Photo Credit: Helane Blumfield
Marta Sanders & Leanne Borghesi
Showbroads… A Nightclub Duel
November 17, 2019 – 5:30pm
Showbroads… a Nightclub Duel, delivered a one-two knockout punch at Birdland this past November. Refreshingly billed as a “nightclub act,” Showbroads lived up to it’s name and exceeded expectations. The dueling divas were none other than Broadway and cabaret star Marta Sanders and veritable New York newcomer Leanna Borghesi. The two singing vaudevillians were evenly matched, much to the delight of the sold-out audience, as each one tried to out-do the other in showstopping number after showstopping number.
Kudos to Director Nicolas Minas who tailored the evening to both his stars’ strengths and formed the hilarious premise (that Sanders needed an ingénue to support her act – and wound up hiring a 6’2” brassy belter, with whom she only rehearsed with via Skype) into a very satisfying evening. Sanders transformation from hard-boiled Broadway curmudgeon to mentoring stage-mom; and Borghesi’s journey from cigar-smoking scene-stealing Baby Jane to adoring gal-pal-colleague, all the while singing the roof off, displays a lot of craft to this show that could easily be a weekly residency or even off-Broadway run.
Dana P. Rowe wowed the audience with his superb music direction, artful arrangements and clever composition (“Feminine Mystique,” from Witches of Eastwick, sung this evening by Borghesi).
And how about those broads? Sanders and Borghesi out-did themselves, both individually and as a duo, in a pairing that well may live up to Martin and Lewis, and Abbot and Costello. Singing at the top of her game, Sanders delivered the first solo punch with “Before the Parade Passes By” (Jerry Herman) and continued to levy her artistic assault with “Panache” (Philip Namenworth) and later on, “She’s a Star” by Serge Lama.
Not to be outdone, Borghesi followed Sander’s “Parade” with her own fancy footwork in “I’m the Greatest Star” (Julie Styne), the aforementioned “Feminine Mystique,” where she displayed an absolute control of her vocal instrument, and “Blues in The Night.” This last number was a wonderful opportunity to create a different and softer color for Borghesi, a color that served both the show and her as an artist. In this “Judy spot” moment we get to marvel at her glorious voice, and revel in her lyric connection. Sanders also had this moment in “She’s a star,” where her own connection to lyric made this reviewer (and others) sit up and lean in.
The Duets in this show are plentiful and comical. “Who’s That Woman” (Stephen Sondheim), and “Use What You Got” (Cy Coleman, Ira Gasman) expertly set up the conflict between the two stars. A Hilarious “Besame Mucho” (Consuelo Velazquez) reinvented that song, and “What a Feeling,” from the movie Flashdance (Giorgio Moroder), set the stage for some ingenious boa-ography. The laughs are plenty in this show, and there are also surprising moments of humanity.
Perhaps this is the mark of a truly great Nightclub/cabaret act? Certainly, there are fun, outrageous moments that are entertainment driven; toe-tapping moments that make us feel good about the day, the week, maybe even the last year or two. But then there are other moments that require us, the audience, to dig deep. These moments hit us in unexpected ways, when an artist turns a lyric on it’s ear and we hear it as if for the first time. Both these moments, and more, exist in ShowBroads… A Nightclub Duel, which hopefully will have a return engagement at Birdland. Be on the lookout for it.