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Cabaret

Big Little Kitties’ Shimmies Forth a Witty Sexy Woke Tease

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Beginning with a shimmy and a (not so) shocking fact, the titillation that is Tease, a multi-faceted theatrical cabaret experience that radiates with humour and sex appeal being presented by Little City Kitties at Crow’s Theatre in Toronto, sensually ushers us in with some Sweet Charity video clips filled to the rafters with bloody Shining images of Maggie G and her Secretary days, all the way back to Ann M. and her Elvis. “Do you wanna have fun?” the show asks, as it blows forward in full-force burlesque form. Well, there’s no doubt about that. I’m totally in, and with hilariously witty visuals by videographer Liam Grue and video editor Nigil Vazquez, this woke work-bitch engagement, with full consent, aims true to form, enticing and drawing us in with ease and a tickle. And we go willingly as these three big city kitties shimmy forth in solid smart form.

As created and directed, a wee bit too casually sometimes, by award-winning comedienne Lindsay Mullan (Second City’s Everything Is Great Again), Tease dives into the decadence with a clever-witted, comparative stance, asking us to play along to find out what the proper response is to a strip tease, who in the audience is the most naive, and who is game for a bit of woke adventure. Sadly I had to sit that game out; down and eliminated quite quickly in the first round. But the show, with an off-balanced lighting design by Mathilda Kane, and steller costuming by Janelle Joy Hince with accessories by Charlie Quinn, definitely knows how to pull us all in and connect. It’s deliciously funny, bare naked, and slyly vulnerable, while also finding an alternative witty vantage point to unpack some cowboy song lyrics that make us all sit back in amazement.

Lindsay Mullan, Glenys Marshall, and Mei Miyazawa in Big City Kitties’ Tease at the Crow’s Theatre, Toronto. Photo by Eden Graham.

That solo-act cowboy song is an eye-opener as it “ain’t all sunshine and lollipops“, but the number, and the show, sure is sure of itself, and only gets better with each number presented. The show is overflowing with personality, talent, and a naughty side wink, with woke-ness a-blazing full-frontal. Showcasing two per performer with delight, the three; the phenomenally gifted Glenys Marshall (Trip the Light Theatre’s Nuit), the engagingly funny Mei Miyazawa (Ovation Productions’ Cabaret), and the fearlessly naked Mullan, totally give us our money’s worth, especially if you divide the cost by six as instructed. Tease asks us to embrace them all, and the Sugar Daddy Funeral row space, with the appropriate (not sad) enthusiastic rowdy responses worthy of the titillations delivered. And we happily comply.

Mei Miyazawa, Lindsay Mullan, and Glenys Marshall in Big City Kitties’ Tease at the Crow’s Theatre, Toronto. Photo by Eden Graham.

Early on, some of the pieces need some further sharpening of its clever “Personal Jesus” knife, with the visuals feeling a tad bit pre-dated and Madonna-esque. But as the show drives forward, revealing itself with much more confidence, focus, and spirit, the skits become stronger and smarter, filled with complex flips mimed and danced out by the three talented envelope-pushing performers/creators/choreographers (with some additional choreography by Gabriel Gonçalves and Dana Thody). They start out French, with a bit that is somewhat simplistic and underwhelming, but it doesn’t take long for the three magnificent performers to gather themselves together and blaze forth, riding those burlesque saddles of fun forward into our entertained hearts, with a special midshow guest who did a hilarious number that wonderfully reminded me of those Gypsy strippers and a Drowsy Chaperone Sutton, all rolled up into one.

