Alex Newell: Live at Kean University – Review

Alex Newell CBS Mornings scaled

In what can be seen as a mini-career and life retrospective, Tony Winner Alex Newell walks their audience through some of their favorites Broadway numbers, including those they made a hit.


General Information

This section includes information about the production, cast, staff, venue, and crew.

Director(s) N/A
Writer(s) N/A
Organizer(s) Kean University
Language English
Attendance Type Offline – In Person
Event Status On Schedule
Venue or Network (Enlow Recital Hall) 215 North Ave, Hillside, NJ 07205
Performance Date October 6, 2023
First Performance At This Venue October 6, 2023
Opening Night Performance October 6, 2023
Last Performance At This Venue October 6, 2023
Venue URL https://keanstage.com/events/
Tickets Starting At $49.00
Genre(s) Solo Show

Comedy

LGBT+

Musical

Duration 1 Hour 20 Minutes
Noted Performers
Self Alex Newell
Crew
Scene/ Set Design TBD
Costume Design TBD
Lighting Design TBD
Sound Design TBD
Choreography TBD

Summary

This content contains pertinent spoilers. Also, images and text in this post may contain affiliate links. If a purchase is made from those sites, we may earn money or products from the company.

Tony Award Winner Alex Newell, known for “Glee,” “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” alongside their Broadway performances in “Shucked” and “Once On This Island” focuses far more on their Broadway inspirations and the current phase of their career than what put them on the map. So, from stories about Bernadette Peters to Jennifer Holiday, for those wanting Broadway inside stories and Broadway numbers, they got you.

However, you’d be sorely disappointed if you were expecting more Top 40 radio like they did from their TV series performances.

Content Information

  • Dialog: Nothing notable
  • Violence: None
  • Sexual Content: Slight innuendo here and there
  • Miscellaneous: None

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

Alex Newell

Grammy-nominated, Tony-winning singer and actor Alex Newell, like many great singers, has a church foundation, and with that comes an understanding of not only music but also a good side eye and personality. With that, they have found their way through an industry they note wasn’t made for them, yet between their work ethic and undeniable talent, they have carved a path for themselves and hope to pave the way for others to follow so they can have a far easier journey than they did.

Review

Our Rating: Mixed (If Affordable)

Highlights

The Buildup & Storytelling

The best parts of Newell’s performance are the stories told and how they build up to some songs. Whether it is talking about Armelia McQueen and Nell Carter as their initial inspirations, talking about their first boyfriend, their relationship with Bernadette Peters, how they approach revivals and more, Newell didn’t have to belt a single note to entertain the audience. The singing was simply a bonus, for they clearly have a gift for gab and a life with a wealth of stories.

On The Fence

This Is A Show Purely For Theater Kids

With it being advertised that we’d get an eclectic mix of “Broadway, American, pop, and R&B standards,” you’d think we would get a little bit of everything, even some of Newell’s solo work. However, that isn’t the case here. Yes, we get recognizable songs like “I Am Changing” from “Dreamgirls,” but then they get into cuts where you’ll be lost if you don’t know Broadway history.

This isn’t to say songs like Nell Carter’s “I’ve Got A Feeling I’m Falling” from “Ain’t Misbehavin’” or “As If We Never Said Goodbye” by Andrew Lloyd Webber weren’t marvelous performances. However, as noted in the next topic, Newell is a belter, and with nothing or no one reining them in, it means they are singing for the back of the room, showing off a bit, and while being a ham works well when they are telling stories, when singing songs? It will make you wish they did truly have an eclectic mix as advertised. Especially since most of the songs, with the exception of when they sang songs from “Once On This Island,” were either supposed to be sensual or felt like sad love songs.

Belting To The Point OF Drowning Out Emotions

One major issue that comes with sangers (those who know, know), like Newell, is that they equate getting louder with heightened emotions. Now, to be fair, if the audience reacts well, that pushes the idea you are doing something right. However, with the desire to do sensual, mainly love songs, like “My Man” by Barbra Streisand, there is a need to look beyond the highest and loudest note you can hit and hold. For while the range has to be acknowledged, depth is more than how deep your voice can go.

It reminds me of why some were worried that Audra McDonald wouldn’t be able to do Billie Holiday for “Lady Day at Emerseon’s Bar & Grill.” Not because she isn’t talented but because the style is different from what they offer on a regular basis. So when it comes to Newell, there is no denying their talent (I want to make that clear), but while the notes hit and there was clarity in their voice, there was a lack of emotion.

So to clap after each song was more so out of respect for the performer than it was because they stirred something in you. Mind you, I was very much alone in feeling this way, as there were standing ovations for some songs. But is it wrong to pay money for a performance and expect an experience, not just something to do?

Who Is This For?

People who are more a fan of Newell’s Broadway career than television career, unless they are theater kids at heart.

Recommendations

Check out our Live Performance page for our latest reviews, as well as recommendations.


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Alex Newell: Live at Kean University –

Summary

I find myself forced to recognize that Newell’s home is Broadway; they are who keeps them paid, so it is only natural for them to lean into the audience that has given them such success. So while I may have wanted more of Newell’s solo efforts or songs from their time on “Glee” or “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” at the very least, what we may not have gotten music-wise, in terms of non-Broadway songs, we still got the persona, comedy, and overall being that is making Newell not only a trailblazer due to being gender non-conforming, but because of who they are – period.

Overall
77%
77%
  • The Buildup & Storytelling - 83.5%
    84%
  • This Is A Show Purely For Theater Kids - 74%
    74%
  • Belting To The Point OF Drowning Out Emotions - 73%
    73%
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User Review
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Highlight(s)

  • The Buildup & Storytelling

Disputable

  • Belting To The Point OF Drowning Out Emotions
  • This Is A Show Purely For Theater Kids

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