Go see a show !!!

June 7, 2011

Part of what got me back to the blog is that there’s such a plethora of great stuff happening in the next week or so that I would feel bad if people weren’t aware of it!

Broadway Duets at Signature Theatre

Signature closes its cabaret season with a program featuring Felicia Curry, James Gardiner, Jake Odmark and Bayla Whitten (6/7 – 6/12).

An Evening with Julie Halston

The Atlas Theater presents that funny lady who has creating so many enduring characters in Charles Busch plays as well as inspiring so many students at the Cabaret Conference at Yale.  (Thursday, June 9)


Sing Books with Emily, the Cabaret

The amazing Emily Everson does the adult version of her Sing Books with Emily gig at Maggie’s Cabaret (Friday, June 10)

 Mary Reilly in Here We Are at Last

Mary finally makes her long-awaited solo cabaret debut at Germano’s with music direction by the great Christopher Denny and direction by the amazing Barry Kleinbort. (Sunday,  June 12)

Two Guys: A New Cabaret of Songs By Mark Braswell

Local songwriter Mark Braswell has his work sung by Ryan Burke and Sam Ludwig with a special guest appearance by Jacqueline Grabois with music direction by Alex Tang at the Black Fox Lounge (Sun June 12/ Monday June 18)

And the list above doesn’t even include Side by Side by Sondheim or Follies!

She Wasn’t Just Whistling Dixie

March 16, 2010

OK, color me shocked an appalled.  At her show last night, Penny Fuller, with no special set-up, launched into a lovely two-verse version of Dixie.  After the song, she continued on without comment to I Got a Name.

Now, maybe I was particularly sensitized to the issue by my great friend and musical mentor Carl Barnwell who refused to play the song in a piano bar setting.  I’ve always put the song in the area of symbols like the Confederate Flag, the Horst Wessel Song, and swastikas that are radioactive and need to be treated with caution.

I know I have an odd combination of being both highly “politically correct” while having an enormous willingness to be offensive in my work.  (I think the balance makes sense because I never want to  offend anyone inadvertently.)  But I thought this callous disregard for how freighted the material is was shocking both from Fuller who spent much of the show discussing her Southerness and from director Barry Kleinbort. 

I had a similar icky moment in the last couple of months.  In a show, a performer discussed his move to college in Indiana after growing up in New York as the first time he ever experienced anti-Semitism.  He then discussed how popular culture created many of these stereotypes.  He then launched into the Irving Berlin song Cohen Owes Me $97 Dollars about a Jewish man who on his deathbed feels the need to communicate the list of monies owed him to his son.  However, he performed the song in a way that expected the audience to genuinely laugh, which everyone else did.  I personally thought it was a very dirty “gotcha” routine to set people up to actually make anti-Semitism appealing.

OK, maybe I’m overly sensitive.  Would love hearing feedback!

The AMAZING Karen Mason

April 24, 2008

Right Here / Right NowKaren Mason’s new CD, Right Here, Right Now is easily the best cabaret CD I’ve heard in 2008, if not farther back.*  Mason is an incredibly talented performer with an amazing instrument and a large “toolbox” of technique that support her artistic endeavors. 

The CD is a mixture of songs she has been performing for a while and never recorded as well as new material.  It features two terrific songs written by her very talented husband Paul Rolnick, Like the Heavens Hold the Stars and the title song.  Rolnick is also one of the top recording engineers in New York, and the sound quality on the CD, especially given Mason’s rangy voice and tendency toward extreme dynamic effects, shows another side of his talents.

Highlights of this CD include a passionate medley of Help and Being Alive; a reading of Hurry! It’s Lovely Here totally infused with joy; and a rousing Get Happy, including the rarely-heard intro. When reading the track list, I was frankly puzzled by the selection of Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, but this trip veering into “lounge” is utterly charming and committed.

One rarely hears a CD with this consistent level of quality; there are no weak links in the song selections.  And much of this is due to the high level of talent in “team Mason” — amazing concepts by Barry Kleinbort supported by arrangements and piano work by the extraordinary Christopher Denny.  His solo piano on “As If We Never Said Goodby” makes one wonder why Lord Lloyd Webber felt the need for a whole orchestra for his show.

