And we were off! Beginning with the all-too-familiar Sondheim quote, Axelrod fulfilled every expectation the audience could hope for in his emotion-and talent-packed show. Much like a professor, he explained to his very attentive audience that he would be painting a portrait of himself, using songs as the paint. Early offerings revealed how open and eager he was to share his story, leading to a golden burst of joy in “Miracle of Miracles.” Then we learned of vertigo, paralysis, fear of having multiple sclerosis, and finally a diagnosis of brain tumor, leaving the audience emotionally black and blue. Along the way, he reminded us that time is our most precious non-renewable resource, a reality worth pondering.
A dark grey triptych of songs, ending with Adam Guettel’s “How Glory Goes”, exposed his fears at the prospect of a operation. So skillful was this portion of the program that we held our breath until we learned all would be well.
After that collective sigh of relief, he lightened the mood with “Everybody Says Don’t” and “Shiksa Goddess”, and then sobered us again with “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”, having removed all the usual flummery and presenting us a raw and deeply moving entreaty that could not be ignored. A moving song I had never heard—”End of the World” by Matt Alber, became the dark blue backdrop for his stunning rendition of “Lost in the Stars.”
His penultimate selection was Sondheim’s “Sunday”, making us ache to be by that blue purple yellow red water. He reinforced his theme, and seemingly his philosophy of life, with this advice: “In a world that’s constantly telling us to be gray, my wish for all of you is that you live as vibrant and colorful a life as possible.”
He concluded with “Something Beautiful” by Ahrens and Flaherty which says “I was put here to make something beautiful before I go.”Well Ari, you did!
Axelrod is an expressive and dramatic performer well suited for this perfectly crafted show. Lawrence Yurman at the piano worked hand in glove with Axelrod to deliver a poignant and intimate portrait, which blossomed under the direction of Jeff Harnar. The theme presented here was not always pleasant, but the skill of these gentlemen delivered a pot of gold at the end of a lush and hopeful rainbow.
An A-Mayes-ment in black and white
Imagine the surprise, when expecting the sweet and bouncy lady you’ve known from the Broadway stage—you know, the one who is part Dorothy Loudon/part Anita Gillette—takes the stage and delivers a program that reveals her to be a jazz baby as well. The lady in question is of course Sally Mayes in Now and Then/Jazz Standard Time.
Yep, Sally’s back, bedecked in a black-and-white outfit with just enough subtle sparkle to be seductive. As sassy as ever, with a glint in her eye like the female Harold Hill, she presented a selection of songs that were rousing, heart-rending, funny, and overall fabulous. Fueled by talent we all know and love and coupled with an energy and verve that were enviable, she was entrancing. This was a new Sally and one I was very pleased to meet. With Tedd Firth as Musical Director and Tom Hubbard supporting on bass, a sensational evening was virtually guaranteed.
Sally began with “Cloudburst”, a tongue-twister of a tune that revealed her verbal as well as vocal dexterity. She then switched gears, spoke of her son and his birth which led to “The Way You Look Tonight” sung almost as a lullaby. Her delivery of “Don’t Blame Me” which had been arranged by the much-missed Mike Renzi revealed some of the truthfulness and vulnerability that makes her such a beloved performer. A hint of Peggy Lee was to be spotted, which just added to the magic of the evening. There was plenty of scat and lots of giggles as Sally told stories about her mother, life in Westchester, and other peeks into her life that made her feel like an old friend.
If you missed this performance, fear not—there’s more to come! Sally will be returning to The Green Room 42 (570 Tenth Avenue in YOTEL). Make reservations early—you don’t want to miss these two:
The Stories on May 16 and The Broadway Extravaganza on June 20
One caution: The overly enthusiastic lighting features the equivalent of headlights flashing, quite disconcerting and unnecessary. It had me yearning for my cataracts. Next time I’ll bring sunglasses.
An Evening With Richard Holbrook and The Tom Nelson Trio
Richard Holbrook along with The Tom Nelson Trio performed at 54 Below in Richard Holbrook: Twenty Plus Four In 2024. This anniversary show celebrated Mr Holbrook’s twenty-four years of singing in New York City. With Tom Nelson on piano; Tom Kirchmer on bass; and John Redsecker on drums they returned to 54 Below this week with his latest show, directed by MAC Award-winning cabaret performer Jeff Harnar.
As always Richard shows his sophisticated style making each song very personal. He can take any song and add his personal touch. Richard is also a four-time MAC Award nominee. My favorite part of the show was Richard’s take on some of Charles Aznavour songs. He shows off his deep understanding of Aznavour’s dramatic songs.
