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Theatre and Cabaret News: To Kill a Mockingbird, Karen Mason, 10th Annual Clive Barnes Awards and Paper Mill Playhouse

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History is being made. Producers Scott Rudin and Barry Diller, with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza, are bringing the Broadway production of To Kill a Mockingbird, to Madison Square Gardens today. Aaron Sorkin’s new play, directed by Bartlett Sher, and based on Harper Lee’s classic novel, will become the first-ever Broadway play to perform at The World’s Most Famous Arena, New York’s Madison Square Garden, in front of approximately 18,000 New York City public school students. With the extraordinary support of James L. Dolan, executive chairman and CEO of The Madison Square Garden Company, this unprecedented, single-performance event will be entirely free to students of New York City Department of Education public middle and high schools from all five boroughs.

This event will mark the largest attendance at a single performance of a theatrical work ever in world theater.  

This special performance of To Kill a Mockingbird will feature the entire Broadway cast, led by four-time Academy Award nominee and two-time Golden Globe Award winner Ed Harris as Atticus Finch.

It was also confirmed that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray, and filmmaker (and New York Knicks fanatic) Spike Lee will introduce the afternoon.  Mayor de Blasio will also declare tomorrow as “To Kill a Mockingbird Day” in New York City.

To Kill a Mockingbird has not played to an empty seat, with capacity remaining over 100% for every performance.  As previously announced, To Kill a Mockingbird will launch its coast-to-coast National Tour on August 25th at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, starring Emmy Award winner Richard Thomas, and will begin performances in London’s West End at the Gielgud Theatre on May 21, starring BAFTA Award winner Rhys Ifans.  Emmy Award winner Greg Kinnear will succeed Mr. Harris as Atticus Finch on Broadway on April 21st

Karen Mason Photo: Bill Westmoreland

In her first cabaret show in 2020, Karen Mason will ring in her birthday on Monday, March 30 at Feinstein’s/54 Below! It will be night of unforgettable music, stories, laughter, and joy, and perhaps a few surprises…..because you never know what will happen with this birthday girl! Karen’s all-new show will feature her favorite songs and arrangements, including “Help/Being Alive!,” “Lulu’s Back in Town,” “Now I Have Everything/Married,” including songs written by the songwriters she has known throughout her career,  such as Kander & Ebb, Amanda McBroom, Sheldon Harnick, and her husband Paul Rolnick,  as well as new music chosen specifically for this celebratory night. Birthdays are about spending time with your favorite people at your favorite place!  And there’s no place that Karen would rather be than with YOU and HER MUSIC on her special night. Don’t miss it!

The Clive Barnes Foundation announced today the finalists and date for the 10th Annual Clive Barnes Awards. Hosted by New York Post columnist and WOR radio personality Michael Riedel, the presentation of the annual awards recognizing excellence in theater and dance will take place on Monday, April 6, 2020 at 3:00pm at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center (165 West 65th Street), in memory of founder Valerie Taylor-Barnes.

Andrew Burnap in The Inheritance at the Young Vic (Photo: Simon Annand)

In this year’s Theater Artist Award category, three of the four finalists made their Broadway debuts this season in roles that led to their nomination: Andrew Burnap, for his portrayal of Toby Darling in Matthew Lopez’s contemporary gay epic The Inheritance; Celia Rose Gooding as adopted daughter Frankie Healy in the Alanis Morissette musical Jagged Little Pill; and Christopher Livingston in the dual roles of James Bevel/Jimmie Lee Jackson in Lincoln Center Theater’s The Great Society. Mr. Livingston is also recognized for his work in Roundabout Underground’s production of Selina Fillinger’s Something Clean. Sophia Anne Caruso, who recently starred in Beetlejuice as Lydia, the young girl who summons the title demon, rounds out the quartet of Theater Artist finalists.

