Jenna's Two Cents Blog   

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

MAC nomination and other fun things!

Hello All!
Wow, I can't believe it's been 2 weeks since my last post! It's been a very busy month, with preparing for my new show, Takin' A Chance On Love AND trying to see as many shows as possible. So, first, some excellent news - I've received a MAC nomination for best female vocalist, and I'm shocked and thrilled all at the same time! No matter the outcome at the actual awards, I'm truly honored to have been selected as a nominee! The two shows for which I was nominated are SMOOCH! and 13 Men...and Me! Since I know that not all MAC voters were able to make it to the shows the first time around, I'm doing my best to let them be seen before ballots are due! There is now a clip of SMOOCH! on YouTube (you can view it by clicking here), and I will be bringing 13 Men...and Me! back to the Metropolitan Room for a special encore performance on Sunday, April 6th at 9:30 p.m. I was originally planning to do my new show on that date, but feel that it's more important at this point in time to allow voters to see my nominated work! And I have to say, I'm thrilled to be bringing 13 Men back. That show was such a joy for me to work on and I'm very happy to have another chance to share it. Takin' A Chance On Love has one more performance scheduled right now, and that's Sunday, March 30th at 7 p.m. at the Metropolitan Room. Our opening on this past Monday evening was great, and I can't wait to do the show again - if you're in town and able to make it, I'd love to see you there!
So, okay...enough about me (although this IS my blog!)...let me write about some of the shows I've seen recently! In my last blog, I mentioned that I was looking forward to seeing Macbeth at BAM on Friday, March 14th. Well, I was most certainly not disappointed. What a production! Going into the play, I'd been very much looking forward to seeing Patrick Stewart in the title role, but I have to say that he was completely overshadowed by Kate Fleetwood as Lady M. She was absolutely incredible! And that's not to say that Patrick Stewart was bad. He was actually very good, but just dwarfed a bit by Ms. Fleetwood's monster performance (in my humble opinion)! As a whole, the production was very well done - I don't want to give away too much, in case any readers are planning on seeing it when it moves to Broadway (I know I'm certainly going to be going again!), but I will say that Rupert Goold's direction was spot-on, and the acting, in general, was superb.
The following night, I went to see August: Osage County on Broadway, and was just blown away. Again, the acting was exemplary, and the direction very, very good. This modern-day dysfunctional family drama is a must-see in my opinion, and I'm certain that it is going to be dissected in many a college theatre class for years to come!
On the following Thursday, I went to see Joan Crowe's show, The Key of Comedy at the Metropolitan Room, and I really had a great time! Joan has been making a name for herself as the "funny jazz chick," and has been working hard on trying to "inject a little humor into the world of jazz," so the show was full of fun numbers by legends such as Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Louis Jordan, Slim Gailliard, Dave Frishberg, and Bob Dorough. Joined by Tedd Firth (musical director) on piano, Jay Leonhart on bass, Matt Wilson on bass, and with a special guest performance by composer Bob Dorough, Joan put on a highly entertaining show that kept the audience grinning the whole time!
Tonight, I'm headed up to the River Room of Harlem to hear my friend Julian Yeo as he kicks off their Wednesday night vocalist series. I've never been there before, but it looks from the website like the room has a GORGEOUS view of the river and the G.W. Bridge, and I always enjoy listening to Julian, so it should be a fun evening! Oh! And after Julian's show, I'll be on the radio with Joey Reynolds - I'm scheduled to go on around midnight, and you can stream the show live through the radio station's website - just click here!
That's about all for now! Will touch base with another update soon!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Busy, busy, busy!

