Jenna's Two Cents Blog   
Website: JennaEsposito.com   

Friday, September 29, 2006

TGIF!

Hey, Happy Friday everyone! Hope it's been a great week...I've had a pretty busy week, myself. On Monday night, I went to Cast Party, as usual, and then on Tuesday night, I went to the Coffeehouse tribute to Joni Mitchell at the D-Lounge. What a great show! It featured a number of fabulous entertainers, including Brandon Cutrell, Baby Jane Dexter, Lisa Asher, Liz McCartney, and Tim DiPasqua. One of the great things about Joni's songs are the stories they tell, and on Tuesday night, they were in the hands of some pretty terrific storytellers, so it was a really wonderful time. Last night, I was in my friend Ryan Jons' show at the Duplex. The title of the show was "Random" and random, it was - in the best sense of the word! Ryan has assembled a musical notebook featuring a variety of songs and styles, as well as a really interesting variety of performers. I'll keep you posted on future performances.
Tonight, I'm heading to the After Party at the Laurie Beechman Theater. It starts at 10:30, and is a really fun, high-energy open mike. Tomorrow, I'm planning to see Kate Loitz at the Duplex for her show, A Tasty Piece of Kate...then Sunday, I'm taking a night off from cabaret-going, which brings us back to Monday and Cast Party! Also, before Cast Party on Monday, I'm planning to catch the 7:00 show at Birdland, which is going to be featuring the music of Deborah Abramson. I've heard some of Deborah's music before, when it was featured at the Laurie Beechman as part of the "New Mondays" series, and I loved it! On Monday, it's going to be performed by an all-star lineup including Manoel Feliciano (Sweeney Todd, Tony nominee), Megan Lawrence (Pajama Game, Tony nominee), Sally Wilfert (Assassins, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer), Michael Winther (Drama Desk nominee for Songs from an Unmade Bed), and more! I can't wait to see it!
Before I sign off, let me remind you that one week from tonight, I'll be at the Laurie Beechman in my show I Hate Men: Songs for the Scorned! It is SUCH a fun show, and we're doing some fabulous songs - I would really, really appreciate your support! I'll also be there the following Friday (October 13th). Both shows are at 9 p.m. Hope to see you there!
Have a terrific weekend!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Happy Tuesday

Well, my week's off to a great start. It was a fun Cast Party last night, with Billy Stritch at the piano and Steve Doyle on bass and some terrific talent like Christine Lavin, Lodi Carr, Sue Matsuki, and Maureen Taylor. Tonight, I'm headed over to the D-Lounge for their Coffeehouse series, which is featuring the songs of Joni Mitchell this evening. It starts at 7 p.m. and promises to be a good show - the talent lineup includes Brandon Cutrell, Lisa Asher, Baby Jane Dexter, Sarajean Davenport and a number of other fabulous entertainers - I'm really looking forward to it!Thursday night is my final performance in Random at the Duplex. The show features some great talent (if I do say so myself!) and some absolutely gorgeous music. It's the brainchild of my friend Ryan Jons, and is definitely worth checking out.Friday will find me at the After Party at the Laurie Beechman. The After Party is a really fun open mike, hosted by Brandon Cutrell. For various reasons, I haven't been able to go for a few months, so I'm looking forward to returning on Friday. It starts at 10:30, and winds up around 1:30 or 2. Saturday, I'll be heading back to the Duplex to see Kate Loitz in her final performance of A Tasty Piece of Kate. I haven't seen it yet, but I've heard really good things about it...So that, my friends, is my week in a nutshell. Will try to keep you updated on what I see!Have a great week.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Odds and Ends