Tease is a nakedly smart and unflinchingly entertaining blend of sketch comedy, improv, and burlesque, wonderfully digging, diving, and poking into the patriarchal and misogynistic attitudes towards women and their bodies. The exploration is a bit heterocentric, with lots of attention to the straight person’s reaction to their titillations, leaving us LGBTQ+ personages in the audience to find the framework that fits all on our own. It feels like a missed opportunity for a few wise swipes at what and how someone who doesn’t identify as straight could be responding to the fun, especially to the raw nakedness of the brave nightmare at the center of this exploration. But the quotes from the random (horrific) things these three have been told within their career do hit home hard, focusing us away from their fem body sex costuming to their shared experiences of what it means to be a woman, particularly in the entertainment and performing world. Tease, as presented by the Big City Kitties in association with Crow’s Theatre, finds the exactingly funny golden segue from sharp engagement to a raunchy dance number, and all we can do is loudly hoot and holler in the previously instructed appropriately loud and wonderfully appreciative burlesque manner.

 

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Cabaret

Cabaret Loses The West Bank Cafe and Laurie Beechman Theatre

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The West Bank Cafe and the Laurie Beechman theatre are closing their doors in August.

The West Bank Cafe opened in 1978. The restaurant’s early clients even included the notorious Irish gang, the Westies. The neighborhood was rough. In 1980, The New York Times awarded West Bank two stars, which increased its visibility and attracted a wider range of diners. 
In this era, West Bank Cafe’s owner, Steve Olsen opened the Laurie Beechman Theatre downstairs from the Cafe, which staged plays and hosted events nightly. A young Lewis Black was named playwright-in-residence; Howard Stern aired his third-annual live birthday broadcast from the theater; and the restaurant’s regulars included Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and Bruce Willis, among others.

Soon the redevelopment of 42nd Street spread further west, bringing new businesses and residents to the area. Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, the restaurant was a leader in the growing Theater District and Hell’s Kitchen dining scenes. As new theaters opened in the area, the restaurant’s connection to stage and screen remained strong as well. The Laurie Beechman Theatre continued to regularly stage the work of emerging writers, actors, and singers (many of whom later became stars) as well as established acts: The Who even gave four live performances at the restaurant while their musical Tommy was running on Broadway.

After 45 years, the restaurant’s surrounding neighborhood and America’s culinary tastes have changed dramatically. West Bank Cafe has evolved along with the neighborhood and maintained a commitment to serving high-quality food in a unpretentious setting where both theater-goers and theatre stars feel at home.

In 2020 the West Bank was likely to close imminently as it faced mounting debts and a steep drop-off in customers due to COVID. By Tuesday, though, there was an online fundraiser had raised more than $330,000, shooting past its initial goal of $250,000. Donations came pouring in thanks to Tom D’Angora, a Broadway producer and longtime customer. But things took off on Christmas Day, thanks to a star-studded, nine-hour telethon, featuring speeches and performances by Sean Penn, Nathan Lane, Pete Townshend, Debra Messing, Andre De Shields and dozens more performers who have called themselves West Bank regulars during its 42-year history.

The money raised allowed Olsen to pay off the cafe’s debts and save some cash for the future. Sadly it seems 2024 might be the end.

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Cabaret

Jason Robert Brown To Perform at Carnegie Hall In October

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Now here is a concert I will definitely be attending. Three-time Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown will perform a special concert event at Carnegie Hall on October 25, 2024, at 8:00 PM. He already had a sold-out concert at the London Palladium.

Expect to hear “Still Hurting,” and “Stars and the Moon.” I have included some of my favorite video’s of Mr. Brown’s music sung to perfection.

His repertoire, spans over thirty years of unforgettable and some of the best musical theatre songs ever written.

At the concert some of his closest collaborators and newest friends and some of the most celebrated performers of the stage and the music world – soon to be announced.

The Orchestra of St. Luke’s, New York’s own chamber orchestra, will accompany Jason and his guests with their virtuosic 22-piece ensemble. The evening will be conducted by Jason Robert Brown and Georgia Stitt.

Tickets go on sale to the general public at 11am EST on July 19, 2024, with a general pre-sale on Wednesday, July 17th, and a Live Nation presale, starting Thursday, July 18th. Tickets start at $59.50. For ticketing information and further details, please contact CarnegieCharge at (212) 247-7800, carnegiehall.org, or visit the Box Office on 57th Street and Seventh Avenue.

