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Klea Blackhurst, Jim Caruso, and Billy Stritch Bring Back A Swinging Birdland Christmas

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Birdland presents their 13th Annual “A Swinging Birdland Christmas” – starring Klea Blackhurst, Jim Caruso, and Billy Stritch – for six performances from Tuesday, December 20 to Sunday, December 25 at 5:30 PM. In the tradition of beloved seasonal specials, Blackhurst, Caruso and Stritch perform swinging arrangements of “The Christmas Waltz,” Kay Thompson’s “The Holiday Season,” “Sleigh Ride,” “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” “Snow,” and “It Happened In Sun Valley,” among other favorites. This year they will include a special tribute to the late Freddy Cole, the celebrated jazz/pop singer and pianist – and cherished member of the Birdland family – who recently passed away.  In addition to the trio of singers and Stritch on piano, the show features Steve Doyle on bass, and Daniel Glass on drums. There is a $35 music charge. Birdland is located at 315 West 44th Street in New York.

The trio released an updated version of their hit album Christmas at Birdland (Deluxe Edition)from Club44 Records with four new tracks. The album features guest arists Donny Osmond on vocals and Dave Koz on saxophone. The recording – hailed as “a tasty confection of a disc, loaded with joy, wit, and plenty of sass” by New York Arts Review – debuted at #2 on the iTunes Jazz Chart and hit #7 on the Billboard Jazz Chart. Drawing on their individual strengths, the production team of Billy Stritch and Wayne Haun bring the best of New York and Nashville together in this landmark recording full of musicality and versatility, familiarity and fun.

Klea Blackhurst is an actress, singer, and comedienne known for her award-winning tribute to Ethel Merman, Everything the Traffic Will Allow. She recently appeared Off-Broadway with Hayley Mills in the comedy Party Face, at City Center Stage 2. She starred as Miss Lemon in the Nashville premiere of The Nutty Professor, directed by the legendary Jerry Lewis and featuring a score by Marvin Hamlisch and Rupert Holmes. She’s performed with symphony orchestras and in theatrical productions across the country and abroad including the London Palladium presentation of Jerry Herman’s Broadway with Angela Lansbury, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, 15 Mabel Mercer Cabaret Conventions, New York’s Town Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, The Chicago Humanities Festival and as Ado Annie in the BBC Proms concert of Oklahoma!  On television Klea has appeared in Ryan Murphy’s “Pose” and “The Knick” on Showtime. She spent two seasons on the IFC Channel comedy series “Onion News Network.” This season, Klea debuted her new show “One of the Girls: The Words and Music of Jerry Herman” at Birdland Theater.

Jim Caruso, is the host of “Jim Caruso’s Cast Party,” the wildly popular weekly open mic night that has brought a sprinkling of Broadway glitz and urbane wit to Birdland in New York City every Monday night since 2004. “Cast Party” has been seen at Jazz at Lincoln Center, across the country, and, most recently, on YouTube as “Pajama Cast Party.” Jim made his Broadway debut alongside Liza Minnelli in the Tony Award-winning Liza’s At The Palace!, singing, dancing and celebrating the music and arrangements of Kay Thompson and the Williams Brothers.  He has won six MAC Awards and eight BroadwayWorld Awards for his work in nightclubs, performed with the New York Pops in a tribute to Kander & Ebb, with Rosemary Clooney celebrating Bing Crosby, and sang the songs of Hope & Crosby with Michael Feinstein at Carnegie Hall. Jim was honored to sing with Barbara Cook, Lauren Bacall and a bevy of Broadway stars at President Clinton’s First State Dinner at the White House. He also books and produces the “Broadway at Birdland” concert series, and performs regularly with Billy Stritch at Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle Hotel. Jim’s two albums, The Swing Set and Caruso Live and In Person, are available online.

