Mabel Mercer was an English-born cabaret singer who was was a featured performer at Chez Bricktop in Paris. Due to the Nazi’s treatment of blacks, Ms. Mercer came to the states and performed in such clubs as the Carlyle and the St. Regis Hotel. Eventually she even had her own room, where Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet and Leontyne Price studied her and made no secret of his emulating her phrasing and story-telling techniques. Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F.Scott Fitzgerald and Cole Porter were among her admires.
In January 1981, she was honored by the whitney Museum of American Art with “An American Cabaret,” the only musical event of its kind at that point in the museum’s history. Mercer was the first guest on Eileen Farrell’s program on NPR and she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1988 for being “a singer’s singer” and “a living testament to the artfulness of the American song.”
Playing now at Urban Stages with it’s World Premiere is Mabel Madness. Written and performed by Tony Award Winner Trezana Beverley (For Colored Girls…). Co-directed by Frances Hill and Peter Napolitano with musical direction by Tuffus Zimbabwe. Mabel Madness features some of the classic songs from Ms. Mercer’s repertoire, as well as two original songs written by Barry Levitt (composer) and Mr. Napolitano (lyrics).
We meet Mabel Mercer in fear that this is her last show, that her long-time friend/manager is abandoning her and that she is too old. On stage for the last time, she confronts the events that has led her to this moment. The moment she confront her British white mother who has refused to acknowledge her black daughter is touching. Through Ms. Beverly’s eyes we get to meet the real Mabel Mercer as she reveals her life as she is about to take her final bow.
Ms. Beverly is a powerful actress with a rich alto register. She also has a strong soprano, but there is a break within the two registers. She does best with the two original songs by Mr. Levitt and Mr. Napolitano. She sings these songs rather that imitate Ms. Mercer, who spoke through them. She rarely allowed the melody to linger as she made each word count.
Ms. Beverely was award the emerging new playwright award by Urban Stages. This $500.00 award is not bestowed every year, but when Frances Hill and Urban Stages is impressed and this play impressed them.
Nicholas Blade Guldner’s projection design’s allow us into the time period and let us look inside this incredible singers world.
Mabel Madness: Urban Stages Theatre, 259 West 30th St, until March 20th.
Santino Fontana Brings Voice, Comedy and Showmanship To 54 Below
Tony Award® winner Santino Fontana brings his tremendous talent to 54 Below and it is a show that wraps you up in his humor, charm, vocal prowess, laid back demeanor, jeopardy style musical choices and over all entertaining. By the end of the show you feel as if you know him or at least a part of him. Starting off with Charles Strouse and Lee Adams’s “Stick Around,” the night turned into a Russian roulette of material. The audience picked numbers and as Santino put it “if you don’t like the show, it’s your fault.” First up for my show was the naughty but amusing “Making Love Alone” followed by Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella‘s “Do I Love You,” which made for an amusing combination of songs. During Cinderella Mr. Fontana had shoes that were built up 2 inches inside and 2 inches outside, which cause a tremendous amount of pain, so the song told the story of his plight, which made the song take on a much different meaning. Sondheim’s “Anyone Can Whistle,” was sung for a Carol Burnett tribute, that luckily we were treated to.
His guest for the evening was Sarah Steele (“The Good Wife,” The Humans, The Country House) who sang “out There On My Own” from Fame. On the 14th it will be Greg Hildreth (Company, Disney’s Frozen, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella). Click on the name and you can hear that version.
Showing off his baritone side with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “If I Loved You.” We almost got to see Santino in Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields”s Sweet Charity, instead we got hint of what that would be like with “Too Many Tomorrows.” A hilarious version of “I feel Pretty” from West Side Story lightened the mood and had the room in tears. Recreating his duet “Love Is An Open Door” from Frozen, Santino channeled Dorothy Michaels from Tootsie. Again the room was laughing with the sheer comedic genius that won Mr. Fontana a Tony Award. Bringing the energy to a calmer state was the emotional Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s “Who Can I Turn To?”
Vocally the most impressive song of the night was “Joey, Joey, Joey” from Most Happy Fellow. Mr. Fontana’s voice was glorious in the tones and the subtle texturing. Keeping in the ballad mode and honoring Marilyn Bergman he launched into the iconic “Where Do You Start,”while accompany himself on the piano, which was highly impressive. Back to the uptempo mode “I Met A Girl” from Bells Are Ringing, was given a rigorous, amusing take. This was his original audition song. Lerner and Loewe’s “How to Handle a Woman,” from the recent Camelot, showed how Santino would have made an excellent King Arthur.
Another favorite moment of the night was “Buddy’s Blues” from Follies. Already a personal favorite, this made me want to see Santino play this role at a later date, though personally I would cast him as Ben.
For the finale songs “The Music In You” from Cinderella, told how he and the cast loved watching the magnificent Victoria Clark perform. “This Can’t Be Love” from 1938 Rodgers and Hart musical The Boys from Syracuse, ended up in an encore, of Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones’s “They Were You” from The Fantasticks, which made my guest producer Pat Addiss extremely happy.