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Cabaret

My View: Lucie Arnaz…..How Did She Get This Job?

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With apologies to politicians who tout their job creating policies, Lucie Arnaz did not need any assistance to get her current job at 54 Below with a show titled “I Got The Job”.  Lucie got this gig because she is a supremely talented actor/singer/dancer who possesses a distinguished resume and long career of memorable performances on the stages of Broadway, Cabaret, and Concert Halls all over the world… and as I’ve said before about this show….

Lucie Arnaz hit the stage of 54Below with all cylinders on burn and guns ablaze! She performed an evening she calls “I GOT THE JOB” and kept the New York City audience entranced from beginning to end, garnering multiple ovations that seemed as natural as breathing.

For 85 minutes, she owned the stage, dressed to work, in black tights with tuxedo rhinestone striping and a dazzling orange silk blouse with glimmering buttons and cuffs. Basic, simple, perfect. This woman comes with all the equipment to perform, entertain and break your heart. She’s a master storyteller with impeccable timing and the voice shows up for her song after song, from show after show, exhibiting range and colors and nuancing that engage the audience at every turn. The star, of course, is the daughter of showbiz royalty, but she doesn’t rely on that one bit and has her own stories to tell, and they are mesmerizing.

Lucie Arnaz has had an extraordinary life and career and judging by what was on display, last night, I imagine, as Cy Coleman & Carolyn Leigh wrote, “The Best Is Yet To Come.” Lucie wrote and directed herself in this show, which opened the Birdland Theater years ago, but it has been fully fleshed out and brought to vivid life. Sharing the stage with her is what appears to be a musical soulmate in her Musical Director, Arranger and “Acting Partner,” Ron Abel, whose hands gave Ms. Arnaz her orchestra.

During the evening we were treated to a story of her audition (in a theatre) for THEY’RE PLAYING OUR SONG. During the audition, Neil Simon walked onto the stage and told her she was a breath of fresh air. She later “got the job.” Last night, she also stole our hearts and, now, we’re helpless and LOVE LUCIE.

LUCIE ARNAZ

LUCIE ARNAZ

RON ABEL

54 BELOW

LUCIE ARNAZ

RON ABEL & LUCIE ARNAZ

54 BELOW

MACRON PRICKETT

54 BELOW

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Cabaret

Cabaret Shows To Watch

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At Birdland Jazz Club the return of songwriter Scott Alan on Monday, August 5 at 7:00 PM. Alan will be joined by some of today’s brightest stars singing his compositions, including Audrey Belle Adams, Beatriz Melo, Marylee Fairbanks, LaRaisha DiEvelyn Dionne, Carla Mongado, Ashlyn Combs, Natalie Ortega, Cassidy Ewert, Eli Thomas, T’Arica Crawford, Jenna Miller Ferreira, Julian Carli, and Kendall Paige Parrett. There is a $34-45 music charge. Birdland is located at 315 West 44th Street in New York.

Scott Alan is an internationally acclaimed songwriter who has worked with some of the biggest names in theater, TV, film, and recording. Some of those artists include Grammy Award-winning Pentatonix; Grammy Award-nominated artists Jane Monheit, Marc Broussard, Marc Feehily, and Taylor Dayne; Tony Award-winning artists Sutton Foster, Adriane Lenox, Randy Graff, Frances Ruffle, and Lea Salonga; film and TV stars Tracie Thoms, Patina Miller, Katie Stevens, Danny-Boy Hatchard, Cheyenne Jackson, Megan Hilty, Samantha Barks, and Jeremy Jordan; and reality stars Sam Bailey, Collabro, Diane DeGarmo, Christina Marie, and RJ Helton, among others.

After the 2007 release of his debut album Dreaming Wide Awake, Alan has gone on to release seven follow up albums that include KeysWhat I Wanna Be When I Grow UpLiveAnything Worth Holding on ToCynthia Erivo and Oliver Tompsett sing Scott AlanLifeline, and Nothing More. His compositions have been featured on “American Idol,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Entertainment Tonight,” HBO, MTV, and VH1.

