Feinsteins/54 Below is already the crown jewel of cabaret spaces in New York. So it isn’t surprising that they would create the Diamond Series in which only the finest of Broadway singing talents would be allowed to sparkle. Where else for $300 can you get to see your favorite Broadway star, up close and personal, together with what is promoted as 3 course, 5 star meal?
Whether or not the food lives up to the ballyhoo is debatable. The quartet of hor d’oeuvres were tasty, yes. But had they been any smaller they would have been microscopic. For an appetizer, I had the surprisingly meaty lobster bisque which was, indeed, the best lobster bisque I have ever had. But that was followed by a choice of only either chicken breast, or a wild hen with mushroom, as the entrée. It made me think of the old Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketch, “The Frog and Peche,” a fancy restaurant where the only two choices on the menu were Frog a la Peche — a frog with a peach stuffed in its mouth — and Peche a la Frog — a large peach filled with swimming tadpoles. For that money, I had expected to see filet mignon or some seafood (the amazing bisque notwithstanding) on the menu. Besides that, the chicken was rather dry and a tad overcooked. I think they could do better in the future.
But as for the entertainment… how can you beat Laura Benanti? This magnificent woman does it all, and does it all beautifully. She is a fine actress, garnering acclaim for recent performances in the movie “Worth,” and TV roles on such shows as “Supergirl” and “Younger”. I still remember her as the Mama Bunny in “The Playboy Club” from 2011. But she is also as goofy as Lucille Ball, with a wickedly sly sense of humor. Could we have survived four years of “The Donald” without her frequent appearances on “Late Night with Stephen Colbert” as an increasingly manic Melania Trump? She is as endearing as a warm puppy, endowed with a voice as shimmering as the finest faceted jewel, and as if that’s not enough, she’s flat out gorgeous. So the Feinsteins/54 Below audience, after polishing off the poulets, ate her up as well.
Ms. Benanti’s eclectic set was mostly songs from her self-titled album. She showed off her comedic side early by sending up Burt Bacharach’s “Wives and Lovers,” illustrating how much times have changed, with knowing nods to the old image of the devoted wife doing the housework, who needs to be ready for sex when hubby comes home, too. But then she found all the sad beauty in “The Party’s Over” from “Bells are Ringing” by Stein, Comden and Green, and sailed wistfully through “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” by Michele Legrand and the Bergmans.
She regaled us with stories of her New Jersey roots, and wonderful personal anecdotes. Family is clearly important to thrice-wed Ms. Benanti. Even a bachelor like me had to smile when she told how her three year old daughter became good friends with legendary actress Rosemary Harris during “My Fair Lady,” and would dutifully lead her back to her dressing room after they ate together so Ms. Harris could “take her nap”.
Ms. Benanti shared her joy that she has been lucky to perform several of her dream musical theater roles, not even counting her Tony winning performance in “Gypsy.” She recalled stepping into “My Fair Lady” to play Eliza Doolittle after Lauren Ambrose departed, and sang us a thrilling rendition of “I Could Have Danced All Night.” She recounted making her Broadway debut at age 17 while still in high school as Liesl in “The Sound of Music,” and understudying the finest Broadway soprano of her generation, Rebecca Leuker, who was sadly lost to us last year from ALS disease. She made us weep with her warm memories of Ms. Leuker’s generosity as a performer…how Ms. Leuker always called the part of Maria “our role”, and how the most important lesson she learned from Ms. Leuker was to show kindness to everyone. When Ms. Benanti then sang “The Sound of Music,” the music meant that much more.
Of course, no concert of hers could be complete without “Vanilla Ice Cream” from Bock and Harnick’s “She Loves Me,” the revival of which in which she starred a few years ago let Ms. Benanti stand as tall vocally as the revered Barbara Cook, who created the role.
