Jenna's Two Cents Blog   

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tony DeSare, The Nightlife Awards, and The Best Cast Party EVER!

Well, hello all!

I've had a great week so far - and it's not over yet!

On Sunday evening, I went (for the second week in a row) to hear Tony DeSare at Bemelmans Bar. What a perfect way to spend a Sunday evening - in a classy bar with GREAT music! It was packed again and Tony managed to put a smile on everyone's face with his amazing piano playing and smooth, easy vocals. He's back there on Sunday, February 3rd from 9-12, so if you're not watching the Superbowl (I will be - go Giants!), head over to Bemelmans!

On Monday evening, I headed to Town Hall for the annual Nightlife Awards. These awards honor top performers in jazz, cabaret and comedy - and the really cool thing is that, instead of giving acceptance speeches, the performers do what they do best - perform! In addition to the award recipients, there were a couple of "special guest" performers to round out the show...and what a show it was! With performances by Marilyn Maye, Christine Pedi, Hilary Kole, Allan Harris, Lari White, and a slew of other incredibly talented performers, it was definitely the hot ticket in town!

Right after the curtain came down at Town Hall, I ran (and I do mean RAN - in 3 1/2 inch heels, no less!) to Birdland so I could catch most of Cast Party and boy, am I glad I did! Not only was it an awesome, talent-packed 3 hours, but TONY BENNETT was there! Yes, THE Tony Bennett! And somehow, I gathered up the courage to sing "I Wanna Be Around," one of his major hits, in front of him! I was introduced to him after I sang and got a great picture taken with him! How cool is that?! Tony Bennett-related excitement aside, this truly was one of the best Cast Parties I've ever been to. A good percentage of the talented folks who were at the Nightlife Awards ended up heading over to Birdland, including Hilary Kole, Lari White, Christine Pedi, Natalie Douglas, Billy Stritch, Marilyn Maye, Klea Blackhurst, and Randy Jones (yep, the Cowboy from The Village People)! Birdland was busting at the seams with talent, and I was thrilled to be in the thick of it! It was the kind of the night I'd always envisioned before moving to New York, and it really happened - schmoozing at a famous jazz club with famous singers and Broadway stars...and getting to sing for them! Seriously, does it get any better?!
Tonight, I'm headed to the Metropolitan Room for my other favorite open mic - Metrojam. Hosted by Joe Bachana, and featuring a "house band" of John DiPinto on piano, Ritt Henn on bass, and Bobby Sher on drums, it is the place to be on the first Friday night of every month. If you're in the city and looking for something to do, come on by - it runs from 10 p.m. to midnight.
That's about it for now - hopefully my next post will be to cheer the Giants' victory on Sunday!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Happy Wednesday!

Hello all!

Hope you're all having a great start to 2008. I sure am - I've been privileged to see some pretty fabulous shows over the past several weeks and I'm excited to tell you about them!

On Friday, January 11th, I pulled a double-header: first I went to Don't Tell Mama to see Booth Daniels and Patrick Frankfort in their show "2 Guys, 1 Guitar, No Standards." Combining some original tunes with an eclectic selection of cover songs, Booth and Patrick really worked well together, taking turns being the "straight guy" to the other's zany antics. A thoroughly entertaining show that definitely brought a smile to my face! After that, I headed over to the Oak Room at the Algonquin to catch the dazzling Andrea Marcovicci in her Rodgers and Hart show one more time before she left town. What a treat! Joined by Shelly Markham (musical director) on piano and Jered Egan on bass, Andrea put on a truly lovely show, focusing mostly on the story of Lorenz Hart to tie the selections together. As usual, she looked stunning and brought each and every song to life in a remarkably personal way - providing a wonderful ending to what had already been a highly entertaining night!

The next evening found me at the Metropolitan Room to catch Liz Callaway in her show "Time Between Flights." I had seen this show once before, toward the end of last year and was so blown away, I just had to make a repeat trip to see it again! It is a powerhouse of a show - incredibly well sung, well acted, and well constructed. To hear Liz sing "Meadowlark" is worth the cover charge all on its own, but happily, the show was chock-full of great songs, and it was a true delight to take in. If she brings it back again, catch it, catch it, catch it!