Santino was backed by his musical director and accompanist Cody Owen Stine, who played flawlessly.
Santino Fontana opened September 10th at 54 Below and you can still catch this marvelous show tonight September 14th. 54below.com
This is a do not miss!
Talking With Mauricio Martínez About His New Show 5’11, Based in NYC and More
I met Emmy Award winner Mauricio Martínez when he was performing in Children of Salt and have watched him ever since. He then became known for the Broadway musical On Your Feet!, but before that he appeared in the Emmy Winning TV Show El Vato NBC, the hit Señora Acero Telemundo and several Mexican telenovela. T2C talked to this prolific actor/ singer to learn more.
His new show at 54 Below talks about all the self-tape sides filling up his Dropbox. In his new show, 5’11, Based in NYC, Mauricio is putting those to good use in a musical “What If…,” sorting through what might have been. Pushing aside the ring light, you will lean more about this uber talented Mexican American.
His show on October 5 and 6 at 7pm is at 54 Below. The show feature Linedy Genao (Bad Cinderella, On Your Feet!) and Alexis Michelle (“RuPaul’s Drag Race”) and is written by Mauricio Martínez & Robbie Rozelle, with musical direction and arrangements by Brian J. Nash. Directed by Robbie Rozelle.
Video by Magda Katz
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Linda Purl Not Just An Actress
Last night Linda Purl took the audience at The Green Room 42 on a magical journey.
In 2020 Linda Purl starred as Ryan Spahn mother in Vivian Neuwirth’s Mr. Toole at 59E59 Theaters.
Ms Purl just released her fourth album of standards, This Could Be the Start. If the CD is anything like the concert this s a must have,
Linda Purl Had The Room In Her Hand at The Green Room 42
You know Linda Purl, for her work on Movies of the Week, Happy Days, The Bold and the Beautiful, Matlock, Murder She Wrote, The Office and more. Recently she released her fourth album of standards, This Could Be the Start, and she celebrated its debut with a special concert Monday, September 11th at The Green Room 42.
Standards such as “This Could Be The Start,” I’ve Gotta Lot of Living,””Shall We Dance,” “Caravan,“Blue Moon,” “Let’s Get Lost,” “Taking a Chance on Love,” “Here’s To Life” and more were given a sultry, laid back, come hither approach. You can tell Ms. Purl is an actress first, as these song, all told stories that wrapped you in their spell. The lyrics become front and center, but are thrown away with a knowing that surpasses time. Part of the magic is the alternating rhythms to the originals that make these versions stand out and draw you in.
Part of this intoxication is her musical director Ted Firth, who is a musical genius. Purl has been working with him for 15 years. When ever I fall in love with an arrangement, inevitably it is always Ted Firth at the helm. Firth was on piano with David Finck on bass and Ray Marchica on drums. Purl smartly uses the best of the best.
During Ms. Purl’s patter we learned about her love of hiking, she hails from Colorado, her partner, Patrick Duffy, and their sourdough starter company, as well as painting old trees with paint and glitter.
Purl knows how to keep her audience in the palm of her hand and wanting more. She is warm, engaging and a song stylist, that will keep you coming back for more.
All photo’s and video are Magda Katz
Daisy Jopling and Frank Shiner Raise Money To Give Kids The Gift 0f Music
Classical/rock violinist Daisy Jopling, vocalist Frank Shiner and her fabulous band performed at Chelsea Table + Stage Saturday, September 9 at 9:30 PM. The duo perform an eclectic mix of music from blues and standards to classical. The magical band that accompanied them included Ray DeTone on guitar, Sofia Gould on saxophone, Jeff Miller on piano, Lavondo Thomas on bass and Dan Weiner on drums.
17 year old, Sofia Gould was a Daisy Jopling student and one of the reasons this foundation is so needed.
For a special treat 17 year old Melisa Muñoz played a mean trumpet.
Daisy tours the world with her own band, and also runs a music mentorship foundation.
The Daisy Jopling Foundation has given 6,810 children world class music performances for free.
4,500 hours of time volunteered.
1,000 residents given free tickets to our concerts.
920 children served in their mentoring programs.
Partnered with over 50 non-ройt organizations to.
transform their student’s lives.
Daisy was the first international violinist to perform a major concert at the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt on November 4, 2022, collaborating with Egyptian stars Hany Adel, Wust El Balad and Noha Fekry.
Daisy started off by playing a concerto at the Royal Albert Hall in London at the age of 14, the opening of the Vienna Festival, 53 stunning concert halls in China, creating “Illuminance” on Bannerman Island, NY which aired on PBS in 2021 and 2022, and performing her own “Awakening” Concert at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center.
Frank Shiner released his debut album, The Real Me, in 2014, A second LP, Lonely Town, Lonely Street, he released on his own Bakerson Records label. He is now writing a musical about his dad, in which he debuted one of the songs.
They ending the concert with “Joy To The World.” This was a great night of raising funding for children and music.
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