Hello and Happy Wednesday! A couple of updates...first of all, I was correct in my hunch that the Lascivious Biddies would put on a terrific show. I saw them at Birdland on Monday and they were totally fabulous. The Biddies are "an all female cocktail pop quartet," to quote their website. It's Amanda Monaco on guitar and vocals, Deirdre Roman on piano and vocals, Lee Ann Westover on lead vocals, and Saskia Lane on bass and vocals. They are an incredibly talented foursome who have great songs and really tight harmonies. The Biddies are a joy to watch, not only because they're great, but because they clearly love what they're doing and love working together. Definitely check them out if you get a chance!
The Cast Party that followed was really fun, too. Michael Feinstein and Maude Maggart did a duet, Barbara Brussell brought down the house, Sue Matsuki did her "White Girls Can't Sing the Blues Blues..." and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Steve Doyle was out of town so my friend Wayne Batchelor subbed on bass, which was great fun. We missed Steve, but it's always good to see (and hear!) Wayne.
Tonight, I'm headed over to the Duplex to perform in "Random," a show that is the brainchild of my friend Ryan Jons. Ryan is a very talented singer/songwriter, and the show is, well, a "random" assortment of material, ranging from his own competitions to the Beatles to Jason Robert Brown to...oh, just come check it out if you get a chance! It's tonight at 7 and next Thursday, September 28th, also at 7. Only a $7 cover + 2 drink minimum.
Unfortunately, I'm going to miss the Michael Blanco Quintet in Brooklyn tonight, but if you can make it, I highly encourage you to do so. Michael is a super talented bassist/composer and his quintet plays his fabulous jazz compositions. If you can make it, they'll be at Rose Live Music, which is at 345 Grand St. (between Havemeyer and Marcy) in Brooklyn.
That's about it for now...it'll be a few days till my next update because I'm going out of town until Sunday. But rest assured, I'll give you an update either Sunday or Monday!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sue Matsuki, Lascivious Biddies and More!

aHappy Monday, everyone! Yes, it's the beginning of what looks to be another terrific week. Last night, I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Sue Matsuki's "Jam 'N Toasts: The Lost Set" at the Metropolitan Room. Now, if you remember from my last blog entry, I had been planning on doing a double header and seeing Karen Oberlin's show first, but unfortunately, I had a rehearsal scheduled at the last minute, so I couldn't make it. I heard fabulous things about it, though. Anyway, back to Sue's show. It was such an easy, easy show to watch. Sue is a very warm, giving performer - so in addition to the excellent musicianship and interpretations she displayed, the audience was relaxed and felt taken care of from the get-go. Highlights for me included an original blues tune that Sue co-wrote with her musical director Gregory Toroian (I'm not sure of the exact title, but it was something along the lines of "White Girls Can't Sing the Blues Blues"), a great arrangement of "I Wish You Love," and a really touching delivery of "Here's to Life." Sue just sparkled the entire night and I couldn't believe it when the show ended - it seemed much too soon!
Speaking of Sue...she and I are going to head over to Birdland tonight to catch the Lascivious Biddies at 7, and then stick around for Cast Party. I've heard the Biddies a number of times at Cast Party, and they are always fantastic. I'm looking forward to reporting on their show later this week.
On Wednesday, I'll be performing in a show called "Random" at the Duplex at 7 p.m. It's put together by a good friend of mine, Ryan Jons. Ryan is a really talented singer/songwriter and this show is an ongoing project of his that he likes to refer to as a "musical notebook." I'll be doing a solo piece and a duet, both beautiful songs. If you're able to come, I'd love to see you there. There's also one more performance, next Thursday (9/28) at 7 p.m.
That's about it for now...will have more to report soon!
Enjoy your week. :)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Happy Weekend

Well, it's Thursday night - quite possibly my favorite night of the week, because of the anticipation of the weekend. So many things to do, so many shows to see...the possibilities abound. So...let me bring you up to date on my planned itinerary for the weekend. Friday night I'll be heading to The After Party at the Laurie Beechman. I know I've written about it before, but for those who are new to my blog, I'll give a brief description...The After Party is a really fun open mike for musical theater/cabaret performers. It's hosted by the very funny, very talented Brandon Cutrell, who is assisted by the also-very-talented Alysha Umphress! It's very laid back and highly entertaining and I always have a great time. Ray Fellman is the fabulous accompanist.
On Saturday, I'll actually be taking a night off from cabaret-going, but if you're looking for a good show to see, I'd recommend seeing Kate Loitz in A Tasty Piece of Kate at the Duplex at 7 p.m.. I have not seen this show yet, but I've heard really good things about it and am planning on going myself on Saturday, September 30th.
On Sunday, I'm going to do a doubleheader at the Metropolitan Room - first, at 4 p.m., I'm going to see Karen Oberlin in her show Like Love: The Popular Songs of Andre Previn. Then at 7 p.m., I'm going to see my friend Sue Matsuki in her show Jam 'N Toasts. It's gonna be a full, fun weekend - I can't wait to get started!
Have fabulous weekend and I'll update you soon!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ann Hampton Callaway, Sidney Myer, Cast Party, and More!