Sophia Anne Caruso

Two members of the New York City Ballet corps de ballet have been selected as finalists for the 2020 Dance Artist Award. India Bradley, who joined the corps in August 2018, is joined by 2019 Princess Grace Award winner Roman Mejia. American Ballet Theatre’s Aran Bell, who was recently promoted to soloist following two seasons in the corps de ballet, and Twyla Tharp Dance’s Kellie Drobnick, soon to be seen in the Steven Spielberg remake of West Side Story, complete this year’s finalists in the field of dance.

All finalists receive a cash prize of $500, while the winners of each category will receive an award of $5,000.

The 10th Annual Clive Barnes Awards will mark the first ceremony since the passing of Valerie Taylor-Barnes in November 2019. A former soloist with the Royal Ballet and a beloved teacher of dance, Ms. Taylor-Barnes created The Clive Barnes Foundation in 2009 in loving memory of her husband, New York Times and New York Post theater and dance critic Clive Barnes. Holly Jones, Associate Producer at The Yard on Martha’s Vineyard, and Lloyd Mayor (Martha Graham Dance Company soloist and 2013 Clive Barnes Award winner), have assumed the roles of Co-Presidents of The Clive Barnes Foundation.

“Lloyd and I are thrilled to honor both the legacies of Clive and Valerie and their continual support of young dance and theatre artists through the work of the Foundation,” says Jones. “We look forward to recognizing exceptional talent in our community for many years to come.”
Previous winners of the Theatre Artist Award are Edmund Donovan (Lewiston/Clarkston), Evan Ruggiero (Bastard Jones), Khris Davis (The Royale), Dave Thomas Brown (The Legend of Georgia McBride), Alex Sharp (Tony Award winner, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), Jonny Orsini (The Nance), Rob McClure (Tony Award nominee, Chaplin), MJ Rodriguez (RENT), and Nina Arianda (Tony Award winner, Venus in Fur).
Past Dance Artist Award winners include Zoey Anderson (Parsons Dance), Gemma Bond (American Ballet Theatre), Indiana Woodward (New York City Ballet), Gabe Stone Shayer (American Ballet Theatre), Russell Janzen (New York City Ballet), Lloyd Mayor (Martha Graham Dance Company), Lauren Lovette (New York City Ballet), Isabella Boylston (American Ballet Theatre), and Chase Finlay (New York City Ballet).

The finalists and winners for the Dance and Theater Artist Awards are chosen by the Selection Committee, which is comprised of a panel of critics and performers in each field. This year’s Selection Committee for the Clive Barnes Awards includes: William H. Ausman, Diana Byer, Pia Catton, Jenny Chiang, Frank DiLella, George Dorris, Erik Forrest Jackson, Patrick Pacheco, and James Sutton.

Curtsey of Paper Mill Playhouse

Paper Mill Playhouse (Mark S. Hoebee-Producing Artistic Director, Michael Stotts- Managing Director), recipient of the Regional Theatre Tony Award, is proud to announce an expansion of the theater’s award-winning Theater School with the lease of a storefront building in Downtown Millburn. The new space, totaling 2,500 square feet, is at 20 Main Street. This is the first property extension of the theater since 1996 and the first expansion of the theater’s footprint into Downtown Millburn. This expansion is a result of a board-approved strategic plan to move Paper Mill Playhouse forward, reimagining the Millburn theater as the center for musical theater in America.

The official ribbon cutting for the new space will take place on Wednesday, March 4 at 9AM on site at 20 Main Street, Millburn. The community is welcome to visit the new studios on Saturday, March 14 for an open house featuring free classes for students ages 6 to 15. Free class spots during the open house must be reserved in advance and are first come, first served with an online registration at https://tinyurl.com/PMPStudios. The theater’s spring session of classes kick off the week of April 20 with classes for all of life’s stages. For more information on upcoming Paper Mill Theater School offerings visit www.PaperMill.org/Education

Paper Mill Playhouse will host two ‘Master Classes’ to celebrate the studio opening and the 25th Anniversary of the Rising Star Awards. Two former Rising Star winners will return to Millburn to share their expertise with students.  On Monday, March 30 at 6:30pm, Broadway performer Jelani Remy (Broadway’s Ain’t Too Proud, The Lion King, Smokey Joe’s Café) will present a dance workshop for ages 11 to 15.  On Monday, April 6 at 6:30pm, Broadway performer Natalie Weiss (EmojilandAmerican Idol, You Tube’s Breaking Down the Riffs, Broadway’s Everyday Rapture) will present her ‘Breaking Down the Riffs’ vocal Master Class.  For Master Class times, prices and to register, emailclasses@papermill.org. Space is limited. 

