There are songwriters of songwriters who stimulate the intellect like Sondheim, some who focus on family ties like Stephen Schwartz, some who focus on politics and corruption like Kander & Ebb, and some who focus on the active inner lives of characters like Jason Robert Brown. When it comes to the vagaries of modern urban romance, no team has written more succinctly or prolifically than Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich. Since their first meeting in a studio in 1992, they have created a steady stream of musical gems that audiences and actors alike love. Their off-Broadway musical Dear Edwina was nominated for a Drama Desk award. Their Junie B. Jones is a staple of youth theaters across America. Their musical based on Drew Barrymore’s film, always after, has had one of the most anticipated periods of development since its premiere at Paper Mill in 2015. They write about love, loss, joy and grief, so sincerely they sound like the Nora Ephron of musical theater .
Their searing and often hilarious portrayals of romance were on display tonight at 54 Below in the latest iteration of their show MARCY & ZINA: MAKE YOUR OWN PARTY. They were joined by wonderful guest stars Alex Getlin, Clinton Kelly, Jessica Hendy and Kelli Rabke as well as a trio of fantastic musicians including Conrad Korsch on bass, Rich Mercurio on drums and Clay Ruede on cello. The show was a perfect balance of new songs, debuts and beloved classics. With the exception of an exceptionally rude and loud gentleman in the back, audiences were captivated by Marcy & Zina’s trademark romantic musical comedy magic.
Zina kicked off with a slow jazzy version of the title track “Make Your Own Party” before welcoming Marcy on stage and picking up the festive tempo. They wasted no time in welcoming guest star Alex Getlin to show off one of their most popular comedy creations, “I Want Them (Bald).” Marcy gave us a new air of always after, “Who Needs Love?” Clinton Kelly brought a bit of Christmas back in March with “I Love It,” a song about being polite about the worst Christmas present ever.
Alex Getlin returned with the song that put Heisler & Goldrich on the map. She gave a delightfully libidinous reading of “Taylor, the Latte Boy.” Jessica Hendy has found all the beautiful nuances of the wonderful monologue that is “Out of Love”. Kelli Rabke gave a comedic masterclass in her barely articulated performance of “The Last Song” from the musical Ever After. Marcy Heisler sang one of my favorites, “Let Me Grow Old”, a haunting song about just being there for the important moments in your life. Zina Goldrich gave us a sneak peek at a new work that may or may not be based on a classic starring Rock Hudson and Doris Day. The romantic song “The Melody Was You” gave Zina the opportunity to show what a talented jazz pianist she is.
Kelli Rabke returned with Ever After new 11 o’clock issue, “Tell That Girl”. The writers then gave us two of their most popular hits. Marcy brought the house down with this anthem to the misery of all chorus girls, “The Alto’s Lament,” and Zina regaled the audience with their anthem to douch guys all over “Baltimore.” Zina then created a song they wrote during the pandemic called “In the Meantime”. Every cabaret singer looking for a wonderful inspirational song should take note. The show’s finale featured bassist Conrad Korsch catching the attention of all female guest stars in a great arrangement of “Boom, Boom.” The only thing that might have overtaken him was the encore in which Zina told the charming story of a penguin romance in “Los Peguinos,” in which she translated Marcy’s spoken words into real penguin.
Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich indeed belong to that group of accomplished songwriters I mentioned at the start of this piece. Their songs have a distinctive, one-of-a-kind voice filled with joy, heart and humanity. They are really funny and really truthful. They are fresh and surprising and just the dose of optimism we need after two years of grim predictions.
For more on Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich, visit their website, goldrichandheisler.com or follow them @marcyandzina on Twitter or Instagram. For more great acts at 54 Below, visit 54below.com.