Well, in the 9 days since I've written, I've managed to make it to 8 different shows (including 3 open mics), so I've been a busy little diva!
On Monday, March 3rd, I went to see What's The Point at Dillon's. Starring Hector Coris, Patrick Garrigan and Eadie Scott, this revue provides a laugh-filled hour of song and dance which pokes fun at current social and political issues. There was a time when revues such as this were extremely popular and made up a good portion of "cabaret" shows, but sadly, the art form has been neglected in more recent times. Happily, What's The Point breathes fresh life into the old art form with songs such as "How Can I Miss You (If You Won't Go Away)," "A Real Straight Guy," and "E.Harmony-Dot-Com." With musical direction by Joe Regan, choreography by Susan Haefner, Direction by Collette Black and music and lyrics by Alan Cancelino and Hector Coris, respectively, the show is a definite crowd-pleaser. There are still a few performances left; it runs Mondays at 7 p.m. through March 31st - catch it if you can!!
The following night, I made a return trip to see Ben Rauch Is Horace Vanderveer at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. I first wrote about this show on my December 7th blog, and after seeing it a second time, I must say that I quite agree with my earlier post - this show is HILARIOUS! It was very good the first time I saw it, and it's just gotten even better and sharper! Ben Rauch co-wrote the show with Melissa Rauch and Winston Beigel and stars as Horace, a "musical theatre obsessed community theatre outcast from New Jersey whose dream is to one day be on Broadway." Since the last time I saw the show, a few numbers have been added to great comedic effect (including "Let's Bowl" from Grease 2) and a video clip of "Horace" at an audition has also been inserted into the show. Again, kudos to Miles Phillips for excellent direction, and to the fantastic band...oh, and to the chorus of teenage girls...and yes, kudos to Horace himself for putting on one of the funniest shows I've seen in a long time!
Wednesday, March 5th, found me back at Dillon's to see my friend Julian Yeo with his fab "retro-jazz" band. As always with Julian's shows, I found myself having a terrific time and wondering where the 3 hours went (he played 3 sets between 7 and 10 p.m.)! His style is very easy-going and hearkens back to a different era. Accompanied by piano, bass, guitar, washboard/percussion, and clarinet, and singing jazz standards, Julian provides an excellent evening of entertainment! He is also extremely generous when other singers are in the house, always inviting them up to sing a number or two (the evening I went, I was there with Shaynee Rainbolt, and we both had the privilege of singing with that great band). He's back at Dillon's on Wednesday, March 19th. With a just a $10 cover for 3 hours of great music, it's a hard deal to beat!
On Thursday, I headed over to the Metropolitan Room to catch cabaret newcomer Ben Cherry in his show I Hate New York: A Love Story. Focusing on the love/hate relationship that all New Yorkers have with their city at some point (or all the time!), Ben kept the audience chuckling with easy-to-relate-to tales of the frustrations of living in the Big Apple.
On Friday night, I headed back to the Metropolitan Room for Metrojam, which is the monthly open mic hosted by Joe Bachana. Metrojam has been gathering steam for some time now, and Friday night was terrific! The room was PACKED with talented singers and it was so much fun to be there and hear all of them! In addition to yours truly, other performers included Rob Langeder, Joan Crowe, Julian Yeo, Susan Winter, Tony DeSare, Lina Koutrakos, Shaynee Rainbolt, Gabrielle Stravelli, and - of course - the talented host himself! Backed by John DiPinto on piano, Frank Wagner on bass and Bobby Sher on drums, the 2 hours just flew by! I can't wait for April's Metrojam!
On Saturday, I took time off from my show-going to visit the NY Wine Expo, followed by dinner at Patsy's! Whew - what a way to revitalize myself! The wine expo was so much fun! With 170 wineries and over 600 wines available to taste, it was a crazy four hours but boy, was it fun! And Patsy's....ah! If you've never been to Patsy's, you don't know what you're missing! I first went while I was putting together my Rosemary Clooney show, because I knew that Rosemary Clooney and Frank Sinatra used to dine there and I wanted to soak up some of the vibe. Well, after that first visit, I've been going back for the amazing food and the great service and stories provided by Sal, the chef. Sal is the grandson of the original owner and chef, and boy, does he have stories to tell! It seems that every time I go in, he has a new photo with a celebrity to show me! As usual, the food and the service on Saturday night were simply outstanding!
On Sunday, I headed to Butterfield 8 for Trudi Mann's Fabulous Open Mic For Singers. I'd been hearing about Trudi's open mic for a long time and was happy to finally have a chance to make it...and I wasn't disappointed! It was a great way to spend an afternoon - the room was packed with singers and it was such a relaxed, supportive environment. Many of the singers were regulars, and as such, had a really nice rapport with each other. With John Delfin on keyboard and Saadi Zain on bass (and Trudi herself keeping time on the drums!), there was a great deal of talent packed into one little room!
Last night, I had a double-header: first, I was featured as a guest vocalist in the March Is Cabaret Month Celebration at the Songbook Theater at Broadway Baby Bistro, and then I headed over to Cast Party for my normal Monday night festivities! Headed up by Stu Hamstra of Cabaret Hotline and hosted by the aforementioned "Horace Vanderveer," the show boasted a great lineup (Marcus Simeone, Leslie Orofino, Brandon Cutrell, Parker Scott, Suzanne Carrico, German Rodriguez, Molly Pope, Ben Cherry, Tom Andersen, Ben Rauch and yours truly!) and was a lot of fun! Tracy Stark did a great job as musical director, and harpist Jose Luis provided gorgeous pre-show music!
Cast Party was hopping, as usual! It was a full house, packed to the brim with talented folks including Christine Lavin, Lina Koutrakos, Michael Quinn, David Goldman, Rob Langeder, Joan Crowe, Rich Siegel, and more! With Tedd Firth on piano and Steve Doyle on bass, the "Cast Party Symphony Orchestra" sounded fantastic as usual, and Jim Caruso was fully recovered from his recent bout with pneumonia and he was rarin' to go! Now, when your week starts out with a Monday that good, it's kinda hard to top it, but I am going to see Macbeth at BAM this Friday, so it might just be possible!
Stay tuned for another update soon!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Happy March Is Cabaret Month!

