If you like concerts and theatre, do I have a show for you. Head on down to Ars Nova for Sky-Pony‘s rock fairytale The Wildness. This production is a collaboration between Ars Nova, the Play Company and the rock band Sky-Pony. This amazing book by Kyle Jarrow and Lauren Worsham (Tony nominated and Drama Desk winner for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder) and music by Jarrow is worth the trip alone.
The shows premise is the band gets together for a yearly ritual called The Wildness, an exorcism of doubt and anxiety. This year the conceiver of the ritual, the director and lead actress/ actor Michael, is missing and missed The fable comes from a story Michael use to tell his sister, Lilli (Lilli Cooper), when they were both children grieving for their mother, who is dead. This rock ‘n’ roll rite of passage follows a princess, once played by Michael, now played by Lilli. Lilli seeking a cure for her village ventures with her handmaiden Zira (Worsham), into the forbidden forest, called “The Wildness.” Having been told by her father that the woods are filled with dragons, she is shocked to find an abandoned cabin filled with relics of a person only known as the Creator. They find a boom box, cassette tapes, candy and a book, which tells them they are not alone as the King has told his people. Suddenly their world is turned upside down.
As we journey we are asked to confront our doubts and realize we are not alone. This is done by “overshare’s,” a moment in which the “brave ones” (audience participation) or performers confess their own doubts and fears as a universal “You are not alone,” is echoed.
In the finale, we learn what has happened to Michael. We hear him on tape, he sings about the courage to face the unknown, his good-bye to the world. He could not live his artist’s life spent so much in rejection.
The band and the singers are rebellious, free, passionate, talented and inspiring. Chase Brock’s choreography is a lot of fun as are the costumes by Tally Grimes. Many of them are reminiscent of Japanese anime.
The Wildness was actually created by Kyle Jarrow (book and score) and Lauren Worsham (book) and is directed with such imagination by Sam Buntrock.
Not everybody will like this show, but I can guarantee millenials, those who love classic rock and those who love theatre that is expanding, will. I for one adore this show.
The Wildness: Sky-Pony’s Rock Fairytale: Ars Nova and the the Play Company at Ars Nova 511 West 54th St. until March 29th.
The Glorious Corner
CHRIS CARTER — (Via Maz Digital) Chris Carter was 7 years old when his mother bought him Rubber Soul, the Beatles’ sixth studio album, at a ShopRite market in Wayne, New Jersey. Fifty-seven years later, he’s the ultimate Beatles expert as host for 22 years of Breakfast With the Beatles, a radio show carried each weekday on SiriusXM’s Beatles channel and Sundays on Los Angeles’ KLOS-FM. The show is celebrating its 40th anniversary, at the same time that music fans are marking the 60th anniversary of Beatlemania.
We talked with Carter about his unique position: He’s a musician too. Carter played bass in alternative rock band Dramarama in the 1980’s and 90’s. “I loved Paul’s bass playing, but I got into wanting to play the bass from listening to Grand Funk Railroad, Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper records. That really hooked me in.”He was in the right place when he got the job. Carter follows original host Deirdre O’Donoghue, who died in 2001.
The job offer call came just before he went to a Ringo Starr concert. “I knew once I got the job, I would be there ’til I died. This is one of those long-term things and I’m not going anywhere. “Prep keeps it fresh. “I have to handpick 60 Beatles songs a day, or solo Beatles songs, and have them pertain to that day—say, an anniversary or ‘today in Beatles history.’ There’s always something in Beatles history.” On Wednesdays, he spins a wheel to develop a topic for the show, such as “fifth Beatles” or “violins.” “I have to instantly put a set of songs together that matches that category.”
And news events also play a role. When Robbie Robertson of The Band passed recently, Carter made sure to note that by discussing and playing Ringo Starr’s “Sunshine Life for Me (Sail Away Raymond),” on which Robertson and other members of The Band played. “It never gets old. If they handed me a playlist, like they do for so many DJs, and said ‘Chris, play them,’ I would have no passion for that.” He was in the right place when he got the job.
