By Jil Picariello, Theater Editor, February 12, 2018
In case we’ve never met, there’s something you should know about me: I’m a little loony on the subject of Aaron Tveit.
It all started a decade ago when I snagged a $10 preview ticket to an off-Broadway show I knew nothing about. For ten bucks, I figured, how bad could it be? Next to Normal’s brilliant exploration of loss, grief, and mental illness in a “typical” suburban family absolutely and totally blew me away. In fact, I had to sit in my seat for ten minutes after curtain before I could get up and face the world.
I was so enraptured by the music, the lyrics, the story, and the performances that I saw the show twice more at the Second Stage and then three times more on Broadway. A big part of the power of every visit was the remarkable talent of the young man in the tight purple tee playing the son in this complicated and tormented family. You guessed it: Aaron Tveit.
I’ve been following his career ever since, on stage (Catch Me if You Can), in film (Les Miserables), and even his roles on less-than-he-deserves TV shows (Graceland and BrainDead) and live TV “events” (Grease). While nothing has matched the power of his performance in Next to Normal (except maybe his role last summer as Bobby in Company at the Barrington Stage), I am loyal. Because that young fella rocking the purple tee has got it all: He can act, he can move, he can sing like the angels. And did I mention he’s easy on the eyes?
Last Friday at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room, Aaron played a one-night-only concert as part of Lincoln Center’s American Songbook Series that made a roomful of Tveitites (Tveitians? Tveitophiles?) like me very, very happy. Instead of the tight purple tee, Tveit rocked an equally tight and stylish suit and a pair of orange socks he showed off at one point. Opening with a number from Catch Me if You Can, he moved through a set that mixed show tunes from West Side Story, High Fidelity, Big Fish, Rent, and a mash-up of Grease and the old Hoagy Carmichael chestnut, “Heart and Soul.” Plus a duet from The Greatest Showman with Loren Allred (who got a number of her own as well), a somewhat out of place rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road,” some killer impersonations (if Idina Menzel ever needs a standin…), and even a beautifully sung performance of “Che gelida manina” from Puccini’s opera La Boheme that blew the house away. And of course, one song from Next to Normal, although, interestingly, not one he sang in the show.
He didn’t do his big N2N number, “I’m Alive” but he did perform “Being Alive” from Company, and he did it (almost) well enough to wipe out this gut-wrenching memory of Raul Esparza performing the song in the last Broadway revival of the show. I guess there’s only so much “alive” one concert can bear.
His all-too-brief encore was a singalong performance of “Do You Hear the People Sing” from Les Miz. Although it was fun, and the closest I’ll ever get to carpool karaoke, I’d rather hear his voice than that of the woman sitting next to me. To quote the lead character of another musical, “Please sir, I want some more.”
I guess I’ll have to wait until next time.
Aaron Tveit in concert with Lincoln Center’s American Songbook Series at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room on Friday, February 9, 2018. Bryan Perri, Music Direction, arrangements, piano, and vocals; Erin Benim Mayland, violin; Michael Blanco, bass; Jared Schonig, drums; featuring Loren Allred.
“Live in Living Color” from Catch Me If You Can by Marc Shaiman
“Fight the Dragons” from Big Fish by Andrew Lippa
“Desert Island Top 5 Break Ups” from High Fidelity by Tom Kitt and Amanda Green
“Somebody to Love” by Freddie Mercury
“I Miss the Mountains” from Next to Normal by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey
“Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen
“Take Me or Leave Me” from Rent by Jonathan Larson
“One Song Glory” from Rent by Jonathan Larson
“Che gelida manina” from La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini
“Maria” from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim
“I Could Be In Love With Someone Like You” from The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown
“Sandy/Heart and Soul” from Grease by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
“Rewrite the Stars” from The Greatest Showman by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
“Open Arms” by Steve Perry and Jonathan Cain
“Beautiful City” from Godspell by Stephen Schwartz
“Being Alive” from Company by Stephen Sondheim
“Do You Hear the People Sing” from Les Misérables by Herbert Kretzmer and Claude-Michel Schönberg
Cover: (l. to r.) Bryan Perri (piano) and Aaron Tveit at the Appel Room; photo: Kevin Yatarola.