Movie fans kicked off Oscar night at 54 Below with a celebration of 50 years of James Bond movie themes. The show was a terrific idea but unfortunately not well-executed. Performers appearing at many of the cabaret clubs around the city donated time and talent performing one song each. Jon Burr backed up most on piano but the show was not rehearsed and even the pros and wannabe Bond girls couldn’t make it work. There was a disconnect which manifested itself in a chaotic presentation. Produced by music critic Will Friedwald, the evening benefitted You Are Never Alone (NANA) in the Far Rockaways, a non-profit formed after Hurricane Sandy by Lauren Fox and Jon Burr.
Bond’s first mission took him to Kansas City, the home of the fabulous Marilyn Maye. The ubiquitous Maye didn’t look like a Bond girl but was clearly the star of the revue. She rushed over to 54 Below between performances at the 92Y to do “The Look of Love,” from the 1967 007 spoof film, “Casino Royale.” She performed it perfectly and in her tempo despite the backup musicians. She cleverly played on the word “bonded” and clearly bonded with the audience giving the song her all.
Calendar Girl, Colleen McHugh, played “For Your Eyes Only” on glockenspiel which added whimsy to this eclectic revue. Looking more like a Bond girl than the others, Shana Farr’s voice sparkled as did her glittery gold dress when she sang the Shirley Bassey lyrics to another Bond theme song, “Diamonds Are Forever.” Another pro, Steve Ross, played piano and sang “Casino Royale.” Tony De Sare did “Live and Let Die” at the piano but three would-be Bond girls detracted from his presentation. Despite the performers not mentioned the show ended on a bang with Emily Bergl, who not only has the look of a sexy Bond girl, but sang “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” The actor currently playing in “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof,” has a big voice and sang with feeling. With the exception of those mentioned, it’s doubtful that James Bond would have given his stamp of approval to most of this show.