Jonathan Reid Gealt, Kerrigan & Lowdermilk, and an LPR extravaganza

While our pace of show-going has slowed a bit during the past month, Hillary and I have made it a priority to attend as many concerts for contemporary composers as possible. Which means quite a few visits to le Poisson Rouge. Which means we were super pumped to find out that we could kill two birds with one stone on February 7, when Jonathan Reid Gealt and Kerrigan and Lowdermilk held a dual CD release concert at the venue. (Note: two concerts = grounds for a lengthy post.) After negotiating a deal with the New Jersey Turnpike (to drive very safely, yet make excellent time from Point A to Point B), we arrived in the city just in time to catch the opening of Mr. Gealt's show at 7:00 and spend the next five hours in musical-theatre-geek heaven.

Mr. Gealt's debut album, "Thirteen Stories Down," was released back in December. We first picked it up to listen to a track sung by a favorite 'round these parts, Adam Chanler-Berat, but quickly fell in love with the entire CD. I mean, what's not to like? Cassie Levy lending her gorgeous voice to the pop-y "I Am Yours"? Natalie Weiss belting out what is arguably Mr. Gealt's best-known song, "Quiet"? Lauren Kennedy singing the whimsical and hilarious "Alex...You're Fine"? Or Carrie Manolakos, who seems to be everywhere these days (but certainly no complaints here!), on the soulful "No Reason at All"? Yup - move along, move along...nothing to dislike here.

Much to our satisfaction, Mr. Gealt's concert was mostly a live run-through of "Thirteen Stories Down," with the same band and many of the same performers. Dee Roscioli (of Wicked) certainly didn't hesitate to start the night off with a bang on "I Am Yours." Andrew Call stepped in to sing "I Won't Have to Anymore," the song performed on the album by Mr. Chanler-Berat, which was cool to hear after he totally blew us out of the water as St. Jimmy in American Idiot a month or so ago. Zak Resnick, who can be seen on this season of American Idol, joined with Stephanie Umoh to sing the nostalgically beautiful "Lessons Learned" (done by Will Chase and Kate Baldwin on the album). And in a moment of forced spontaneity, Mr. Gealt himself took the stage with Quentin Earl Darrington for "My Best Friend" when Tituss Burgess couldn't make it to the concert. (He was filming "30 Rock"...so it was kind of a valid excuse. 'Kay? Kay.) I also came away from his concert completely re-addicted to the syncopated strings in "Wanting," sung by Matt Doyle and Darius de Haas. Mr. Gealt seemed somewhat self-conscious in talking about his work throughout the night, but so, so proud to present it to the audience, and we were thrilled to be there.

Remember how I mentioned that Ms. Manolakos seems to be everywhere these days? Well, we really do mean everywhere. She can be heard on Will Van Dyke's "Chasing the Day" and Joey Contreras's "Love Me, Love Me Not" albums, in addition to Mr. Gealt's CD. She's also sung with Ryan Scott Oliver and has joined the cast of Joe Iconis's "Things to Ruin" for their upcoming concert series. And that night, she performed five total songs - "Quiet" and "No Reason at All" during Mr. Gealt's portion of the night, and Kerrigan-Lowdermilk's "In Between" with Nathan Tysen (a light, soaring song about spring which I love-love-LOVED) and "Two Strangers" (I think I still prefer this song with a trio of male voices, especially on the middle sections, but really enjoyed hearing the female version). She also sang "Quiet" a second time to plug Mr. Gealt's album during the Kerrigan-Lowdermilk show, while Kait Kerrigan, Brian Lowdermilk, and Jesse Ruben did an acoustic version of "Run Away With Me" during Mr. Gealt's show. Composers promoting other composers? We highly approve.

In between shows, we snagged our favorite table in the corner, and finally got to meet Kait and Brian! *waves* Awesome. (Warning: run-on sentence ahead.) It's such a privilege to actually meet the people who write songs that have an embarrassing play-count on your iTunes, who take the time to read the thoughts of their fans, and who genuinely seem like awesome, creative, and intelligent people. So. Yeah. That was cool.

