Tony Yazbeck has a gift. Tony Yazbeck is a gift, and Tony Yazbeck has a gift. Both of these observations are plainly clear each time the Tony Award nominee steps up onto a stage, whether it’s a stage on Broadway, in a regional theater, or a nightclub, where he has made a name for himself as one of the most popular entertainers in the industry. A Tony Yazbeck nightclub act always sells out, and with good reason: they are awe-inspiring. That isn’t hyperbole – Mr. Yazbeck’s shows always leave audiences shaking their heads in disbelief and cheering, and his latest outing at 54 Below was no exception.
To be fair, Tony Yazbeck refers to his show as a “set” and not as a nightclub act. It’s a distinction most often made by jazz musicians, rock singers, and folksy singer-songwriters – any small venue artists who tend to go out on stage without a written script, with the sole purpose of playing their music with the odd, extemporaneous bit of chat bridging the musical numbers. On the whole, a performer working a cabaret room or a nightclub has usually sat down and crafted a musical play with an arc and a story, and that is, rather, what Yazbeck does with each of his acts. That is because Yazbeck is a storyteller; he has always been a storyteller and that is where his focus lies, whether it is a story being recounted with rhetoric (which Yazbeck handles with ease, on topics ranging from his career history to his life-altering recovery to his dedication to his son), one being presented in the form of singing (which Yazbeck always commits to, to the fullest extent possible) or one being created through the art of dance (which Yazbeck states, most succinctly, is his happy place). A Tony Yazbeck show is a genuine nightclub act, a glossy song-and-dance cabaret in which he fully uses words, music, and the fluidly precise movements of his body to tell the stories his audiences crave to see. But he is right when he calls the show “a set” and that is because, like any diligent performer, Tony Yazbeck takes that which he needs from his life and his repertoire and plugs it in to the creation, based on where he is in life. In January of this year, Mr. Yazbeck presented a show at 54 Below that was quite different than anything we had ever seen of him – it was personal, it was honest, and it was deep, so much so that some members of the audience considered it a bit on the sad side, maybe even a little depressing. That is not the opinion of this writer who gave the production an unqualified rave review (read it HERE). But that show wasn’t very long after the pandemic that was still ringing in our collective ears, and Tony Yazbeck was simply plugging in the components necessary to tell his story, at that time. He was creating his “set” around where he was in his life.