Jenna's Two Cents Blog   

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday again!

Happy Monday everyone!

I can't believe it's almost April, can you? Yikes! This year has been flying!

Last week wasn't as busy as usual, show-wise, but I still managed to squeeze in a couple of fun outings! On Monday night, it was Cast Party (as usual), with tons of fabulous talent filling the room! Forbidden Broadway star Christina Bianco, cabaret diva KT Sullivan, fab singer songwriter Zoe Lewis, 2009 Bistro Award winner Susan Winter, and the amazingly talented William Blake all brought the house down, and Cast Party regulars like David Goldman, Joan Crowe, and folk goddess Christine Lavin wowed and zowed 'em as well! Looking forward to another fab Cast Party tonight!

On Wednesday, March 25th, I headed over to the Time Out NY Lounge to catch theSet NYC, which is a monthly variety show that gives talented up-and-comers a chance to show themselves off. I had a terrific time there - it truly was a variety show! The acts I saw included a few singers (host RedWine, jazz/blues singer Anna Fiszman, and 22-year-old singer/songwriter Melanie Fontana), a few comedians (Liz Miele and Rob O'Reilly), a magician (Nick Ignazzi), and a dance team (Frida, Moncef and Ronja, who all hail from Sweden) - and the best part was, they were all terrific! Congrats to producers Pim, R. Lai, L. Mordis, and R. Taliver for putting together such a great show, and for providing such a wonderful opportunity for talent on the rise!

On Friday, March 27th, I caught the train upstate and was able to see my dad, Fortune Esposito, playing at John's Harvest Inn! He plays there every Friday night from 7-10 p.m. and because of my busy schedule in the city, I'm not able to get there as often as I'd like, but whenever I do, I have a great time. The combination of the great music (yay, Dad!), the amazing food, and the warm, homey atmosphere makes it a perfect Friday night destination - it's a great way to relax and unwind after a long week!

That's about it for now, folks, but check back for another update soon!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday, Monday...

Hello All!

Wow, I can't believe it's been almost a week since my last post! It's been a busy one, too, which explains why I haven't had time to squeeze in an update! Okay, so when I left off, it was St. Patrick's Day and I was getting ready to go see Ben Cherry's show at Don't Tell Mama. Well, it ended up being a great night! I'd seen Ben in a performance of this show last year, and while it was good, then, it was even better this time around! Filled with songs about the ups and downs of living in the big city, the show was warmly received by the audience of New Yorkers and Ben's performance was terrific! After the show, it was off to O'Flaherty's (right across the street) for some corned beef and cabbage (yes, I AM part Irish!), which was a great way to cap off the day!

On Thursday, March 19th, I was back at Don't Tell Mama, although this time I was actually singing! I was pleased to be one of the performers in this month's Grace Notes. Produced and hosted by Grace Cosgrove, Grace Notes is a monthly "Singers' Soiree," which boasts a different lineup of talented performers each month, and always has a fun theme. The theme this month was "Flower Power: Music of the 60's," and the selection of material was terrific - there was everything from the Beatles to Joni Mitchell to Connie Francis (yep, the Connie Francis was courtesy of yours truly!). I was honored to be sharing the stage with a super-duper group of performers, including Stearns Matthews, Julie Reyburn, Billie Roe, Stefanie Rose, Steven Ray Watkins, Lennie Watts, and (of course!) Grace, herself!

After Grace Notes, it was off to the Time Out NY Lounge to catch Julian Yeo and his retro-jazz band! I've written about Julian a number of times before, and as always, I had a great time listening to him Thursday night. His smooth, easy style and stellar song selection provides the perfect way to unwind at the end of a long week!

On Saturday, March 21st, I had a great time singing backup in Joe Bachana's show, High Hopes: Songs from my Childhood, at the Metropolitan Room. The show was full of feel-good, fun songs, including "Come On Get Happy" (the Partridge Family song!), "Candy Man," "Up, Up and Away," and "Swinging On A Star." And the best part was, that on a number of the songs, he was joined by a chorus of five children who sat on the piano and sang their hearts out - it was adorable! His own two daughters, Cecilia, and Roxanne, were (of course!) part of the children's chorus, and his wife, Nancy, also took part, singing a lovely "Que Sera Sera." It was a fun, family-oriented show and I really enjoyed being able to take part in it!

Later that same night, after grabbing a quick bite to eat, it was back to the Metropolitan Room to see Shawn Ryan's show, which was a blast. I always have a great time at Shawn's shows, which is why I try to make it to see him whenever he's in town. And Saturday night was no exception. The songs were great, the musicians were great, and Shawn's quick, in-the-moment wit and impeccable comic timing kept the audience chuckling (or guffawing, in some cases), for nearly the entire show!