Billy Stritch is one of the premier singer-pianists on the New York and national jazz and cabaret scenes. He began his career in Houston, Texas, where he formed the vocal trio Montgomery, Plant and Stritch. The trio performed all over the world from 1983 until they disbanded in 1990. A chance meeting with Liza Minnelli in 1991 resulted in her asking him to create vocal arrangements for Liza’s record-breaking extravaganza Stepping Out at Radio City. Billy recently toured with the legendary Tony Bennett as his pianist and musical director. A solo entertainer in his own right, he has performed his own shows (including tributes to Mel Tormé and Cy Coleman) across the country. Billy also serves as music director for such leading vocalists as Marilyn Maye, Linda Lavin, Linda Eder, Christine Ebersole and Paulo Szot. He is the co-writer of the Grammy Award-winning song “Does He Love You,” recorded by Reba McEntire and Linda Davis. The single reached the number one spot on the Billboard Country music chart, winning a Grammy Award and selling over five million copies. In August 2021, he celebrated his new solo album Billy’s Place from Club44 Records, with an engagement at Birdland.

The 13th Annual engagement of A Swinging Birdland Christmas” for six performances from Tuesday, December 20 to Sunday, December 25 at 5:30 PM. There is a $35 music charge and a $10 food and beverage minimum. Birdland Jazz Club 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. 

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

Cabaret

Karen Mason and Louis Rosen

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Karen Mason and Louis Rosen met back in the 70s in Chicago. Karen was a young singer accompanied by a the incomparable pianist-songwriter Brian Lasser. He was close friends with guitarist, pianist-songwriter, Louis Rosen. Mason and Lasser moved to New York and two years later Rosen was there as well. A little over ten years later Lasser died of AIDS. Rosen and Mason have made sure that Lasser’s music is remembered.

Karen Mason

Louis Rosen

Mason and Rosen are back together again celebrating nearly 50 years of collaboration and friendship. The evening is stripped down bare with Rosen on guitar and piano and Mason and Rosen on vocals. Most of the material is Rosen’s songs many from his most recent albums, but added are a few selections by  Lasser, that make you know he died way to soon.

Karen Mason

Louis Rosen

Rosen’s music is what singer/songwriters use to write, full of blues riffs, uplifting swing, folk melodies, jazz cadences and soulful powerful lyrics. It is like an old soul left their words to impart. This night so made me want to hear his newest album “Love and Ashes”. Rosen is a musicians musician.

“A master interpreter… Mason produces a depth of sound and brilliance of color that converge in the work of very few singers!” (Chicago Tribune)

Mason has an authenticity to her voice. She is a storyteller, rich in tone and truly excels on Lasser’s music. She is a belter at heart, but Rosen’s music has her venerable and exposed, which is a new side to her art.

It is always wonderful to watch two artists collaborate,

Luba Mason and Karen Mason

Louis Rosen

Karen Mason and Louis Rosen: Ages Since the Last Time: Chelsea Table + Stage, 152 West 26th Street.

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Cabaret

My View: Why CAN’T A Woman…? This Woman Can…Lianne Marie Dobbs

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The actor Lianne Marie Dobbs played a 1900’s woman in the HBO series The Gilded Age. You also might have seen her in Law & Order, The Equalizer and F.B.I., but yesterday at Chelsea Tables + Stage she wasn’t just playing the part of a Cabaret singer!  Ms. Dobbs is the real deal, and she captivated an audience of music connoisseurs with her formidable vocal talents and wit in her show titled “Why CAN’T a Woman…? 

Lianne’s cabaret act utilizes Broadway leading men’s songs and sassy standards, served up with a twist of SHE, to celebrate all the hats that women wear, and she answered the shows question authoritatively….This woman sure can!

Lianne Marie Dobbs was named one of the Best Vocalists of the Decade (BroadwayWorld, 2020) and has filled The Green Room 42, 54Below, Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael, Feinstein’s at the Nikko, Blue Strawberry in St. Louis, and will be featured in Chicago’s Cabaret Week later in May.  “Why CAN’T a Woman…?” was named one of the best cabaret shows of the year (2022) by BroadwayWorld, and called “an honest to goodness emerging work of art”.  She has appeared in leading roles Off-Broadway, in National Tours, and at renowned theaters such as Denver Center, Repertory of St. Louis, Ogunquit Playhouse, Goodspeed and many more.