Her back up singers, Michael Nasse and Miranda Ferris Jones, were two accomplished performers in their own right. Ms. Jone’s achingly soulful rendition of Anthony Newley’s “Feeling Good” from “Roar of the Greasepaint….”, nuanced and powerful, was a particular highlight of the evening.
Ms. Benanti’s solid band consisted of pianist and arranger Gil Goldstein, the fine guitarist Pasquale Grasso, bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Tommy Campbell.
The only disappointment to me was her unconvincing and hammy rendition of “The Boy From…”, a comedic parody of “The Boy from Ipanema” by Mary Rogers and Stephen Sondheim, in which the singer gradually figures out that she has fallen for a handsome but gay Castillian. It was a lot less funny than it should have been, despite Ms. Benanti’s ample mugging. She never embodied the naiveté of the singer, requisite for the joke, and she never allowed her always perfect voice to break down along with the increasing frustration of her character, which is what really makes the song fun to watch.
She did let her hair down a bit more vocally with her performances of “Sucker” by the Jonas Brothers and “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon. But I’d love to see her take on a song like “She Used to Be Mine” from “Waitress” in her next cabaret show, which would require that she convey emotional depth without all that vocal polish. Diamonds can shine brightly, and yet sometimes seem cold as well.
The Most Beautiful Woman in the World
photo credit Conor Weiss
Who comes to mind when you see that phrase—Catherine Zeta-Jones, perhaps, or certainly Grace Kelly? Most would concede the title belongs to one glorious, gracious and violet-eyed lady – Elizabeth Taylor.
Elizabeth (ET from hereon in) was known for her films, jewelry and various husbands, but there was much more to that woman. The perfect person to let us in on the side we never saw is Ann Talman, who played her daughter in The Little Foxes on Broadway. Chosen for her uncanny resemblance to ET as a young girl, they remained close friends until ET’s death in 2011. Through song and story, Ann paints a portrait we never would have imagined—the prankster, surrogate mother, the fashion advisor funny-face maker and more. When consulting with her about what to wear to an awards gala, ET arranged for a private fashion show at Saks and then added “Do you want to borrow any of my jewelry?”. Now that’s a friend to have!
The evening began with Ann singing “The Shadow of your Smile” from The Sandpiper, a film that starred ET and Richard Burton against a backdrop of ET holding a sandpiper. In the film, the bird is a metaphor for broken-winged people, and Ann shyly admits that she had been a sandpiper. Ann was 22 when they met, and she explained how ET took on the surrogate mother role and gave her the support and counsel she needed. When Ann talks about pajama parties and drinking Soave Bollo, one imagines two sisters sharing secrets and giggling. (I can’t imagine ET in PJs, can you?) Nevertheless …
As if the offer of shared baubles was not indication enough of ET’s generous nature, Ann gave a brief history of ET’s involvement with AMFAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research) as well as her own foundation.
This show was powerful, yet delicate, informative without being gossipy, funny while evoking a tear or two. It was lovingly put together with superb direction by Lina Koutrakos with Alex Rybeck as music director. The songs flowed so naturally that it might have been easy to not recognize the skill that went into their selection.
Ann’s ability to mimic ET’s breathy voice as well as her sincerity, added to the charm and verisimilitude of the event. It was such a loving tribute, with little touches, like purple Mardi Gras beads, a printed program and cupcakes with lavender frosting for all in celebration ET’s birthday this week.
The evening ended with a reprise of the first song. Thank you, Ann, for giving us a clearer picture of the shadow behind that most alluring smile.
Betty Buckley Returns to Joe’s Pub
Tony Award-winning, stage and screen icon Betty Buckley returns to Joe’s Pub in New York City for six live performances on May 16-18, 2024. She is joined by her long-time collaborator and Grammy® nominated pianist/MD Christian Jacob, Tony Marino on bass and Jamey Haddad on drums.
The Joe’s Pub concerts will take place on May 16-18, 2024 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. respectively). Joe’s Pub is located at The Public, 425 Lafayette Street. Tickets now on sale HERE.