Richard’s debut in musical theater happened when he was a freshman in high school and got cast in a production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. This began a life-long love affair with performing. Richard appeared on such hit television series as “The Sopranos”, “Spin City”, and “Law & Order: (Season 22). No stranger to daytime television, he frequently appeared in “All My Children” and “One Life to Live”. In regional theatre he performed in productions which included leading roles in Deathtrap and The Subject Was Roses.
In 1985 Richard started performing in cabaret venues throughout Manhattan which he continues to do to this day. Over the years, he has done highly acclaimed cabaret shows with musical direction by Tom Nelson. In 2003, he did a tribute to Fred Astaire by focusing on the legendary dancer’s other talents … that of a singer and a musician. The act Richard Holbrook: The Untapped Fred Astaire, received critical acclaim. In August, 2004, Richard released his first CD entitled Richard Holbrook Steps Out. This recording features Richard, accompanied by The Tom Nelson Trio, singing several well-known songs from his Astaire show and other selections by such composers as Portia Nelson, Ronny Whyte, and Kander & Ebb.
Between 2008 and 2015, Richard successfully performed his cabaret act Richard Sings Burton – The Songs of Burton Lane at such venues as Don’t Tell Mama, The Metropolitan Room, and Feinstein’s/54 Below. In March, 2015, Richard reprised the show at Feinstein’s / 54 Below. After that, Richard’s tribute to the legendary composer Richard Rodgers, Richard Holbrook: Richard Sings Rodgers With A Lot Of Heart, was presented in October, 2015 at The Metropolitan Room. It received excellent notices and played to sell-out crowds. All three tribute shows – Fred Astaire, Burton Lane, and Richard Rodgers – were directed by Richard Barclay.
In 2013, Richard was diagnosed with single cell carcinoma (cancer of the jaw) and successfully underwent a thirteen-hour operation in which his jaw was replaced with the fibula of his left leg. After five months of recovery, Richard resumed his singing career. For the past several years, Richard has presented a musical tribute to the lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner, as well as his annual Christmas cabaret fund-raising shows at Don’t Tell Mama for The Cancer Support Community. In the summer of 2024, Richard and his musical director Tom Nelson presented his anniversary show at 54 Below celebrating their twenty-three years of working together. This show was a reprise that show.
Cabaret News: ROSIE: A New Musical, Karen Mason, The Wicked Stage: Songs About Show Business, Lisa Dawn Miller and Late Night Vibing: Asian R&B
54 Below, Broadway’s Supper Club, presents ROSIE: A New Musical by Annika Stenstedt on March 31st, 2024 at 9:30pm. Join us for an empowering evening featuring the songs of this new musical based on Rosie the Riveter and all the “We Can Do It” women who worked on the homefront of World War II. Experience the public debut of ROSIE’s sweeping, emotional score, which both celebrates and interrogates the legacy of the iconic feminist symbol. Featuring a stunning cast, including theater favorites and recent NYU Tisch graduates, the concert will share a special glimpse into a project that has been years in the making.
ROSIE: A New Musical is written and created by Annika Stenstedt. The concert is produced by Annika Stenstedt, Brie Leftwich, and Caroline Lace McPherson. The cast includes Cara Rose DiPietro, Chris King, Demiah Latreece, Amanda Leske, Sean Manucha, Caroline Lace McPherson, Marissa Mitchell, Joey Morof, Olivia Ondrasik, Senna Prasatthong, Annika Stenstedt, Gus Stuckey, Mona Swain, and Hannah Lauren Wilson. The band also features Henry Wolf on Drums and Gus Stuckey on Trumpet.
ROSIE: A New Musical by Annika Stenstedt plays 54 Below (254 West 54th Street) on March 31st, 2024 at 9:30pm.
Birdland Jazz Club will present the return of Broadway, concert and recording star Karen Mason in the debut of a new show “Just in Styne: Karen Sings Jule” – honoring Jule Styne, one of her favorite songwriters – on Monday, March 25 at 7:00 PM. From the first time she sang for Mr. Styne in New York City, to performing in a concert in his honor at Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, Karen has made the songs of Jule Styne a part of her musical life. This new concert may include Broadway tunes “Just in Time” and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” and pop standards “Time After Time” and “Three Coins in the Fountain.” Karen will be joined by Christopher Denny on piano and Tom Hubbard on bass. The show will be directed by Barry Kleinbort. There is a $30-4o music charge. Birdland is located at 315 West 44th Street in New York.