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

Amber Gray, Tony Yazbeck, Robert Klein, Julie Gold and More Win The Bistro Awards

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Bistro and MAC Award-winning artist Steve Hayes serves as host for the evening. He is a comedian-actor-writer and the host—for 15 years—of YouTube’s hit show Steve Hayes: Tired Old Queen at the Movies.

Writer and critic Gerry Geddes, longtime Bistro Award Committee member and senior contributor, as well as an award-winning director, is set to helm the Bistro Awards for the third time.

Truly a comedian’s comedian, Robert Klein will be presented with the Bistro Award’s top honor, the Bob Harrington Lifetime Achievement Award, for his six decade-plus career as an innovative and influential stand-up comedian—a career augmented with his extensive work as an actor in theatre, film, and television. He has been a source of inspiration for such talents as Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, and Jay Leno, among many others.

Julie Gold will be honored with a special award asIconic Singer-Songwriter-Raconteur. She has been a fixture in New York City’s cabaret community for over three decades. Gold seamlessly blends her melodies with incisive lyrics—then presents her songs to her listeners with grace and nuance.

The committee celebrates Amber Gray with an award for Creative Artistry in a Cabaret Debut. Brimming with talent, wisdom, and emotion, her show Gray Matter was a uniquely personal introduction to the cabaret world.

Tony Yazbeck is receiving an award as Song & Dance Performer. His shows at 54 Below showcased his ability to adapt the energy, heart, and artistry of Broadway performance to an intimate space. Yazbeck’s charisma and versatility made for an extraordinary evening.

In 2023, Karen Mack put her considerable performance and songwriting talent on full display in an array of venues and shows—in solo presentations, in her ongoing jazz/swing series with Elliot Roth, and as part of the vocal group Those Girls. Whatever the occasion, she was a constant delight. The committee honors her for her excellence in a Variety of Cabaret Performances.

A Bistro goes to two singers who created shows paying tribute to legendary songwriters. Wendy Scherl receives her award for Tribute Show. In The Sweetness and the Sorrow: The Songs of Marvin Hamlisch, sheexplored the late composer’s biography with great heart, complementing it with stories from her own life. She performed some of Hamlisch’s most beloved songs as well as some of his lesser-known titles. Jason Henderson receives recognition as Musical Comedy Performer. He impressively harnessed his singing and comedic talents for his show Getting to Noël You—effectively using the songbook of Noël Coward to help tell his own story ofmaking ends meet while pursuing his dream of becoming a performer.

In the Vocalist category, Margaret Curry garners an award for her outstanding artistry. She brought her admirable singing and acting skills to her show The Space In-Between. Drawing the audience into her sphere, she shared a deeper look at life through her carefully selected, beautifully and uniquely arranged songs.

The committee will honor two shows that took an autobiographical approach. Roberto Araujo receives the Autobiographical Show honor for his exuberant show I Just Wanted You to Know. He treated audiences to a sparkling, multimedia-style evening— focused specifically on his own life and career, yet displaying a remarkable, universal appeal. Elvira Tortora’s The Bookmaker’s Daughter is a well-told personal tale about a family like no other, beautifully enhanced with savvily selected songs. The show earns this newcomer to the cabaret scene an award for Musical Memoir.

Lisa Vroman’s show Ingénue…Ingé-Not-So-New delivered a constantly surprising and engaging collection of songs, acted and sung with passion, humor, finesse, and top-tier musicality. She will receive an award for Theatrical Cabaret.

David Dean Bottrell will take home an award for Storyteller. His shows reveal him to be a frank and fearless comedic monologist, unafraid to set aside humor at moments, in order to plumb the depths of human experience.

