Benefit for Jane Pesci-Townsend

June 30, 2009

Not only is Jane Pesci-Townsend one of the most galvanizing forces of nature imaginable as a performer, she is an amazing teacher / director who has inspired legions of performers.  Sadly she’s been battling cancer.  Signature Theater is hosting an all-star fundraiser:

Pesci-Townsend_JaneGive it up for Jane!
On Monday July 13th, Washington’s theatrical community is coming together for a special fundraiser for DC actress Jane Pesci Townsend entitled Give it up for Jane!. Jane has appeared on our stage in Putting It Together and Funny Girl, and teaches in our Overtures program. She has been battling cancer and we want to help with her medical bills and support her on her recovery.

At 8pm on July 13, come to a special cabaret that promises to be fun and crazy – every trait of Jane’s personality! It will be a great time and you can make donations at the buckets at the door. We’re hoping to raise $10,000. The evening features Signature favorites Sherri L. Edelen, Eleasha Gamble, Tracy Lynn Olivera, Matt Conner, Evan Casey, Nick Blaemiere, James Gardiner, Channez & Rob McQuay, plus a number of special guests!

If you are unable to attend but would like to make a donation to help Jane, please send a check to the theatre made out to Signature Theatre with JANE on the memo. Signature will be donating the proceeds from the evening to Jane.

Thanks for everyone’s help and support and let’s all Give it up for Jane!

For more information about this event, please call the Signature Box Office at 703 820 9771.

Stephen Holden on Stephen Pasquale

June 30, 2009

The NYTimes on the crooner: “The relaxed jazz classicism of Mr. Pizzarelli’s quartet made a sympathetic setting for Mr. Pasquale’s gently swinging approach. (The only song to receive any vocal ornamentation — and it was minimal — was “Summertime.”) Larry Fuller, the quartet’s pianist, merits special attention. If you closed your eyes and concentrated on piano solos that flowed as lightly and sweetly as a mountain brook, you could swear he was channeling the musical spirit of one of Billie Holiday’s greatest accompanists, Teddy Wilson.”

Mary Foster Conklin on “Renegade Cabaret”

June 28, 2009

A message from the great Mary Foster Conklin:

Dear Michael –
Hoping that you’re well.  Just wanted to share an article with you about a left of center cabaret venue, featuring an old friend of mine.  The article appeared in yesterday’s NY Times:
Tell your DC pals that if they are up in NYC this summer, to come to the Highline Park at Tenth Avenue and 20th Street around 9pm and definitely check it out.  They’ve got a page on Facebook and a website is coming.  They are looking to expand their performer roster, so don’t be surprised if you hear of a certain singer with a punk past singing the blues on the fire escape very soon.  🙂
Take care.  Best, Mary

And in a later message …

I went last night – it’s truly a New York experience.  Beth is a terrific singer, but also has logged many years as a street performer.  During the Bush years she was part of a group of women called the Missle Dick Chicks, who traveled around the country causing general havoc wherever Republicans roamed free.  This offbeat cabaret venue is the perfect vehicle for her talents.
I’ll be making my debut next Tuesday.  Wish me luck.  mfc

BTW — Thanks also to Alex Tang for sending a copy of this!

Die, Vampire, Die! Workshop

June 27, 2009

Susan BlackwellThe song Die, Vampire, Die! from [title of show] has recently been one of my favorites to sing.  I love the message it has of freeing yourself from the vampires, defined as “any person, thought, or feeling that stands between  you and your creative self-expression.”

Half the team behind [title of show], Susan Blackwell and Hunter Bell,  will be teaching a “Die, Vampire, Die” workshop in Seattle in July  “designed to assist participants in identifying and nurturing the seedlings of ideas through the writing process and into performance. ”

Good for them, and wish I could go!  At least for those of us in the “other” Washington, Signature will be producing [title of show] in their season next year; it will be interesting to see how the dynamic of the show will change when not performed by the people portrayed.