Most recently, Ms. Buckley is co-starring in the upcoming horror film Imaginary, set for U.S. release March 8, 2024, presented by Lionsgate and Blumhouse. From Blumhouse, the genre-defining masterminds behind Five Nights at Freddy’s and M3GAN, the film explores the universal idea of imaginary friends and childhood connections to them and what otherworldly realms they may inhabit.
Additionally, Ms. Buckley wrote, narrated and produced The Mayfly, an animated short film that will have its world debut on March 24, 2024 at the American Documentary and Animation Film Festival (AmDoc Film Festival) in Palm Springs, Calif. Tickets are available to the public HERE. The Mayfly is directed by award winning animator, Sue Perrotto, and the music is composed by Christian Jacob. BluBlu Studios in Poland is the animation house.
Ms. Buckley will also perform in a tribute concert A BROADWAY BIRTHDAY: Sondheim, Lloyd Webber, and Friends! in Costa Mesa, Calif. The show takes place at the Segerstrom Concert Hall on Thursday, March 28 at 8 p.m. Joining her in performance are Kerry O’Malley, Liz Callaway, Aaron Lazar and Alex Joseph Grayson. Visit www.scfta.org/events/2024/sondheim-lloyd-webber-and-friends for tickets and more information. Her upcoming calendar includes a Master Class and concert at Mercyhurst University in Erie, PA on April 19 and an evening with Christian Jacob at Adelphi University in Garden City, NY on May 11.
Betty Buckley is a legendary, multi-award winning actress/singer whose career spans theater, film, television and concert halls around the world. She is a 2012 Theatre Hall of Fame inductee and the 2017 recipient of the Julie Harris Awards from The Actor’s Fund for Artistic Achievement and received The Lifetime Achievement Award from The American Songbook Association in 2023.
She won a Tony Award for her performance as Grizabella, the Glamour Cat, in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS and received her second Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a musical for her performance as Hesione in Triumph of Love. She received an Olivier Award nomination for her critically acclaimed interpretation of Norma Desmond in the London production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard, which she repeated to more rave reviews on Broadway.
Ms. Buckley co-stars in the film Imaginary for Blumhouse Productions and to be released by Lionsgate in March 2024. She co-starred with James McAvoy in the M. Night Shyamalan hit film Split, one of the top international box office hits of 2017. She received a Saturn Award Nomination for Best Featured Actress for her work in the film.
Her other films include her debut in Brian de Palma’s screen version of Stephen King’s Carrie, Bruce Beresford’s Tender Mercies, Roman Polanski’s Frantic, Woody Allen’s Another Woman, Lawrence Kasden’s Wyatt Earp and M. Night Shyamalan’sThe Happening.
Her other Broadway credits include 1776, Pippin, Song and Dance, The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Carrie. She headlined the first National Tour of the new Broadway production of Hello, Dolly! in 2018/2019.
Off-Broadway credits include the world premiere of Horton Foote’s The Old Friends for which she received a Drama Desk Nomination in 2014, White Lies, Lincoln Center’s Elegies, the original NYSF production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The Eros Trilogy, Juno’s Swans and I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It On the Road. Regional credits include The Perfectionist, Gypsy, The Threepenny Opera, Camino Real, Buffalo Gal, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Old Friends at Houston’s Alley Theatre and Grey Gardens at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, NY and The Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles in 2016 for which she received an Ovation Award Nomination.
In London, she starred in Promises, Promises for which she was nominated for An Evening Standard Award and in the 2013 British premiere of Dear World.
On television, Buckley has a recurring role on “Law & Order SVU” for NBC and guest starred on the Fox/Warner Bros. TV show “The Cleaning Lady.” She co-starred in the third season of AMC’s hit series “Preacher” and has guest starred on The CW hit “Supergirl”, the NBC Series “Chicago Med” and ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars.” For HBO, she has appeared on “Getting On”, “The Leftovers”, “The Pacific” and for three seasons on OZ. She starred as Abby Bradford in the hit series “Eight is Enough.” She appeared twice on The Kennedy Center Honors and was a guest star in numerous television series, miniseries and films for television including Evergreen, Roses for the Rich and Without a Trace. She has been nominated for two Daytime Emmy Awards® for her work on Taking a Stand, an After School special.
