Tony nominee and Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Grammy Award winner Jenn Colella, whose long list of stage credits includes Broadway’s Come From Away, If/Then, Chaplin, High Fidelity, and Urban Cowboy, in addition to acclaimed appearances in many regional and Off-Broadway productions (most recently in the 2022 world premiere of Suffs at The Public Theater), has returned to 54 Below for two dates this week with an encore of her sold-out Pride Month show Jenn Colella: Out and Proud. It’s most definitely a concert for the charming, open, and engaging star to be proud of – as are her phenomenal vocal skills, positive energy, and warm rapport with the audience.
Directly addressing the house after circulating around the room and taking the stage, the irresistibly personable star shared the journey of her life and love with infectious joy and humor, telling the stories of her coming out to her family in the ‘90s (and their funny reactions), her first Pride parades in her native South Carolina and NYC (noting the obvious difference between the two), her concerns about finding her community and her true love (which she happily has with her wife), the shows she’s been cast in without having to hide her identity (as she was advised to do by some), and her gratitude for the support and acceptance she’s gotten from gays and “breeders” alike (though she now fits into both categories, since the couple is expecting their first child).
The personal anecdotes were interspersed throughout a perfectly chosen set list of thirteen songs and an encore (following an exuberant standing ovation), all of which mirrored her experiences and expressed the sentiments she felt along the way, in a mix of showtunes, disco, pop, country, and rock classics (noting that she’s not a “lyric soprano but a rock soprano!”), backed by the top-notch band of Carl Carter on bass, Jessie Linden on drums, Dillon Condor on guitar, Kristy Norter on reeds, Caitlin Warbelow on violin, and Musical Director Chris Ranney on piano, with vocalists Ally Bonino and Monica Tulia Ramirez. Though every song was familiar, Colella made each one her own, with new arrangements by Ranney, orchestrations by Michael Mahadeen, and some significant changes to the lyrics and the pronouns to suit the Pride theme.
Among the highlights (in a concert filled with nothing but highlights) were her upbeat opening number “Knock on Wood,” her smooth jazz stylings on “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady, Bob Dylan’s sentimental love ballad “To Make You Feel My Love” (her proposal song to her wife), powerhouse performances of the disco hits “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and “It’s Raining Men” (enhanced by a rotating silver ball and lights), a sung-and-spoken rendition of “I Will Survive,” and rocking it with her blockbuster vocals on “Piece of My Heart” and “The Story,” with which she closed the show and dedicated to her devoted fans.
She also delivered beautiful and meaningful renditions of “I Can See Clearly Now,” “Angry Anymore,” “Joyful Noise, and “Everybody Says Don’t,” which expressed her understanding, hope, love, faith in music, and resolution not to be afraid, and “Never Never Land” from Peter Pan, a title role she played in her 20s, 30s, and 40s, and finds portraying the character’s balance between the child and man easier now that she’s matured into her “owl years.” Throughout the song and the entire show, Colella was obviously having fun, bringing her spirit of exuberance to the audience, who stood, clapped along, and cheered to her encore of “Hard to Handle.” There was nothing hard to handle about this sensational concert; it, and she, were pure delights.
If you can’t make it to this encore performance of Jenn Colella: Out and Proud, there’s no doubt that she’ll be back at 54 Below, so be sure to catch her anytime you can; you’ll be glad that you did!
Running Time: Approximately 70 minutes, without intermission.
Jenn Colella: Out and Proud plays through Friday, September 29, 2023, 7 pm (doors open at 5:30), at 54 Below, 254 West 54th Street, NYC. For tickets (priced at $15-140, plus fees, and a $25 food and beverage minimum per person), go online.