On Sunday afternoon, I headed back to the Algonquin to see Billy Stritch in his brunch show. What a fantastic way to spend a Sunday afternoon. A frequent accompanist/partner to such luminaries as Liza Minelli and Christine Ebersole, it is a rare treat to see Billy in his own show, and I always try to take advantage of the opportunity. The last solo show I'd seen him in was his wonderful tribute to Mel Torme, and happily, he included a number of selections from that show in the brunch show at the Algonquin ("You're Driving Me Crazy" and "Blue Moon" among them). He also performed several Cy Coleman songs, including a beautiful ballad called "Let Me Down Easy," which was written by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh for a musical version of Neil Simon's "The Heartbreak Kid," that never made it to the Great White Way. I really enjoyed myself, and am looking forward to seeing Billy's Mel Torme show again next month when he brings it to Birdland!

And speaking of Birdland...on Monday, 1/14, I headed over there to see a true living legend in concert - Chita Rivera was putting on a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, and there was no way I was going to miss it! She played two sold out shows - one at 7 p.m. and one at 10 p.m. I was there for the later show, and found myself squeezed in at the bar, among countless other adoring fans. And boy, were we in for an incredible show! From her opening medley of "I Won't Dance"/"Let Me Sing and I'm Happy" to her second encore (Carol Hall's "Circle of Friends"), Chita simply dazzled. Looking stunning in a short black dress and patent red heels, she had more energy than a five-year-old on a sugar high! I was simply in awe. She made her way through a number of songs from she has had the honor of being associated with throughout her amazing career (including hits from "Bye Bye Birdie," "The Rink," "Chicago," and - of course - "West Side Story." And, despite the lyrics of her opening number, boy did she dance! It was a truly amazing night, and I was thrilled to be there. The Cast Party that followed was somewhat abbreviated, given the late start, but included some powerhouse performers, including Marilyn Maye, Christine Lavin, Christine Pedi, Hilary Kole, and the aforementioned Billy Stritch! Whew, what a night!

The next night found me at the National Arts Club to see a classical piano recital given by Joe Bachana. I've written about Joe before, and many people know him as the charming host of Metrojam, which is the monthly open mic at the Metropolitan Room. I'd heard Joe play pop songs on the piano before, but to see him give a classical recital was something new entirely! He did a wonderful job, playing to a packed room, and entertaining the crowd with selections from Scarlatti, Beethoven, Chopin and Gershwin.

On the following Sunday, I bundled up and headed uptown to Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel to see Tony DeSare, who was playing from 9-12. As always, it was a true pleasure to listen to Tony. His smooth voice, amazing piano playing, easygoing personality, and terrific song selection make for a terrific evening of entertainment. He's going to be there for the next two Sundays, and I'm planning on heading back to catch him again - definitely a must-see if you're in town!

The next night, I had the pleasure of seeing Cynthia Crane in her show, "The Time Has Come" at the Metropolitan Room. I had seen this show last fall, and was so happy to be able to catch it one more time. Once again, I was so very impressed not only by the very careful construction of the show, but also by the heartfelt passion with which Cynthia sings every single lyric. After Cynthia's show, I ran over to Birdland to catch the second half of Cast Party, and, as usual, had a simply fabulous time!

Well, that brings us up to date for now - be sure to check back soon for an update!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Happy New Year!