In 2022, she released the compilation recording Betty Buckley Sings Stephen Sondheim as a tribute to the late composer. The recording comprises 24 songs Buckley has recorded of Sondheim’s music over the span of her career. She has recorded 18 CD’s: including Ghostlight, produced by T Bone Burnett released in 2014, Story Songs in 2017 and Hope in 2018. Buckley tours in concert worldwide with her ensemble of musicians and in 2015 was featured in the Royal Albert Hall concert of Follies, in celebration of Stephen Sondheim’s 85th birthday.
She received a Grammy Nomination for Stars and the Moon, Betty Buckley Live at the Donmar. She received her second Grammy Nomination for the audio book The Diaries of Adam and Eve.
For over forty years, Ms. Buckley has been a teacher of scene study and song interpretation, giving workshops in Manhattan and various universities and performing Arts Conservatories around the country. She has been a faculty member in the theatre department of the University of Texas at Arlington and teaches regularly at the T. Schreiber Studio in New York City, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX and in Los Angeles, Denver and Oklahoma.
In 2009, Ms. Buckley received the Texas Medal of Arts Award for Theater and was inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame in 2007. In 2015, she was awarded The Stephen Bruton Award by The Lone Star Film Festival for her work in film and music. In 2018, she received the Sarah Siddons Award for outstanding theatrical performance in a Chicago theatrical production. She has two honorary doctorates from The Boston Conservatory and Marymount College and has been honored with three Lifetime Achievement Awards for her contributions to theater from the New England Theater Conference, The Shubert Theater in New Haven and the Terry Schreiber School in NYC.
Cabaret, Talks and Concerts For March
Brave the rain and head out to the clubs for they abound in entertainment galore. Here are our top picks.
92 Street Y: 1395 Lexington Ave. 3/ 2 – 4: Soul Picnic: The Songs and Legacy of Laura Nyro; 3/ 11: Cabaret Conversations Sally Mayes and 3/18: The Ally: Josh Radnor and Playwright Itamar Moses in Conversation Co-presented with The Public Theater.
Birdland Jazz: 315 West 44 St. Every Monday at 5:30 Vince Giordano and The Nighthawksand 9:30pm Jim Caruso’s Cast Party; Every Tuesday at 8:30pm The Lineup with Susie Mosher; 3/11: It’s De-Lovely: Jeff Harnar Sings Cole Porter and 3/25: Karen Mason In “Just In Styne: Karen Sings Jule”.
Cafe Carlyle: 35 E 76th St. 2/1-3: Through 3/2: Jennifer Holliday; 3/3 – 4: Mallory Portnoy and Nick Blaemire; 3/5 – 20: Hamilton Leithauser and 3/21 -23: Orfeh.
Carnegie Hall: 881 7th Ave at 57th St. 3/15: The New York Pops Hitsville: Celebrating Motown; 3/20: of Sinéad O’Connor and Shane MacGowan; 3/23: Meow, Meow and 3/27: Standard Time with Michael Feinstein.
Moonlight and Love Songs
And so promised Steve Ross in his new show at Birdland, and he delivered both with his customary style, wit, and superb interpretations. This fabled music room takes on the hush of a cathedral when Steve performs there, evidenced by the silent reverence of the audience throughout his performance. Sporting his subtle homage to Cole Porter—a red carnation—Steve began the evening with tunes that described being on the brink of that most coveted of falls, and as the inevitable approached, his carefully curated selections become more tantalizing. Never has “On a Slow Boat to China” been more inviting– sign me up now! A few moon-titled songs followed, including one written by Steve himself. His guest star, Nina Wachenfeld, sang in German and seemed to conjure up Marlene as a bonus.
