L.A.’s brightest musical theater stars square off once a month, not in the boxing ring, but in the next best thing to it, at Rockwell Table & Stage in trendy Los Feliz for Justin Jones’ and Bruce Merkle’s Broadway Cage Match.
The format is as follows: A trio of performers from two currently playing big-stage musicals pair up to see who can score the loudest audience applause. The three semi-finalists are then whittled down to two, of whom only one will stand victorious at the evening’s explosive close.
Competing in February’s Cage Match were Neil Dale, Rachel Davis, Zachary Hess from McCoy Rigby Entertainments’ Billy Elliott The Musical and Donna Louden, Julie Morgentaler, and Amber J. Snead from 3-D Theatricals’ Seussical The Musical.
Much of the excitement of each month’s Broadway Cage Match is in discovering which genre each performer will opt for. Davis, Morgentaler, and Snead picked comedy (with great big vocals to match), Hess and Louden went for sensationally performed blue-eyed soul, while Dale showed off his West End-honed legit chops—and each and every one proved absolutely fabulous in the spotlight.
In addition to their solo showcases, each duo gets a second chance to dazzle and delight, one pair by how much faster, funnier, and louder they each can sing than the other, a second by showing off special “talents” that have found their way onto padded résumés (a list supplied by casting director Michael Donovan, CSA, that includes juggling, pole-dancing, cheerleading, and more), and the third by singing “in the style of” one famed Broadway or pop vocalist after another after another.
And when the evening is over, only one Cage Match contestant will remain standing—in this case, Billy Elliot’s Dale over Seussical’s Louden, though truth be told, either could easily have worn the victor’s crown.
Adding to the evening’s fun at the most recent Broadway Cage Match was a child-against-“child” one-on-one pitting Seussical’s phenomenally talented young Grant Westcott against Billy Elliot’s equally gifted “Mitchell Tobin.”
Kudos to the triple-threat-tastic Jones and Merkle for not only brightening L.A.’s thriving cabaret scene, but for showcasing two must-see shows each month. Billy Elliot may have just played its last performance, but there are still two weeks to catch Seussical in Redondo Beach.
What better way could there be to spend a Monday evening than at Rockwell Table & Stage, that is when it’s a Broadway Cage Match Monday. With the best of SoCal musical theater talent on display, Broadway Cage Match is unmatched for TKOutrageous fun.
Rockwell Table & Stage, 1714 N. Vermont, Los Angeles.
February 23, 2015