Stephen Holden on Julie Wilson

April 21, 2008

The NYTimes on the legend: “Ms. Wilson is a great, sad clown who asks us to laugh at the absurdity of it all. What other choice is there?”

Review: The Little Mermaid

April 20, 2008

The Disney people have expanded the songs from the movie version of The Little Mermaid to fill out a theatrical evening.  While not up to the level of the original Menken/Ashman songs, the new material is pleasant.  And two new songs, I Want the Good Times Back and Her Voice are worth examining as cabaret material for funny dames and sincere tenors respectively.

Sherie Rene Scott is a delight as always, and while Sierra Boggess is lovely as Ariel, I do miss Jodi Benson (the movie voice of Ariel).


1. Overture
2. Fathoms Below – Where I Belong Sailors, Pilot, Prince Eric, Grimsby
3. Daughters of Triton – Mersisters
4. The World Above – Ariel
5. Human Stuff – Scuttle, Gulls
6. I Want the Good Times Back – Ursula, Flotsam, Jetsam
7. Part of Your World – Ariel
8. Storm at Sea
9. Part of Your World (Reprise) – Ariel
10. She’s in Love – Mersisters, Flounder
11. Her Voice – Prince Eric
12. The World Above (Reprise) – King Triton
13. Under the Sea – Sebastian, Sea Creatures
14. Under The Sea (Reprise) – Sebastian, Sea Creatures
15. Sweet Child – Flotsam, Jetsam
16. Poor Unfortunate Soule – Ursula
17. Positoovity – Scuttle, Gulls
18. Beyond My Wildest Dreams Ariel, Carlotta, Maids
19. Les Poissons – Chef Louis, Chefs
20. Les Poissons (Reprise) – Chef Louis, Chefs
21. One Step Closer – Prince Eric
22. I Want the Good Times Back (Reprise) – Ursula
23. Kiss the Girl – Sebastian, Animals
24. Sweet Child (Reprise) – Flotsam, Jetsam
25. If Only (Quartet) – Ariel, Prince Eric, Sebastian, King Triton
26. The Contest – Grimsby, Princesses
27. Poor Unfortunate Souls (Reprise) – Ursula
28. If Only (Reprise) – King Triton, Ariel
29. Finale – Ariel, Prince Eric, Company

Road Report — Karen Mason in Hairspray

April 20, 2008

Ron and I saw Hairspray, mostly to see friend-of-this-blog and cabaret great Karen Mason who joined the show 2 weeks ago in the role of Velma Von Tussle (the Debbie Harry/Michelle Pfeiffer role).  Needless to say, she was terrific.  For all the intensity she brings to her performances, Mason is also a superb comedienne, and it was great to see her cutting up uproariously. (Mason has just released a new CD, Right Here, Right Now which I will feature at a later date.)

The whole show has held up well and maintains an amazing snap, crackle and pop.  It’s interesting that these days a successful musical has to be a machine much more than an artistic endevor.  And one of the tricks to keeping a maching running has been to take a lesson from Henry Ford and be able to use standard-issue parts.  The overall cast does a terrific job in producing “product” that fits to a mold that then produces an overall effect.  I find it an interesting dilemma that creative teams for new musicals face — they want the best cast possible to open a show, and they need stars for their talents and commercial appeal.  But if they rely too much on the talents of their stars, the show won’t necessarily be able to maintain a multi-year run and several touring companies.  The best example of this is The Producers.  Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick had an amazingly special chemistry that no other team was really able to re-create.  (And let’s not even talk about the fact that when the marquee names leave and shows are played by lesser-lights, ticket prices certainly don’t go down!)

George Wendt is featured as Edna.  He takes a Dancing to the Stars approach to the role — “Hi, I’m a bit straight guy in a dress, and I’m singing and dancing.  Can you believe it?”  Although this approach really provides no insight to the character of Edna, interestingly the Hairspray machine was designed with enough leeway to accommodate this part.  While not particularly fabulous, this replacement unit keeps the machine moving.


Road Report: Fabulous Divas of Broadway

April 19, 2008

There are certain genres like magic or step dancing that have faithful fans and people mystified by their appeal.  Count me among the people mystefied by the appeal of impressions/impersonations.

At today’s matinee, I caught the next-to-last performance of the Fabulous Divas of Broadway, in which Alan Palmar pays hommage to great ladies of the stage and popular culture.  Somehow I got suckered into liking, if not exactly loving, this show. 

Palmar keeps the perspective of the show as his own narrative of appreciation.  He is an extremely amiable host and an accomplished physical performer.  He was nearly always spot on with the physical essence of the performers he was presenting, and batted at least .400 vocally.  I dread audience participation, but he handled it in a charming and generally-classy way.  And I’m not saying that just because he gave me a boa as a co-winner of the “Name that Diva” quiz portion of the show!