Karen Mason was seen playing Mrs. Marsh on Ryan Murphy’s “Halston” on Netflix. On tour, was last seen as Madame Giry in the North American premiere of Love Never Dies, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epic sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. On Broadway, she starred as The Queen of Hearts in Wonderland and originated the role of Tanya in Mamma Mia! (2002 Drama Desk nomination as Best Actress). Her other leading roles include Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard on Broadway and in Los Angeles for three years; Velma von Tussel in the Broadway company of Hairspray; “Monotony” singer and Mazeppa in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway. In regional theater, Karen starred in Chasing Rainbows (Paper Mill Playhouse), A Christmas Story as Miss Shields; White Christmas (St. Louis Muni Opera); Side by Side by Sondheim (Coconut Grove Playhouse in Florida); Gypsy (Sundance Theatre in California); Company (Huntington Theatre in Boston). Off-Broadway, she won the Outer Critics Circle Award for her performance in And the World Goes ‘Round.
She is a 14-time MAC Award winner, and was the recipient of the 2019 MAC Lifetime Achievement Award. She also won 3 Bistro Awards. Her eight recordings include the single “It’s About Time,” written by Paul Rolnick and Shelly Markham; her 2009 MAC Award-winning Right Here/ Right Now, The Sweetest of Nights, When the Sun Comes Out, Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!, Better Days (featuring the 1998 Emmy Award-winning song “Hold Me”); and Not So Simply Broadway. Also, Wonderland (original cast); the film Jeffrey (Varese Sarabande); Wonderful Town (JAY Records); the cast album of And the World Goes ‘Round (RCA Victor).
New York’s newest hotspot for intimate dining and extraordinary music – will celebrate one of Motown’s most successful hitmakers in “For Once in My Life: The Songs of Ron Miller” on Monday, March 25 at 7:00 PM. Produced by his daughter Lisa Dawn Miller, the show salutes the legendary songwriter and producer, who penned some of the label’s biggest hits including multiple-Grammy Award winner “For Once in My Life,” recorded by over 700 major label artists and inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Some of his other standards include “Touch Me in the Morning,” “Heaven Help Us All,” “A Place in the Sun,” “Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday,” “Someday at Christmas,” “I’ve Never Been to Me,” and “If I Could.” Ron’s songs have been featured in numerous blockbuster and Academy Award-winning films, and on countless television shows throughout the decades. This evening, which will feature special guests, features music director Ryan Rose. Tickets are $25-$45 in addition to a service charge and a two-item food and beverage minimum. A livestream option is available for $20. Chelsea Table + Stage is located at 152 West 26th Street.
Lisa Dawn Miller is a singer, songwriter and producer as well as the daughter of legendary songwriter, Ron Miller. She produces and stars as “Frank’s One Love” in the critically acclaimed hit musical “Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack,” which tours throughout the U.S. and is currently in its 14th season. She also produces and directs the musical comedy “My Buddy,” and has produced multiple recordings and directed numerous music videos. Lisa is set to release three new singles this summer under a new distribution deal with The Orchard, a subsidiary of Sony Music: “I Need Your Love,” “Rhythm of Me,” and “There You Are,” as well as a new EDM dance record, “I’ve Been to Paradise,” an interpolation of her father’s classic, “I’ve Never Been to Me.” In 2022, she signed a new publishing deal with Sony Music Publishing to administer her father’s songs. The new deal expands upon a decades-long partnership between Millers’ songs and the publishing giant. Lisa runs her own music publishing company, LDM Worldwide and record label, J-Wall Records. She manages her father’s vast legacy song catalogue.
Ron Miller (1932-2007), the legendary Motown songwriter, wrote numerous hit songs which have sold in the hundreds of millions, with recordings by some of the biggest recording artists of all time, including Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Michael Bublé, and Celine Dion. His songs have been reimagined for every generation with several recordings by even the artists of today, including Justin Bieber, LeAnn Rimes, Jackie Evancho, Noah Cyrus, and Oliver Richman. Ron’s songs have been featured in numerous top-grossing films and on countless television shows throughout the decades as well as in major ad campaigns by the largest global companies and brands. Ron has numerous RIAA gold and multi-platinum records and multiple BMI awards. His songs have won several Grammy Awards including in 2005 for “Heaven Help Us All,” the last song recorded by the legendary Ray Charles.
The Green Room 42 – the intimate concert venue dubbed Broadway’s “off-night hotspot” by The New York Times – will present the special concert “Late Night Vibing: Asian R&B” on Monday, March 18 at 9:30 PM. From artists of 88rising (Joji, NIKI, keshi) and Kpop (Jungkook, Jay Park) to soulful American songwriters (H.E.R., Jhené Aiko) and more, Asian R&B has had an undeniable impact on both the global music scene and broader Asian community. Experience iconic songs from all of your favorite singers performed by an all-AAPI/BIPOC ensemble of star-studded vocalists.
