Jenna's Two Cents Blog   

Friday, January 30, 2009


Hooray, it's Friday! Tonight, I'm off to hear Mary Foster Conklin at the Metropolitan Room, running over to the Time Out NY Lounge to hear some retro '60s lounge music courtesy of d.j. Dan Fortune, and then dashing back to the Metropolitan Room for Metrojam! Whew! Where's my coffee???
It's been a busy couple of weeks - I actually started writing this blog last Friday and didn't get a spare second to work on it until now, so let me try to get caught up here!
Let's see...on Thursday 1/22, I had an evening full of great entertainment. First, I headed to Don't Tell Mama for Grace Notes, which is the monthly "singers' soiree" produced and hosted by Grace Cosgrove. The lineup last Thursday was terrific - in addition to Grace, the performers included director Lennie Watts, who had the audience in stitches with his special rendition of "Old MacDonald's Socially Challenged Farm"; Rob Langeder, who treated us to a soulful "Change is Gonna Come" in honor of the inauguration, as well as a terrific original blues tune; and Scott Coulter, who brought the house down with "Promises, Promises," "Drop Me Off In Harlem," and a gorgeous "For Good (from Wicked)." It was a well-rounded show, with some really terrific performances. Afterwards, it was off to the Time Out NY Lounge to catch Julian Yeo and his retro-jazz band for their last set. It had been a while since I'd been able to see Julian, so it was great to be able to sit and listen to his cool, smooth song stylings and his fantastic band while sipping a glass of wine.

On Sunday, January 25th, I headed back to Don't Tell Mama to see Gretchen Reinhagen in her show How 'Bout Them Apples. I'd seen this show once before, and really enjoyed it, so I was happy to be able to catch it again. And I ended up enjoying it even more the second time! With direction by Barry Kleinbort and musical direction by David Gaines, Gretchen wound her way through an eclectic mix of songs, from standards to novelty tunes, bringing her own, unique take to each of them. Funny anecdotes and self-deprecating humor tied all of the musical numbers together and created a well-rounded show.

The following night, I headed to Town Hall for the Nightlife Awards, which was THE place to be in NYC that evening! The house was packed and the staged was graced by some truly amazing entertainers. At the Nightlife Awards, each of the award recipients actually performs instead of giving an acceptance speech, which always ends up being a great treat! This year's winners included Christine Ebersole & Billy Stritch, Marilyn Maye, Baby Jane Dexter, and a host of other fantastically talented performers. And in addition to the marvelous performances the award recipients turned in, a number of the award presenters, including Larry Gatlin, Keith Carradine and Christine Andreas also treated the audience by performing! After the awards, I scurried over to Cast Party, where the aforementioned Billy Stritch was at the piano, and I had an absolute blast there (as usual)! Jim Caruso, who had also presented an award earlier in the evening, was a charming and dapper host as always, and both Larry Gatlin and Marilyn Maye also found their way over from Town Hall and delighted the Birdland crowd with their songs. I finally managed to get a picture with the marvelous Ms. Maye (and the fabulous William Blake) - check it out!

On Thursday, January 29th, I finally made it to Big Night Out, which is the open mic hosted by Jennifer Wren and Bill Zeffiro. It had been on my list of things to do for a while, but I'd never been able to make it before. Every other open mic night is split into one hour of open mic and one hour of a tribute to a living, breathing songwriter. On the night I went, it was one of the "Featured Songwriter" nights, and the songwriter this night was my friend Hector Coris - hooray! I've always been a fan of Hector's witty lyrics and his wry takes on contemporary life, so it was a great treat to see his songs performed by a number of different performers including Jennifer Wren, Raissa Katona Bennett, and Sierra Rein. Hector also performed quite a bit himself, and had the audience nearly falling off their chairs, especially with his "My Moment." If you haven't heard this song, I won't spoil it by revealing what it's about, but it is hilarious!!
On Friday, January 23rd, I had the honor of joining the lineup of The Cocktail Show at Don't Tell Mama for the second week in a row. Produced by comedians Danny Leary and Becky Donohue, The Cocktail Show is a weekly comedy bash, which boasts a lineup of great comedians and a singer or two (which is where I come in!). I had a fantastic time doing it both weeks and enjoyed meeting the comedians as we were hanging out in the lounge during the show.
Monday, February 2nd found me back at Cast Party, of course - and it was another terrific night there! Hilary Kole, who is preparing for her upcoming run at Birdland, was her usual fabulous self, Christine Lavin treated us to a terrific new original song, William Blake tore it up with "At Last," and Rob Langeder did a great "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby" - and that's just the tip of the iceberg! The following night, I caught Laurie Krauz's Tapestry Rewoven at the Iridium. I'd seen this show a few months before, and as much as I enjoyed it then, I enjoyed it even more this time around. Laurie was in great voice, backed by a terrific band (helmed by m.d. Daryl Kojak on the piano), and is truly passionate about this music, which just makes it a joy to watch. Congrats on a great show, Laurie!
Wednesday was my night off for the week, which I spent luxuriating in a fabulous Manuka Honey Facial at Ohm Spa (boy, I wish I could do that every night)!
Last night, I did another double-header, this time it was Julian Yeo at the Time Out New York Lounge followed by Big Night Out at the Reprise Room. I had a blast at both and got to sing at both, which made me a very happy girl!
As I mentioned at the top, tonight is going to be another busy night, so I'm going to enjoy my afternoon coffee and get ready for the evening.
More soon!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This and That...

Hello All!

