by Louise, Community Manager
In the spring of 2012, I got an e-mail announcing the opening of 54 Below, which bills itself as “Broadway’s Nightclub.” The club promised to provide an unforgettable nightlife experience, featuring cabaret performances from top notch Broadway stars in an intimate setting, delicious cocktails, and delectable food. After reading about the club, I scanned the initial list of booked acts and one name jumped out at me: Victor Garber.
One of the very first Broadway shows I remember becoming absolutely obsessed with was the 1994 revival of Damn Yankees, which I still think is one of the greatest musicals ever written. Victor Garber and Bebe Neuwirth starred in the production, and I immediately fell in love with both of them, and that love lives on to this day. Victor Garber is probably best known for his roles as Jack Bristow in Alias and as Thomas Andrews in Titanic, but he has an impressive history on Broadway as well. Seeing him live again for the first time since the late 1990’s was such an exciting idea that I purchased tickets right then, nearly four months in advance. So on August 13th, my sister and I ventured to the new space right next to Studio 54 for Victor Garber’s first ever cabaret performance.
I could tell right away that the space was going to live up to its promise – 54 Below is intimate and elegant, with the tables and stage perfectly placed to give all the attendees a good view. We caught the spirit of the old world feel of the place immediately, prompting me to order a dirty martini and my sister to order a Manhattan. The menu is bursting with delicious-sounding options, far above the standard for a typical bar/nightclub setting, including wild mushroom risotto, a selection of farmstead cheeses, and a lobster roll. My sister and I opted to share a couple of small plates – a fresh mozzarella salad with heirloom tomatoes that was absolutely perfect in every way, roasted shishito peppers with sesame aioli that I could have eaten approximately one gallon of, and crostini with smoked ricotta, olive tapenade, and tomato confit, perfectly portioned and delectable.
About 15 minutes before showtime, the waitress came by to take our dessert orders and we opted to share the olive oil cake – a delightfully dense and lightly sweet cake served with popcorn ice cream and a few pieces of kettle corn, which we enjoyed as Victor Garber came out to sing his first number. As an 18 year veteran of loving Victor Garber, I spent most of the show with my hands delightedly clasped in front of my heart. There is nothing like seeing a person you so admire in such a personal setting. This was an opportunity I never knew I’d have – especially when it came to seeing him sing songs from shows that he did before I knew who he was (in some cases, before I was born). He treated us to Joanna from Sweeney Todd, The Ballad of Booth from Assassins (both of which I’ve listened to on original Broadway cast recordings hundreds of times), All For the Best and Beautiful City from Godspell (in which he originated the role of Jesus, and played the part in the film version), and The Good Old Days from Damn Yankees, which of course made me feel 11 years old again. He also sang songs he never sang on Broadway – including And So It Goes by Billy Joel and, unexpectedly, Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967 by John Mayer. In between songs he treated us to anecdotes about his life and stories of getting cast in Godspell and Sweeney Todd, and pointed out fellow Godspell alums Debra Monk and Eugene Levy, who were in the audience. Jennifer Garner, colleague from his Alias days, was also there – though he did not point her out from the stage (probably she gets enough attention without being pointed out).
You may not love Victor Garber specifically as much as I do, but if you have a Broadway actor to whom you are particularly attached, you should definitely subscribe to the 54 Below newsletter. Already they have attracted an impressive array of stars, and the upcoming schedule includes Linda Lavin, Patti Lupone, Leslie Uggams, Adam Pascal, Megan Hilty and many others. There are also weekly events such as a Sunday Jazz Brunch, and “Backstage” on Sunday evening, a casual event mostly attended by members of the theater community.
If you have questions or would like to build a trip to New York around an event at 54 Below, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I am happy to help!