Greetings all!
Did you know that March is "Cabaret Month?" I have a vague recollection of being told about that a while ago, but this is the first time that I can recall that there is actually a celebration going on! On Monday, March 10th at 7 p.m., I'll be a guest performer in a special "March Is Cabaret Month Celebration" at the Songbook Theater at Broadway Baby Bistro. Also scheduled to perform are Suzanne Carrico, Molly Pope, Marcus Simeone, Parker Scott, Leslie Orofino, Brandon Cutrell, Tom Andersen, Ben Rauch and Ben Cherry. Tracy Stark will serve as musical director. It should be a great show - I'm really honored to be a part of it! For more details and to order tickets, check out the official website at
I spent the weekend kicking off cabaret month in grand fashion, first catching Lari White's late show at the Oak Room. Now, although the show was on Friday, February 29th, it began at 11:30 p.m. and so carried over into March 1st - and I can't think of a better way to have started the month! I'd seen Lari perform a number of times before, both at Cast Party and at some of the Broadway By The Year shows at Town Hall. I always enjoyed her singing and was eager to see a full show of hers. say I was blown away doesn't begin to describe it! Called Love Letters, the show was beautifully constructed, focused on the writings of people in love. Love letters were read as introductions to songs, and they were perfectly selected, providing seamless transitions between the spoken word and the word which was sung. And boy, can Lari White sing! A 3-time Grammy Award winner, she started out as a country singer, but most of the songs she performed in this show were standards and her velvety voice seemed perfectly suited for them. There were some brilliant pairings of songs, my favorites being a medley of "Hooray For Love" and "Down With Love" and a second medley of "I Wish I Were In Love Again," intertwined with "I'll Never Fall In Love Again." The latter medley perfectly captured the conflicting feelings one experiences after the end of a romance, and I caught knowing grins stealing across the faces of my neighbors in the audience (to match the knowing grin on my own face). Also particularly compelling was her rendition of "Lush Life." I've heard this song done many, many times and always love to hear it, but I found Lari's rendition more touching than most. Glass of wine in hand, she played on the double meaning of "Lush" and also portrayed a woman deeply hurt but trying her best to numb the pain. Love Letters was an absolutely gorgeous show - I'm very much looking forward to seeing Ms. White again the next time she's in town!
On Saturday evening, I went to my home away from home, the Metropolitan Room, to see Miles Phillips in his show, Quiet Stars. I'd seen this show in the fall, when Miles debuted it, and I loved it then...and I must say, I think I enjoyed it even more the second time around! Filled with songs that take place between twilight and dawn, the show was such a joy to take in. From the first plaintive notes of "Good Night My Someone," played on the piano by Miles himself, to the closing notes of "The Night You Decided To Stay," Miles took the audience on a journey of all the places one can go in the course of a night - from the touching to the silly to the seductive, and he did so while singing gorgeously! Particularly beautiful were "With Every Breath I Take" From City Of Angels and "Romantic Notions" from Romance/Romance. As always with Miles' shows, his collaborations with musical director Jason Wynn yielded terrific, engaging arrangements which perfectly showcased Miles' rich baritone.
So, between Miles and Lari, I had a terrific start to "Cabaret Month!" I'm planning on keeping it up this week by seeing What's The Point? at The Reprise Room at Dillon's Monday night at 7 p.m., followed, of course, by Cast Party. On Wednesday evening, I'll be back at the Reprise Room at 7 p.m. to catch my friend Julian Yeo in his "Retro-jazz" night, and then on Friday night at 10 p.m., it's off to the Metropolitan Room for their monthly open mic, Metrojam, which is hosted by the dapper and talented Joe Bachana. A busy week, no doubt, but definitely a fun one! Stay tuned for another update soon!