Sunday, July 09, 2017

A Star Is Born At Feinstein's 54 Below - Billy Recce Rocks The House

Let me try to put into perspective the significance of what occurred Friday evening at Feinstein's 54 Below. This is my favorite cabaret venue in NYC. I usually go there to see and to hear well-established Broadway stars perform. In recent months I have enjoyed the song stylings of Jeremy Jordan, Corey Cott, Laura Osnes, the cast of "Newsies" - you get the picture. Friday night's 9:30 show featured "The Perks of Being A Snowflake: Songs by Billy Recce." Mr. Recce is a 19 year-old undergraduate at Fordham University. To call him a prodigy and a wunderkind would be to understate the case. He is the youngest ever composer to have shows produced by the New York Musical Festival -  "Balloon Boy: The Musical" and "Rachel Unraveled."

To highlight the poignancy and irony of his barely legal status headlining in the upscale boite that is 54 Below, Billy recounted his experience in approaching the bar to cash in the drink coupon that they give to performers. He was handed a Capri Sun, which he gleefully slurped from the bench of the baby grand.

It is difficult to encapsulate Mr. Recce's writing style, since it covers so many genres and nuanced flavors. The most obvious comparison is with Tom Lehrer, who wrote and sang political and social parodies in the 1960s and 1970s. In addition, there are elements in his writing that remind me of Jonathan Larson, as well as Duncan Sheik, composer of "Spring Awakening." It is hard to conceive of how someone of such tender years has been able to develop a worldview that allows him to write songs that are so sweetly sardonic, such as "My Roommate (Is A Neo-Nazi)" and "Go Into Finance" - performed with great aplomb by Rachel Ravel. While purporting to eschew tackling issues of politics, the songwriter invited to the stage Alexa Joseph to sing the "Betsy Devos' Song" in which our beleaguered and verbally-challenged Secretary of Education croons about saving all of the Caucasian children - not just those wearing jeans.

Other highlights of the evening included Lindsay Nicole Chambers kvetching over the ubiquitous Gwyneth Paltrow in the hilarious "Pain (Gwyneth Paltrow)." In several of the numbers, Mr. Recce was supported vocally by a talented cohort of his friends and classmates that included Laura Laureano, Victoria Duffy, Alexa Joseph, Sarah Rachael Lazarus, Rachel Ravel, Lynn Craig, Patrick Swailes Caldwell, and Roger Dawley. The band consisted of Rocco Recce on Trumpet, Adam Mastrocola on Drums, Vinny Carlino on Bass, Jimmy Ble on Guitar, and David Moses on Violin.

"Filter It! - All" reminded me a bit of "Turn It Off" from "Book of Mormon." And the gorgeous "Morning Is Coming Soon (Wally Weasel's G.O.P. Jamboree!) has elements reminiscent of the finale from "Spring Awakening" - "Song of the Purple Summer."

Mr. Recce has a strong following on his YouTube channel. Check out some of his clips here, and subscribe.

Billy Recce YouTube Channel

Remember this name.  Billy Recce shows strong promise of being his generation's answer to Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, Jonathan Larson, or Lin Manuel Miranda. I can't wait to see and hear what he will produce next. This is one Caucasian manchild I hope that Betsy Devos will find a way to save!



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