, and one of her songs in Jerry’s Girls was the classic from Mame, “If He Walked Into My Life.” She sang it next, and the room was stilled by her unforgettable interpretation, poignant and heartbreaking.
Her manager and husband of 57 years was in the room along with her daughter, Danielle Chambers, who she brought to the stage for a magical duet of “You Will Be Found,” from one of her favorite Broadway shows, Dear Evan Hansen. Another beautiful moment!
Her final song was a tribute to another legend, Lena Horne, who Leslie Uggams has portrayed in a Broadway Bound musical called Stormy Weather. It was another stunning moment in an evening filled with them.
54 Below is located at 254 West 54th Street (cellar), New York, NY
Musical director: Don Rebic
Director: Michael Bush
Featuring: Buddy Williams, George Farmer, Danielle Chambers
Photography/Video: Barry Gordin