Richard Holbrook: Twenty Plus Four In 2024

Richard Holbrook.

Richard Holbrook.

By: Darryl Reilly

Hey, old friend
Are you okay, old friend?
What do you say, old friend?
Are we or are we unique?

Those Stephen Sondheim lyrics were sung by Richard Holbrook with crystalline sincerity to audience members at their tables as he walked from the rear of 54 Below on his way to the stage to triumphantly perform, Richard Holbrook: Twenty Plus Four In 2024.

That riveting opening was the handiwork of director Jeff Harnar who smartly staged this 70-minute personal musical retrospective with depth, presentational verve and momentum. “On The Street Where You Live” was the affective encore; every note was caressed by Mr. Holbrook’s incomparable voice, realizing that standard with astonishing freshness. “A Twenty-Four Year Celebration of Singing in New York City” is the show’s subtitle; it was conceived in 2020 to commemorate Holbrook’s career anniversary but was delayed due to the pandemic. It is comprised of highlights from his previous shows and recordings.

“To make music, to record an album and to make my fortune in the world of cabaret. Well, I got the first two…” So, Holbrook wittily described his goals 24 years ago of moving to Manhattan to start his life over in middle age. Since that time, he has become an acclaimed and distinctive performer on the New York City cabaret scene. This has been achieved by his crisp diction, supreme phrasing and clear delivery; these traits accentuate his mighty baritone voice. Then there is his delightful old school New York gracious manner, and his temperament which seamlessly veers from sunny to serious.

Richard Holbrook and bassist Tom Kirchmer.

The presentation’s most moving and revelatory segment was its sequence of three Charles Aznavour songs. The stirring “There is a Time” was preceded by Holbrook’s raw account of his cancer diagnosis 11 years ago; he is now cancer free. “Quiet Love” was given a haunting rendition. The searing “What Makes a Man a Man,” which chronicles a provincial French gay man’s existence of living with his mother, appearing in a drag revue at night, and enduring homophobia, was a spellbinding showstopper and this event’s tremendous highlight. Holbrook’s soaring voice, grand gestures and emotional facial expressions, were wrenching and evoked pathos; he has the presence and talent for musical theater.

Beloved singer and songwriter Portia Nelson was recalled through anecdotes and sparkling versions of “Sunday In New York” and “Confessions of a New Yorker (Hate-Love New York).” Favored composer Burton Lane was represented by rousing treatments of “Anything Can Happen In New York,” “How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I’ve Been A Liar All My Life” and “Too Late Now.” These last two Royal Wedding songs with lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner were done as a tribute to that film’s co-star Jane Powell, whom Holbrook knew.

Untapped: Fred Astaire was the jocular title of Holbrook’s show focused on that legend’s musicality. A medley of “Drum Crazy” and “Slap That Bass” brilliantly showcased Holbrook’s extraordinary accompanists, The Tom Nelson Trio. There were ferocious solos from bassist Tom Kirchmer and drummer John Redsecker; Mr. Nelson was impeccable on piano throughout.

Holbrook informed the audience that he recently celebrated a milestone birthday; this fact was connoted by his joyously singing “Wait Till We’re Sixty-Five” from On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, and “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore” from Gigi. Another novel mashup was the bouncy “They All Laughed” with the anthemic “I Happen To Like New York.”

Richard Holbrook.

As his show reached its conclusion, Holbrook separately called out three names, in succession a spotlight shone on the beaming faces of Jim Dale, Lee Roy Reams and Marilyn Maye, who were sitting in booths. They and the rest of the audience had been exhilarated and touched by experiencing Richard Holbrook: Twenty Plus Four In 2024.

Richard Holbrook: Twenty Plus Four In 2024 (February 28, 2024)
54 Below, 254 West 54th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit
Running time: 70 minutes with no intermission



  1. Congratulations, Richard, for this wonderful review!! I’m so sorry I missed your obviously fabulous show.❤️

  2. First Rate Show!! The time flew by. Richard is a fantastic raconteur as well as spellbinding singer!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *