From U Street to the Cotton Club

April 22, 2009

cottonclub0451Here’s info on the other In Series piece at Source:

Friday, April 17 at 8pm
Saturday, April 18 at 8pm
Thursday, April 23 at 7:30pm
Saturday, April 25 at 8pm
Sunday, April 26** at 3pm –
OUT at In Series! for the GLBT community
Thursday, April 30 at 7:30pm
Friday, May 1* at 7:30pm
Sunday, May 3* at 2:30pm

At Source: 1835 14th St. NW – Washington DC 20009
U Street-Cardozo Metro (Green line), 13th St. exit.
Street parking is possible. Paid parking garages available
.Stories of pain and triumph, revealed through immortal songs (and some dance and poetry) of the jazz age.

 

“Take the A-Train” from DC’ thriving music scene on U St. to the roaring nightlife of the most famous of Harlem clubs—from True Reformers to the Cotton Club, the joint will most definitely be jumpin’! Storyline by Sybil R. Williams.
Cast: Detra Battle, Michelle Rogers, Pam Ward, Brian Q. Thorne and Stanley Webber. Directed by KenYatta Rogers and Stanley Thurston heading the Jazz trio from the piano, with Rudy Gonzalez on Sax and Nelson Alvarez on Drums.
Lighting: Marianne Meadows; Costumes: Donna Breslin
Set: Osbel Susman-Peña; Choreography: Angelisa Gillyard


Beverly Cosham at Germano’s Friday Night

April 22, 2009

BEVERLY COSHAM will appear at GERMANO’S in Baltimore’s Little Italy at  300 S. High St, Baltimore, MD  on Friday, April 24th at 7:30 p.m.  Ms. COSHAM will perform songs from the Great American Songbook as well as music from some new composers who are destined to one day be included.  This concert will also feature material from Ms. COSHAM’s latest CD, How Do You Keep the Music Playing?

BEVERLY has always admired the effect JOHNNY MATHIS has on an audience.  For this concert she will focus on songs of love and passion meant to touch the heart.  So, if you are in the mood or want to get in the mood, come join Ms. COSHAM accompanied by the fantastic MARY SUGAR on piano.  Come and share this evening with someone you love.

For more information, directions, and reservations call GERMANO”S, at 410-752-4515.


More Kabarett…

April 22, 2009

Layout 1 (Page 1)News from Sally Martin….

Hello friends,

I’m happy to report that The In Series’ “Berliner Kabarett” at the Source Theater has been drawing packed houses and will add two more Sunday night shows to the run:

Upcoming performances:

Friday, April 24 at 8pm
Saturday, April 25 at 3pm
Sunday, April 26 at 7:30 pm (added)

Saturday, May 2, at 8pm
Sunday, May 3, at 7:30 pm (added)

Reserve NOW as seating is VERY LIMITED!

For tickets and info, call 202-204-7763, or visit http://www.inseries.org

 For the thrifty among you, I noticed that Goldstar has 1/2 price tix for the weekend.


Songs of Bernadette

April 20, 2009

Slick.

Slick. Slick. Slick. Slick. Slick.

But in a good way.

I saw Bernadette Peters’s concert at Strathmore Sunday afternoon, and it was a terrific demonstration of what a large scale concert can and should be.  There was a 30+ piece orchestra, amazing lighting, perfect sound, a terrific line-up of songs and a canny, hugely-talented performer.

To answer the first question 3 people asked me: From row K she looked amazing.  She was in a sequined champagne, bias-cut chemise dress, slit high on the leg with an abundant display of milky-white shoulder and generous décolletage. The hair was its usual profusion of red tendrils.  And a forehead that was capable of motion.  All belying the 61 years claimed by her Wikipedia profile.

Peters’s concert also showed exquisite attention to detail.  She sang an effective lineup that gave us Peters the vamp (Fever and Nothing Like a Dame), the contemplative soul (Shenandoah, Not a Day Goes By), the passionate inamorata (Johanna, Some Enchanted Evening), and the clown (You Could Drive a Person Crazy).  Her patter was well constructed with a spontaneous feel.  And not only did she “own” the stage, it felt like she owned the audience, concert hall, parking lot and a good section of Rockville Pike.

