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Cabaret

Top Ten Cabaret Shows of 2023

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The most important ingredient in a cabaret act is intimacy. Whether singers are sharing details of their own lives, or those of the composer, the listener needs to feel that the metaphoric kimono is being opened to reveal something sacred in the lyric, the music, or the singer. With that thought in mind, here are quintessential examples of this kind of intimacy from the past year.   

Julie Sings Jule (Styne) 

As if thrilling us as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl was not enough, not long after Julie Benko took over the role, she did a cabaret act at the York Theatre of the music of Jule Styne. Pray, folks, to whatever God you choose that she reprises that show here next year. Or atheists can mark their calendars for February 12 to see her live at Birdland. If you can’t wait, she’s currently in Harmony on Broadway, proving that indeed she is the greatest star! 

Klea Blackhurst

Speaking of Great Stars… 

Klea Blackhurst joined with Jim Caruso and Billy Stritch for a Swingin’ Christmas show for their annual three nights in late December, and did it ever swing!  When Klea’s stentorian voice announced that Christmas is Starting Now, no one doubted that she was absolutely correct. This mega-talented trio kicked off the holiday with enough energy to light the Rockefeller Tree for a month. With Steve Doyle on bass and Daniel Glass on drums came together on a Christmas classic, the audience was astounded at the presentation. That surprise awaits you next December at Birdland. See you there! 

Shana Farr at Urban Stages Winter Rhythms

Imagine Julie Andrews, Alexis Smith and Lee Remick in One Woman 

You’ve got Shana Farr. Throw in Barbara Cook, and what could be better? Shana did her tribute to the original Marian the Librarian at Urban Stages recently. Her show was a comprehensive review of Cook’s musical career through quotes, songs, and her  keen ability to change character as the songs required. Farr can switch gears from sassy to sophisticated in the blink of an eye and conveys emotion in ways rarely seen.  She used the overlay of her gorgeous midnight blue gown to add yet further texture to  some of the songs. I’ve never heard anyone do Anyone Can Whistle better than Shana. Come hear for yourself next year! 

Jeff Harnar Photo by Kevin Alvey

Jeff Harnar sings Coleman and Sondheim 

The world is lucky that Jeff’s shows on these two composers are on CD. Spellbinding may seem too strong a word to describe Jeff’s performances, but after you see him perform you’ll be adding your own exclamation points. I’m a bit late in hopping on the Harnar bandwagon, so it is with glee that I’ll be buying his CDs of other major composers while awaiting his return engagements here. 

Marilyn Maye

And the Queen Herself 

Marilyn Maye, the most amazing nonagenarian you’ll ever see, made several appearances around town, closing out the year at Birdland. If you’ve never heard her, it should be Resolution #1. 

 

Phillip Officer


June Was Bustin’ Out This Year
 

When Phillip Officer made a rare appearance at Birdland last spring, he proved how a skillful performer can take an audience away from time and space for an hour.  His Oscar Hammerstein show at the Algonquin many years ago awakened me to his skill at interpretation. He set the bar high that night and continues to elevate it. It was like being in the company of a master of his craft, a wizard who could answer all of life’s questions through masterful interpretation of cogent lyrics.    

Jason Henderson

Jason Henderson — New Kid on the Block Indeed 

Just when I thought there was virtually nothing new to look forward to in cabaret, along comes this charming young fellow from New Zealand who wowed everyone who saw his tribute to Noël Coward at Don’t Tell Mama this year, called “Getting to Noël You”, his show tells the story of his life here through Coward songs. While attempts to do this usually fall apart about 45 minutes in, Jason holds this together beautifully to keep his audience captivated.  A cross between Robert Q. Lewis and Tony Randall, Jason is a delight to watch and hear, which you can do on either January 24 or February 11 at Don’t Tell Mama.   

Karen Mason

Karen Mason – Cure for whatever ails you 

Leaving one of Karen’s shows in anything short of a buoyant state of mind is rare, if not impossible. If you’re nursing a heart that’s been broken or some material disappointment, you’ll find solace in her act, and that’s a promise. She appears frequently at Birdland. 