Carter loves to provide tidbits about the songs he plays, so that listeners can experience them with fresh ears. “You’re dealing with 50- to 60-year-old music. If it’s not served up properly, you know, how many times can you hear ‘Hey Jude’? But if you put it in context, like this song was No. 1 for nine weeks. It was the first single over seven minutes long. And it was the first release on their own label. Most Beatles fans, they think they know a lot about the Beatles, but when you give them some information they might not know, then they’ll come back to you and listen again.” He broadcasts in front of a crowd. The satellite radio shows are put together in Carter’s home studio. But many of the shows for L.A. radio are broadcast live from one of three area venues. “I find it fun because in radio you never see your audience. Typically, you’re sitting in a room by yourself with a microphone. You could have maybe millions of people listening, but you don’t know who they are.
“The Beatles are fans. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr have each called into the show for interviews, but Carter doesn’t have his head in the clouds about it. “They’ve got to sell a solo record. You’re on the radio. They need you for publicity. They know you’re there for them. Even though they’re the gods of the world, they still need you to sell their records.”SHORT TAKES — (Via Deadline) The meteoric political rise of George Santos and the web of fabulist tales it was built on are getting a movie treatment. HBO Films has optioned the rights to Mark Chiusano’s new book The Fabulist: The Lying, Hustling, Grifting, Stealing, and Very American Legend of George Santos, which was published on November 28, 2023. My only comment is, why? If this ever gets made, it will not be a hit. Exploitative? Definitely and not needed at all …
I’ve watched the two episodes of Hulu’s Fargo so far this season and though somehow intriguing, but didn’t I just see this show on Netflix – Who Is Erin Carter? Fargo’s creator Noah Hawley must have been transfixed by Carter. Odd for sure …
Also, just for the record, why was there so much Russian-dialogue in episode 4 of Apple TV+’s For All Mankind without any sub-titles? Clearly this show has suffered some major budget-cuts, but that was a huge error for sure. Ronald D. Moore’s creation started out brilliantly, but has become something like a space-age soap-opera. Sad for sure.
This show was among my favorites … I loved Chuck Lorre’s Big Bang Theory, so I was anxious to see his Bookie on MAX. Sebastian Maniscalco – who I don’t really get at all – left me somewhat underwhelmed. The show’s about a bookie – funny? Somehow it wasn’t. Even a cameo by Charlie Sheen w/o tiger blood was a letdown.
Very disappointed … Joe Cocker-scribe Mark Bego speaks to Zach Martin Wednesday for his NEWHD outpost …
HAPPY BDAY Randy Newman and RIP one of the most adventurous, creative and intriguing women I’ve ever known, Mica Ertegun.
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Kent and Laura Denmark; Steve Leeds; Ira Robbins; Richard Branciforte; Eppy; Barry Fisch; Frank Patz; Bobby Bank; Roger Clark; Edmond O’ Brien; Jonathan Clyde; Richard Johnson; James Edstrom; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Kent Kotal; Bob Kaus; and BELLA!
Music News: Julie Benko, Karen Mason, Debbie Wileman, Klea Blackhurst, Jim Caruso, Billy Stritch, KT Sullivan, Jeff Harnar, Stacy Sullivan and Todd Murray
CLUB44 RECORDS has released “The Man with the Bag” – the festive and swinging new single from breakout Broadway star Julie Benko. Her full debut holiday EP Christmas with You has also just been released. After skyrocketing to fame as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl on Broadway last season, Julie has returned to the New York stage in Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman’s wonderful musical Harmony. “The Man with the Bag” is arranged by Jason Yeager. The EP Christmas with You is produced by Julie Benko and Jason Yeager, with arrangements by Jason Yeager.
Birdland Jazz Club will present the return of Broadway, recording and concert star Karen Mason for her annual holiday show “Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!” on Monday, December 11 at 7:00 PM. With Karen’s unique interpretations of holiday classics old and new, the holidays will never be the same. Sassy, brassy, and tinged with confessional monologs, this show includes a slinky arrangement of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” a heartfelt “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and more.
Debbie Wileman, the singing sensation who captured world-wide attention during the global pandemic with her uncanny recreation of Judy Garland’s legendary voice, as she makes her return to Carnegie Hall on Sunday, December 10, 2023 as the star of “Judy Garland” We Need a Little Christmas.”
Debbie will be joined by special guests, including the legendary Tony Award-winning Broadway icon Chita Rivera and Academy Award winner Margaret O’Brien, the iconic film, radio, television and stage actress and one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema, with more guests to be announced. (subject to change)
Debbie will be accompanied by a live orchestra, conducted by award-winning musical director and arranger Steve Orich. She will take to the stage to perform Judy’s signature Christmas songs as well as newly arranged holiday hits that Judy may have performed if she were with us today.