Road Report: Lina Koutrakos / Rick Jensen Workshop

April 19, 2008

I spent Saturday morning at Lina Koutrakos & Rick Jensen’s Saturday morning cabaret workshop at Don’t Tell Mama.  As many of you know, I can spend unlimited time watching performers work on the craft of singing.  And there’s no one better to watch coaching than the amazing teacher/performers Rick Jensen and Lina Koutrakos.  What’s so amazing is the way they can help singers go from “terrific” to “really amazing” (which is 5 times harder than getting to “terrific” in the first place).  I always marvel at their wisdom and depth of technique.

On that front, they have announced their “Summer in the City” dates.  Info is below. 

Subject: It’s “Summer in the City” time!

Its time!

With many wonderful programs of this nature being offered throughout the summer months we are back with ours here in the neighborhood!

Summer in the City is a cabaret intensive given right here in New York City. This is our 7th annual summer and our 10th and 11th weekends. Lennie Watts and Lina Koutrakos are both MAC and Backstage Bistro Award winning directors and performers who got together a few years back to offer their talents and services in this capacity right here in New York City.

2 primary things we have realized this does is:
Keep the price down from the out of town intensives (as there is no room and board fees)
We have privy to many wonderful working professional singers, songwriters, teachers, directors, cabaret/Broadway cross over performers etc…to offer you as guest teachers and as guests who come in throughout the weekend who’s talents we can learn from, brains we can pick and experiences we can take from.

Our musical directors are top-notch arrangers as well as players and we will be in the clubs and rehearsal rooms throughout NYC. 
 We have been so successful these past few years as we grow that we are offering up 2 separate weekends to accommodate those of you singers who will be participating.

To the folks who have done Summer in the City before and continue on in cabaret, and/or singers who have not joined us before but are clearly more advanced then not- we are taking one of these weekends up a notch so the program is suited to keep up with you. To stretch you even further and give you new exsersizes and experiences and the opportunity to dig in even deeper and work over the summer taking giant steps forward in your work. If you have done SintheC before or other out of town intensives and just want to stay on your game over the summer do this advanced work with us…this is it. We plan to continue to offer up the advanced workshop-always  upping the anti each time we do, so we’d love to see if you can keep up with us!! (How’s that for a challenge?!)

The advanced weekend will begin with some prework and we are adding a Wednesday night to the curriculum to accommodate one of the exercises we are adding.
For those of you who are new to us…we will not Cabaret 101 you. We are not the intensive you want if you truly are an amateur at this point. If you are coming from the shower to the stage, unless you can really knock it out of the park voice wise, we are probably not the program for you. BUT…. if you are, if you have been singing in the cabaret world for a while, but have yet to hook up with a director or a class etc…. this is a trampoline weekend. You will “bounce” into it you work with an intensity and understanding of how to better do what you do.
This year there will be auditions. This is mostly for placement.
There are a limited amount of spaces in each weekend, so please call or contact Lennie Watts or Lina Koutrakos asap so we can set you up with an audition, discuss your experiences and see where you belong.
 If you are basically just out of the shower and just too old for American Idol, we are probably not for you. We will decide together, so do contact us.

We have had much interest from folks in nearby cities who will be joining us this summer but we are sending this email out first hoping those of you who are receiving this- who know about us –will let us know if you are joining us and will pass this on to people you know would benefit from it from our own fair city- as well as points beyond.

Our dates are: 

AUDITIONS: Thursday June29th and Sunday July 1st
ADVANCED WEEKEND: July 9, 10, 11, 12, 13
NEW WEEKEND: August  7, 8, 9, 10 
Weekend Fees: $600
There will be a deposit/holding fee of $200 expected once your spot has been secured.
The remaining $400 will be paid in cash the day the weekend begins. 
Lennie Watts:
Lina Koutrakos:

Look forward to hearing from you all
Lennie and Lina

Road Report: Maud Maggart at the Algonquin

April 19, 2008

I caught the late show of Maud Maggart at the Oak Room.  I’d seen her when she was guesting in Andrea Marcovicci’s Loesser show, after Marcovicci had the throat surgery. But this was the first time I’d seen her do a solo show.

The theme of the show was dreams, in various guises.  As the list below shows, she made very canny choices.  All of them fit her theme very aptly, and she didn’t go with a lot of obvious choices.  She got more wit and laughs (from me) out of “Isn’t It Romantic” than anyone I’ve ever heard.  And the pairing of “My Father” and “Speaking of Dreams” was absolutely brilliant.  Unfortunately, her first patter break where she explained the concept of the show and ruminated (at some length) on the nature of dreams sounded more like a senior thesis than cabaret patter.