With her recording Permanent Moonlight: Songs of Richard Rodney Bennett, Maud Hixson pays tribute to an icon of the music industry. Showcasing her impeccable vocal talents and her sensitive interpretation of lyrics, the album earns Hixson an awardfor her excellence in Recording.

Linda Kahn likewise receives an honor for Recording, for her outstanding album Wait Til You See Whats Next. This collection not only demonstrates her stunning singing talent, but it also shines a light on some of New York’s finest songwriters and musicians.

The evening’s musicians include the award show’s resident maestro, Musical Director Daryl Kojak (piano), along with longtime Bistro Awards musicians Ritt Henn (bass) and Rex Benincasa (drums).

Sherry Eaker, formerly the longtime Editor-in Chief of Back Stage, has produced the event since its inception in 1985. Eaker heads up the BistroAwards.com roster of writers and critics. Mark Dundas Wood, who has been part of the Bistro Awards committee since 2012 and who writes regularly for BistroAwards.com,serves as an associate producer of the show for the third time. Mary Lahti, who has been production assistant on the show for the past four years, is assistant producer.

The gala event will be held on Monday, April 1, at 7:00 pm, at Gotham Comedy Club, 208 W. 23rd Street, in Manhattan. Tickets range from $75.00 to $275.00. Ticket buyers in all categories are invited to the Bistro After Party as guests of the Bistro Awards. For details about the various ticket categories and early-purchase prices, visit www.BistroAwards.com.

Following is a complete list of artists whom, we believe, attained Outstanding Achievement during 2023 and/or for their body of work:

Robert Klein / Bob Harrington Lifetime Achievement Award

Julie Gold / Iconic Singer-Songwriter-Raconteur

Amber Gray / Creative Artistry in a Cabaret Debut (Gray Matter) 

Tony Yazbeck / Song & Dance Performer

Karen Mack / Variety of Cabaret Appearances

Margaret Curry / Vocalist (The Space In-Between)

Wendy Scherl / Tribute Show (The Sweetness and the Sorrow: The Songs of Marvin Hamlisch)

Elvira Tortora / Musical Memoir (The Bookmaker’s Daughter)

Roberto Araujo / Autobiographical Show (I Just Wanted You to Know)

Lisa Vroman / Theatrical Cabaret (Ingénue…Ingé-Not-So-New)

David Dean Bottrell / Storyteller

Jason Henderson / Musical Comedy Performer (Getting to Noël You)

Maud Hixson / Recording (Permanent Moonlight: Songs of Richard Rodney Bennett)

Linda Kahn / Recording (Wait ’Til You See What’s Next)

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Cabaret

My View: Direct From Florida..The King’s Academy Jazz Ensemble Heats Up 54 Below

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Spectacular, awe-inspiring, and sensational were all words being uttered by the audience after The King’s Academy Jazz Ensemble’s high-energy, horn-powered, Big Apple style weekend performance at the iconic 54 Below Club. In that intimate and elegant room, these students matched the part with their classy black suits and stunning stylish dresses. Their debut show in New York City called “Students of the Songbook” gifted listeners with a youthful and reimagined spin on many jazz favorites. TKA Jazz performed with a level of confidence and excellence often reserved for season veterans.

Band Leader Wes Lowe hosted the night of jazz. Due to the limited space on the stage, Mr. Lowe introduced the songs and players stage right. He would then step off stage allowing his band of twenty high school and middle school students to masterfully make their instruments sing as he trusted them to navigate the night musically under their own direction.

Between lead trombonist Julia Basile who wowed the audience with her rendition of Black Orpheus, Julia Drahos on lead trumpet, and Stephen Boylan on lead alto sax, the lead horns kept a tight energetic performance all night. The rhythm section of drummer Ashton Horne, bassist Hadiya Stewart, and pianist Breck Dorow played in the pocket behind the horns in absolute perfection. Early on I noticed how young middle school trumpeter William Smith phrased like Louis Armstrong, letting his solo melodies breathe as they also swung. Soon however, I realized that they all did this as well. This young band of instrumentalists and soloists play well beyond their years.