One of the best things about her performance is that Peters knows how to space effects and constantly give different portions of herself.  She is generally able to create amazing energy and focus standing stock-still and intensely delivering a song.  A song with a large ending is followed by a song that fades gently away.  A song using the full power of her orchestra is followed by a spare piano arrangement.   All accompanied by glorious lighting and perfect sound. 

My only quibble with her Peters as a performer is that when she uses a microphone stand, she tends to set it about two inches higher than I would prefer, blocking a good part of her face.  Interestingly, when holding the mike in her hand, she tends to hold it lower.  On the other hand, while I have seen other performers effectively roll on top of a piano, Peters is the first I’ve seen to bring her own pillow – a large black number – to help in the exercise.

The orchestra sounded superb, under the music direction of Marvin Laird.  As a nice touch, key instrumental soloists were acknowledged by Peters after individual songs and literally spotlighted (slick, slick, slick).  And as a special touch, one of the drummers was Cubby O’Brien, one of the original Mouseketeers from the Mickey Mouse Club.

Peters’s eleven-o’clock number was a version of With So Little to Be Sure of aimed as a thank-you to her audience, followed by Children Will Listen and Being Alive as the closer.  After an appropriate milking of her well-deserved standing ovation, Peters did a perfectly timed run-off and returned for her encore.  Introducing it as the companion song to her children’s book Broadway Barks, Peters sang Kramer’s Song as a benediction of love to her audience, ending 75 minutes that were sincere, yes slick, and well-nigh a perfect concert experience. 

Here’s the song line-up:

  • Let Me Entertain You
  • No One is Alone
  • There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame
  • Fever
  • No More
  • Some Enchanted Evening
  • Shenandoah
  • When You Wish Upon a Star / A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes
  • Johanna
  • Not a Day Goes By
  • You Could Drive a Person Crazy
  • With So Little to Be Sure Of / Children Will Listen
  • Move On
  • Being Alive
  • Kramer’s Song (encore)

Keeping up with the busy Jennifer Blades

April 20, 2009

A Piano and a Microphone: What More Do I Need? 
Songs of (mostly) Sondheim 
Featuring the Peabody Cabaret Class 
 
Cabaret artist Jennifer Blades is joined by students of the inaugural Cabaret Class at the Peabody Institute in a show filled with (mostly) songs of the great Stephen Sondheim. Featuring vocalists Stephanie Miller, Britt Olsen-Ecker, Sarah Mahon, James Parks, Lizz Dow, Lindsay Thompson, Laura Reaper, Elizabeth Cooper, Maggie Finnegan, Jeff Williams, Jennifer Hamilton, and Marisa del Campo with pianist Yoohee Shin. 
 
Thursday, April 23, 7:30 pm (Doors open at 6 pm) 
Cabaret at Germano’s 
$10 cover/$15 minimum food and drink 
www.germanostrattoria.com 
 
Wednesday, May 6, 7:30 pm 
An die Musik 
$12 general admission/$5 students 
www.andiemusiklive.com 
 
****** 
 
Life, Love & Laughter 
Jennifer Blades, vocals 
James Harp, piano 
 
Join Baltimore music scene favorites Jennifer Blades and James Harp as they weave stories of life, love and laughter with songs from Kurt Weill’s Americana. From the ever-popular September Song and Speak Low to lesser known beauties such as O, Heart of Love and Is It Him or Is It Me, this intimate evening of song promises to bring a tear to your eye and put a smile on your face. 
 
Thursday, June 11, 7:30 pm (Doors open at 6 pm) 
Cabaret at Germano’s 
$10 cover/$15 minimum food and drink 
www.germanostrattoria.com 
 


A Breath of Spring on Capitol Hill

April 19, 2009

I went to the Corner Store on Capitol Hill last night and saw Spring Is, a lovely cabaret with Kathy Reilly, Mary Reilly, and Barry Abel. 

