State Theatre transforms time with show 'Postmodern Jukebox'
After touring four continents and headlining their own show at Radio City Music Hall, the music group Postmodern Jukebox performed at the State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick Wednesday night for their debut Hub City performance.
Started by Scott Bradlee, a New Jersey native, Postmodern Jukebox (PMJ) provides audience members with a musical journey back in time by reworking popular modern music into different vintage genres.
The set list ranged from renditions of Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom” to Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop,” with each song delivering an unbelievable performance. Overall, with each song and dance, the show taught the audience to “expect the unexpected.”
The State Theatre, for those who have never been, is a beautiful and open space, but the power of the soulful voices on stage made the large venue feel intimate.
The stage was lined with the band’s instruments: Including a trombone, saxophone, clarinet, drums, bass, banjo and a piano. This extremely talented group of individuals in PMJ rotated the various instruments during each song, and then took turns impressing the audience with their skills during a solo piece.
The first solo performer, Robin Adele Anderson, delivered a slower and soulful rendition of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” Anderson, a rather petite brunette, emerged on stage in a beautiful flapper gown, taking this hit pop song straight into the 1920s.
Though tiny in stature, her voice consumed the theater. As she was singing, a tap dance solo by another member performed alongside her, pulling the audience further back in time.
Jack Dani Armstrong, the next performer, was a fiery redhead, wearing a shimmery ruby dress, channeling her inner Jessica Rabbit with her fashion and sex appeal.
The only thing more provocative than her look was her sensual rendition of Britney Spears’s “Toxic.” Armstrong delivered powerful riffs and high notes that had the entire crowd erupt into applause halfway through the song.
Midway through the musical set, the drummer and the lead tap dancer had their own mini-talent competition. The nonstop tap dancing was energetic, dancing to Mark Ronson's “Uptown Funk,” a perfect choice for this act. The performance was so jaw-dropping that it was hard to believe, even while watching it unfold right in front of you.
Now, not many people can take Sam Smith’s masterpiece, “I’m Not the Only One,” and make it their own, but Casey Abrams, the next solo performer, did. Abrams sped up the slow ballad to make a more upbeat, jazzy version of the piece, complimented by a clarinet and trombone break. Abrams's voice is a synthesis of natural ability and perfect, deliberate control.
Toward the end of the show, Scott Bradlee made a special guest appearance, which was met with lots of applause by the audience. Bradlee explained that the idea for PMJ started in his basement when one of his friends suggested they make today’s hits in a yesteryear style.
Bradlee proceeded to take a few suggestions from the audience and combined them into a piano medley of Billy Joel, Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash and the “DuckTales” hits. As amazing as Bradlee is, it should have come as no surprise that this musical mastermind’s talent effortlessly shined through, as he was able to transition from one song to the next, seamlessly.
After two encores and a standing ovation, the curtain finally closed on PMJ, and it was absolutely amazing — the singing, the dancing, the orchestra and the pure talent displayed. Every single performer was vital to the show and the camaraderie and support of the group onstage were apparent. Postmodern Jukebox is an amazing show that you have to see for yourself!