Jenna's Two Cents Blog   

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Time Flies When You're...Busy!!!

Wow, I cannot believe it's been over two weeks since my last post. And to make matters worse, I left my day planner at my office, so now I have to try to remember everything I've seen! Well, as I said in my last post, I've got a ton to write about, so if I don't make it through everything, I'll have to write a "Part III" soon!
So, without further ado...Whoop-Up at the Duplex! I saw Whoop-Up on Thursday, July 12th, and boy am I glad I did. Part of the Opening Doors Theatre Company's Closing Notice Series, the musical was originally produced in 1958-1959 and played 56 performances oat the Shubert Theatre. Despite the short run, it's gathered a cult following over the years, and the Duplex was packed with people eager for a glimpse of the much-listened to but little-seen show. Having never been to one of the "Closing Notice" shows, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a fairly complete production. No scenery, of course (I'd challenge ANYONE to fit full scenery, a piano, and a cast of 11 on the stage of the Duplex), but costumes, choreography, and great staging. The musical was hilarious in its blatent un-political correctness, and director David Norman did a great job of playing up the camp value without compromising sincerity from his actors. Alison Renee Foster was absolutely fantastic as saloon-mistress Glenda, and Gretchen Reinhagen gave a terrific performance as Mama Champlain. The rest of the cast all turned in solid performances, and kudos must also be given to musical director Ray Bailey and choreographer Dawn Trautman. Congrats to Opening Doors Theatre Company on a great production. They're on hiatus until late fall, but whatever their next show is, I'll be there with bells on!
On Saturday, July 14th, I was back at my favorite haunt, the Metropolitan Room to catch Miles Phillips in The Unrest Inside Me. As with Specific Overtures, which he'd performed the week before, The Unrest Inside Me was a show which Miles had performed before (the debut was in October, 2003) but hadn't done in a while. And again, I'm so happy I caught it this time around. Centering on the theme of the trickiness of balancing art and love, the show struck many emotional chords, but managed to keep a little levity with such songs as "Goin' To The Dance With You" (during which he coaxed waitress and outstanding performer Lorinda Lisitza on stage to dance with him), and my personal favorite: the "V & V (Venom & Vitriol) medley." Now, I know I missed a few songs, but here are the songs in that medley that I managed to jot down: Who Wants To Buy This Diamond Ring, Ticket To Ride, Day Tripper, Just Gimme Some Kind Of Sign (is that the real title? hmmm...), Another Suitcase In Another Hall, Nowhere to Run, Where In The World, I Don't Remember Christmas, I Don't Care Much, Sunny Came Home, No More Tears, and Hit The Road, Jack. Whew! Don't get me wrong, though - while there were plenty of fun, upbeat moments, there were also plenty of poignant, reflective moments - one of my favorites being a medley of I'd Rather Be Sailing and Same Moon...and another of my favorites being I Wish It So (from whence the title of the show came!). Again, musical director Jason Wynn contributed great accompaniment, harmony, and easy banter with Miles, which only added to an already great show. Throughout the show, Miles' beautiful baritone did great justice to the lyrics he was singing, and made me all the more eager to catch his new show, Quiet Stars, which will be debuting at the Metropolitan Room in October!
Sunday, July 15th found me back at the Metropolitan Room to see Lennie Watts in Manilow '73-'83. Now, really, Lennie always puts on a great show, and when you add Barry Manilow on top of that, how can you miss?! Well, we'll never know, because Lennie sure didn't miss with this show. Like Lennie, I am an admitted "fanilow," having been brought up on his songs. In fact, my family has a tape of me singing (well, attempting to sing, anyway) "Can't Smile Without You" (which came out like "Ca' Sigh Ow Ooo") and "Copacabana" (which sounded like "Coh-ba-a") when I was only a year old! But I digress...anyway, Lennie put on a terrifically entertaining show. Backed by a fab band (musical director Steven Ray Watkins on piano, Matt Wigton on bass, and Jerry Smith on drums) and the awesome "Lady Flash 2007" (Tanya Holt, Karen Mack, and Alisa Schiff), Lennie romped through a number of Manilow's biggest hits, modulations and all. He covered ALL of my favorites (except "One Voice," but he gives a very good reason for excluding that one...something to do with singing it into a hairbrush, tears streaming down his face, for an entire weekend when he was young and his parents were away for the weekend), and while they were, for the most part, very true to the way Manilow originally did them, Lennie did a great job of making them his. His enthusiasm for the material was infectious, and the packed room was swaying and clapping and singing along like nobody's business! I had SUCH a great time that I went back to see it again last Sunday, and then AGAIN tonight! Yes, I'm a "fanilow" but I'm also turning into a "fannilennie!" Fun, fun, fun!
Monday, 7/16 found me at Cast Party, as usual, and then Tuesday, 7/17 I headed upstate after work to prepare for the next day's gig at Monticello Gaming and Raceway. Having grown up not too far from Monticello, I knew, of course, about the horse races, but I had no idea that this casino had sprung up! I'd been booked there since January, but had no idea what to expect. Well, I was pleasantly suprised on show day to find a nice performance space (with a great, big stage) and a PACKED house! I did my show, Shakin' The Blues Away, which is almost strictly standards, and the Wednesday afternoon audience really enjoyed it. We're currently in discussions now about doing a Saturday evening performance up there sometime early next year, which would be great fun - I'll be sure to keep you posted. After the show, my dad and I hopped in the car and zipped back to the city to grab our bleacher seats and watch the Yankees beat Toronto (and get our free caps - it was cap night at the stadium)!
The following night, it was back to the studio to do the final mixing on my cd. We are so near the end - it just needs to be mastered, and then the cd will be done! That just leaves finishing up the cover design, duplication, and all of those other fun things that need to get done. It's been a long process, but hey - the end is in sight and we're going to be having a big release party to celebrate! So mark your calendars for Monday, October 15th - we'll be at the Metropolitan Room at 7 p.m.
Well...much as I'd love to continue and get completely up-to-date, it's after midnight again, and I do need to get some sleep before beginning the work week. To be continued, as soon as I can!!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Oh, My!

