On Tuesday, October 4th at 8:00 PM, Kathleen France brought her one-woman-tour de force extravaganza, “La Bella Vita” to the Iridium. With an eight-piece band to warm up the crowd, then appearing on stage in a skin tight, sparkling evening dress, sporting a smile as gorgeous and infectiously heart warming as her voice, France entranced the audience from the first bar of Bob Merrill’s Mambo Italiano to her to her twenty-fourth selection, Buona Sera by Louis Prima.
The program,comprised of popular songs made famous by Italian/Italian American singers and/ or with Italian themes, was expertly crafted by Emmy Award nominee and MAC Award winner France and her director Tanya Moberly. I overheard a nearby table of people say that the sole purpose of the show was to create an audition film for employment on cruise ships. If that is indeed the case, I can report definitively that France’s mission is more than accomplished, and here’s why:
France brilliantly weaves personal anecdotes into a tight, universally appealing show, making it authentic to her and personal to anyone who loves this genre of music. And face it, everybody loves this genre of music. The evening was a recipe for success, as the audience celebrated the hit songs, laughed at France’s stories and marveled at her vocal versatility. Highlights of the show included Bobby Darin’s arrangement of Dream Lover paired with Connie Francis’ arrangement of Your Don’t Have to Say Love. France’s rich alto would soar into an off-the-staff belt with ease. Further, as she shifted into The Prayer (David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager, Alberto Testa and Tony Renis), her legit soprano stayed steady and even as she delivered the lyric in flawless Italian. One part pin-up girl, one part Lucille Ball goofy chick and all parts powerhouse vocalist, Kathleen France makes entertaining look easy.
So, how does an Irish Girl from Fort Collins, Colorado end up presenting an ambitious, Italian- themed program of hit songs at a posh Manhattan Club, backed up by an eight piece band? She does it by hiring Ian Herman as her Director of Music, and the stellar instrumentalists Sean Harkness (Guitar), Tom Hubbard (Bass), Dave Silliman (Drums), Jon Menges (Trumpet), Mark Miller (Trombone), Jeff Schiller (Alto Sax, Flute 1) and Jeff Nichols (tenor Sax, Flute2 Clarinet). Then she chooses MAC Award winner Tanya Moberly to direct and guide her through the complex and elegant musical choices. Finally, she puts every bit of her divine intelligence , talent and, yes, adorable persona into the act.
If “La Bella Vita” travels to the open water, well, cruise ship audiences all over the globe will be entertained and moved by Kathleen France’s singing prowess and generous spirit. For the rest of us on land, we hope she brings it back again and again.
The Marvelous Marilyn Maye Received Twelve Standing Ovations At The New York Pops
Karen Akers, Jim Caruso, Tony Danza, Jamie deRoy, Max von Essen, Melissa Errico, Bob Mackie, Susie Mosher, Sidney Myer, Josh Prince, Lee Roy Reams, Rex Reed, Randy Roberts, Mo Rocca , Mark Sendroff, Lee Roy Reams, Brenda Vaccaro and David Zippel were there to see and honor Cabaret legend and Grammy nominee Marilyn Maye. Maye who turns 95 April 10th, made her at Carnegie Hall solo debut last night with The New York Pops, led by Music Director and Conductor Steven Reineke.
Maye is a highly praised singer, actress, director, arranger, educator, Grammy nominated recording artist and a musical treasure. Her entire life has been committed to the art of song and performance and it showed with the 12 standing ovations she received.
Maye appeared 76 times on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, she was “discovered” by Steve Allen and had a RCA recording contract, seven albums and 34 singles.
The evening started out with the superlative New York Pops Overture of Mame, which Maye had played the title role.
Next a Cole Porter Medley with “Looking at You,” Concentrate On You,” “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” It’s Alright With Me,””Just One of Those Things,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and “All of You”. This was Marilyn’s second standing ovation. The first was when she stood on that stage for the first time and the audience was rapturous.
A terrific “It’s Today” from Mame with high flying kicks was the third ovation and wow can that woman kick.
A rainbow medley included “Look To The Rainbow” from Finnian’s Rainbow, the iconic “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” the jazzy “Make Me Rainbows” and of course “The Rainbow Connection.” And with that another standing ovation.
“Put On A Happy Face” from Bye Bye Birdie.
Frank Loesser’s Joey, Joey, Joey brought on a fifth standing ovation. This song was a masterclass in acting and vocal nuance. For that matter every song that comes out of Ms. Maye’s mouth is perfection. Part of the brilliance of this night is her musical director, arranger, and pianist Ted Firth. That man is a genius.
Lerner and Loewe’s “On The Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady ended the first act with a sixth standing ovation.
The overture from Hello Dolly! and then Cabaret shows Marilyn Maye also starred in opened the second act. The New York Pops sounded phenomenal as always.