And speaking of Sunset Blvd, that track is a somewhat interesting historic document. Mason was the principal standby for Norma Desmond for most of the Broadway run of Sunset Blvd.  And she has been the only major Broadway, London, tour, German, or Australian Norma not to record some portion of the role.  (Danielle Ziegler, Helen Schneider’s replacement in Frankfurt has her own CD of Sunset highlights for heaven’s sake!) So this is a must-have recording for Andrew Lloyd Webber completists.  By the way, (my partner) Ron got choked up when he first heard this version. 

One of the things I like most most about Team Mason’s work is the thought they put in her arrangements.  Of course, they totally fit Mason and balance her artistic goals with her specific talents.  However while nothing is totally outrageous, they are distinct and often take an original approach to the material.  It would be very clear if another performer was trying to sing the Mason version of a song, the way it is very obvious when an accompanist became Wally Harper-esque for any singer but Barbara Cook.  And even Cook’s arrangements, while lovely, have certainly been amazingly bland post-Harper — if you disagree, just compare their versions of Hurry! It’s Lovely Up Here!**

Here’s the track list:

1. All That Jazz
2. Secret Love
3. Like The Heavens Hold The Stars
4. Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend
5. Help/Being Alive
6. Hurry! It’s Lovely Here
7. Make Someone Happy
8. Right Here, Right Now
9. Get Happy
10. As If We Never Said Goodbye
11. Everything Old Is New Again
12. Look For The Silver Lining

* Ron’s amazing CD, Haunted Heart doesn’t count.

**  OK, one criticism of the CD — the case lists Hurry! It’s Lovely Up Here! as “Hurry! It’s Lovely Here”

Road Report — Francesca Amari

November 26, 2007

Apologies to anyone logging in over the weekend and not getting an update.  I was on the road, reports follow. 

It was great to see Francesca Amari’s show at the Metropolitan Room.  In the interest of full disclosure, Francesca and I were at “cabaret camp” at Perry-Mansfield together, so I was really rooting for her.  And she didn’t disappoint!  Francesca’s show has a theme of “guilty pleasure” songs.  Francesca has a delightfully fizzy stage persona, and terrific vocal chops.  The show itself was directed by the great Barry Kleinbort and music directed by Chris Denney (now also “beat boxing”), so it was musically and structurally seamless. 

One of the best things that Francesca demonstrated in this show is that anything can be “cabaret” material –it’s an approach and commitment that can make any material work.  And the showed stayed in the cabaret and didn’t ever slip into the “lounge.”  And the biggest compliment in doing this material – the performance and the arrangements were so compelling that nobody thought of singing along to the very familiar material because they were so interested in what Francesca would do with it.  The songs she was singing may have been chestnuts, but Francesca made them into marrons glaces!

 It was great to see the support of the Perry-Mansfield crowd at the show for Francesca – the great Andrea Marcovicci and Shelly Markham were at the show (before having to do two shows of their own that night), and the wonderful David Gaines and Brandon Cutrell were also there.Here’s her set list:

  • I’VE HEARD THAT SONG BEFORE (Cahn/Styne) / ONE OF THOSE SONGS (Holt (Eng. Lyric)/Calvi)

  • WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL (Edwards/Raliegh)

  • CHANCES ARE (Allen/Stillman)

  • LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER (Sedaka/Greenfield)

  • BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO (Sedaka/Greenfield)

  • FAME (Pitchford/Gore) / OUT HERE ON MY OWN (Gore/Gore)

  • THAT’S AMORE (Brooks/Warren) / VOLARE (Migliacci/Modugno)
  • WHERE THE BOYS ARE (Sedaka/Greenfield)

  • KING OF THE ROAD (Miller)

  • I HONESTLY LOVE YOU (Allen/Barry)

  • RAINY DAYS AND MONDAYS (Williams/Nichols) / RAINDROPS KEEP FALLIN’ (David/Bacharach) / I GO TO RIO (Allen/Anderson) / BLAME IT ON THE BOSSA NOVA (Mann/Weil) / COPACABANA (Sussman & Feldman/Manilow)
  • A SONG FOR YOU (Russell)


  • Encore: SING (Raposo)