Ron Abel is Lianne’s music director and arranger, whose accolades include: LA Critics Circle Award Winner and L.A. Weekly Award Winner for his original compositions and unique arrangements of Broadway hits for orchestras and singers. He has been the music director for acclaimed vocalists such as Lucie Arnaz, Peter Allen, Joely Fisher, Valarie Pettiford, Julia Migenes, Helen Reddy, and John Lloyd Young.

LIANNE MARIE DOBBS & RON ABEL

LIANNE MARIE DOBBS & RON ABEL

LIANNE MARIE DOBBS

LIANNE MARIE DOBBS

LIANNE MARIE DOBBS

LIANNE MARIE DOBBS

LIANNE MARIE DOBBS & RON ABEL

LIANNE MARIE DOBBS & RON ABEL

CHELSEA TABLE + STAGE

CHELSEA TABLE + STAGE

STANDING OVATION

LIANNE MARIE DOBBS

LIANNE MARIE DOBBS & CAROLE J. BUFFORD

PAUL KREPPEL, RON ABEL, EDA SOROKOFF, MURPHY CROSS

EDA SOROKOFF & TAKAKO HARKNESS

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Cabaret

My View: The City Was Special Last Night….Melissa Errico at 54 Below

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The evening at 54 Below was advertised as a “ Vinyl Release Celebration Concert” and how apt that VINYL, the unrivaled substance utilized to capture the subtle nuances and breadth of music has now been used to capture the elegant voice of Melissa Errico singing the songs of  “Sondheim in the City” for posterity. 

Caveat: While Vinyl may capture in analog glory the beautiful notes and words of Melissa, one must be in her presence to experience her irrepressible beauty, wit, and intelligence on stage.

Melissa Errico….Sondheim In The City Vinyl Release Celebration at 54 Below May 7,8,9…..

Tedd Firth Music Director, David Finck (Bass), Eric Halvorson (Drums) Bruce Harris (Trumpet)

About the show:

After the critical triumph of her Sondheim Sublime album-called “the finest all Sondheim recording ever made” by the Wall Street Journal, Melissa Errico returned to one of her cabaret homes (54 Below) last night and to her favorite songwriter with an entire new program of Sondheim songs, celebrating her new album (released February 16, 2024 on Concord) and a different side of Steve, praised in The New York Times as “a New York house tour of thrill and heartbreak..from one of Sondheim’s deepest-hearted yet lightest-touch interpreters.”

Sondheim in the City is the Sondheim of smart, sophisticated New York, the Sondheim of the quick, witty, sardonic, love-seeking and sex-driven city that he recorded and worked in through his long life. From the anthem of city busyness “Another Hundred People” to the bittersweet hymns of city marriage, “Sorry, Grateful” and “Good Thing Going,” with time for hardboiled surprises like “Uptown, Downtown” and surprisingly soft-centered ballads like “All That I Need” and “Dawn”

MELISSA ERRICO

MELISSA ERRICO

MELISSA ERRICO

MELISSA ERRICO

MELISSA ERRICO

MELISSA ERRICO

MELISSA ERRICO

MELISSA ERRICO & TEDD FIRTH, music director

54 Below, Eda Sorokoff

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Cabaret

Klea Blackhurst Brings The Songbook Of Jerry Herman To Life

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Klea Blackhurst returned to Chelsea Table and Stage last Sunday with another installment of her monthly series “The Box Set”. Each month Klea reprises one of her acclaimed shows. Last  Sunday she performed  One of the Girls: “The Words and Music of Jerry Herman”. Klea sang Herman’s songs that were made famous by the women in his life.

The evening started with Klea descending down the long staircase of the club singing “Just Leave Everything to Me” from the film, “Hello Dolly!” and she was off running. She is  an actress, singer, comedian and Mermanologist. What is a Mermanologist you ask ? Someone who is an expert on Ethel Merman.

Klea relayed some wonderful stories about Jerry Herman. She  got to know the composer well.  You can feel her admiration for him not only as a composer, but as a human being.

