Michael Cerveris Channels Bruce Springsteen at Bottom Line Redux

"Sweeney Todd" star joins Rosanne Cash, Dar Williams, Marshall Crenshaw, and more at downtown love-fest for the late lamented club.

By , Columnist
Joining a gaggle of New York City folk-music royalty, Broadway superstar and Tony winner Michael Cerveris (perhaps best known for the title role in Sweeney Todd) helped pay tribute to the city's late, lamented Bottom Line music club with an epic performance of Bruce Springsteen's "New York City Serenade" last night at the Winter Garden, just steps from what until recently we were still calling "Ground Zero." Playbill once called Cerveris "arguably the most versatile leading man on Broadway," and his evident ability to do rock-and-roll justice to The Boss only served to burnish that reputation. 

The Bottom Line closed in 2004, a victim of economic pressures and a rent dispute with New York University, its landlord. During its nearly three-decade lifespan - an eternity in club years - the Greenwich Village institution helped launch and nurture the careers of everyone from Springsteen to The Roches. In spite of a lot of love and support from fans and performers who remember the club fondly, the owners have not succeeded in finding a new location. But seven silent years and a threat of rain didn't stop Rosanne Cash, Dar Williams, Loudon Wainwright III, Marshall Crenshaw, Willy Nile, Garland Jeffries, and other local and national luminaries from turning up at the Winter Garden for "New York on My Mind," a concert celebrating New York City and the legendary club. All performed songs about New York, with eminence-grise DJ Pete Fornatale hosting the proceedings and his fellow DJ Vin Scelsa turning in a surprisingly moving reading of Walt Whitman's poem "Manahatta."

Will the Bottom Line ever live again, other than in special events and memories? Fornatale's informal audience poll found the vast majority of those in attendance to be over 50, so, well, maybe not so much. Regardless, it was a special evening, highlighted by Cerveris's fabulous Broadway-Bruce crossover.

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Jon Sobel is a freelance writer, web editor, theater and music critic, marketing writer, and musician. His newest project is the blog Park Odyssey, where he is visiting and blogging every park in New York City - over a thousand of them.

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