Birdland Jazz Club will present the 14th Annual “A Swinging Birdland Christmas” – starring vocalists Klea Blackhurst, Jim Caruso, and Billy Stritch – for five performances from Thursday, December 21to Monday, December 25 at 5:30 PM. The December 22 show will be available as a special livestream, with tickets available HERE. This wildly successful extravaganza has been celebrating the holidays at this historic music room since 2010. In the tradition of beloved seasonal specials, the trio of singers will perform swinging arrangements of “The Christmas Waltz,” Kay Thompson’s “Holiday Season,” “Sleigh Ride,” “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” “Snow,” and “It Happened in Sun Valley,” among other favorites. The show will also include a musical tribute to Birdland regular Freddy Cole, who was also a holiday tradition. The vocalists will be joined by Steve Doyle on bass and Daniel Glass on drums.
54 Below, Broadway’s Supper Club, presents four award-winning New York cabaret favorites KT Sullivan, Jeff Harnar, Stacy Sullivan and Todd Murray with Music Director jazz virtuoso Jon Weber in the New York debut of We Love The Winter Weather Songs of the Holidays on Tuesday December 5th at 7pm, in-person and with a livestream option.
The show is an eclectic and entertaining holiday songbook including songwriters Irving Berlin, Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn, Carol Hall, Peter Yarrow, Mel Torme and David Friedman. The seasonal spotlight shines musically on traditional favorites as well as surprises including “Grandma,” Elvis, Peggy Lee and a “Short Attention Span Theater” retelling of the film White Christmas with the quartet donning the roles of Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen and Danny Kaye. This show had its debut at The Brownville Concert Hall in Brownville, Nebraska. This quintet of talent will send you out believing “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
Adrienne Haan Celebrates Irving Berlin and Christmas at the Triad
This Christmas take a big scoop of classic Irving Berlin songs, have them sung by the ever sparkling Adrienne Haan, sprinkle in the voice of her musical director, Richard Danley and you have a festive feast for your ears. I have seen a number of Ms Haan’s shows at the Triad and each one includes something that makes it a step above a typical cabaret show. The first time I saw her there was an actual tuba on stage; the second a number of costume changes, other shows had duets with guest stars or choreography; this time hearing the singing voice of her long-time accompanist and musical director, Mr Danley. The two have bantered in the past but in this show Richard shows his vocal and comedic side with songs like I Paid My Income Tax Today and How About a Cheer for the Navy.
Of course Adrienne blew her audience away with her renditions of There’s No Business Like Show Business and Blue Skies; but, hearing the usually silent man behind the piano was a surprise to me like Teller taking the stage from Penn and his baritone was as shocking as hearing the bumbling Gomer Pyle turn into the rich voiced singer, Jim Nabors. The two of them created a wonderful celebration of Mr Berlin’s musical catalogue with a combination of solos and duets.
Entering the theater, as the holiday season begins, and a show title of White Christmas at the Triad Theater, one would expect to hear 90 minutes of Christmas songs; but, read the second line on the program and you realize that it is really a celebration of the man who wrote one of the most recognizable holiday songs of all time, White Christmas. Not only will we hear the music of Mr Berlin but we will get some insight into his life as Adreinne celebrates his 130 year anniversary of his arrival in the United States. From Europe to Broadway to Hollywood; in military songs, love songs or holiday classics the trio of Haan, Danley and Berlin take us on a historical journey of a life well lead.
Opening the show in a festive seasonal outfit ready for a New Years Eve celebration with “ice” dangling from her ears and around her wrist Adriene introduces us to some well-known Berlin tunes Alexander’s Ragtime Band and Let Me Sing and I’m Happy. One of the treats of her shows is that she does a lot of research into the music she sings and she has done her homework telling us about the life of Israel Beillin, immigrant from Imperial Russia, the country now known as Belarus. He only spoke Yiddish when he landed on Ellis Island so Ms Haan sings Ofyn Pripetchik in his native tongue and then follows with Berlin’s Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – a tribute to that wonderful Statue in NY harbor. She finishes this section of the show with Marie from Sunny Italy which gives her the opportunity to show her strong vocal ability with a long strong belt of a song.
