So I was recently invited to Moonlight Cocktail, a benefit concert at Feinstein’s/54 Below featuring vocalist Errolyn Healy, accompanied by Cris O’Bryon and a train of other guest artists. The benefit refers to Everytown For Gun Safety, an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to understanding and reducing gun violence in America. As a movement, it works to end gun violence and build safer communities. 100% of the concert’s proceeds (up to a maximum of $15,000) were donated to this cause.
Perhaps my fascination with my surroundings at 54 Below was coupled with it having been my first time at such a venue, but I immediately understood how it earned its reputation as the ultimate platform for guest artists and benefit concerts like this one. The decor gave the room an exclusive air, and leaves the “invitational” part of the atmosphere to the performer. There was a decent amount of noise; people were chatting comfortably as they seated and ordered for the evening. All this, of course, to contrast what happened next.
I remember the lights dimmed, and in walked the moon. At least it might as well have been the moon—when Errolyn Healy entered, the room became instantly silent and wholly attentive, as if arrested in the same manner as people are with the rising moon on a quiet night. Then she opened her mouth, and we regained our senses, only to be transported once more.
Now, I’m no expert on benefit concerts or supper clubs, having never attended either, but I was at no risk of being a fish out of water; Healy’s presence made me feel right at home. She proves an immensely talented vocalist fluent in a range of styles. One could hear the moon not only in her repertoire for the evening—all of which featured the moon in some respect—but in her voice itself, which was equal parts dazzling, mellifluous, yet also nurturing. When appropriate, it was also backed by strong support and clean delivery. This, coupled with her seasoned performing skills and natural charisma, made her the whole package as a 54 Below guest artist.
I would’ve also complimented her chemistry with the other guest performers, namely musical director/accompanist Cris O’Bryon and Michael McCorry Rose, but in this respect she was outshone by none other than O’Bryon and his one-time duet partner, Siri. As Healy took a mid-show break, the stage was ceded to the pair, who indulged the audience with a comical break by performing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” O’Bryon’s chops on the piano and anxious persona were the perfect match and foil to Siri’s monotone speaking of the lyrics and occasional Google-search-infused gibe at O’Bryon, which gave the AI a strange but hilarious degree of personality.
I liked the moon as a subject. Though it has nothing to do with gun control directly, one thing that I believe ties the two subjects together is Healy’s motherhood. Between singing the moon through the maternal softness in her vocals, she took a moment to reflect to the audience about the personal significance of gun control to her as a mother. This moment aside, audiences were invited to “bring [their] sweet dreams and leave [their] worries behind them,” and thanks to Healy’s masterful stewardship, we were able to do just that. With perennial favorites from both Broadway’s moonlit past and the Great American Songbook like “Moonglow,” “Dream A Little Dream Of Me,” and a surprisingly well-done lyricized rendition of Claire de Lune, Healy takes us through each of the moon’s phases and intricacies in a journey that leaves us comforted, dreaming, and no doubt musing on both.
Special mention to the guest artists: Michael McCorry Rose is a veritable Corey Cott to Healy’s jazzy Laura Osnes, though significantly younger, with a more boyish charm. Young singer/actresses Gracie Beardsley and Anna Forget also stepped onstage as backing vocals for one or two moments. Both were competent, though Forget was noticeably nervous onstage, which is pardonable given her age and experience. Special mention also to Ashley Griffin, who put the whole thing together: Though I am predisposed to trust any production under Griffin’s auspices, Moonlight Cocktail was another success of organization and pace to add to her belt. Lastly, a shoutout to whoever designed and worked the lights for the show: A small but essential part of the ambience is owed to the lighting, and it was done just right.
Through the efforts of all those listed above, Moonlight Cocktail was a night to remember, hopefully also as far as gun control efforts are concerned.
Writer’s Note: The concert took place on February 6th, 2018, and I’d written this not long after, but I accidentally saved this as a draft instead of publishing it. Welp. I hope to never in my life be this careless (and this late) ever again.