Wow, I've got so much to write about, I'm getting tired just thinking about it! Yikes! Well, here goes...if this goes on too long or I find myself falling asleep at the keyboard, I'll cut it off early and write part II soon!

So, without further ado...I left off just over a week ago, when I was looking forward to my weekend at the Metropolitan Room. And what a weekend it was! Friday evening began with "My Favorite Year," which was the 17th Birthday Party of Cabaret Hotline. The entertainment was a virtual who's who of New York cabaret (piano bar entertainer David Pellegrene, Lennie Watts, 2007 MAC debut award winners Esther Beckman and Rob Langeder, 2007 MAC award-winning comedian Michael Brill, Ruben Flores, 2007 Nightlife Award finalist Karen Oberlin, Jay Rogers, Karen Saunders, and Sue Matsuki...and, of course, the fabulous Steven Ray Watkins on piano!), with a special "out of town" contingent (Francesca Amari, Alice Frazier, and Bruce Clough). From Lennie's rockin' "Riders to the Stars" (complete with lovely and talented backup singers Tanya Holt, Karen Mack, and Alisa Schiff) to Sue Matsuki's touching rendition of the title song to close the show, it was a highly entertaining evening, and the audience was filled with cabaret lovers who turned out in droves to thank Stu Hamstra for all he's done for our community. The Jeff Matson awards was presented to Collette Black (booking manager at Rose's Turn) and Joe Regan, Jr. As Stu said, each of them has been "an inspiration, a resource and a good friend to cabaret performers." The first ever Dottie Burman award (for songwriting) was presented to Maria Gentile, who treated us all with one of her beautiful songs. All in all, a great party, and a fabulous tribute to one of the best things NYC cabaret has going for it - Stu Hamstra's Cabaret Hotline!

After a brief dinner break, I returned to the Metropolitan Room for Metrojam, which is their monthly open mike. Now, believe it or not, I'd never made it to Metrojam before, and what a pleasant surprise I had! Not only was there a pianist (basically a prerequisite for ANY open mike!), but also comprising the "house band" were a bassist, a drummer, and a tenor sax player! Woohoo! What fun! Hosted by Joe Bachana, the open mike moved along well, and featured some truly fantastic singers. Sue Matsuki, Kristen Sargeant, Suzanne Carrico, 98-year-old singer/pianist/songwriter Bernie Bierman (!), Marieann Meringolo, Harmony Keeney, Ken Greeves, Rob Langeder, Gretchen Reinhagen, Steve Maglio, Stanley Wilson, and yours truly all graced the stage and had a fab time jamming with the band. The musicians were awesome - can't wait till next month's jam (August 26th - be there!) to sing with them again. The musicians were: Marty Silver, piano; Bobby Sher, drums; Tommy Kirchmer, bass; Joey Mills, saxophone. Truly, a fun, fun night!!

