Posted on April 1, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Stephen Holden’s review, including a rave for my fellow Birdlandians Jessica Molaskey and John Pizzarelli, here.

Jazz-Pop With a Couple’s Repartee
By STEPHEN HOLDEN
Published: April 1, 2009

…It was a triple-barreled evening at Birdland, where Ms. Molaskey and company are playing two shows a night (at 9 and 11) through Saturday, and Jason Robert Brown, the dynamic Broadway composer and singer-songwriter, is playing 7 p.m. shows. Mr. Brown is the leader of his own musical clan that on Tuesday included Gary Sieger on guitar, Randy Landau on bass, and the guest singers Lauren Kennedy (from his Off-Broadway show “The Last Five Years”), Allie Trimm (an alumna of his recent Broadway show “13”) and Kate Pazakis. The Molaskey-Pizzarelli and Brown crews are connected, Ms. Molaskey having been in Mr. Brown’s 1998 Broadway musical, “Parade.”

Mr. Brown has had his successes, but after the recent failure of “13,” he is still waiting for the Big One. And so is the devoted following that cheered him on. His next major opportunity is a work in progress adapted from the Nicolas Cage movie “Honeymoon in Vegas.” He said from the stage that he was looking for a producer to raise $12 million to bring it to Broadway. The sample tune he offered, “When You Say Vegas,” was a funny, barbed chamber-of-commerce pitch for the wonders of Sin City delivered with Rat Pack crassness.

I didn’t see “13,” but “Being a Geek” and “What It Means to Be a Friend” (sung plaintively by Ms. Trimm), the set’s two songs extracted from that show, stand by themselves as believable adolescent slices of life expressed in modern Broadway prosody. Mr. Brown, like Billy Joel in the early 1970s, specializes in rapid-fire lyrics crammed with social observation and plays the piano with a similarly frantic virtuosity. Now 38, he continues to exude the hunger of a young man in a hurry. The talent is there; the home run of which he is capable remains to be slammed into the bleachers. But when?

Jessica Molaskey and John Pizzarelli perform through Saturday, with sets by Jason Robert Brown, at Birdland, 315 West 44th Street, Clinton; (212) 581-3080.

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