Scott Alan on Monday, August 5 at 7:00 PM. There is a $35-45 music charge and a $20 food and beverage minimum. Birdland is located at 315 West 44th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues) in Manhattan. For reservations, please call (212) 581-3080 or visit www.BirdlandJazz.com.

At Birdland Jazz Club Julie Benko returns. The Broadway star of Funny Girl and Harmony – as she marches her band out again on Monday, August 12 at 7:00 PM. Following her recent tour of sold-out shows at San Francisco’s Venetian Room at the Fairmont Hotel, Los Angeles’ Catalina Jazz Club, and New York’s Café Carlyle, and after announcing she was expecting her first baby, Julie introduces a new show that explores the surprises, challenges, and joys of pregnancy. This evening of music will highlight female songwriters (Brandi Carlisle, Laura Nyro), Broadway favorites (selections from Into the Woods, Baby and more), and Disney classics (songs from Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and more). The new arrangements are by her longtime music director and husband (and, of course, the father-to-be!) Jason Yeager. In addition to Yeager on piano, the show features Paul Francis on drums, Michael O’Brien on bass, Justin Poindexter on guitars and mandolin, and Gabe Terraciano on violin. Jeremiah James, Benko’s former Funny Girl co-star, will be featured as guest vocalist. There is a $40 music charge. Birdland is located at 315 West 44th Street in New York.

Jeff Harner

Jeff Harner

PS CLASSICS, the label dedicated to the heritage of Broadway and American Popular Song, has announced that the new album from MAC and Bistro Award-winning concert artist Jeff Harner – Jeff Harnar Sings Sammy Cahn: The Second Time Around – is available for iTunes pre-order starting today, Tuesday, July 16. This pre-order allows for instant download of two tracks, “I’ll Only Miss Him When I Think of Him” and “Come Fly with Me,” which features Grammy Award winner Nicole Zuraitis. The album will be released on CD and digital formats on Friday, July 26. Harnar revisits his 2001 Sammy Cahn recording, long out-of-print: the original album has been remixed, reimagined and expanded upon, reflecting both Harnar’s desire to widen his perspective on the lauded lyricist’s work – new tracks feature guest appearances by Grammy Award nominee Clint Holmes, the acclaimed vocal trio MOIPEI and Nicole Zuraitis – and his own growth as an artist and interpreter. The Second Time Around is also available for pre-order on Amazon.com. A special video trailer for the album, featuring exclusive studio footage, can now be viewed on YouTube HERE.

Harnar will celebrate the album with concerts at New York’s 54 Below on Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27. The album’s guest vocalists – Clint Holmes, MOIPEI, and Nicole Zuraitis – will appear on Saturday, July 27, while MOIPEI, Sally Mayes, and Eric Comstock will appear Friday, July 26. Harnar will also feature the Cahn program in London, England at The Pheasantry (9/13-14, 2024) and Boca Raton, FL, at the Adolph & Rose Levis JCC (1/22-23, 2025), with other tour dates to be announced.

July 22 (Monday) 7:00 PM – Birdland Jazz Club Telly Leung – “Back to Birdland”. Telly Leung is the  Broadway star of the musicals Aladdin, Allegiance, Godspell, Rent, and more – returns in the new show “Back to Birdland.” Leung’s six-year hiatus has taken him all over the world as a performer and director. Expect to hear Broadway classics, as well as songs from his solo recordings, featuring a trio of New York’s finest musicians with Gary Adler on piano, Mary Ann McSweeney on bass, and Joe Choroszewski on drums. Leung is a Chinese-American, New York City native, Broadway and television performer, recording artist, producer, director, theater arts teacher, and coach. His Broadway and national touring performing credits include Aladdin in Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway, In Transit, Allegiance (with George Takei and Lea Salonga), Godspell, Rent (final Broadway company), Wicked (Boq, original Chicago company), Pacific Overtures, and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song. In 2010, he starred as Angel in Rent at the Hollywood Bowl opposite Wayne Brady, directed by Neil Patrick Harris. Television audiences will remember him as Marcel in Season three of “Warrior” (HBO Max), Wes the Warbler on “Glee,” as well as his guest star appearances on “Instinct,” “Odd Mom Out,” “Deadbeat,” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” Telly is featured as a performance coach for the Jimmy Awards in the PBS documentary, Broadway or Bust.