Happy Tuesday! As you can probably tell from the title of this entry, I had a busy cabaret-going weekend. I had planned to go to The After Party at the Laurie Beechman on Friday, but sometimes even divas need a rest! I got home from my voice lesson after putting in a full day at work, and I just crashed. Saturday, however, was a new day and I woke up refreshed and ready to hit the ground running. My first stop was at a senior center on 190th Street for my first ever performance with Vocal Ease,. Vocal Ease is a non-profit volunteer singing organization that brings live entertainment to the sick and elderly in hospitals, nursing homes, senior centers, and residences throughout New York City, and is headed up by Eva Swan. Eva performed, too, along with two other fabulous young singers, and Sheldon Forrest accompanyied us. The seniors loved it - we did mostly standards, and they were singing and swaying along. What a great way to spend an afternoon!
After that, I met my folks for dinner and then we headed over to Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola at Columbus Circle to hear the fabulous Ann Hampton Callaway. I've seen Ann a number of time before, and she never ceases to amaze me. What an incredible instrument she has. And it's not just her voice that's impressive...it's her warmth, her ease, her way of breathing new life into lyrics, her witty banter. I'd been hoping to make it down to Rose's Turn to see Hector Coris in his last performance of "What's Your Problem?" but unfortunately, I didn't get out of Ann's show in time. So, I went across the street to Starbucks, grabbed a coffee, then went back to hear Ann's 11:30 set, since I'd had so much fun at her first show of the night! I'm glad I went back. Not only did she change some of the songs, but I also ran into my friend Barbara Brussell, who was there to see the show! I guess great minds think alike...
After getting a good night's sleep on Saturday, I was geared up for the Roast/Toast/Tribute to Sidney Myer which was held Sunday evening at the Lucille Lorel Theatre in Greenwich Village. What a show! Over three hours long with an all-star cast paying tribute to a man who has given so, so much to the cabaret community. Afterwards, the crowd headed to the D-Lounge for the after-party where we could mingle and schmooze and snack. Fun, fun, fun. I got home at around 12:30 (not too bad, actually!) and geared up for my Monday.
Which brings us to...Monday! (surprise, surprise). I headed over to the Laurie Beechman for the 7:00 show yesterday, which was a very talented young songwriter, Adam Wagner, joined by a fabulous cast (Justin Bohon, Andrea Burns, Chris Fuller, Aaron Kaburick, Katie Klaus, Benjamin Magnuson) to sing some of his songs. They were joined by musical director Zachary Dietz at the piano, Julie Danielson on bass, and Sean Hagerty on violin. What a terrific show. I was really impressed with the songs. Clever, funny, witty, touching. Adam's only 23 years old - I cannot wait to see where he goes. If you get a chance to hear his music, go!!!
After that show, I grabbed a coffee from Starbucks (hmmm...does anyone sense a theme here?) and headed over to my Monday night home, Cast Party. We had a great crew there last night - at my table alone, we had Christine Lavin, Mark Aaron James, Joan Crowe (who is doing a show tonight at Sweet Rhythm), Sue Matsuki, and Maureen Taylor. Billy Stritch was on piano, with Steve Doyle on bass, Jim Caruso was his usual witty, charming self...it was a great night!
Hope you're all having a great week...will update soon with my picks for the weekend!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Weekend Update

