An Evening of Blues and Bridges With Jason Robert Brown at SubCulture NYC
Shoshana Bean, Christopher Jackson, and Morgan Karr join the Tony-winning composer for his May concert.
Jason Robert Brown's fan base may still be limited to the confines of New York City and Broadway devotees, but you'll be hard-pressed to find an artist with a more adulating band of followers. His monthly services of worship — better known as the concerts of his year-long SubCulture NYC residency — are proof enough of the powerful underground movement underlying his career aboveground as a Tony-winning composer and orchestrator.
Brown performed his May concert on Friday evening in the hip basement space to a crowd of friends, colleagues, and profound admirers of his acclaimed body of work. He stretched his singer-songwriter muscles, accompanying himself on a large portion of the bill. He performed "It All Fades Away" from his Tony-winning score to The Bridges of Madison County; "Wait 'Til You See What's Next," a tune Brown is contributing to the upcoming Harold Price revue Prince of Broadway; his new hard-rocking Billy Joel-tinged song "Melinda"; and an encore of the gorgeous ballad "Someone to Fall Back On" from his solo album Wearing Someone Else's Clothes.
Shoshana Bean, Christopher Jackson, and Morgan Karr also lent their impressive pipes to Brown's set list. Karr made two cameos, performing "King of the World" (also from Brown's solo album) and "Twenty-Six Names," a prayerful song memorializing the victims of the Newtown shooting.
Wicked veteran and upcoming Beaches star Bean brought her signature grit and vocal calisthenics to the show's opening number "All Things in Time," followed by the power ballad "And I Will Follow" — a melody that engulfs the acoustically perfect space. Her other contributions to the evening included an emotional performance of the poignant love song "Letting You Go" and a raspy rendition of Brown's folk-infused "Another Life," also from his Bridges score.
Jackson, now between his off-Broadway and Broadway runs as George Washington in the hit musical Hamilton, also sang a Bridges tune, in homage to the gone-too-soon musical (an unfortunate theme in Brown's career as he noted in a few bitter digs about the abbreviated run of Honeymoon in Vegas). He performed a soulful rendition of "When I'm Gone," an underappreciated piece of the Bridges score that shines as a stand-alone number.
Jackson and Brown later dueted on Bill Withers' "Who Is He and What Is He" (despite Brown's aversion to performing covers), giving the extraordinary members of the band a chance to show off their talents with playful solos (Gary Sieger on guitar, Justin Goldner on guitar and mandolin, Randy Landau on bass, and Jamie Eblen on percussion). Everyone onstage chimed in on the collective riff, each musician reveling in the contributions of the others as the spirit of the late B.B. King, who died just the day before, hung in the bluesy air. As awards-season competition fills the streets of Broadway, this sweet smell of musical freedom — left blissfully untouched in the subterranean depths of SubCulture — is a welcome respite.