The following night, I was back at the Metropolitan Room to catch Miles Phillips in his show Specific Overtures. Miles had previously performed this show in 2005 and 2006, and while I'd heard wonderful things about it, I'd never gotten a chance to catch it before. I'm so happy I was able to see it this time around! Inspired by the different "overtures" one is faced with in life, Miles put together a show to which everyone can relate. Opening with "Invocation and Instructions To The Audience," Miles immediately pulled his audience in and paved the way for some very touching moments. By focusing on life's "stepping off" points, those times when we're entering into something new, taking risks, not sure of the outcome, he managed to wring new meaning out of many familiar tunes. One of my personal favorites was "Baby Talk To Me," from the stage version of Bye Bye Birdie. Such a great song, and so rarely done ~ it fit perfectly in the show, and was made even better by some terrific backup vocals by Kristopher Monroe, Rob Langeder, and multi-talented tech director Michael Barbieri. Musical director Jason Wynn bantered easily with Miles, injecting some humor into the show, and also lent his voice to harmonize on several songs - a very nice addition. A great show - I'm so glad Miles brought it back and that I finally got a chance to see it!

Sunday evening, it was back to the Metropolitan Room for my own show: A Hint of Rosemary: The Songs of Rosemary Clooney. I wouldn't presume to write about myself, but I WILL say that I was really happy with the show. We hadn't done it for a while, and it was great to revisit all of those fabulous songs! A big thank-you to everyone who made it out to see the show - your support is GREATLY appreciated!

The next night was, of course, Cast Party night - and as usual, it was a terrifically entertaining evening. 10-year old Rocco Fiorentino wowed everyone with his "All of Me" and "Fly Me to the Moon," Natalie Douglas rocked with "Fever," and regulars Tina Jensen (one of the fab Birdland waitstaff), Sue Matsuki, Bob Dolphin, Rob Langeder, Christine Lavin, Suzanne Carrico, and Ben Rauch kept audience members bopping in their seats (and doing mental math)! Can't wait for this week's party!

Tuesday evening, I caught the new Harry Potter film (woohoo!) and then Wednesday was back in the studio doing some final tweaks on my cd. We're getting SO close to having a finished product - it's really exciting! We're actually hoping to finish up production this week, so keep checking for updates on a release.

Okay, it's after midnight now...I still have a few more shows to write about, but I also have to be up for the ol' day job in not so very I'll post this for now, but coming soon will be a posting to include Whoop-Up at the Duplex, Miles Phillips in The Unrest Inside Me, and Lennie Watts in Manilow '73-'83. Fun, fun, fun!!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Christine Pedi, Cast Party, and a FABULOUS upcoming weekend!