Klea was backed up by superb musicians: Michael Rice – piano/arrangements, Aaon Russell on drums and Tom Hubbard on bass. In between Jerry Herman stories Klea sang some of Herman’s great songs: “Put on Your Sunday Clothes”, “It Only Takes a Moment” from Hello Dolly!, “Open A New Window” and “It’s Today from Mame,  “Time Heals Everything” from Mack &Mabel, “Just Go to The Movies” from A Day in Hollywood/ A Night in the Ukraine and “I Don’t want to Know” from Dear World. Klea knocked it out of the park with her rendition  of “I’m  What I Am” from La Cage aux Folles.

Very seldom do I leave a show and feel I that I need to spread the world about a great performer but for Ms. Blackhurst… I do.

Klea is truly one of the greats of this generation of entertainers.

We have to wait till September 15, 2024 for her next show “Dreaming of A Song” The Music of Hoagy Carmichael co-staring Billy Stritch.

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Cabaret

Laura Slutsky Does Cabaret for a Cause

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Laura Slutsky’s and my paths have crossed many times over the years and I have always found her witty, kind and engaging. I just didn’t know how big a heart she had until I saw she was producing cabaret and comedy shows to raise money for various charities. Over the past few months, she has gathered groups of talented performers to raise money for Parkinson’s Disease and the people of Maui after the devastating fires. On April 28th I was able to attend her latest fundraiser at the Triad Theater to support St Jude Children’s Hospital.  Lyzette Dorado, St Jude Marketing Director for New York City, was in attendance and was able to share how the organization helps the young cancer patients and their families.

Laura Slutsky

Lizette Dorado, St Jude Marketing Director shares what their mission

Laura Slutsky Singing Eydie Gorme

Laura and Sue Matsuki Cohosts of the Evening

I met Sue Matsuki a few years ago when she was organizing the Winter Rhythms concerts for Urban Stages. She is an award winning (MAC, Bistro and Julie Wilson Awards) singer and author. She met Laura in January and in those 3 short months they were able to organize this wonderful entertaining afternoon with a list of Grade A talent.

Sue Matsuki Singing Judy Garland

Saundra Silliman Sings Nancy Wilson

Elvira Tortora Sings Babara Cook

Debra Stone Sings Amanda McBroom

Laura’s Shmoozin’ with Slutsky series of special performance events each has a different theme and this one was “Legends that ‘Muse’ Me,” a 90 minute concert with eleven powerhouse performers, each singing a song from one of their favorite influences. Each performer wowed the packed house and as all proceeds benefitted St Jude it showed a true sense of community and caring.

Jacqueline Draper Sings Piaf

Meg Flather sings one of her own compositions

Kati Nieheisel Sings Julie London

Eva Steinberg Sings Peggy Lee

Ms Slutsky, in addition to co-emceeing with her special wit sang Eydie Gorme and Sue honored Judy Garland.  The afternoon was a wonderful variety of singers each with a different style including ballads, jazz, blues a popular tunes. Saundra Silliman sang Nancy Wilson; Elvira Tortora, Babara Cook and Debra Stone, Amanda McBroom. Jacqueline Draper performed Piaf in French and English while Meg Flather sang one of her own compositions. Kati Nieheisel and Eva Steinberg spoke of Julie London and Peggy Lee, respectively, before giving them tribute in song. Margaret Curry and Leslee Warren, influenced by Linda Ronstadt and Ethel Waters, respectively, turned up the temperature with Blue Bayou and Heat Wave. Lina Koutrakis completed the line up with two 2 songs; one from Michele Brourman and one of her own.

Debra Stone and all the ladies are accompanied by the Gregory Toroian Band

Margaret Curry Sings Linda Ronstadt

Leslee Warren Sings Ethel Waters

Lina Koutrakis sang 2 songs; One from Michele Brourman and one of her own

All the women were accompanied by the Gregory Toroian Band with Mr. Toroian on piano, Skip Ward on bass and Eric Halvorson on drums.

If this afternoon was an example of all the Shmoozin with Slutsky shows I am sorry I am late to the party. She knows how to bring out the best talent and showcase them in a gleaming light. What’s even more special is that she does this for the benefit of so many in need. Her next Shmooze will raise money for Prostate Cancer (date to be determined) but in the meantime you can support St. Jude Children’s Hospital https://www.stjude.org for more information.

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