On Sunday evening, it was off to the Algonquin Salon's 1-year anniversary celebration, which was a lot of fun. In the year that it's been in residence at the Algonquin Hotel, the Salon has developed a very loyal following, and it was really nice to see so many of its supporters in the room last night for the celebration. Many of the performers who co-hosted over the past year, including Sue Matsuki, Bobbie Horowitz, Raissa Katona Benett, Maureen Taylor, Sarah Rice, and Peter Napolitano (who is also the producer of the Salon) were there to perform, and a number of the Salon "regulars," plus a few newcomers, were on hand to share their talents as well. It was a lovely night, and everyone seemed to have a great time!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Top o' the um...evenin' to ye!
Hope this finds you all enjoying this lovely St. Patty's Day! As for me, I'm looking forward to heading out of work, catching Ben Cherry's show at Don't Tell Mama, and hopefully getting some corned beef and cabbage afterwards!

So...let's see, where did I leave off? Well, it was a week ago, and I was headed out to the Cabaret Hotline March is Cabaret Month Gala! That ended up being a really fun evening - there was tons of talent in the room, both onstage and in the audience, and there was a terrific sense of warmth and community. Each of the performers did themselves proud, and the audience had a terrific time! Congrats to Stu Hamstra for spearheading the gala, and also to producer Tom Stajmiger, host Brandon Cutrell, musical director Tracy Stark, and all of the terrific entertainers who graced the stage: Natalie Douglas, Anne Steele, Joan Curto, Kristy Cates, Jack Donahue, Antonio Edwards, Barb Jungr, Sarah Rice and Ben Cherry.

On Thursday, March 12th, I headed to Metrojam at the Metroplitan Room and had a lovely time, as usual. The band (John DiPinto on piano, Ritt Henn on bass and Bobby Sher on drums) was rockin, host Joe Bachana was as entertaining and charming as ever, and some fantastic talents like Susan Winter, Rob Langeder, Deb Berman, and Maureen Taylor kept things hopping!

The following night, it was off to see Cait Doyle in her show Hot Mess In Manhattan at the Duplex. Four words for you: Go see this show! It's funny, quirky, original, and flat-out entertaining, and Cait is a terrifically talented actress and singer. I'll have more details in my Broadway World column this Friday, so be sure to check it out!

I took the weekend off to go see my darling nephew (yay!), but was back in action last night, taking in a double-header at Birdland! First up was Forbidden Broadway diva Chrisine Pedi in Winging It at Birdland, which was outstanding. Christine is probably best known for doing killer impressions of a slew of famous ladies, but, with the exception of a few songs (most notably her finale, in which she did impressions of 16 different women singing songs from Chicago!), this show was performed in her own voice, which was a rare treat! After Christine's show, it was Cast Party time! As usual, there were some really incredible performances - Cast Party favorite David Goldman, who hadn't been to Birdland for quite some time did a terrific "Manha de Carnaval," Metrojam host Joe Bachana treated us to a swingin' "Witchcraft," Italian crooner Andrea Balducci enchanted the crowd with his "Cuando, Cuando, Cuando," and Rob Langeder gave everyone a taste of his upcoming show with a jazzy "Moody's Mood."

Okay, time for me to sign off and head out! Have a great rest of your St. Patrick's Day and check back for another update soon!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

MAC New Face Showcase, Jim Van Slyke Broadway Jukebox, and more!

Hello All!
It's been a busy few days since I last wrote - so let me bring you up to date on what's been going on!

On Saturday, March 7th, I had the pleasure of hosting Part 2 of the MAC New Face Showcase featuring debut artists appearing on the preliminary MAC Award ballot. The featured performers this week were Deb Berman, Christina Bianco, Ben Cherry, Dawn Derow, and Dominic Sheahan-Stahl, and they all did a terrific job! Boy, what a crazy amount of talent in the debut pool this year!! In addition to these performers, we were treated to a performance by cast members from Broadway's Next Hit Musical, which was absolutely hilarious! Based on suggestions from the audience, the actors improved songs on the spot, which were clever, funny, and actually very well performed! This show performs every other Thursday at Broadway Comedy Club - I can't wait to check out a full show!

After the MAC showcase, it was off to see Jim Van Slyke in The Sedaka Show. Conceived and directed by Brian Lane Green with musical direction by Tim DiPasqua, the show featured all kinds of terrific Sedaka material - from well-known hits to obscure, little-known tunes, to Sedaka's newest project for children! And not only was the material terrific, but Jim's voice just blew me away - what an instrument! Seriously, I could have listened to him all night!

On Sunday, it was another double-header: first it was Broadway Jukebox at Birdland, and then the Algonquin Salon at the Algonquin Hotel (happily, both venues are on 44th St., so it was very convenient to run from one to the other!). Broadway Jukebox was terrific - I wrote about it last month, but in case you missed that entry, I'll give a quick description of what it is. Conceived by producer Scott Siegel and directed by Scott Coulter, the hour-long show features three Broadway performers each performing songs which have been selected by the audience. Audience members are given ballots upon entrance and each performer has a list of songs which he/she is prepared to perform that evening, and the songs which receive the most votes are the songs which make it into the show! Each week features different performers and different song choices (with a few crossovers - I ended up hearing "I Dreamed A Dream" both times I went!), so audiences will never see the same show twice! The featured performers this week were Julia Murney (Wicked, The Wild Party), Brad Oscar (The Producers), and Kerry O'Malley (White Christmas, Into The Woods). They were all terrific - I thoroughly enjoyed myself! Kudos also go to musical director Tedd Firth, who did a terrific job (as always!) accompanying all of the singers! After Broadway Jukebox was over, it was off to the Algonquin Salon, which was also a lot of fun! The special guest co-host for the evening was Aaron Kaburick, who is currently appearing in Billy Elliot on Broadway. Aaron did a great job of keeping things moving smoothly, and brought the house down with his rendition of "I Want To Be A Rockette." There were a bunch of other fabulous performers there that evening, including Susan Winter, Gretchen Reinhagen, Rob Langeder, and Maureen Taylor - all in all, a very fun night!

