Forever's gonna start tonight

On May 5th 2015, I had the great fortune to attend a show at 54 Below in New York City called Total Eclipse: The Music of Jim Steinman, directed by Pat Cerasaro, with a setlist picked out by Jim himself. A few days before the show, Pat asked me to "PLEASE consider doing a blog" about it. Well... I'm happy to oblige!

Before the show started I had the opportunity to interact with many Steinmaniacs including Jim's college friend and Dream Engine co-star Barry Keating, Jim's webmaster Jacqueline Dillon, and Jim's long-time co-producer Steven Rinkoff -- all of whom I'd previously met at Jim's commencement speech at Amherst College in 2013. Barry signed my copy of the program from his musical Starmites and informed me that he and Pat would be putting on a new Starmites show at 54 Below in July. Jacqueline told me how much she loved the photo I'd recently dug up of Jim as a student in college.

I was also excited to meet Kim Friedman. You may know her as the director of such shows as Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman or Star Trek, but back in 1973 she directed the Jim Steinman/Michael Weller musical More Than You Deserve, which starred Fred Gwynne and Meat Loaf. I told her about how I'd been to the New York Public Library and gotten copies of a plethora of materials related to that musical, which she was very excited about.

Another highlight was meeting Justin Jobin and Gary Haldane, fellow fans whose names I recognized from Jim's fan website. Gary had traveled all the way from Australia -- now that's dedication!

And of course I had to talk to Jim Steinman, the man of the hour. I introduced him to my girlfriend Jen and also to my parents who had come up from North Carolina just for this show! Jim told me he was amazed that I'd found a program of Rheingold, a musical that he and Barry had put on back in 1973. Jim graciously posed for photos with us and signed my copies of Bat out of Hell and Bad for Good. Thank you Jim!

The show opened with Kate Rockwell singing "It's All Coming Back to Me Now." I've seen Kate in Rock of Ages twice. She is phenomenal! Barry said she came the closest to the original Elaine Caswell version of anyone else. Considering it was once covered by Celine Dion, that's a high compliment!

Ariana DeBose followed it up with the tearjerker "The Future Ain't What It Used to Be." She put a lot of emotion into it, and it was outstanding.

Next up was a mellifluous execution of "Making Love Out of Nothing at All" by Jesus Christ Superstar's Josh Young. Specially added for this night was an extra verse that only appeared on the original demo, which I discovered back in 2011 among a collection of long-lost tapes. Pat told me that this show was "originally was gonna be the lost songs, to get new, pro recordings of all those amazing songs." Since Total Eclipse was such a smashing success, I hope the "lost songs" show will still happen!

Jessica Hendy delivered a sweltering rendition of "Holding Out for a Hero," with a brand-new arrangement by Alan Stevens Hewitt. Jim later wrote on Facebook that Jessica was "a blockbuster star!"

What can I say about Justin Sargent? He possesses star quality and an amazing voice. It was a treat to watch him skillfully rock out to "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)."

And then, all of a sudden, from the back of the room came a familiar voice: "STOP RIGHT THERE!" It was Ellen Foley, who originally recorded "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" with Meat Loaf in 1977.

After the last "Will you love me forever?" Justin and Ellen resumed and finished "Anything for Love." It was amusing to watch Justin try to keep his composure as Ellen ruffled his hair.

"Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are" was done as a trio. I've seen both Justin Sargent and Constantine Maroulis star in the Rock of Ages musical at separate times, so it was cool to see them perform together. Jim and Pat had Dan Tracy do the middle verse to give him a "character arc" when combined with "What Part of My Body Hurts the Most" which he would perform later in the evening.

Kate Rockwell and Ariana DeBose returned to the stage to sing "Safe Sex" as a duo. Splendid job, ladies!

Constantine Maroulis was tasked with tackling "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad." It was apparent that he hadn't had much rehearsal time, since he kept looking down at the lyrics. That being said, he has a really great voice.

Very few people have ever attempted to cover "Bat Out of Hell," and for good reason. It's an incredibly difficult song. Jim calls it "climbing Everest, musically speaking." But Tyce Green OWNED it. So much talent at such a young age. This guy is definitely going places!

Dan Tracy was tapped to perform "What Part of My Body Hurts the Most," an unreleased song previously performed by Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Rob Evan at Jim Steinman's Over the Top shows in 2005. I love Rob's version, and Dan is very different. He brings a punk vibe from the American Idiot musical, and to my pleasant surprise it works really well! I'd love to see this song finally get the proper commercial release it deserves.

In 1977, Ellen Foley played Wendy in Jim Steinman's musical Neverland. In that show, one of the songs she sang was "Heaven Can Wait." Barry once told me that was "one of the greatest performances I have ever seen or heard." Watching Ellen re-create it nearly four decades later was nothing short of magical. She introduced it by saying "if there's only one song I would sing for the rest of my life, this would be it."

You may have seen the viral video of Jeremy Jordan singing "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" back in January, which became one of the impetuses behind the Total Eclipse show. He was the perfect choice to do the title song "Total Eclipse of the Heart," which is one of the best-selling songs of all time. During the instrumental break, Jeremy went into the audience and took a selfie with Jim Steinman. Well done, sir!

When I first heard that Meat Loaf's original tour partner Karla DeVito would be part of the show, I was over the moon. I knew seeing her and Ellen together would be historic! Her completely a cappella "Lost Boys and Golden Girls" was so very poignant, especially when she looked right at Jim and sang "we'll never be as young as we are right now."

Karla closed out the night perfectly with "Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through," a hopeful song I've always loved from Jim's 1981 solo album Bad for Good.

After the show, I had my picture taken with Karla and got her to sign my copy of her Cool World album. We've been friends online for a few years, and it was quite a thrill to finally meet her in person. I got Ellen to sign a poster of "The Want Ad," a spoken word piece she performed in Jim's Neverland in 1977 and again on the 1989 Pandora's Box album. I told her I'd been to two of her solo concerts, and she said "I knew you looked familiar!"

Justin and Constantine graciously signed my Rock of Ages playbill. I also ran into Paul Jacobs, who served as musical director on Neverland and replaced Jim as Meat Loaf's touring pianist in the 1980s, and his wife Sarah Durkee. As a team they wrote the Meat Loaf song "Modern Girl." Jacqueline said they were the best "Jimpersonators" out there.

There were so many more fun characters there that I didn't get a chance to meet, like Dan from the Dan Band, but there's always next time, right?

All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better evening. A huge THANK YOU to EVERYONE who helped make it happen!

I got a taste of paradise. Heaven can wait!

[All photos © Ben Miller under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license]


Posmo said…
Definitely a highlight of my life! Great songs, great performances and I got to meet one of the greatest songwriters ever and add his autograph to my copy of the best album ever (Bat Out of Hell).

Plus Ben mentioned that I'm at least partly responsible for his appreciation of Jim's music!

Steinman surely blessed us when he gave us those songs!

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