Changing up the mood, Wes Lowe called upon several beautiful and talented ladies to add their vocal talents to the night. Ella Garcia, although new to the group, sang classics such as “It Had to Be You” with a soulful tone. Current Young Artist Award Winner from the Society for the Preservation of the Great American Songbook, Maddie Begin, sang show-stopping numbers such as “Feeling Good” and “But The World Goes Round.” She is a name to remember with a powerhouse voice you won’t forget. And making a surprise appearance, TKA Jazz alumni Annie Matot graced the stage singing the classic “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.” These young women took the audience from sing-along moments to complete moments of absolute awe.

In addition to TKA Director of Instrumental Arts and Band Leader Wes Lowe entertaining skillfully as the host, his colleague, Associate Director of Instrumental Arts, Mickey Smith Jr. also played the hottest solo of the night with his rendition of the Bill Wither’s classic “Just the Two of Us” on the alto sax. With that being said, everyone’s solos packed melodic invention in a confident swagger. Even more fun were the breathtaking syncopated conversations when the horns all played full force. The energy in the room was palpable for the entire evening. This was a hot performance on a cold night in New York City at 54 Below that was above and beyond anything anyone could have expected.

WES LOWE, DIRECTOR

THE KING’S ACADEMY JAZZ ENSEMBLE.   

MICKEY SMITH JR.

THE KING’S ACADEMY JAZZ ENSEMBLE

MADDIE BEGIN

ANNIE MATOT

JULIA BASILE

THE KING’S ACADEMY JAZZ ENSEMBLE

MADDIE BEGIN

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Ken Fallin’s Broadway: André De Shields and Marc Shaiman

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In 1984, André De Shields’ Haarlem Nocturne opened on Broadway at the Latin Quarter.  Now, 78-year-old showstopper De Shields is back at 54 Below February 20 – 24, 2024 with a celebration of his eponymous Broadway musical from four decades ago. Expect roof-raising recreations of the beloved music from the show, never-before-heard stories, and even a reunion or two, as well as the wit, elegance and charm that the master entertainer has become known for.

Marc Shaiman and Ken

When asked about his “Bad Boy” image while doing press for Haarlem Nocturne in 1984, De Shields said, “People are under the impression that artists aren’t supposed to think or be plugged into the bloodline of the country, the world- socially, politically, or otherwise. I take exception to that. We are not dummies and as for me, my work has to reflect more than just the obvious singing and dancing. I must take chances. Without risk there is no reason to do it. And when those risks result in opening doors, I like to leave them open so others can walk through.”

After decades filled with taking risks and opening doors, De Shields reflects on a peak career moment with this very special anniversary concert.

In an illustrious career that has spanned more than half a century, André De Shields has distinguished himself as an actor, director, and educator. His notable theatrical appearances include roles in the original Broadway productions of The Full Monty (Tony Award® nomination), Play On! (Tony Award® nomination), Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Emmy Award) and the title role in The Wiz. De Shields was the triple-crown winner of the 2019 award season, garnering Tony, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama Desk Awards for his universally praised role as the messenger to the gods, Hermes, in Hadestown.

In 2020, he received the 2020 Grammy Award for Musical Theater Album for Hadestown, an Honorary Doctor of Arts Degree from Boston Conservatory at Berklee, the 2020 AUDELCO for Lifetime Achievement and the 2020 Red Bull Theater Matador Award for Excellence in Classical Theater. 2019 honors include The Actors’ Equity Foundation Richard Seff Award, which honors veteran stage actors’ best supporting performances of the year, the Project1Voice Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2019 SAGE Joyce Warshow Lifetime Achievement Award, and The York Theatre Company’s 2019 Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theatre, among others. He was also inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. Among his other accolades are the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award and the 2007 Village Voice Obie Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance.

Kenny, Marc, Scott, Stanley

André De Shields is being accompanied by Original Musical Director and Cast Member Marc Shaiman.

