Nora Dominick ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
“Kelli [O’Hara] sang like twelve songs in The Bridges of Madison County…There is not enough tea in the world.” Whitney Bashor took the stage at 54 Below on Thursday June 26 for her first ever solo performance. Bashor is most notable for her work as Marian/Chiara in The Bridges of Madison County. Her song “Another Life” in the musical captured audiences’ hearts and earned her the 2014 Clarence Derwent Award for “Most Promising Female Performer.” This past year she quickly became a favorite amongst Broadway fans and her debut at 54 Below solidified her rank amongst Broadway’s elite female performers.
“I was flooded with possibilities about what I wanted to sing. And I came up with what I call ‘My Shower Set list.’ These are all the songs I enjoy rocking out to while washing my hair.” Bashor then launched into a flawless rendition of Dolly Parton’s classic “Jolene.” Her country-style voice, something audiences haven’t heard, was perfectly suited for this country classic. Bashor then took the time to pay homage to her alma mater University of Michigan and her good friends Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (who were in attendance). Bashor explained her love for musical theatre and how that was the driving force in her life. She talked about her good old days at University of Michigan and how not getting cast in her senior year show, along with Pasek and Paul, was the best thing that could’ve happened. Out of that rejection came Edges, Pasek and Paul’s first musical starring Ms. Bashor. Then, Bashor transported the audience into the musical Edges with the classic song “In Short,” which had audience members laughing hysterically.
Not only did Bashor sing everything from Crosby, Stills, and Nash (with Katie Klaus and Jared Zirilli) to The Civil Wars, she also told stories, which allowed the audience to learn more about her. The best story came towards the end of the show. After finishing a song that was met with thunderous applause, Bashor says, “Tonight is actually a huge, huge celebration for me. In 2011 I actually quit the business.” Loud gasps echoed throughout 54 Below. She continued, “I moved home to Iowa to pursue… I don’t know what.” Ms. Bashor, who became the breakout star of the 2014 Broadway season, revealed that even she had some doubts about acting. She moved home and worked at a bank. “No one was hiring me as an actress in New York anymore for over year so, it wasn’t cute anymore,” she said.
Although Bashor fled the spotlight, it still managed to find her. She concludes this story by saying, “It’s the end of the day and I get a phone call from Joe Clarko (Signature Theatre). ‘What are you doing right now?’ and I said ‘I’m working at a bank’ and he said ‘I’m in DC working at Signature Theatre and they are doing two musicals and one of the musicals just lost their leading lady. If you can be here by Sunday the job is yours.’ And I looked up and I was like ‘That’ll do. That. Will. Do’…. And I’ve had steady work ever since.” The universe seems to have had a bigger plan for Bashor’s angelic singing voice.
Bashor left everything on the 54 Below stage, and that was the best part. She wasn’t distant from the audience. She wasn’t simply on stage singing. She invited the audience into her world for an hour.
If anyone was debating her singing chops, by the end of the night, they wouldn’t. The highlight of the evening came when Bashor belted Whitney Houston’s classic “I Have Nothing.” Even her reasoning for including the song in the set list involved the story of five-year-old Whitney Bashor attending a Whitney Houston concert. Bashor introduced the R&B classic by saying, “I thought it was appropriate to sing one of her songs at my first concert because she was the first concert that I ever saw.”
Bashor closed out the night with “Another Life,” the song that brought the audience’s attention to this incredible singer from Iowa. With musical direction and piano by Jodie Moore (If/Then, Aladdin, Spring Awakening) and guitar by Matt Hinkley (Violet), the song flourished in the cabaret setting.
Bashor’s first concert helped solidify her spot on Broadway and hopefully this won’t be her last solo performance. When Bashor was on stage her passion for music, her family, and friends was very clear. She is here to stay and that’s a very, very good thing.
54 Below showcases some of the hottest talent on Broadway. Visit www.54below.com for show listings.