Berlin came to America in 1893 at the age of 5 which means he was drafted into the army during World War 1, where he wrote the famous anthem Oh How I Hate to Get up in the Morning and which Ms Haan sang in military uniform. A number of tunes that Berlin wrote for both World Wars followed as the two singers alternated songs and Adrienne gave us some more tidbits about the composer. The song I Paid My Income Tax Today sung by Mr Danley is actually owned by the IRS. (I wonder is THEY have to pay tax on the royalties they earn when it is sung.)
Ms Haan is a proud Luxembourger and as life imitates art, or vice versa, Mr Berlin’s Broadway and film musical, Call Me Madam is based on the life of Perle Mesta who was the Ambassador to Luxembourg from 1949-1953. Haan again showed she’s the singer with the zinger when she sang The Hostess with the Mostes’ on the Ball from that show as well as the tribute to the fictitious country in that show Lichtenburg. As far as art leading to reality it is interesting to note that Mr Berlin’s home, 17 Beekman Place, was purchased by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in 1990 a year after Berlin’s death.
Berlin wrote over 1,500 songs in his 60 years of composing so to highlight all of the numbers Haan sings is too long a list; but, the jaunty I’ve Got the Sun in the Morning, They Say that Falling in Love is Wonderful, Cheek to Cheek and Blue Skies show her range of interpreting music. The love song Always was a particularly important song to Berlin and Haan did it justice as this song was written to Berlin’s wife, Ellin Mackay, on their wedding day.
Of all the show tunes, patriotic anthems, and love songs performed in this show I have to give a special shout out to the Haan/Danley duet of You’re Just in Love. I have seen it sung by a number of Broadway stars, Merman, Stritch, Donald O’Connor and Larry Blyden, (and for the newer generation, Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana) in the past; but I’ve never seen the male singer play the piano at the same time. WOW!
It is the holiday season, remember, so Ms Haan’s third costume change is a beautiful red gown that fits the time and she finished the evening with the traditional songs of the Yuletide spirit, including Happy Holiday, I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm and of course White Christmas.
This is not a traditional Christmas carol singing show but Ms Haan never is one to follow the norm. This was a wonderful tribute to Mr Berlin with added surprises featuring the excellent wit and talents of both Adrienne and her musical director and accompanist of 22 years, the unsung (until this show) singer Mr Richard Danley.
A second show is at the Triad on Tuesday, December 5 at 7PM. It will get you smiling and into the holiday spirit.
Essential Voices USA, Judith Clurman and Christmas Joy
Essential Voices USA, Judith Clurman, Music Director and Conductor, announces the release of Christmas Joy,a new collection of holiday music that was all recently commissioned by Essential Voices USA. The centerpiece of the recording is “Christmas Joy,” a through-composed work, scored for chorus and string quartet. The arrangement and text adaptation are by Josh Clayton and Judith Clurman. The carols heard are Silent Night; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; Angels We Have Heard on High; O Come, O Come, Emmanuel; O Come, All Ye Faithful; and Joy to the World. The two other pieces are “Illumination” by Pierre Jalbert (music) and William Schermerhorn (lyrics) and “The Snow” by Bill Cutter (music) and Lewis Carroll (lyrics). The recording on Albany (Troy 1955) can be streamed on all platforms. The recording was produced and engineered by Silas Brown, who was assisted by Doron Schacter and Michael Schwartz. The recording can be streamed on all major platforms. The published scores will be available in 2024.
Members of Essential Voices USA: Phillip Cheah, Paul D’Arcy, Olivia Sue Green, Chloe Holgate, Heather Jones, Linda Jones, Helen Karloski, Enrico Lagasca, Elizabeth Lang, Steven Moore, Neil Netherly, Nicholas Prior, Gregory Purnhagen, Elisa Singer Strom, Jason Weisinger with Apprentice members – joining on Christmas Jo y- Michael Douris, Roberson Keffer, Marie Schwab, and Norman Schwab; The Essential StringsSuliman Tekali and Yu-Chie Wang violins; Caeli Smith viola; and Coleman Itzkoff cello.
I Illumination 3:13
II The Snow 2:06III Christmas Joy 13:48
STREAMING LINK on all platforms
The premiere performances Judith Clurman will conduct her Essential Voices USA in A Concert and Family Carol Sing-Along on December 16, 2023 at St. Malachy’s – The Actors’ Chapel (239 West 49 Street), New York City, at 7:30PM. The chorus will be joined by The Essential Strings (Suliman Tekalli & Rita Wang violins, Caeli Smith viola, Aaron Wolffcello), Organist Stephen Fraser, and David Chase and Paula Leggett Chase, who will read beloved Christmas poetry. The event is part of EVUSA’S The Community Project, a program which provides concerts and sing-alongs and is free of charge to the NYC community.