Greetings, everyone, and Happy 2008!
Sorry it's been so long since the last post - with the holiday hubbub, I did not have a spare second to devote to my blogging...ah, well. Luckily for me, I had a dinner cancelled at the last minute tonight, so I was able to get home to my computer and (finally) do an update!
December was a fun month for showgoing - I saw the Radio City Christmas Spectacular one night, followed by Cirque du Soleil's Wintuk the next...and what fun they both were! I'd only seen the Christmas Spectacular once before, and I was sitting in the last row of the last balcony, so, while enjoyable, I did not walk away from it as thrilled as I did last month! There is just something magical about seeing the Rockettes and hearing Christmas music and going shopping at Rockefeller Center beforehand (with a tall skim extra hot light whip peppermint mocha in hand, of course)...I might have to start making it an annual tradition! Seriously, though, seeing that show was such a joyous occasion - there is a reason tourists flock to it and show after show after show sells out each year: it is pure entertainment! Where else can you see an ice rink rise up in the middle of the stage or a double decker sightseeing bus full of Rockettes driving across a stage? And that's just the tip of the iceberg! Really, if you haven't seen the Christmas Spectacular, or it's been a while since your last visit, it's worth checking out next year - it put me in a good enough mood to stop grumbling at tourists under my breath for almost a full day afterwards!
As I said, the night after that, I saw Cirque du Soleil's Wintuk at Madison Square Garden. It was my first time seeing Cirque du Soleil, and I had a wonderful time. I was truly amazed, not only at their acrobatic feats, but at some of the beautiful, tender scenes they created using the power of movement and dance. Very, very cool.
Cabaret-wise, I saw Andrea Marcovicci's lovely Rodgers and Hart show at the Algonquin, and I participated in Cynthia Crane's holiday benefit, "If I Hear Another Song About Christmas." Andrea, as usual, was gorgeous and charming and worked the Oak Room like the true master she is! It is such a hard room to work, and she manages to draw every single person in with seeming effortlessness! And of course, the song material suited her perfectly. With the fabulous Shelly Markham as musical director, it was truly a fantastic evening out for me. Cynthia's benefit at Don't Tell Mama was a LOT of fun, and I was honored to be a part of it. The money raised was donated to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids/Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic. The lineup included Cynthia Crane (of course!), Mychelle Colleary, Me :), Rob Langeder, Karen Mack, Sidney Myer, Miles Phillips, Marcus Simeone, and Nancy Witter.
The following night, I was at that favorite haunt of mine, the Metropolitan Room to see the fabulous Baby Jane Dexter in her show, "You're Following Me." It was my third time seeing the show, and honestly, it seemed as fresh, if not fresher, than the first time I saw it. In addition to her big, rich voice and commanding stage presence, Baby Jane has that rare gift of bringing true joy to her singing, and that joy is simply infectious. I had a blast (for the third time!) at the show, and can't wait until she's back with another one!
The next day, I headed over to Cafe 50 West to hear Mychelle Colleary doing a jazz set with guitar and bass, and I must say - it's one of the more enjoyable early evenings I've spent in the city. With no cover and no minimum, I was free to just sit there and sip a leisurely glass of wine and enjoy the music. It was also fun to see Mychelle just having fun with her music outside of the more strict confines of a "show." Another gig definitely worth checking out - I know she'll be back there at some point, so I'll try to let you know when!
Tomorrow night, I'm headed back to the Metropolitan Room for Metrojam, the open mic night hosted by Joe Bachana. With John DiPinto on piano, Ritt Henn on bass, Bobby Scher on drums and the dapper Mr. Bachana presiding, it promises to be a most entertaining night out. Scheduled to perform so far are: Jenna Esposito, Sue Matsuki, Kristen Sergeant Rob Langeder, Shaynee Rainbolt, Susan Wynter, Cynthia Crane, and Laura Hull - should be lots of fun! If you're in town and can make it, it starts at 10 p.m.
I've got a bunch of shows coming up - you can check my website or my myspace page for all of the details - but the one I really want to get the word out about is my February 6th appearance at Barnes and Nobel at Lincoln Center. I'll be there as part of there "Any Wednesday" series, doing a free concert at 6 p.m., followed by a CD signing. This is big news for me, so if you're able to come out and support me, I'd be most appreciative!
I'm signing out for now (going to watch another episode of Cheers -woohoo!), but will do my best to get another update done soon!