Oh, thank goodness it's Friday! What a week. After coming back from Colorado and jumping right into things in NYC, I was feeling pretty tired this week. But now the weekend is here and I'm feeling revitalized with tons to do! Tonight, I'm going to head over to The After Party at the Laurie Beechman Theatre at around 10:30. It's an open mike, like Cast Party, but a little more casual, a little more raucous, and a little more theatre - heavy. I've gone a few times and had a blast, so I'm looking forward to heading over tonight. Brandon Cutrell hosts, with Ray Fellman at the piano and Alysha Umphress as cohost(ess!).
Tomorrow, I'm going to see one of my absolute favorites, the incomparable Ann Hampton Callaway at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. She just released a fabulous new cd, "Blues in the Night," so I'm looking forward to hearing some of the material from that as well as (hopefully) a few old favorites. If I have time, I may try to run down to the village to see Hector Coris in "What's Your Problem" at Rose's Turn, but even if I don't make it, I highly, highly recommend it.
Sunday's going to be fun, too. I'm going to the Roast Toasts & Tributes tribute to Sidney Myer. This is a series headed by Carolyn Montgomery to honor "some of New York's finest and most beloved cabaret personalities." Each honoree has been awarded with the Sidney Myer Award for Excellence in Cabaret, and Sidney will be the final honoree. This show boasts an all-star cast of Helen Baldassare, James Beaman, Charles Busch, Tommy Femia, James Gavin, Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich, Jenifer Kruskamp, Sue Matsuki (my new friend from cabaret camp!), Marin Mazzie, Mark Nadler, Miles Phillips, Ron Poole, Billy Porter, Julie Reyburn, Jay Rogers and KT Sullivan. Wow!!! I can't wait. And then there's the after party at the D-Lounge, which is the city's newest cabaret lounge - it's under the Daryl Roth Theatre at Union Square.
Sounds like a good weekend to me!
More updates soon, I promise.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Jeanne MacDonald, Cast Party and Other Assorted Things

Greetings! So, when I left off over the weekend, I was planning to go see Jeanne MacDonald at the Bradstan, which I did, indeed, do! It was a great show. Jeanne, as always, was so warm and accessible, and was just a pleasure to watch and listen to. She was accompanied by her music director, the fabulous Rick Jensen on piano, and she picked up her guitar to play on a few songs as well! Highlights (for me) were a great medley of "Walkin' After Midnight" and "Detour", and a very touching rendition of "Didn't We." Look for the show to come to Helen's in October.
I went to my first Cast Party in 3 weeks last night, and boy, did I have fun! My new friend from cabaret camp, Gretchen Reinhagen, came along and sang "Twisted, which was fantastic, and there were lots of favorite regulars including David Ippolito and Hilary Kole. I wasn't sure what to expect for a holiday, but the turnout was great, Jim was his usual entertaining self, and Ted Firth and Steve Doyle provided fabulous backup for the parade of talent.
In other news...my friend Hector Coris is doing his final performance of "What's Your Problem?" this Saturday at 9 p.m. at Rose's Turn (55 Grove Street at 7th Avenue). I saw the show earlier this year and had an absolute blast. Hector and his castmates, Suzanne Adams and Eric Martin, provide a fabulous, very funny hour of entertainment. Sadly, I won't be able to make it, but if you're in the city and have Saturday night free, I'd highly recommend checking it out!
That's about all for now - more soon!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A couple of great shows

So, after taking a few days to rest up from my Colorado trip, I was ready to see some shows. On Thursday night, I went to see Three Men and a Baby Grand at the Metropolitan Room. The show was a tribute to the Rat Pack performed by Johnny Rodgers, Lee Lessack, and Brian Lane Green. It was a terrific, toe-tapping show. They cleverly performed an original opening number that explained their purpose, which was not to imitate or try to BE the Rat Pack, but to humbly pay tribute to them, which they did very, very well. Highlights included an interesting interweaving of "Strangers in the Night," "Night and Day" and "I've Got You Under My Skin," a kickin' "That's Life" and an audience sing-a-long on "That's Amore." Overall a really fun night. I was joined by my sister and my friend Angela, as well as one of my new best friends from cabaret camp, Sue Matsuki.
The following night, my friend Angela and I ventured out again to hear some jazz. We went to the Bacchus Room at Bona Fides Restaurant to hear the Michael Blanco Quintet. I first heard Michael Blanco play bass at Lennie Watts' show last month, and I really enjoyed his playing. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I've booked him to play my October 6th show at the Laurie Beechman! On Friday night, though, it was just him and his band playing some of his original jazz compositions. Wow. It was great! And it was the perfect night for jazz - cold and rainy...I got myself a nice glass of shiraz, sat back and enjoyed. Definitely check him out the next time his group plays!
Tomorrow night, I'm heading to the Bradstan to see Jeanne MacDonald and then Monday night, it's back to Cast Party. I missed a few weeks of Cast Party while I was at cabaret camp, so it will be good to get back!
That's about all for now, but rest assured, I'll have more to report soon!

