Posted on November 14, 2017 at 5:11 am

When I did Elsie Fest last year, I couldn’t help noticing Todrick Hall, the only performer on the bill who had an actual entourage. I only knew Todrick from his wild and fantastic YouTube videos, but onstage he was a powerhouse performer who held an audience with extraordinary confidence and a surprisingly genuine presence. (We had actually met briefly once before, after one of my LA concerts with Shoshana.) When his set finished, I bumped into him backstage and he snapped a selfie with me and said, “We have got to work together. It’s gotta happen,” and then he strutted off into the night.

One year later: I was a week away from my October concert and I still didn’t know who my November guest would be. I was driving somewhere with my daughters, and they insisted I listen to “Black and White,” one of Todrick’s songs from his album Straight Outta Oz, featuring members of Pentatonix. (The only thing my daughters are more obsessed with than Todrick is Pentatonix.) I knew Todrick lived in Los Angeles, but as I listened to the song, I thought, “This is a long shot, but maybe he’ll be in town and wants to do the November show with me…?”

The Yiddish word beshert means that something is destined, arranged by unseen forces. When I got in touch with Todrick two days later, to my amazement, he said, “I don’t do anybody’s shows, but I wanna do this,” and he had, that very day, found out that he’d be moving across the country back to NY, and he’d be here when the concert happened. As you can imagine, when my kids found out, they began hyperventilating.

In the midst of making his videos, his recordings, his television appearances, the utter madness of Hollywood Hallowe’en (you have to see his Ursula the Sea Witch costume to believe it), learning a new role for a Broadway show, and moving across the country, Todrick learned my songs and showed up on Saturday afternoon at band rehearsal and blew us all away. Not only is his showmanship complete and connected to his every cell, but his musicianship is wondrous to behold. Any time I’ve ever told an actor that they needed to commit more fiercely to the material, what I meant is what Todrick does.

We did two songs of mine – a gospelly “Still Hurting” and a definitive “Invisible” – and two songs from Straight Outta Oz, including “Color,” a duet for which he was joined by my fantastic Honeymoon In Vegas alum, the great Ray Lee. (Todrick confessed on stage that he’d been swiping right on cute Asian boys for the past month, and proceeded to flirt shamelessly with Ray for the entire song. Ray of course went home to his husband and child, but every once in a while you may see a glint of what-if in his eye.) Todrick also took the time to FaceTime his friend Jessica back home in Euless, TX – we could hear her screams of joy clear as a bell through that iPhone speaker. Suffice to say Todrick Hall is a star for a very good reason. No one in the audience or on stage could help falling in love with him. I’m so glad my daughters chose that song to play on the radio!

Back some time last decade when we lived in LA, my wife met a then-14-year-old Kathryn Gallagher when she was conducting an Alzheimer’s benefit; a couple of years later, I did a concert in Beverly Hills with a chorus of high school students that included not only Kathryn but Beanie Feldstein and Ben Platt. Now that Kathryn’s a Broadway veteran and a recording artist on the rise, we’re back in touch. I love her voice, her musicality and her way of sharing her exuberant spirit with the entire audience. She sang one of her blazing bluesy originals and then torched “Goodbye Until Tomorrow” and brought the crowd to its feet.

This show also marked the first time we’ve had a sub bass player for the show – Randy was busy playing the first weekend of previews for SpongeBob Squarepants, and so the supremely gifted and fearless Charlie Rosen stepped in and delivered with confidence and élan. I love my musicians, I am so grateful that they choose to make music with me. I’ve now done thirty-one concerts at SubCulture, and every time, I am revitalized and inspired.

Next month, it’s 176 keys! The legendary Stephen Schwartz joins me on stage for some dueling pianos, tandem balladeering and Jewish Christmas cheer, featuring my wondrous friend Jessica Vosk! Shows at 8 pm and 10 pm – I’ll see you then!

I Love Betsy from Honeymoon In Vegas (2015)
Hallowed Ground (2016)
It’s Hard To Speak My Heart from Parade (1998)
KATHRYN: Maybe (music and lyrics by Kathryn Gallagher)
KATHRYN: Goodbye Until Tomorrow from The Last Five Years (2002)
I’m in Bizness from Wearing Someone Else’s Clothes (2005)
A Song About Your Gun (2016)
TODRICK: Still Hurting from The Last Five Years (2002)
TODRICK: Over The Rainbow (music and lyrics by Todrick Hall, from Straight Outta Oz (2016))
TODRICK & RAY LEE: Color (music and lyrics by Todrick Hall, from Straight Outta Oz (2016))
TODRICK: Invisible (2016)
Melinda (2015)
All Things In Time (2009)

Jason Robert Brown: piano, vocals
Todrick Hall: vocals
Kathryn Gallagher: vocals
Todd Reynolds: violin
Gary Sieger: electric and acoustic guitars
Jamie Eblen: drums and percussion
Charlie Rosen: electric and acoustic bass

Credits:

Photos by Erika Kapin