Steve Ross

Steve Ross 

This quintessential interpreter of Cole Porter has been delighting audiences with his intelligent and masterful renditions of not only Porter, but every composer you love and want to hear. Steve is a joy to see, hear and marvel at—each evening is a perfectly crafted delight, designed to please individually and collectively. His is a rare magic on the stage—few others have it, and fewer have honed it to perfection the way he has. Whether you are a cabaret aficionado or a neophyte, an evening with Steve is a master class in appreciation of the songs so uniquely American. After all, he is the Crown Prince—wait—that’s wrong. Steve is the King of Cabaret in my book. 

Ann Talman

Elizabeth the First, and Only, in My Book 

And in Ann Talman’s as well, as we learned from her show about Elizabeth Taylor, whom she knew when they performed in The Little Foxes on Broadway. This loving tribute shows a rather private side of she who was considered the most beautiful woman in the world. Ann’s choice of music underscored her story beautifully. You can catch it on February 25 at the Laurie Beechman. 

Michael Lavine, Rob Schneider, Charles Kirsch

The Mighty Triumvirate 

Rob Schneider, Charles Kirsch and Michael Lavine have been doing shows at 54 Below about musicals that never made it to Broadway, called appropriately Broadway Bound. Sounds kinda iffy, no? Well, with Rob’s enthusiasm, Charles’s charm and Michael’s mastery of the piano, plus the collective knowledge of them all, it’s a glorious evening to be had.  Top notch singers perform songs you’ve never heard but will want to hear again.  They’ll be back in March – don’t miss it!  

Cabaret

Jumaane Smith Plays To Sold Out Crowd at Birdland

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This past week Jumaane Smith and his quartet performed for a full house at Birdland in New York City. Jumaane is one of the greatest trumpeter performing today. Like Louis Armstrong he is strong on both trumpet and vocals, playful on stage.

Jumaane has collaborated with Quincy Jones, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder, andperformed with Michael Buble for 17 years. and Harry Connick Jr. Smith is stepping onto center stage with the release of his new album “Come On Home” on August 16. This deeply emotional and predominantly original work traverses the rich landscapes of jazz, blues, and contemporary soul, echoing the timeless influence of classic albums from these genres. Known for his exceptional talent and versatility, the LP and his performance encapsulates themes of love, loss, overcoming challenges, redemption, and joy.
A highlight if the night was”I Know,” about finding your soulmate—the one person who stands by you against the world, the person you long to see at the end of the day.
Smith was backed by outstanding musicians Chris Lewis – Saxophone, Al Street – Guitar, Carmen Intorre Jr – drums, Will Gorman – organ.
It’s always a treat to be in the audience enjoying an evening with Jamaane Smith and his incredible music
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Cabaret

My View: Norm Lewis…. “SUMMERTIME” at 54 Below… Spike Lee & Celebs Attend

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In all my years of going to shows, whether theatre, concerts, clubs, cabaret, etc., I have never done what I did this past week and I’m not sure I can even explain. I went to see Norm Lewis at 54 Below on June 6th and didn’t just love it, I was somehow hypnotized by the man and the material. That night, Miss Melba Moore was his Special Guest and invited to share the stage and something magical happened. The program was all showtunes and treasure from Broadway-current, past and even a little in between, with one brilliant piece of Off-Broadway gold, TRY TO REMEMBER, dedicated to the memory of the late, great Jerry Orbach. Then, upon finding out the Guest List for the entire 7 shows, we just decided we wanted to be there and it was the right decision. Night after night, added and/or subtracted songs to adapt to the desired length of the show. Every night, Norm’s longtime friend and trusted Director, Richard Jay-Alexander, on the scene, along with Musical Director/Arranger Joseph Joubert on keys, Perry Cavari on drums and percussion and a very cool Dylan Shamat on both electric and acoustic bass. Each night a different kind of magic and, lucky me, living so nearby, I was able to capture all the Award Winning Guests and high=profile friends. So, here for Norm Lewis, who brought summer early to all of us at 54 Below, is a scrapbook of his seven nights and special guests, both on stage and off. Now that the run is over, what will Eda and I do tonight??? Bravo!

BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL & NORM LEWIS

54 BELOW

NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS

MELBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

MELBA MOORE

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ & NORM LEWIS

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ & WALTER MARKS

PASTOR BOBBY LEWIS & NORM LEWIS

MARC SHAIMAN

MARC SHAIMAN & NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS (Sweeney Todd)

NORM LEWIS

LEN CARIOU

NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS & ALICE RIPLEY

ALICE RIPLEY & NORM LEWIS

WILL SWENSON & NORM LEWIS

WILL SWENSON

WILL SWENSON

BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL & NORM LEWIS

BRIAN STOKES MITHCELL & NORM LEWIS

NOVA PAYTON & NORM LEWIS

NOVA PAYTON & NORM LEWIS

OLIVIA ELEASE  HARDY

OLIVIA ELEASE HARDY & NORM LEWIS

OLIVIA HARDY

THE DRINKWATER BROTHERS

THE DRINKWATER BROTHERS

NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS

SPIKE LEE & NORM LEWIS

SPIKE LEE & NORM LEWIS

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER & SPIKE LEE

LEN CARIOU

MARC SHAIMAN

SPIKE LEE

MARILYN MAYE

MELISSA ERRICO

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER & BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL

JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER, SPIKE LEE, TONY DANZA

LEN CARIOU, NORM LEWIS, MARC SHAIMAN

HUGH PANARO, EDA SOROKOFF, STEVEN REINEKE, ERIC GABBARD

54 BELOW

CARLOS CLEMENZ

NORM LEWIS

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Cabaret

Norm Lewis, Stephen Schwartz Made For a Fabulous Summertime at 54 Below

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Norm Lewis is presenting “SUMMERTIME (Special Tony Edition)” from June 6-13, 2024 at 54 Below.

Stephen Schwartz

The night of June 7, Mr. Lewis was joined on stage by composer Stephen Schwartz and Bobby Lewis ( Mr. Lewis’ cousin). The show was directed by Richard Jay-Alexander, musical direction and piano Joseph Joubert, drums – Perry Cavari and on Bass -Dylan Shamat.

Norm began the evening by entering through the audience greeting the enthusiastic crowd singing “Don’t Rain on My Parade” (Julie Stone/Bob Merrill).’

Norm Lewis

At one point While he left the stage for wardrobe change his special guest Stephen Schwartz took to the piano to sing “The Hardest Part of Love” from his musical Children of Eden.

Norm and Bobby Lewis

Mr. Lewis left the stage one more time to give the moment to Bobby Lewis singing ”One Song Glory ” from Rent (music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson.

Lee Roy Reams, Marilyn Maye

Before leaving the stage Mr Lewis joined  his cousin Bobby Lewis in a duet singing “For Good” from Wicked (music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.
Each night of the run will feature surprise guest .
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Cabaret

My View: SUMMERTIME Starring Norm Lewis Just Keeps Getting HOTTER!

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I don’t usually post multiple photo essays of the same show/event, but, in this case, I simply must or I wouldn’t be doing my job of “reporting” here in Times Square Chronicles. The fact of the matter is that my wife, Eda, and I have been to Norm Lewis’s new show SUMMERTIME (Special Tony Edition) 3 times now and it has been “delivering” on a nightly basis more thrills and excitement than any other run of a show we have previously witnessed. The show is beautifully directed by the gifted Richard Jay-Alexander, with musical direction and arrangements from the equally gifted Joseph Joubert. What Norm and his artistic posse have put together is so satisfying that you get drawn in and forget you’ve already seen it. Add to this unexplainable phenomenon the array of Broadway Guests and each night has been a delight for so many different reasons. Because I live conveniently close, I am able to capture historic pairings of creative giants and I had to put this together so you could witness the kind of history that has already been made each of these nights at 54 Below. Norm has 4 more shows and many more Special Guests on June 10, 11, 12 and 13 and I can only heartily recommend you go see this man who is so comfortable in his stardom, that he easily seduces you into his world of music and Broadway. You will not be disappointed. I must also note that there has been as much star power in his audiences as there are on stage, adding extra excitement to every night.