July 29 (Monday) 7:00 PM – Birdland Jazz Club. A Celebration of Maurice Hines – Tappin’ Thru Life”. This concert will honor the life and legacy of show business icon Maurice Hines through his award-winning, autobiographical show “Tappin’ Thru Life.” The original cast, including John Manzari (vocals/tap), Leo Manzari (vocals/tap) and The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, will reunite to celebrate Maurice’s remarkable career. Special guests will include Clint Holmes and Ann Hampton Callaway on vocals.

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Cabaret

My View: An Evening With Rex Reed, Will Friedwald, & POLLY BERGEN

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Will Friedwald’s Clip Joint presented the legendary film critic and personality “Rex Reed Remembers Polly Bergen” last night at the TRIAD Theater.  It was a fascinating evening as Rex, who was one of Polly Bergen’s closest friends told fly on the wall show biz stories and personal anecdotes about her remarkable life.  An especially hilarious one occurred at the annual OSCAR NIGHT party that Polly had every year in her New York apartment.  There was Rex, watching the Oscars on a TV in Polly’s bedroom, Lucille Ball on one side of him and Paul Newman on the other .  Milton Berle who had been in another room parades past them wearing one of Polly’s gowns that he snatched from her closet!

Will and Rex reminisced about her amazing career in the movies ( including three classic comedies with Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis) but even more so on television.  In fact, her career spans the very history of the small screen medium, starting with appearances on pioneering broadcasts of the late 1940’s right up to a memorable regular role in the hit series DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES-although she was probably best known for starring in the legendary 1957 PLAYHOUSE 90 live television biography of HELEN MORGAN.  In other guises, she was an entrepreneur and political activist. 

Will Friedwald brought along his extensive library of film clips of her appearances on The Hollywood Palace, The Andy Williams Show, The Dean Martin Show, The Perry Como Kraft Music Hall, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show and appearances with Phil Silvers, George Burns, Red Skelton, Andy Williams and many more. Polly Bergen (1930-2014) had three husbands, and unfortunately became a Doris Day type financial victim because of her last one. And now “here’s the rest of my personal Polly Bergen story”.

Many years ago a firm placed a large order with my factory.  When I checked with our credit insuring agency they advised me that the company did not have enough finances to purchase that amount of goods and consequently the agency would only insure half the order.  Not wanting to reject a sizable order I made an appointment to meet the owner in his garment center office and check out his business for myself.  During the course of the conversation somehow the entertainment business came up (of course it did) and he mentioned that he was married to Polly Bergen.  Being a fan and and having reverence for the famous and talented artists in this world I dropped my usual due diligence guard and the hour was spent talking about show business, I loved it, especially when he invited me over to their apartment to watch the Super Bowl.   Well, I shipped all the merchandise…and you can guess what happened….Years later I met Polly Bergen at one of Rex Reed’s evenings and introduced myself with the opening line “ you cost me a lot of money” and then related the story of how her husband never paid.   Polly put her arm around me and said in her bawdy way, “ honey, you’re lucky it was only that much, he bankrupted me”.

WILL FRIEDWALD

REX REED & WILL FRIEDWALD

POLLY BERGEN

REX REED

POLLY BERGEN & DEAN MARTIN

PERRY COMO & POLLY BERGEN

REX REED & WILL FRIEDWALD

ANDY WILLIAMS & POLLY BERGEN

POLLY BERGEN & SANDLER & YOUNG

REX REED & POLLY BERGEN

REX REED & EDA SOROKOFF

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