If you’re a Japanese tourist coming to Broadway, go see King Kong. Really. You came a long way. Check out the big monkey puppet. It’s cool. But then, dude-san, as well as all the rest of you out there, check out some real, flesh and blood ,New York performing talent. This town is full of performers who are the real six hundred pound gorillas of local entertainment.
When those talented people aren’t performing in the big venues, they often stretch their performing legs in small cabaret venues around the city like the new Birdland Theater, where a new, bi-weekly variety show, The Line Up with Susie Mosher, played on Tuesday night. The Birdland Theater, in the lower level of the Birdland Jazz Club on 44thStreet, is a classy, comfy, welcome addition to our cabaret scene.
If you haven’t experienced Susie Mosher, you haven’t seen New York, or at least, its most neurotically entertaining performer. Ms. Mosher is a frequent guest upstairs in Birdland at Jim Caruso’s Cast Party on Monday nights, and this event is sort of a spin off from that, with the same free wheeling sense of fun. This uber-talented, utterly wacko (at least on stage), proudly lesbian, singing comedienne is herself a Broadway veteran, now appearing in the long running, off Broadway topical revue, Newsical. Her cabaret specialty is a stream of consciousness, improvised song that captures her observations of the world around her with manic, self-deprecating wit. As she admitted candidly, singing at the top of her voice, “I’ll give myself nodules tonight. I’m not dead, and I’ll over-sing. That’s who I am!” You go, girlfriend.
She was accompanied in her musical raving by the talented Brad Simmons on the keys. He created music to follow her unfiltered flow as if joined to her by the Vulcan mind probe. Mr. Simmons also did a fine job of accompanying most of the evening’s musical guests.
Another Broadway veteran, Michael Winther, performed “Take a Look at Me” from John Mercurio’s “Diva Diaries.” It’s a kind of “I Am What I Am” confessional from a gay man in which the singer confesses he wishes he could have been like his macho dad. But, as the son tells the father, you get what you get. Winther is a classy, confident and dynamic performer who focused on the power of the music rather than what could have been self-pity in his performance.
From the Birdland staff, Allie Sciulla accompanied herself on guitar with her original song “Trophy Wife.” Ms. Sciulla is more a satirist-comedienne than a singer or instrumentalist. Her rather loosely structured musical diatribe raged jealously against those women of privilege, then confessed that she wouldn’t mind also to “find a rich husband, say fuck it, and just stay home.” Most of the audience, male or female, seemed to agree.
Birdland regular and ten time MAC award winner Natalie Douglas, a powerful and versatile singer, performed “Table 32”, a song about a waitress reluctantly serving what looks like an inappropriately May-December couple, who turn out to be a young woman just reunited with her birth father. Natalie confided that she was also adopted, and there wasn’t a dry eye as she told the story.
Carly Sakolove, currently winning accolades as Ethyl Merman in The Book of Merman off Broadway,sang “I just Want to Be a Star,” alternating her own fine voice with the stable of other top female performers she imitates so well, and who kept popping out of her unexpectedly. She told me that she, Christina Bianco and Christine Pedi, the other top female singer impressionists in town, are friends who have performed together. A flock of divas. That I want to see!
Sean Bernardi brought in a thoughtful tune, “I Don’t Believe in Heros Anymore” from Three Guys Naked From the Waist Down. The lyrics tell of fallen heros in our troubled times, and offer only a glimmer of hope for happiness in the end. I can’t say I’d ever want to hear this song again, but it was interesting once.
Tony Award winner and audience favorite, Alice Ripley, a long time friend of Ms. Mosher’s, wearing her new “beatnick black” sweater and pants, dropped in to share her soulful version of the 60’s hit, “Tell It Like It Is.” You can see her entire cabaret show this weekend at 54 Below.
But the highlight of the evening was a talented new face (to me), Kira Goidel. This young jazz songbird has a fine, floating soprano voice and easy style. Accompanied tastily on jazz guitar by Alex Frondelli, Ms. Goidel presented her own arrangement of “Home” from The Wiz,andmade it sound like another, even richer piece of music entirely. Her performance was effortlessly beautiful. She has her own show coming up on February 24 at Birdland, with her group called Ktet. I urge you to get a ticket to it while you can.
To close out the evening, Joe Hager, Kyle Hinds and Edward Miskie, three strapping tree trunks of hunky Broadway beefcake who call themselves Baritoned, surprised us with a medley of show tunes meant for female singers. As they explained, they felt that baritone leading men in Broadway shows often are given a narrower emotional range in which to sing than their female counterparts. They will return to the Birdland stage on March 19.
At only $25 plus a $10 minimum, The Line Up with Susie Mosher is a lot of entertainment bang for your buck in this neighborhood. Check it out when it returns to the Birdland Theater on February 12.
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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