By: Paulanne Simmons
June 29, 2021: The very last show Scott Coulter produced and hosted at Feinstein’s/54 Below before the pandemic shut everything down was a tribute to composer Jerry Herman. The house was packed, and the atmosphere was jubilant, as is frequently the case when people know the end is coming.
Over a year later, on June 27, the lingering pandemic prevented a packed house, but there was a similarly elated feeling as the audience watched Coulter’s latest offering, Scott Coulter & Friends: From Dolly Parton to David Bowie! This time, the exhilaration was partly because we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but also because Coulter has once again put together an evening of stunning talent and nonstop exuberance.
What’s more, the show, a retrospective of seven years of celebrating everything from Mother’s Day to the music of Tina Turner, coincided with Pride Day, and as Coulter noted, “What better place to celebrate Pride than in gay Mecca, the basement of Studio 54?”
With Mark Hartman on piano and Matt Scharfglass on bass, Coulter and friends sang a repertoire that showcased some of the major hits of the past decades. In line with the title of the show, Dolly Parton and David Bowie were well represented. Carole J. Bufford sang Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas,” and Allison Posner broke our hearts with “Jolene.” While Jessica Hendy gave us Bowie’s “Life on Mars” and Lorinda Lisitza performed his “Oh! You Pretty Things.”
Although Elton John didn’t make it into the title, the troupe certainly did justice to his work, with Anthony Murphy’s appropriately triumphant version of “I’m Still Standing” and Blaine Krauss and Scott Coulter’s emotional rendering of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”
And there were other highlights: Bufford knocked it out of the park with her jazzy and sexy interpretation of “Me & Bobby McGee.” Brian Wilson showed off his bass-baritone with “Sweet Caroline,” complete with the obligatory audience participation. Natalie Douglas, Alex Getling and Jessica Hendy recreated Tina Turner’s fiery energy with “River Deep Mountain High.” And the entire company ended the evening with the Beatles’ upbeat and expansive “Hey Jude.”
The management of Feinstein’s/54 Below required that everyone entering the venue show proof of vaccination. But at the end of the show the entire audience had happily received a very different kind of “shot in the arm.”