The evening will include the World Premieres of the three new works that are featured in the ensemble’s recent holiday recording “Christmas Joy” (Albany Records): “Christmas Joy” – arranged, with text adaptation by Josh Clayton and Judith Clurman; “Illumination” – by Pierre Jalbert (music) and William Schermerhorn (lyrics);and “The Snow” – by Bill Cutter (music) and Lewis Carroll (lyrics). The poems that will be read include “The Night Before Christmas” (Clement Clarke Moore), “little tree” (E.E.Cummings), and “Love Came Down at Christmas” (Christina Rossetti). Organist Stephen Fraser will play an organ fantasy on the beloved carol “O Holy Night,” and the audience will sing-along with EVUSA on traditional carols, with newly arranged accompaniments for string quartet by Bill Cutter.
Here We Are Or The Search For The Meaning of Life
Let me just state that I love the Stephen Sondheim/David Ives musical/play Here We Are. It’s as if the genius, known as Sondheim was trying to resolve his life. The first act is cynical and the characters are hypocritical, while the second act is about coming to with grips with life’s choices and surrendering to the inevitable.
The music is like playing Sondheim jeopardy. His motif’s from other shows are blended into new songs that make you want to have a pen and paper to play the game. I can’t wait until the CD comes out. I’ve been told that it is being recorded in January.
The show is highly surreal, with life’s journeyIn question. Think “The Outer Limits” or “The Twilight Zone,” very Rod Serling.
Based on two Luis Buñuel films “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” (1972) and “The Exterminating Angel” (1962). Act one has Leo Brink (Bobby Cannavale) a entitled tycoon whose opinion is the only one that matters, his wife Marianne (Rachel Bay Jones) who lives for beauty and is a bit on the vaped side, their friends Paul Zimmer (Jeremy Shamos), a plastic surgeon celebrating his 1,000th nose job, his wife, Claudia (Amber Gray), an agent who lives for the celebrity of it all, Raffael Santello Di Santicci (Steven Pasquale), an ambassador from Moranda who lives for the number of notches on his belt and Fritz (Micaela Diamond), Marianne’s younger sister, who wants a revolution, while also wanting to live the good life, searching for brunch. It turns out Leo, Paul and Raffael run a drug cartel. As the day goes down the hill Marianne keeps asking Leo to “buy this perfect day for her.”
Act two is a little more dark. While they finally find food, the consequences of their choices keeps them trapped in purgatory. Enter a colonel (Francois Battiste) whose parents were killed for $26.15, a soldier (Jin Ha) who has feelings for Fritz due to his dreams and a bishop (David Hyde Pierce) who wants another job, has a shoe fettish, and plays piano, until there is no more music. This act is very reminiscent of Steambath. I love the homage to “The World According to Garp” and the bear.
Playing butlers and maids and assorted restaurateur’sare the incredible Tracie Bennett and Denis O’Hare. Kudos has to go out to the wigs by Robert Pickens and Katie Gell and the neon various establishments. white box set and costumes by David Zinn.
Joe Mantello’s staging is exquisite, allowing for each of these brilliantly talented performers to take center stage. This is true ensemble acting and I hope when the Drama Desk is giving out awards this wins.
Where many have criticized the lack of music in the second act, it makes perfect sense. The music stops. The concept very much reminds me of Davids Cromer’s Our Town, when Emily dies and suddenly things are in color and have smells. It makes complete sense that once you are trapped the music would die.
Natasha Katz’s lighting really helps the shinny set take shape, Tom Gibbons’s sound makes the inner world come to life and Sam Pinkleton’s choreography is just enough to make this move seamlessly.
Alexander Gemignani, and Jonathan Tunick, make Sondheim’s music an art and I for one appreciate the subtlety and musicality. Many may not know that Sondheim was a game master and in this it is like he won the final game of “putting it together”.
Here We Are, is intelligent, witty with so much to say and if you ponder the meaning of life you to will walk away extremely fulfilled.
Here We Are, The Shed, 545 West 30th through January 21st
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