Kurt Weill and his haunting melodies were presented next, with appropriate tribute given to that great American wordsmith, Ogden Nash. Another aspect of the topic of the evening was Steve’s review of a few songs about love at first sight. Messrs, Coward and Porter put their two cents in, with the penultimate and heartbreaking “This Nearly Was Mine” putting a twinge in the heart of everyone as only Rodgers & Hammerstein can. Cole then did what he does best: teased and tickled the memory with his thoughts on the matter.
Steve’s ability to find new ways to make all these songs new for an audience is part of his wonder. He snapped us out of our dreamy reveries with a joke and then the ever-hilarious “Dolphins” and then encouraged everyone to do what we were aching to do—sing along to some classics from the 1940s. He has an uncanny ability to know what an audience wants and needs and switched the dial to drama with Dietz and Schwartz’s haunting “Dancing in the Dark”. The charming conclusion to this Valentine was the duet of “Married”. I have tried many times to dissect the magic Steve brings to his music and never quite capture it with words. You just must see it for yourself! A performance by Steve Ross is indeed transformative, as his ever-full audiences will attest.
In between engagements on both sides of the Atlantic, Steve appears regularly at Birdland. Check his website for future appearances, and possibly even a master class!
My View: Carole J. Bufford…”You Don’t Know Me”. ( Now We Do)
Her show is titled “You Don’t Own Me” and if anyone in the Palm Beach audience didn’t know Carole J. Bufford before, they certainly do now after her exciting performance last night at Cafe Centro.
Carole J. Bufford, award-winning cabaret star and powerhouse vocalist, returned to Cafe Centro last night with a tribute to the fearless, fabulous females of the 1960s. With the music made famous by Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, Carole King, Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, Nancy Sinatra, Cher, and more, Carole and her quartet put their own inimitable spin on those great song classics in her show You Don’t Own Me. Her electrifying musical tour de force celebrated a time of great change and transition in America and across the pond.
As Carole noted, the musical and cultural landscape was never the same after these bold and daring women planted their flags and ensured their voices were heard. Well, Carole Bufford’s voice was authoritatively heard in West Palm Beach last night as she took charge of each song and brought the music of the 60’s back to life. The moveable spot in the club illuminated this dynamic entertainer thrilling each table in a room filled with her Palm Beach fans.
Ms. Bufford’s good friend and co-producer of the evening Sandy Fisher introduced Carole to the enthusiastic Cafe Centro audience.
Next up in the Fisher/Sorokoff Cabaret series is Dawn Derrow on March 12, and on April 24th one of the hottest acts in show business “The New Belters” Seth Sikes & Nicolas King will be bringing their music to Cafe Centro.
Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Maury Yeston and Victoria Clark Rescheduled
A Look At The Vineyard Theatre’s Starry Gala
More Theatre News: James Monroe Iglehart, Bonnie Milligan, J. Harrison Ghee, Santino Fontana, Len Cariou, Peter Filichia and Patricia Birch
Romantic and Meaningful Love Quotes For Her To Help Win Her Heart
Entre Institute Review – Is Jeff Lerner’s Program a Scam?
How to Take Advantage of Virtual Numbers for SMS
Family3 days ago
Errol Rappaport: Guardianship/ Conservatorship and What You Need To Know Part 2
Family4 days ago
Wendy Williams: Guardianship/ Conservatorship and What You Need To Know Part 1
Cabaret2 days ago
The Most Beautiful Woman in the World
Broadway5 days ago
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Sweeney Todd’s New Cast
Events5 days ago
Inside the Origins of Whiskey presented by Bushmills at Halls des Lumières
Broadway3 days ago
Betty Buckley Returns to Joe’s Pub
Broadway3 days ago
Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Maury Yeston and Victoria Clark
Family2 days ago
Jose Verdugo: Guardianship/ Conservatorship and What You Need To Know Part 3