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A Party with Betty Comden and Adolph Green Comes to The Carlyle Hotel

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It was announced today that A Party with Betty Comden and Adolph Green starring Mallory Portnoy and Nick Blaemire will play its first exclusive New York engagement on Sunday, March 3, and Monday, March 4, 2024, at the Café Carlyle. Portnoy and Blaemire will portray the legendary songwriting team, reprising the roles they played in the Academy Award-nominated Netflix film, Maestro, directed by Bradley Cooper.  With Musical Director Marco Paguia on piano, A Party with Betty Comden and Adolph Green is directed by Maggie Burrows.

In A Party with Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Ms. Portnoy and Mr. Blaemire embody the raw chemistry and show biz panache that made Betty Comden and Adolph Green one of the most legendary double acts in the history of American entertainment. Putting a modern and personal spin on an iconic show, Blaemire and Portnoy create a singular event that slyly mixes their own stage personas with those of the songwriting team they portray so well.

A Party with Betty Comden and Adolph Green first enraptured New York audiences in November 1958 with a buzzy 5-performance engagement at the Cherry Lane Theatre. The show featured an original book written by Comden and Green themselves, and a range of songs they wrote with collaborators like Leonard Bernstein, Jule Styne, Andre Previn, Saul Chaplin, and Roger Edens. It was an instant smash and quickly moved to Broadway opening on December 23, 1958, at the John Golden Theatre.  In 1977, the duo came back to Broadway in a slightly updated revival before taking the show on tour. The legend of the show has been kept alive throughout the ensuing decades thanks in large part to its beloved cast recordings.

Guests at A Party with Betty Comden and Adolph Green, all of whom will enjoy a two-course meal before or during the performance, are asked to choose from one of the following dinner seatings: 6:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m., and 8:45 p.m. Reservations can be booked by calling 212 744 1600 or online at https://www.exploretock.com/cafecarlyle. Suggested attire is “Late 50’s Cocktail Party.”  The Café Carlyle is located within the Carlyle Hotel, Madison Avenue at 76th Street.  This presentation of A Party with Betty Comden and Adolph Green is a prelude to an upcoming full-length theater version.

A Party with Betty Comden and Adolph Green is produced by Rick Miramontez.

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Cabaret

Happy Hour Indeed! 

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Warmer than warm applause welcomed Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano back to the stage in the Birdland Theatre last week. Their charm and mastery of the music was certainly missed, but now they are back where they belong! 

Entitled “The Songbook from Sinatra to Sondheim to Sting”, the show had something for everyone in this carefully curated and meticulously crafted presentation. For those new to this couple, they are indeed married and have been for two decades, during which not only has their love for each other grown, but their love and dedication to the Great American Songbook has intensified as well. One is reminded of Hamlet’s remark: “as if increase of appetite had grown by what it fed on.” Almost two dozen songs by a panoply of composers ranging from the household name variety to the almost obscure were superbly handled. It is amazing how they each make each song their own—meticulous attention to lyrics is one way. Another is by doing a song usually done by the other gender.  Barbara added new texture to “Don’t Cry”, a lesser-known song from Most Happy Fella usually done by the second male lead. She tenderized it and made it a heartbreaking plea. She worked her magic on “Oh, Look at Me Now!”, a rarity by Joe Bushkin and John DeVries that I’ll not soon forget. And Eric’s rendition of “Old Devil Moon” was so seductive that it felt naughty to listen.   

The entire evening is peppered with anecdotes and interesting asides about the song, composer, or background, or all three. Last night’s delight were two snapshots of Julie Wilson, told so authentically that it was almost like having Julie back again. 

Their clear and precise delivery, coupled with their love for each other and the material, is their own concoction of a Vitamin B12 shot. Not suprprisingly, they harmonize beautifully, This show, like all of theirs I’ve seen, was sharp and well crafted, and it changes every week.  Consider it your own spin of the musical wheel of fortune where you never lose a turn. 

You can catch them at 5:30 every Tuesday at Birdland throughout February.  And, you can take them home with you—CDs are available at Birdland’s kiosk, and their new CD Painting the Town will be available later in the year. They will also be returning to the Neue Galerie uptown for a performance on March 14.    

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