Brent Barrett at the Kennedy Center

June 30, 2008
The sensational Mary Sugar attended Brent Barrett’s show, Bernstein on Broadway, at the Kennedy Center.  This was the last show in this year’s Barbara Cook Spotlight Series. (The series was sold out this year, next year’s series – Rebecca Luker, Betty Buckley, Liz Callaway, Victoria ClarkJason Danieley & Marin Mazzie —  looks great.) 
Mary was kind enough to send this report:

          The show was absolutely fantastic!  Brent Barrett has a fantastic baritone ranging from tender moments to soaring high notes that seem to sail.  He also has a comfortable stage presence and was terrific at engaging the audience throughout the evening.  He didn’t hold back at all!
          The show was a tribute to the work of Leonard Bernstein and was a well-crafted mix of well-known and lesser-known songs.  There was a chunk from Mass,  appropriate since it was written for the opening of the Kennedy Center.  Barrett said that Bernstein had given him his first big break in New York, originally casting him as Diesel and then promoting him to Tony during the run of the 70’s revival of West Side Story.  Chris Denny, his music director (who also was influenced by Bernstein early in his career), told a great story – he was on the phone with Bernstein and mentioned that he had just been playing a particular Bernstein song.  Bernstein’s response was “Yeah, it’s pretty isn’t it?”
          When he started into the song I Am Easily Assimilated from Candide, I thought it was an odd choice, but it turned into a great comic number.  The highlight of the show was Make Our Garden Grow.  Everything came out of his guts and erupted little by little into the crescendo — who needs a chorus?

          Bernie Blanks joined Barrett for the On The Town medley, and Chris Denny (whose work on Barret’s Alan Jay Lerner CD I’ve always admired) provided inventive arrangements.


Set list —
  • Tonight
  • Something’s Coming
  •  Lucky to be Me,New York, New York, Gabey’s Coming to Town, Lonely Town
  • I Am Easily Assimilated
  • Return to Westphalia
  • Ballad of el dorado
  • A Little Bit in Love / It’s Love
  • I Love My Wife
  • Dream with Me (Accomp himself)
  • Simple Song
  • Gloria Tibi
  • I Go On
  • Take Care of this House / Somewhere
  • Wrong Note Rag
  • There is a Garden / Make Our Garden Grow
  • Some Other Time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A message from Dennis Livingston…

June 30, 2008

Here’s a message from songwriter Dennis Livingston — be sure to visit his site. Some really great material here (as Beverly Cosham has already found).

Hello. I’d like to call your attention to several new songs posted at my website (dennislivingston.com) for your consideration, as well as other news from the past year.

First, now you can hear my songs and read their lyrics more easily than ever. At the top of my home page, a prominent link takes you to the Songs page, where you need only click on the Play This Song or Read The Lyrics buttons placed beneath each title to do just that. The performance information (length, key, range, “about” the song) I list for each piece is still there; if you want to read it, click on the title for the song.

Another more personal change is that last summer I joined the Board of Directors of the Boston Association of Cabaret Artists (BACA), where I now handle the group’s website content and publicity. A bunch of new directors and strong leadership has reinvigorated BACA this year; if you’re curious what we’re up to, take a look at our newsletter, “Boston Cabaret,” available for download by anyone at the BACA website (bostoncabaret.com).

My work continues to be performed in the US and abroad, including a premiere performance last year by Stephen Miles of “If I Could Tell You,” set to a poem by Auden, at a festival honoring his centenary at the grade school Auden attended in England. I seem to have a growing outpost in San Francisco, where Lua Hadar (whose 2005 recording of “It’s Time For Roses” on her CD, IT’S ABOUT TIME, continues to draw attention), Vandana Bali and Tory Agardi have done my work in local venues. In May, Dane Vannatter performed my collaboration with Bob Levy (more below) at the NY Sheet Music Society. Later that month, four Boston singers presented a half-hour showcase of my work at BACA’s first Cabaret Songwriters Showcase.

The latest additions to my site include the first fruits of a number of collaborations now in progress:

1. SOONER THAN SOMEDAY, words by Bob Levy, a prolific songwriter of country and jazz material whose work was recently honored by an all-star cast in a New York showcase.

This danceable rumba provides the backdrop for the frustrated musings of someone impatient for a friendship to become something more. Vocals by Dane Vannatter.

2. I WANT IT ALL BACK, words by Los Angeles singer-songwriter-actor Trent Walker.

This is a soulful, blues number with a moderate swing tempo about the longing to restore an affair or a marriage that’s ended. It’s given a powerful R&B treatment by vocalist Gordon Michaels.

3. THE PATH TO MY KINGDOM, set to a c.1850 Shaker text by Polly Ann Reed.

And now for something completely different. Years ago, I wrote down the words contained in a Shaker “spirit” drawing by a leader of the Mt. Lebanon, NY, community and recently set them to an original tune. The hymn-like song has already been performed in several churches and is an obvious candidate for shows in the holiday season or for any performer who wants to go beyond the usual cabaret fare. Vocals by Jinny Sagorin.

4. SUCH A CURIOUS FEELING, words and music by myself.

Do I ever write anything, like, funny? Of course! But you know that if it’s a song about love, there’s going to be some offbeat twist. Here a nerdy type ponders, to a bossa beat, how he could be the victim of that curious feeling which neuroscience tells us is only a matter of chemicals. Vocals by Phil Kassel.

As always, sheet music is available in any key, upon request, as are MP3s or CDs of any of my songs with vocals or without (piano track only).


They’ve been saying it since “Hair”…

June 28, 2008

… but maybe it’s true.  Maybe the cast album finally goes “pop.”  Here’s what the NYTimes has to say.


Sad News From St. Louis…

June 28, 2008

The great Chuck Lavazzi from St. Louis reports that their lovely cabaret venue, Savor, has closed.  Let’s hope that as with the Razz Room opening in San Francisco after the closing of the Plush Room, something lovely takes its place.

Deb Peterson broke the story in the Post-Dispatch earlier today and Chris Gibson, who went to review Elsie Parker tonight, confirmed it: Savor is closing its doors after tomorrow night’s Debby
Lennon/Carolbeth True show.

Chris said Jim Dolan wasn’t there tonight and the woman who was doing the seating apparently had no idea that he was there on comps to review the show and tried to hit him up for $17.50 a pop for the tickets.

This is pretty awful news for the cabaret scene locally. Savor was the best all-around cabaret room in town. I went to the press preview for the Kranzberg Center Wednesday and while their cabaret space is promising, the seating will need to be planned properly if it’s going to work at all. I have no idea whether they’re going to do that or not.

Jim Dolan was apparently caught flat-footed by this. His web site is still advertising shows through August 23rd. It looks like Savor made the decision very abruptly.

Chuck Lavazzi
“You’ll PAY to know what you REALLY think!” – J. R. “Bob” Dobbs
http://www.pobox.com/~thedogehttp://www.stageleft.org
Blog and podcast at: http://stageleft-stlouis.blogspot.com
Blog at http://technologycurmudgeon.blogspot.com


Stephen Holden on Sheera Ben-David

June 27, 2008

The NY Times on the act currently at the Algonquin: “Cole Porter’s “Too Darn Hot” opposite Billy Barnes’s barroom torch song, “Something Cool”: Sheera Ben-David, a theatrically savvy performer with a strong, steady voice, places these standards side by side in her seasonal cabaret show, “Come Summer,” at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel.”


Broadway at Pops

June 26, 2008

Broadway's Best at PopsI just watched this new compilation over the weekend.  It’s an anthology of Broadway stars doing theatrical material that had been televised in Boston Pops concerts over the years. 

It really is thrilling to see old video footage of Ethel Merman and Ben Vereen.  And it’s amazing how many video clips there are of Barbara Cook doing Losing My Mind. And I wonder if theater-lovers 30 years from now will thrill to the clips of Kristen Chenowith doing Glitter and Be Gay or Audra McDonald doing Mr. Snow with the same revereance and nostalgia?


Gypsy Preview

June 24, 2008

My dear friend Jim just sent me a preview CD of Patti LuPone’s Gypsy (it’s available at the St. James Theater for those people who pre-order the full CD, scheduled for an August release).

All I have to say is Wow!  I can’t wait for the full release!!!