It's been a busy but fun couple of weeks since my last entry - well, for the most part, anyway! Throwing my neck out and being pretty much immobilized for a few days wasn't so hot, but I'm feeling much better and raring to go now!

So...let's see...on Friday, January 9th, I headed to Metrojam (the monthly open mic at the Metropolitan Room), and had a great time as usual! Joe Bachana did a fabulous job with his hosting duties (and his songs!) and the band (John DiPinto on piano, Ritt Henn on bass and Bobby Sher on drums) was fantastic. There were a lots of talented folks hopping on stage and sharing their songs, including Gabrielle Stravelli (who did an AWESOME blues), Rob Langeder (who swung his heart out on " 'S Wonderful") and Sue Matsuki (who treated us to "Country Man," which was made famous by the late, great Dakota Staton).

On Sunday, January 11th, I headed over the the Algonquin Salon, which is a really wonderful weekly soiree at the historic Algonquin Hotel. Founded by musical director/pianist Mark Janas, it's held every Sunday from 7-10 p.m. in the lobby of the Algonquin, and is frequented by many talented singers, songwriters, and musicians. It's an extremely warm, supportive environment and a terrific place to get to know other entertainers. AND, it's FREE! Well, there's no cover and no minimum - although if you choose to order food or beverages, you are responsible for paying for them! On the 11th, it was packed to the gills with gifted performers including Julie Reyburn, Ryan Kelly, Hector Coris, Rob Langeder, and Raissa Katona Bennett - what a great night!

The following evening, it was off to Cast Party at Birdland. What a show THAT was! With the fabulous Ann Hampton Callaway doing one of her improv numbers (a brand-new song, just made up on the spot with the help of David Budway on piano and Steve Doyle on bass) and vocal jazz legend Jon Hendricks doing a couple of numbers with his daughter, Aria, it was definitely a night to remember!

On Wednesday, January 14th, I had the pleasure of catching an encore performance of Shaynee Rainbolt singing the songs of Russell Garcia at the Iridium. Backed by her fantastic four-trombone band, Shaynee had sounded great singing and swinging through Mr. Garcia's beautifully written songbook and the full house seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves!

I took it easy for the rest of last week and tried to give my neck time to heal (I got the injury last Tuesday morning), but Monday evening I was back in action, attending a double header of David Colbert at the Metropolitan Room followed by (of course!) Cast Party at Birdland. I've gotten to know David over the past few years as a waiter/bartender/t.d. at some of my favorite clubs (he's currently serving in all three capacities at the Metropolitan Room!) and I've heard him sing a song or two here and there, but I'd never gotten to see him in a full show, so I was very excited to finally get the chance! And boy, was it a fun night! Directed by Kristine Zbornik, the show was at times zany, quirky, off-the-wall and poignant. Not to mention the fact that David's got a great, rich voice to work with that sounds great on all of the material, especially the classic rock songs in the lineup. The show is full of surprises, which I don't want to give away, just in case he brings it back! Suffice it to say it was a high-octane show filled with lots of twists and turns...oh, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the FANTASTIC band (unfortunately, I don't have their names, but they rocked!!) and the lovely and talented Karen Mack and Tanya Holt on backup vocals - great job all around! After David's show, I ran outside, grabbed a cab, sat down at Birdland and got called up to sing about 10 minutes after getting there - whew! But then I could just sit and relax and enjoy the rest of the talented folks who got up to sing!

Before I sign off, I just wanted to give a plug to two other great cabaret blogs. The first is written by the lovely and talented Raissa Katona Bennett, and can be found by clicking here. The second is written by D.C. performer and cabaretophile Michael Miyazki, and can be found by clicking here! And a big thanks to Scott Barbarino of Cabaret Exchange for putting up links to my blog and Raissa's blog! Guess I'd better be diligent about the updates! :)

Have a great rest of your week and I'll try to write again soon!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Happy New Year

Hello All!
Hope 2009 is finding you all happy, rested, and raring to go!
As for me, I'm easing into the new year quite nicely. I'm working on three different shows right now, which is most likely going to curtail my showgoing for the next few months, but the good news is that I'll have more time at my computer, which should mean more frequent posts!
My first show of the New Year was Boeing Boeing, which I was lucky enough to catch before it closed on January 4th. I made it in just under the wire and saw it on January 1st! Oh, my goodness! I laughed till my cheeks hurt. It was pure silly, lighthearted fun, and Mark Rylance was absolutely brilliant! My only regret is not seeing it earlier, so that I could have written about it and encouraged you all to go see it!
On Monday night, I went to my first Cast Party of 2009, and it was a blast, as usual. Host Jim Caruso (who also just closed on Broadway in Liza's at the Palace!), was in high spirits and great voice, and there was some terrific talent gracing the stage at Birdland. My favorite part of the night (which is also one of my favorite Cast Party moments EVER), was when Paul Schaffer (yes, THAT Paul Schaffer!) graciously volunteered to accompany Giles Terera on "Birth of the Blues!" Giles was visiting from London and didn't have a chart, and David Budway, who was the Cast Party pianist that evening, wasn't sure he knew it well enough. Jim asked if any piano players in the audience knew it, and the next thing I knew, Paul Schaffer was headed up to the stage to lend a hand. How cool is THAT?! Seriously, you just never know who's going to show up or what kind of magic is going to take place onstage at Cast Party - which is why I'm there pretty much every Monday night!
Okay, folks, that's all I've got so far for 2009, but stay tuned for more updates soon!