The trio saluted songs dealing with spring in its many guises and did a fascinating job presenting different facets of spring in song.  And it was really fun to be presented with songs that have a surprise spring mentions such as Fun to Be Fooled.

The performers had a lovely ease, charm and commitment to their material.  The evening was truly a breath of spring, perfectly suited to the spring weather DC has finally been blessed with.

Here’s the set list:

  • Hurry It’s Lovely Up Here (Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane) — All
  • It’s Anybody’s Spring (Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen) — All
  • They Say It’s Spring (Marty Clarke and Bob Haymes) — Kathy
  • Will You?  (Michael Korie and Scott Frankel) / You Must Believe in Spring (Alan and Marilyn Bergman and Michel Legrand) — Kathy
  • Nouvelle Cuisine  (Billie Barnes) — Kathy
  • Waters of March (Antonio Carlos Jobim) – Kathy & Barry
  • I Love You (Cole Porter) – Mary
  • Fun to Be Fooled (Harold Arlen, Ira Gershwin, E.Y. Harburg ) — Mary
  • Chapel of Love (Phil Spector, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry) / L-O-V-E (Bert Kaempfert and Milt Gabler) / Married (John Kander and Fred Ebb) —   Arrangement by James Fitzpatrick — Mary
  • It’s All in Your Mind (Charles La Vere) — Barry
  • Joy Spring (John Hendrix and Clifford Brown) — all
  • Windmills of Your Mind (Alan and Marilyn Bergman and Michel Le Grand) – Kathy
  • A Fine Spring Morning (Bob Haymes) – Kathy
  • April in Paris (E.Y. Harburg and Vernon Duke) – Mary / C’est Si Bon (Andre Hornez and Henri Nett) – Kathy
  • Spring, Spring, Spring (Johnny Mercer and Gene de Paul) – All

Follies in Arlington

April 19, 2009

Follies and Merrily We Roll Along are probably my two favorite musicals to see in a theater, so it was terrific to have a chance to see the Arlington Players version of Follies Friday night.

For those who don’t know the piece, the show takes place in the early 70’s in the about-to-be-torn-down theater of the Weisman Follies, at a reunion of performer from the Weisman Follies – popular in the inter-war period.  The action of the show focuses on two couples returning to the party.  The women were chorus girls in the Follies; the men were stage-door-Johnnies. 

The drama of the life of these two couples plays against the backdrop of colorful characters at the reunion.  It also gives Sondheim the opportunity to present both searing character songs such as In Buddy’s Eyes and Too Many Mornings and pastiche numbers such as Broadway Baby and I’m Still Here.  In a riveting coup de theatre at the end, the character and pastiche numbers combine — the show becomes a “Follies” with each main character having a “numbo” summing up their situation.  Oh yeah, inevitably ghosts of all the former selves haunt the theater and the show.

The Arlington Players version of this complex piece has much to recommend it.  There are a bunch of terrific performances on stage.  Lynn Audrey Neal gives Phyllis, the acerbic self-made chorus girl turned political wife, a special sense of humor and vulnerability under her toughness, and seems incapable of setting a foot or note wrong on stage.  Jack Stein does a great job of portraying Buddy as a loser without crossing the line into “pathetic loser” (all to easy for the role).  Deborah Davidson, Liz Weber, and Barbara Parker have great moments respectively belting out those Sondheim gems Broadway Baby, Who’s That Woman, and I’m Still Here.  And there’s a lot of talent in the smaller roles: the actors playing the younger ghosts of the principals (Alison Block, Jennifer Diffel, Bill Walker, Juan Rodriguez) are superb; and Ashley Edmiston and Karen Toth shine in cameo moments.

The production is visually handsome, and the transformations in and out of the critical Loveland scenes are well handled.  The show requires a lot of costumes and they generally look terrific, although Ben’s suit seemed strangely ill-fitted and Phyllis’s gown desperately needed ironing.