The third stop on Kerrigan-Lowdermilk's "You Made This Tour," named for fans' contributions that enabled the production of their album, "Our First Mistake," differed from Mr. Gealt's show in that it featured a pretty wide mix of both songs from the album as well as others. As the opening number, "She The Best" was probably the most adorable five minutes of our lives; sung by young'uns Lewis Grosso, Aaron Bantum, and Sarah Safer, the song's lyrics were written by a ten-year-old boy and interpreted by the three performers with gusto and cuteness. From there on out, the night was filled with some of the most talented people we've ever heard singing amazing music. Good stuff.

Alysha Umphress followed up her performance of Mr. Gealt's "Lovable" from earlier in the evening by absolutely killing "I Drove You Home" in the best way possible. (Her post-song impersonation of Melissa Etheridge wasn't half bad either.) Finally getting to hear a stripped-down version "The Bad Years" live, sung by Jesse Ruben, was fantastic. A fairly new song called "The Fathers Ran Away" had an appropriately tribal-sounding beat, as it was written for Broadway in South Africa, and Rebecca Naomi Jones was appropriately fierce singing it. If there were windows in the downstairs room at LPR, Kate Shindle would have shattered them on "Not Her Way" from "Tales From The Bad Years," which made us even more excited to catch her in Wonderland this spring. Andy Mientus and Steven Booth covered the hilarious adventures (or not) of two friends in the infamous Sin City on "Vegas." (It involves someone named Miguel, denied permission to see Cirque du Soleil, strippers, a helicopter, and Celine Dion, among other things.) A last-minute change to the set list prompted "Taking My Sister (And Moving to China)/Will You Come With Me," a really heartfelt piano mashup of sorts sung by the two composers themselves, and to which Mr. Lowdermilk's sister contributed a few piano chords. Matt Doyle crooned away on "Sadie," another relatively new tune. And with "The Girl Who Drove Away," the first song in Kerrigan-Lowdermilk's original musical "The Unauthorized Biography of Samantha Brown," the wonderful Laura Osnes was basically auditioning for the role of Sam right before our eyes.

Speaking of Sam Brown, Hillary and I had been flailing from the second we read that Meghann Fahy would be singing "Remember This," the show's gorgeous finale. We're crossing all our fingers and toes that she'll be involved in the show's production at Goodspeed this summer...because hearing her sing material from it live was just...yeah. Emotional and brilliant and major-flail-inducing.

The award for the most powerful vocal performance of the night goes to Katrina Rose Dideriksen for "Avalanche." There was a palpable excitement connecting the audience and performer from the second the song began, and I thought people were going to jump to their feet at its conclusion! Ms. Dideriksen has been a faithful member of the Joe Iconis's "Things to Ruin" family, and seeing her in the totally different context of Hairspray at Pittsburgh CLO last summer revealed that she brings out her fierce personality in anything she does; even so, I could hardly have anticipated her show-stopping performance of the night, and we hope she'll continue to work with Kerrigan-Lowdermilk!

Since I don't want this to turn into the Oscars (read: running nearly 45 minutes overtime and losing its steam by the end), we'll wrap things up with the three best moments of the night. Little description is necessary; viewing the YouTube videos immediately is required.

3. The Spring Standards performing "Berkeley."

2. Matt Doyle, Jesse Ruben, and The Spring Standards singing "Run Away With Me." (Yes, all at once. We didn't think it was possible to fit that much awesomeness on one stage either. Pay particular attention to 2:48, and then pick your jaw back up off the floor.)

1. Dee Roscioli leading the entire company in "Holding On." Absolutely one of my favorite Kerrigan-Lowdermilk songs focused on the simplicity of the mantra that "the world keeps turning, the light keeps shifting, and I keep holding on."

As for the future of these composers? You can catch Kerrigan-Lowdermilk at the Canal Room in New York tonight (Monday, February 28) as the openers for the second-ever NewMusicalTheatre.com concert, or back at le Poisson Rouge on March 27. And if you haven't bought your copies of "Thirteen Stories Down" and "Our First Mistake" yet...well...get on that now and we'll forgive you ;-)

(YouTube links for Mr. Gealt and Kerrigan-Lowdermilk can be found here and here, as well as littered throughout this post!)

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