Utah “Boy” Taylor Frey Grows Up, Marries, and Has a Child Like Any Good Mormon Should in TAYLOR FREY AT 54 Below
Heigh-Ho, My Merry Rainbow readers! Bobby Patrick (We/Us/Our), your RAINBOW critic here – Put the silent T in cabareT to bring you ALL the tea!
And the TEA with the capital T this week, darlings, was Taylor Frey making her solo New York cabaret debut at 54 Below on Friday night. So allow this reviewer to lay it all out for you, dear Bobby readers. Taylor Frey in TAYLOR FREY at 54 Below was absolutely perfect. From her music to her voice to her performance and her dang outfit – everything about this eponymous show was the perfect example of the art of a classic story cabaret. There you have it, this critic’s review. So unless you’re doing one of those shot-by-shot walks through the set list, talking about how wonderful it all was in some kind of school report of what was sung and how well it was sung, and what more because… OY Bobby is already sleeping, so let’s do none of that. Instead, let’s talk about what makes a perfect history cabaret and why Taylor Frey fits that mold.
- Scenario/Story – A cabaret rarely flies with someone just stealing by the seat of their pants. There are only a few who make the clubs that have the appeal, the charisma, the ability to improvise, the fearlessness, and are interesting enough to come out and totally fly with the story that they want to tell. Some need fully written text to speak between vocal pieces, some just need an outline, some just bullet points. Taylor came in knowing where he was, what he was doing and where he wanted to go. It was clear that he was following the formula – Write the script, memorize the script, throw the script. A gifted actor as well as a singer (and dancer), Frey was able to be “on the book” with no desk in sight, and to present the story of a star-struck barefoot boy with a tan cheek coming from from Utah to Dirty Town, and landing his first job on his first day. A Brigham Young University student who felt the war inside between his faith and who he really was (a war he fought and won) is the basis of the story that Taylor followed from the first song to the last.
- Song Curation – Its twelve songs, plus an encore, were chosen to take audiences through Taylor’s captivating story. Each number came from the world of musical theatre, so each required real acting and real singing. Whether they’re from HAIRSPRAY, MAMMA MIA, or PIPPIN TF, they’ve worked these numbers into their own story, and each has become necessary when spoken word wasn’t enough in storytelling. Many cabaret artists will perform songs they have always wanted to sing but in a story cabaret; the songs (if not original) should move the show forward in an understandable way for the audience to FEEL. In all of this, Frey ticked all the boxes. Watch Taylor’s SOUTH PACIFIC medley from SOME ENCHANTED EVENING/A WONDERFUL GUY – the musical need to talk about her husband would have been sweetened in any other cabaret format, but in the story being told, it was entirely appropriate. This, followed by her fabulously talented husband, Broadway’s Kyle Dean Massey, joining him on stage for a duet on PIPPIN’s LOVE SONG (a show KDM starred in) was pure gold. By the end of the setlist, audiences felt they knew Taylor from her lyrics and music. What more could you ask of an artist?
- Outfit – TF described her own outfit as being ‘dressed like Johnny Weir, about to go ice skating’, and, indeed, it was sparkly heaven (see pics). The Frenchman tucked into tight-fitting jeans, he enhanced the look (and feel) of the show without distracting. It was all the rage for a TALENTED and proud queer dad to make a well-deserved return to the stage.
- Performance – This is where all of Taylor’s experience, both in life and on stage, came to the fore. His cabaret was not about anyone or anything but his story. While taking songs from familiar dramatic material, he at no point adopted the characters of the shows his songs were taken from. There are types of cabaret where the actor/singer wants (and really has to) play the part as it was originally written, but here TF’s game has come from real, raw, and vulnerable places that we’ve all visited, endured, and overcome, and it’s presented them with complete honesty, a few tears to occasion, self-deprecating humor and, above all, no boredom. It was engaging, appealing to the eyes and ears, and although scripted, its presentation was honest and never felt forced or overly rehearsed. When emotion about his battle over sexuality and religion, or when he was talking about his husband and daughter, overwhelmed him, he just let it go for the moment and let us all in, taking the audience with him wherever he needed to go.
- Support/Guests – This is perhaps the most crucial element of a big story cabaret. Once you have your story and feel ready to tell it, it takes a musical director like Benjamin Rauhala to help shape and refine it in this 68-70 minute performance that will get you in , hit them where they live, sound FABULOUS, and get the hell off the stage. Having an MD who is with you from the first note to the last, and who can even bring in funny asides, act like a “straight” man when needed, keep the show moving forward all the time, all without interfering or making anything about themselves is a blessing, and the Fairy Godfairy herself is always that blessing. With Matt Hinkley on guitar, Adam Wolfe on drums, and Joseph Wallace on bass, the band gave Taylor a musical foundation to stand proudly on. And, speaking of pride, there’s the subject of guests. As mentioned above, Taylor is married to a man with equal star power and Broadway credits – the delicious and delicious Kyle Dean Massey, who joined her man to sing this love song and make funny faces by the way. after. The pair’s combined vocals on this languorous PIPPIN ballad brought tears to my eyes, and not just little Bobby’s either.
- Again – Nancy LaMott used to say, “It’s cabaret…There’s always an encore.” It’s as important an element in cabaret as any other, because how you leave them is how they’ll remember you. Here, once again, the Frey & Massey team duet on the magnum opus of the TV show SMASH – LET ME BE YOUR STAR. The combination of their individual star powers and perfectly tuned voices left everyone in the house wanting oh, so much more.
And therein lies a touch of sadness in this rainbow review…Taylor (and Kyle) now reside in a country called Omaha. Bobby is reliably informed that it’s somewhere out there (under the pale moonlight) in the middle of… so their days are spent being fathers and running a brand new business. Elevatebaby.com was founded on the principle that everyone, regardless of gender, marital status, sexuality, etc., has the right to seek medical help to start a family. Born out of their own trials of practicing IVF in a sexist industry, Taylor (CEO) and Kyle (Director of Surrogacy) have dedicated themselves and their company to helping one and all with their reproductive needs. assisted, streamlining an all-too-difficult process so expectant parents have a lot less to worry about on the way to having a baby (or 2). Now, this joyful occupation that provides much-needed help to potential families of all kinds, and their REMOTE location means our stages will suffer from their absence more than they should. That’s not to say either of these dads are OUT of the biz, but indeed for us fans who might watch and listen to either or both wield the craft as often as possible, opportunities dwindle… The Sigh.
So this has been one of Little Bobby’s longest dissertations, but when an act is THAT good, and there’s NO raindrop to fall from our rainbow pen, you must know why and how, so you can keep your eyes peeled for any performance Taylor Frey might give, whether it’s here in New York or out there in the backcountry OR on your screens, because Bobby gives TAYLOR FREY at 54 below his whole heart…
5 out of 5 rainbows.
Check out Taylor’s IMDB profile to see upcoming movies: HERE
Read/search everything about Elevate: HERE
And follow her InstaPictograms (where you can see her daughter A DOOR BELL): HERE