In the costume land, this was the first production of Follies I’ve ever seen that avoided one of my pet costume peeves for the show.  In Who’s That Woman, the number is obviously structured as star with chorus backup.  This is the first production of the show I’ve seen that had the sense to put the Stella ghost character in a “star” costume rather than dress her like the rest of the ghost chorus!  Hurray!

Director Christopher Dykton also brought fascinating solutions to two other moments in the show.   Interestingly, he has the Vincent and Vanessa dance number start in the middle of social dancing at the party.  Also, he stages The Story of Lucy and Jessie with two chorus girls flanking Phyllis, making it beyond a doubt to the audience that when Phyllis is singing about “Lucy” and “Jessie” she is singing about young and present Phyllis; I can’t tell you the number of people (many of whom were self-described) who have insisted to me that “Lucy” and “Jessie” represent Sally and Phyllis.

The biggest problem with a community theater production of Follies is that the vehicle was written for “stars.”  By that, I mean performers with whom the audience has a pre-existing relationship.  The original production of the show in 1971 featured glamorous vintage film stars such as Alexis Smith and Yvonne DeCarlo, Dorothy Collins who was a  mainstay on Your Hit Parade, and even Ethel Shutta, a veteran of the Ziegfield Follies.  Subsequent commercial version have trotted out the likes of Ann Miller, Eartha Kitt, and JoAnne Worley. The first ten minutes of the show are structured to give the audience a chance to be introduced to the stars not once, but twice.  Similarly, the four principals in the show behave so callously onstage, that without doses of personal goodwill for the performers, it is easy for the audience to be alienated by the characters’ actions.  So without a pre-established personal connection to much of the cast, the first bit of the show seemed a little draggy, and though the other roles were wonderfully sung and acted, it was hard for me to feel any sympathy for the principals other than Phyllis.

But the great part of Follies is that the show is so complex, that it defies the perfect production.  Yet it has so much great material, such sweep and grandeur that any production gives a lot to enjoy.  And the Arlington Players score in many key aspects.

By the way, for those of you looking for a great read, Everything Was Possible, a backstage look a the original production of Follies, is one of the most entertaining theater books I’ve ever read.


Classic Rock with Susan Werner

April 18, 2009

SUSAN WERNER: ClassicsReaders of this blog know that I revere Susan Werner and am awestruck by her talent as a performer and a writer.  Plus I am extremely grateful for the terrific interview she did for this blog.

In Werner’s latest project, Classics, she has taken a number of classic 60’s & 70’s rock songs, and is performing them in string quartet arrangements.  As the publicity for the CD says, “Werner invites listeners to enjoy the surprising connections between pop and classical music by incorporating the occasional quotation from the world of classical music into these arrangements.”

All the tracks are musically adept, well thought through, and beautifully and intelligently performed.   

So I am assuming that the fact that this recording leaves me totally cold has more to do with me than Werner’s work.  It seems to me that it takes a lot of talent to take this broad selection of disparate material and push them through a filter so they seem to have an amazing sameness.  And as with Jim Van Slyke’s Sedaka show, it could be that since I don’t have an inherent appreciation of the source material, I may be missing much of the brilliance of Werner’s work. 

This did strike me, though, as great dinner party music. 

1 Lonely People
2 Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)
3 The Wind
4 Waiting In Vain
5 A Hazy Shade of Winter
6 Turn Turn Turn
7 All In Love Is Fair
8 Maybe I’m Amazed
9 Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
10 I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times

Reminder — Spring songs with the Reillys and Barry Abel Saturday night

April 17, 2009

dpring-is1


Stephen Holden on Maud Maggart

April 17, 2009

The NYTimes reviews the singer, currently appearing at the Algonquin.  How many review of Maggart have used the phrase “a little girl playing dress-up” ?  (At least this one didn’t feel the need to reference her as “Fiona Apple’s sister.”)