“Your Gonna Hear From Me” from “Inside Daisy Clover was an appropriate starter for this next round as the audience got to its feet.
Maye’s most requested song “Guess Who I Saw Today” from New Faces of 1952 was followed by a show stopping “Fifty Percent” from Ballroom and of course another standing ovation.
Her next song was chosen by the Smithsonian Institute to be included in its permanent collection of recordings from the 20th century. Her recording of “Too Late Now” is considered by the Smithsonian to be one of the 110 Best American Compositions of the Twentieth Century and Ms. Maye showed us why and again another standing ovation.
A proclamation from The City of New York read by Steven Reineke to Marilyn Maye made this day Marilyn Maye Day. This treasure cried with joy as she sang Stephen Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here.” Though she forgot some of the lyric, Ms. Maye proved performing is all on the intent and connecting to the audience. Two more standing ovations were added here.
For encores, I was thrilled to hear James Taylor’s “Circle of Life” and “Here’s To Life,” which is my personal favorite, finally going back into “It’s Today” with those high kicks and a twelfth standing ovation. Bravo Ms. Maye!
If you are a singer and do not catch Ms. Maye live, you really do not care about your craft. Last night Ms. Maye made it clear why she’s been celebrated as one of America’s greatest jazz singers for more than 50 years and this was a night I will always remember. Thank-you New York Pops.
Don’t miss the Pop’s 40th Birthday Gala: This One’s For You: The Music Of Barry Manilow on Monday, May 1st. The gala will star Sean Bell, Erich Bergen, Betty Buckley, Charo, Deborah Cox, Danny Kornfeld, Norm Lewis, Melissa Manchester, Zal Owen, Eric Peters, Blake Roman, Billy Stritch, Steven Telsey, Max von Essen, Dionne Warwick, and more to be announced. This will be yet another New York Pop’s Night not to miss.
My View: It’s Today! It’s Tonight! Marilyn Maye Rehearses For Her New York Pops Carnegie Hall Debut
Sometimes you have to pinch yourself at the opportunities you are presented with. TODAY would be one of those. Or as Marilyn Maye might sing to you, “It’s Today.”
This afternoon I had the privilege of witnessing the 95 year old star, rehearsing on the stage of Carnegie Hall, under the baton of Maestro Steven Reineke, in front of the mighty New York Pops Orchestra. It all happens tonight and has been a lifetime in the making. As if The New York Times piece, bylined by Melissa Errico, wasn’t enough to whet your appetite for what is sure to be a historic evening, maybe these photos will help get you even more excited. Thank you to all who made this happen for me, to present to you….Humbly Yours, Stephen
THE GREEN ROOM 42 Presents Tony Award-nominee Sharon McNight Celebrating 40 Years of Stories And Songs
THE GREEN ROOM 42 will present Tony Award-nominee Sharon McNight in “Surviving Cabaret,” a storied look back at the last forty years of notable performances, on Thursday, April 13 and Saturday, April 15, both at 7:00 PM. McNight is known for her “no holds barred” approach to performing, which has earned the entertainer multiple honors and two Lifetime Achievement awards. She is famous for making audiences laugh and cry at the same show with her eclectic bag of musical choices, which include blues, country, Broadway, comedy, parody, impressions and accompanying stories. She will be joined by musical director James “Jim Bob” Followell.
Sharon McNight began her career in San Francisco, and made her Broadway debut in 1989 in Starmites, creating the role of Diva. She received a Tony nomination as “Best Leading Actress in a Musical” for her performance, and is the recipient of the Theatre World Award for “Outstanding Broadway Debut” and a Hirschfeld drawing of her character. She has six solo recordings to her credit, and has played from Moose Hall to Carnegie Hall, from Los Angeles to Berlin. In addition to her two Lifetime Achievement awards, she has won the MAC, Bistro, and New York Nightlife Awards, and six San Francisco Cabaret Gold Awards.
Her eclectic repertory ranges from blues to country to good old-fashioned entertainment. She is noted for her movie reenactment of The Wizard of Oz and for being one of the few real women to impersonate Bette Davis. Her television credits include “Seinfeld,” “Silk Stalkings,” and “Hannah Montana.” McNight received her Masters of Arts degree in direction from San Francisco State College and was a master teacher on the faculty of the Cabaret Conference at Yale University. She says the greatest day of her life was the day she quit smoking.
Sharon McNight will perform “Surviving Cabaret”on Thursday, April 13 and Saturday, April 15, both at 7:00 PM, at The Green Room 42 (570 Tenth Avenue at 42nd Street, on the 4th Floor of Yotel). The cover charge ranges from $30-$50. A livestream option is available for both shows at $20 each. For tickets, please visit www.TheGreenRoom42.com.
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