AuditionTrax Singer’s Newsletter

June 27, 2009

Tom Griep of AuditionTrax publishes an interesting monthly newsletter for singers, where each month different theater/music professionals give 10 tips.  I thought this month’s ideas by Joshua Finkel were particularly useful, and easily adapted to the cabaret performer.  Here’s my favorite:

  • Set an audition checklist. Before going into the room and actually before every rehearsal of your number, declare what you want to accomplish in positively phrased goals. Don’t write something like “I won’t be nervous” or “I won’t crack on the high note”. If that weren’t happening, what WOULD be happening? Rephrase it in positives: “I will be calm and energized” or “I will sing the high note with emotional fullness and even breath”. That gives you a positive thing to do, instead of a judgmental or defensive outlook as you prepare.
  • Now isn’t that what we all should be doing to prep for a show?

    When was the last time you called your best friend from grade school?

    June 27, 2009

    Story of My life CoverRon came home from a long car trip (without me) and started talking about a couple of his friends that he had lost contact with and resolvied to atone for that.  I knew he must have listened to the copy of The Story of My Life that was in the car.

    The show basically tells the story of two friends who meet as quirky children and develop a life-long friendship that ends in unfortunate drift.

    The CD is an excercise in pure charm, featuring terrific performances by Malcolm Getz and Will chase.  Ben Brantley’s review of the show in the NYTimes was not what one would call positive.  And what is personal and touching when played on an iPod directly into your head may very well be unbearable on-stage.

    However, this show has a plethora of material just waiting to be exploted on the cabaret stage — Justin Ritchie, The Butterfly is waiting for you!

    BTW, Ron keeps listening to the CD in the car.

    Looped at Arena

    June 26, 2009

    loopedMy very patient subscription partner and I finally saw Looped at Arena Stage last Wednesday.  The play features Valerie Harper of Rhoda fame as Tallulah Bankhead.

    The playwright, Matthew Lombardo, extracts an episode from the Bankhead legend in which it took hours for the actress to dub (aka “loop”) a single line of dialogue from her final movie, Die, Die, My Darling, as the basis of the evening.  The first act feels like the playwright took the Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations entries for Bankhead and strung them together with as little connective tissue as he could get away with.  However, considering that Bankhead was probably the second most quotable woman of the 20th Century after Dorothy Parker, it is at least an entertaining strategy.

    The second act of the play feels oddly disjointed in the theater, as Looped seems to re-focus on the film editor working with Bankhead.  It becomes a somewhat pedestrian coming-out tale, with the Bankhead character becoming a Dr. Phil*-esque mentor to our closeted film editor.  I have to admit that in the theater, my reactions to both acts had an undertone of “haven’t we seen this before?” to them.  However, at a distance, I wonder if the playwright has an interesting point about the fact that the example of outrageous icons openly living their lives is what has allowed gay men to get out of their closets and live their own lives. 

    There have been a number of bio-plays of Bankhead there have been over the years; actresses portraying her on stage include Tovah Feldshuh, Helen Gallagher, and Kathleen Turner.  And why not?  It gives an actress of a certain age a chance to chew to swan around in a glamorous gown, drink, smoke and chew the (presumably low-carb) scenery.  Harper makes one forget Rhoda about 10 seconds into the role, and does an amazing job of driving the show. 

    And speaking of the scenery, Adrian Jones’s set has one very nifty effect that I was glad to see repeated in Act II.   

    And I have to admit that while I was being a little poopy during the play, the audience around me was enthralled.  Which actually tended to increase my poopiness.

    *I wish I could take credit for this observation, but it belongs to Peter Marks in his review of the show.

    Save me a seat at The Elephant Man: The Musical

    June 26, 2009


    It must be summer, the Fringe Festival is almost here!!!  Ticketing for the festival is now open.

    As always, Fringe provides a staggering array of performances choices.   Most of the productions are best approached with an open mind and a split of champagne.  But if you can muster both, you can have a lot of fun!

    Stephen Holden on Diana Krall

    June 25, 2009

    The NYTimes on the jazzstress at Carnegie Hall: “The concert’s somber mood was interrupted by some moments of hard swing (“ ’Deed I Do” and “I Love Being Here With You,” the latter prefaced by an extended stride piano solo) in which Ms. Krall’s emphasis on vocal sound over verbal elucidation was even more pronounced. Yes, on one level, Ms. Krall is a middle-of-the-road pop-jazz diva. But just below the surface lies an interpreter who is talking to herself in a private language that is all about rhythm.”

    Sad Callaway News

    June 25, 2009

    John Callaway, father of cabaret stars Liz Callaway and Ann Hampton Callaway, died Tuesday.  Callaway was a Chicago press legend who also performed two autobiographical solo shows.