( I couldn’t catch all the celebs in the audience but here are a few photo highlights)

NORM LEWIS & LEN CARIOU

NORM LEWIS (Sweeny Todd)

LEN CARIOU

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ & WALTER MARKS

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ & NORM LEWIS

MARC SHAIMAN & NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS & MARC SHAIMAN

LEN CARIOU, NORM LEWIS, MARC SHAIMAN

MELBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

MELBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

MALBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

MARILYN MAYE & NORM LEWIS

MARILYN MAYE

LEE ROY REAMS & MARILYN MAYE

WALTER MARKS, JENNIFER HALLIE DIAMOND, ROBERT DIAMOND, founder/owner BROADWAYWORLD, RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER

NORM LEWIS, ROBERT DIAMOND, JENNIFER HALLIE DIAMOND

HUGH PANARO, EDA SOROKOFF, STEVEN REINEKE, music director/conductor The New York Pops, ERIC GABBARD

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER, EDA SOROKOFF, STEVEN REINEKE, ERIC GABBARD

LORNA DALLAS BROWN, LEE ROY REAMS, MARILYN MAYE

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER & NORM LEWIS

PASTOR BOBBY LEWIS (Norm’s cousin) & NORM LEWIS

JOSEPH JOUBERT, music director

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER, NORM LEWIS, CATHERINE ADLER

JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER & RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER

MARK SENDROFF, RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER, RICHARD SKIPPER

54 BELOW

MACON PRICKETT

CARLOS CLEMENZ & MARC SHAIMAN

NORM LEWIS

EDA SOROKOFF & CATHERINE ADLER

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Cabaret

My View: Norm Lewis Brings On The Summer Heat at 54 Below

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“The Heat is On” at 54 Below with a new show Norm Lewis is performing, called SUMMERTIME (Special TONY Edition). From his dazzling entrance to his beautiful “goodnight” the evening is wall-to wall Broadway treasure. Yes, summer arrived early ,last night, and whatever the kinship and connection between the star, his musical director Joseph Joubert and his director Richard Jay-Alexander, is, it bathed us in magic with stunning music, beautiful arrangements, humor, glamour, stories and vocals that are, quite honestly, beyond just having a powerful skill set. Norm is a sublime actor who happens to possess a magnificent voice and he uses every dimension of it.

During the run he will have special guests who are both friends and Broadway royalty. Last night, he “blew up” this concept by introducing us to the legendary TONY winner, Melba Moore. I don’t usually write about specific material, but when your brain can’t comprehend that Miss Moore tore into “Aquarius” and “Let The Sunshine In” from HAIR with Mr. Lewis, hearts were jumping and joy exploded in the room. Only to be followed by Melba singing “I Got Love” from PURLIE (wait for it) in the original key! The 3 piece band, led by Joubert, also consisted of Perry Cavari on drums and percussion and Dylan Shamat on both acoustic and electric bass. The sounds they made all night were as versatile as could be accomplished and have become a trademark, of sorts, for Norm. Don’t hesitate to get to 54 Below and start your summer early. This man brings the heat with him onto the stage. 

Norm Lewis

NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS

MELBA MOORE

MELBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

MELBA MOORE

MELBA MOORE

54 BELOW

54 BELOW

NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS

NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award

JOSEPH JOUBERT

54 BELOW

MELBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER & NORM LEWIS

MELBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

HUGH PANARO, EDA SOROKOFF, STEVEN REINEKE, ERIC GABBARD

STEVEN REINEKE, ERIC GABBARD, NORM LEWIS

RICHARD SKIPPER, RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER, NORM LEWIS, MARK SENDROFF

CARLOS CLEMENZ & NORM LEWIS

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER & NORM LEWIS

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