Having mainly experienced Maggart through recordings, I am pleased to report that they don’t quite do her justice.  In person, Maggart has a very sincere, applealingly winsome simplicity.  She convincingly conveys a burning desire to communicate with her audience.  Her throbbing vibrato and other vocal idiosyncracies are much less distracting than on disc, and she does have a very distinct sound.  Beverly Cosham has pointed out that Maggart looks like a young girl playing dress-up.  Indeed, she often comes across as a precocious, wise child in her mother’s gown, with a stage presence that reads a good decade or so younger than her 32 years.  One wonders what the effect will be when her stage persona eventually gets nearer to her actual age. 

At this point, I need to say a few words about the Algonquin.  Although it’s probably the most intimate of the major cabaret rooms in New York, I think one has to be very careful about who one sees there.  The room is a long, narrow rectangle with the performer in the middle against one wall.   In a room that seats 90, there are about 18 good seats, and another 8 – 12 OK seats.  The rest can feel like Siberia.  Andrea Marcovicci has played the room so long, she is an expert at making every patron feel like they’re having a personal, intimate experience.  Being seated in Siberia in this show, I spent a lot of time looking at Maggart’s back.  And sadder still, looking at an unfortunately unflattering roll of flesh exposed by Maggart’s near-backless gown.*

And frankly, the $65 cover and $30 minimum felt on the expensive side for the 11:30 show, especially in Siberia.  On the other hand, Maggart seems to have a passionate following from the Algonquin crowd, and I have rarely heard 30 Anglo AARP members who didn’t laugh at any of the jokes, hoot and holler and ovate as much as her audience did.

Here’s the set list:

  • Dreams (Overture)
  • Here Come the Dreams
  • In the Hear of the Dark
  • Isn’t It Romantic
  • When You Wish Upon a Star
  • A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes
  • On the Steps of the Palace
  • I’ll Buy That Dream
  • Lost in Wonderland
  • My Father / Speaking of Dreams
  • Over the Rainbow / Look to the Rainbow
  • Rainbow Connection
  • Dream a Little Dream of Me

*And she’s just a slip of a thing!  Note to self: get photographed from the back or videoed 360 degrees in future performance ensembles.

Road Report: August: Osage County

April 19, 2008

I’m in NY this weekend.  The ever-wonderful Marianne Glass Miller has promised a report on CHAWbaret, so fear not.

I managed to get a 1/2 price ticket to see August Osage County.  Better yet, I managed to talk and tip my way into a loge seat. (With mon avoirdupoid a crowded orchestra seat often gets a little claustraphobic, especially for a 3-1/2 hour epic).

That said, each hour-plus act of this epic feels like it’s over in 10 minutes.  The play is a hybrid of Checkhov, Welty, and the Simpsons.  And the performances grab you by the throat and every other possible organ and don’t let go.

It’s also been a long time since I’ve heard an audience react as viscerally to a play, not only with laughs, but with gasps and “oohs.”

 My two favorite observations from the show:

A woman saying “If any of us knew what the future had in store for us, we’d never get out of bed.”

The same woman who just lost her father telling her 14 year old daughter, “I don’t care what you do or how else you ruin your life, your main job is to outlive me.  Survive!” 

Stephen Holden on Christopher Cross

April 17, 2008

The NY Times weighs in on the latest exemplar of Baby Boomer cabaret at the Carlye: “Mr. Cross doesn’t articulate words any better today than he did in the old days. Even when he talks, he mumbles. It all makes for pleasant, mildly romantic background music of meager substance.”

Kudos to Arena Stage

April 17, 2008

I’ve gone to Arena-Stage-in-Exile in Crystal City twice in the last few weeks and have to commend them for greatly improving the audience experience from the first time I went there for Ella.  The direction signage was vastly improved and there were volunteers (bless their soles) strategically placed along the route.

In addition, I’ve had shockingly uncharacteristically pleasant experiences the last couple times I’ve dealt with box office staff.  And it seems that the Crystal City exile has forced a change in a long-standing Arena policy.  Subscribers who miss their nights can now get ticket reservations and assignements for their re-scheduled performances, instead of having to get “standing room.”  OK, I’m the subscriber from hell.  If Ron and I get to 30% of scheduled performances in a year, we feel we’re doing well.  And it has always really escaped me why I needed to have “standing room” tickets when the house, espcially the Fichandlere, is 60% empty.  Let’s hope that this policy stays changed when Arena moves back to Southwest!

As for the shows, I enjoyed both A View from the Bridge and Death of a Salesman  more than Post — but I love any chance to watch Nancy Robinette and Naomi Jacobsen in action.  And both shows are of the genre where I think if only these people had access to a week of Dr. Phil.  “Willy, you’re lying to your own wife about how much money you’re bringing in every week.  How’s that working for you?”

Reminder: Go to the CHAWbaret, old chums…

April 16, 2008

CHAWbaret happens this Friday and Saturday night at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop.  Don’t miss the great line-up hosted by Dean Reichard, and featuring Kathy Reilly, Matt Howe, Mary Reilly, Marianne Glass Miller, Justin Ritchie, and Deborah Davidson.

Tickets & Info