The creative team for “Late Night Vibing: Asian R&B” includes co-producer, director and vocalist Yu Hin Bryan Chan (“54 Sings Allegiance,” Cinderella), music director Rose Van Dyne (Broadway’s 1776, Spring Awakening), co-producer Cindy Tsai (Producer Hub, New York Civil Liberties Union), and arranger Max Addae (Upper Structure LAAF ‘22). The concert will star Roger Rees Award finalist Cassidy Baltazar (The Vendetta), Cindy Tsai (The Chinese Lady, Jeanette: The Musical), Sushma Saha (Broadway’s 1776, Interstate), George Davidson-Dennis (Carousel, A Chorus Line), and Yu Hin Bryan Chan.
“Late Night Vibing: Asian R&B” will be performed on Monday, March 18 at 9:30 PM at The Green Room 42 (570 Tenth Avenue at 42nd Street, on the 4th Floor of Yotel). The cover charge ranges from $20-$50. A livestream option is available for $20. For tickets, please visit www.TheGreenRoom42.com.
Like a Goddess Dressed by Erté
That was how Lorna Dallas took over the stage Sunday night at one of the newest cabaret rooms, Chelsea Table + Stage. So regal was she that one wished she had entered via the dramatic curved staircase behind the stage, perhaps with some subtle tinkling on the piano of “Beautiful Girls” from Follies. Well, maybe next time. All that mattered was that she finally arrived, and this long-awaited return was greeted with warm enthusiasm by her fans who filled the room.
Lorna’s quasi-operatic voice served well the composers she honored with loving and intelligent renditions of their music. Sometimes a soul needs just a bit of Ivor Novello to brighten the moment, and Lorna delivered just enough to make us yearn for more. She sang of her delight in dressing up, which led into “Put On Your Sunday Clothes”, a combination no one saw coming. When she mentioned Very Warm for May, the prospect of hearing one of Kern and Hammerstein’s most popular songs from that show, “All the Things You Are”, stirred the heart. But again, Lorna surprised us with a haunting rendition of the other song from that show that seemed destined for greatness “In the Heart of the Dark”.
A visit by the Gershwins in the form of “By Strauss” suited Lorna’s talents well, and she speeded ahead a half-century to Sondheim with his song from the film Dick Tracy “Back in Business” followed by his somber and wistful “In Buddy’s Eyes” and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “I Have Dreamed”. A fascinating history of the song “Here’s That Rainy Day” from Carnival in Flanders followed, and then, reluctantly, the evening had to end. Lorna delivered so much in such a short time, and yet we all wanted more.
Cabaret enthusiasts know that the names Barry Kleinbort and Christopher Denny are like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval on any show with which they are affiliated. Denny supplied is customary skillful piano virtuosity and gentle support, while Kleinbort, in addition to masterful direction, also contributed extra material. Those who recall a time when the word diva had a very positive connotation will agree that Lorna Dallas is one of the few left standing who merit that sobriquet.
Grand Hotel: The 35th Anniversary Original Broadway Cast Reunion Concert at 54 Below
Grand Hotel original cast members Karen Akers, Timothy Jerome, Bob Stillman, David Jackson, David Andrew White, and Walter Willison, reunited last night at 54 Below. Even original bass player Ray Kilday was there.
54 Below was transformed into Berlin’s Grand Hotel for the event. The staging was immersive as Walter Willison, introduced, directed and produced. The choreography (originally done by Broadway legend Tommy Tune, was there celebrating his 85th birthday on Monday night).
Two tango dancers (Michael Choi and Vanda Polakova), circled the room making their way to the stage for “I Waltz Alone.” The concert featured choreography by Michael Notardonato, who also served as associate director.
Willison, who also played Colonel Doctor Otternschlag) kept Maury Yeston’s entire glorious score. “I Want to Go to Hollywood” for example. That number was skillfully sung by Susan Wood Duncan, who played Flaemmchen in the touring cast.
Ken Jennings stepped in as Otto Kringelein, leading the company in a moving “We’ll Take a Glass Together!” was sung in the bar area.
A highlight was Diane J. Findlay
Jennifer Bassey Davis as Elizaveta Grushinskaya, and Akers as Rafaella, were haunting.
Harper Lee Andrews and Susie McCollum played the roles their mothers originated.
On Monday Happy Birthday closed the show to a reprise of “We’ll Take a Glass Together” and thus they did.
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