Hey all! So, I left off on Monday when I was planning to catch Christine Pedi's show at the Metropolitan Room on Monday evening. Boy, am I glad I did. It was as close to flawless a show I've seen all year - and anyone who knows me knows I see a LOT of shows! Entertaining? You betcha! The room was filled to the brim, and the anticipation from the audience was palpable...and not only didn't she disappoint, she went way above and beyond what I'd expected. As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been impressed for a while by her uncanny impressions of various I expected the show to be a lot of that. Which would have been fine...but what it ended up being was a lot of Christine - who happens to be an extremely talented performer all on her own! She did include "the ladies," most notably in a rather schizoid version of "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going." Included in the song (and I may have missed a few!) were Ethel Merman, Julie Andrews, Carol Channing, Christine Ebersole (as Edie Beale!), Rosie O'Donnell, Liza Minelli, and Bernadette Peters! Wow! A true tour de force! Other fun moments included "Patti Lupone as Eliza Doolittle," "Barbra" singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" (very dramatically), and a hilarious spoof of "I Dreamed a Dream." I was expecting to laugh, which I did - a lot. What I wasn't expecting was to be touched - which I was when Christine described her love for Judy Garland, and how she remembered seeing a double bill of "Meet Me In St. Louis" and "The Harvey Girls" at the old Regency Theater...which she followed by singing "The Boy Next Door" - not as Judy, but as herself. Also very touching was her "Mama, A Rainbow," which she sang for her mother, who happened to be present. Sadly, that was the last show of her current run, but if and when she brings this show back, I would highly recommend catching it!
After Christine's show, I headed over to Birdland for Cast Party - of course! Sometimes, I really think my body is on automatic pilot on Monday nights! This particular Cast Party was a lot of fun, because Jim Caruso was back hosting for the first time in a month, and Billy Stritch was at the piano...ah, just like old times! Jim and Billy had been touring with Liza (yes, THE Liza), so I guess they had a pretty good excuse for missing a few Cast Parties...but, that being said, it was great to have them back! Monday evening seemed to be a particularly good Cast Party - lots and lots of talented folks! Harmony Keeney was there with her silky voice and smooth jazz stylings, Kristen Sargeant lit up the stage with "My Blue Heaven," Michael Winther delivered a touching "Rainbow Connection," and there was a fantastic duo called The Sourpatch Kids who brought the house down with their "This Little Light of Mine!" Lots of fun! There were so many other talented people there, but those were some of my favorites!
Looking forward to the weekend, I'm getting so excited! First up, it's the 17th Anniversary Party for Cabaret Hotline at 7 p.m. at the Metropolitan Room. Featuring an all-star lineup of performers to pay tribute to Stu Hamstra and his dedication to the cabaret world, it's bound to be a blast! Then at 10 p.m. at the Metropolitan Room, it's "Metrojam," which I've never been to before, but I'm told it's another open mike night, but with featured singers set ahead of time. Featured tomorrow night are three of my friends/fellow singers, Sue Matsuki and the aforementioned Kristen Sargeant and Harmony Keeney - should definitely be a good time! Then on Saturday night at 8 p.m. Miles Phillips will be reprising his critically acclaimed show, "Specific Overtures," also at the Metropolitan Room! I missed this show the first time around, and have been kicking myself ever since, because SO many people have told me how fantastic it is. Having heard Miles sing, and knowing what an intelligent, insightful performer he is, I can hardly wait to see the show for myself!
THEN, on Sunday, it's ME ME ME!! I'll be reprising MY show, "A Hint of Rosemary: The Songs of Rosemary Clooney at 7 p.m." And guess where that is? Yep, the Metropolitan Room! So really, what I'm saying, is bring a cot and set up camp at the Metropolitan Room this weekend, because they've got some AWESOME entertainment lined up! If I do say so myself...:)
That's about it for now...check back next week for the report on all of the happenings this weekend!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Long time, no post!

Hey all! Sorry for the delay in posts...unfortunately, I haven't been getting to a heck of a lot of shows, though! Between finishing up the cd and working on my upcoming Rosemary Clooney show (A Hint of Rosemary: The Songs of Rosemary Clooney, Sunday July 8th at 7 p.m., The Metropolitan Room, 212-206-0440 for reservations - be there or be square!!!), I haven't been left with a lot of time for show-going. I have managed to take in a few things, though. Last Thursday, I finally got to see Company - just in the nick of time, too, since it closed on Sunday. What an amazing show! While not a HUGE fan of the whole cast-being-the-orchestra concept, it did work for this show. What was especially effective about it was that for the entire show, the only character who did not play an instrument was Robert. When he finally took a seat at the piano for "Being Alive" it underlined the whole sentiment of the song - he was making the decision to live, to join everyone else and become one of the company. Very cool. And speaking of his "Being Alive," oh man! If you didn't see it, you missed one of the greatest performances of one of the best songs ever written for the theater! In my humble opinion, that is. :)
Since I was in a show-going kind of mood that evening, after the show, my friend and I headed over to Birdland for the Umbria Jazz Festival, which featured young saxophonist Francesco Cafiso with a chamber orchestra (I Soloisti di Perugia) behind him in "Bird With Strings: A Tribute to Charlie Parker." Well, somewhere, Charlie Parker was smiling, because they paid tribute to him beautifully! With the beautiful orchestrations, I felt like I was magically transported to a nightclub in the '40s...and for a few minutes, I could forget the stresses of everyday life. Particularly beautiful was David Raskin's "Laura,: one of my all-time favorites. It was a perfect way to cap off an already great night.
I'm hoping to catch Christine Pedi's show at the Metropolitan Room this evening. I've only seen Christine in small spurts, but am AMAZED at her talents - she can "do" all of the great ladies - Judy, Barbra, Eartha, Carol, Ethel...just unbelievable. Sure to be an entertaining show - so, if you're looking for something to do at 7 p.m. this evening, head on over and check it out!
That's about all for now - check back for updates soon!