Rocky Mountain High, Part II

Okay, so as promised, I'm going to give a more detailed write-up of the week I spent at cabaret camp! I arrived at Perry Mansfield on Monday, August 21st, not really knowing what to expect. Of course, I knew that I would be working with some of the most well-respected names in cabaret, so I was pretty excited, but what would the other students be like? Would the faculty be easy to work with? Demanding? There were lots of questions running through my mind. Well, I checked in and was told where I could find my cabin, and so began my week at camp. My fears were soon alleviated when we all got up to sing for each other on the first night. The students AND faculty were very supportive, and I was excited to begin the coaching sessions the next morning.
On Tuesday morning, when we arrived at breakfast, I had a very pleasant surprise when I took my first sip of coffee and it was REALLY good. I found out from our awesome chef, Josh, that it was from a local coffee roaster (Steamboat Coffee Roasters, if you're interested), so I got some shipped back to NY! And the food was amazing too. Before I forget, I must say that Josh (our chef) and his kitchen staff, kept us incredibly well-fed all week, which was greatly appreciated by all. But I digress...
After that breakfast, we divided up into groups and got down to work. The faculty was divided into pairs (Andrea Marcovicci and Shelly Markham; Barry Kleinbort and David Gaines; and Karen Mason and Christopher Denny) and each group of students spent two and a half hours with each faculty team, coaching songs. After the Wednesday morning session, our "groups" were shuffled so we got to work with different students for the second round of coachings. We were shuffled once more on Friday for the last two sets of coachings. As a result of all of the "shuffling" we really got to work with most of the other students, which was great. I really got as much out of watching other students be coached as I did from my own coachings. The faculty members were wonderful to work with - they were all incredibly supportive and took each of us at our own level. They were demanding, yes, but that's why we were there - to learn and grow from the best in the business! We had seminars on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights (on musical arrangements, structuring a show, and the "business," respectively), and after the sessions, we (the students) all hung out and "bonded." Yes, as cheesy as that sounds, we really did. I actually recall doing a big group hug and singing Kum-ba-ya one night. By day three, all twelve of us were crowding around one table to eat because we enjoyed each other's company so much. Yes, a little strange in any environment, but especially among twelve performers!!! No egos, no nasty attitudes, just twelve people who were there to hone their crafts and support each other.
On Friday evening, we were treated to a faculty concert, and I do mean "treated." What an absolute delight. Shelly Markham performed original material, Andrea (accompanied by Shelly) performed excerpts from her WWII show, Barry (accompanied by David) performed some of his original material, and Karen (accompanied by Christopher) closed the show with excerpts from some of her shows. What a show!
The next night, we had our "student" show, the culminating event of our week of hard work. And it was truly remarkable to see some of the changes that had taken place since that first night when we all got up and sang for each other. Afterwards, our fabulous kitchen staff threw us a very nice reception and although there was no Kum-ba-ya that night, we all had a swell time together. The next day, we had a "debriefing" of the show and talked about our experiences, and we closed the week by taking a trip to the local hot springs - wow!
Leaving on Monday morning was an emotional affair, but I truly feel that it's not an end, it's a beginning. I feel like I have eleven new best friends - Kate Beckman, Toni Rae Brotens, Robert Green, Irenka Jekubiak, Pat Linhart, Russ Lorenson, Sue Matsuki, Linn Maxwell, Gretchen Reinhagen, Maureen Taylor, and Jeannie Trimdak. Most students and faculty live in NYC, so I have a feeling we're going to be seeing a lot of each other!
A big, big thank you to the staff at Perry-Mansfield, especially to Mark Fifer (our program coordinator) Abby, June, T-ray, Josh, Disco, and the rest of the gang!