Last night was yet another doubleheader ( wonder I'm tired today! 6 shows in 3 days??)! First, it was John Bucchino & Friends, which was part of the Broadway at Birdland concert series. I had a fantastic time - I've been familiar with some of Mr. Bucchino's songs for a while now, but after hearing a whole concert full, I want to run out and buy it all! The songs are beautifully written, and the performances last night were outstanding! Featuring the talents of Brian Stokes Mitchell, Ann Hampton Callaway, Brian Lane Green, Daisy Prince, Justin Paul, Benj Pasek, Jessica Phillips, Lucas Steele, Jamison Stern, Joan Almedilla, Jacqueline Hester, and cellist Yair Evnine, the concert was a fantastic showcase for the music of Mr. Bucchino - and, judging by their reactions, the rest of the sold out house agreed with me! After the concert, I stayed put for Cast Party, which was enjoyable as ever. Steven Zelin, the "Singing CPA," had everyone cracking up with his tax/finance parody lyrics to "My Favorite Things," folk superstar Christine Lavin performed on of my all-time favorite songs of hers, "Good Thing He Can't Read My Mind," original Forbidden Broadway cast member Christine Pedi brought the house down with her version of various divas (including Eartha Kitt, Bette Davis, Joan Rivers, Carol Channing, and Ethel Merman) doing "I Will Survive," and lots of other super-talented people kept the evening flowing. Host Jim Caruso tied it all together with his usual charm and wit, and the Cast Party Symphony Orchestra (Tedd Firth on piano, Steve Doyle on bass, and Steve Bakunas on drums) was fantastic!

That's about it for now...just getting ready to head out to Cabaret Hotline's March Is Cabaret Month Gala - more on that tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Adriana McPhee at the Metropolitan Room

Hi all!
Just a quick note about Adriana McPhee's show, Starting Here, Starting Now, which I caught at the Metropolitan Room last night! This show was Ms. McPhee's NYC cabaret debut, and I was so pleased to be able to see it! Featuring a terrific lineup of songs from such varied composers as Kander & Ebb, Joni Mitchell and Cy Coleman, the show was loosely based on Adriana's travels from L.A. to New York to Paris and back to New York, and the lessons she learned along the way. Her lovely voice was perfectly matched to her sweet personality, which shone through on many of the selections, particularly the Levant/Heyman classic, "Blame It On My Youth." As a special treat, her mother, singer/voice teacher Peisha McPhee joined her for duets on "You Must Believe In Spring" and the famous Judy Garland/Barbra Streisand "Happy Days"/"Get Happy." Their voices blended beautifully together, and it was a joy to watch them sharing the stage. Overall, a lovely evening!
That's all for now, but check back for another update soon...and be sure to check out my column this Friday on!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Broadway Boys and Cast Party

Greetings, everyone!

Well, as the temperatures dropped last night, I hightailed it to Birdland right after my voice lesson and stayed put there all night! First up was the Broadway Boys concert, which was part of the Broadway at Birdland series. Featuring the talents of Marty Thomas (Xanadu), Jesse Nager (Mary Poppins), Danny Calvert (Altar Boyz), Maurice Murphy (…Spelling Bee), Morgan Karr (Spring Awakening) and Landon Beard (Altar Boyz), the show was called Sampler, and included highlights from three existing Broadway Boys shows, Broadway Today, The Radio, and Oh What A Night. The result was a terrific mix of Broadway tunes and pop tunes, with hip, contemporary arrangements. The "boys" themselves were oozing charm and talent, and kept the audience bopping in their seats for the entire show! Special guests Katie Thompson and Shayna Steele wowed the crowd and left them wanting more!

After the Broadway Boys concert, it was time for my favorite Monday night tradition, Cast Party! As usual, it was tons-o-fun, with talents like Christine Lavin, Tom Leopold, Jeff Segal, Adriana & Peisha McPhee, and Birdland songbirds Cait Doyle and Melissa Ward all doing a terrific job. And Jim Caruso was as charming and entertaining as ever...and he did one of my favorite songs, "Tone Deaf," which absolutely brought down the house! As an added treat, drummer Steve Bakunas sat in with the Cast Party Symphony Orchestra (Tedd Firth on piano and Steve Doyle on bass) for the night - and he was terrific! Can't wait to do it all again next week!

That's about all for now - stay warm and check back for more soon!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Happy March!

Hello everyone! Boy, it seems like March really is coming in like a lion this year - by all accounts, NYC should be a snowy, slushy mess by this time tomorrow! Ah, well - at least it'll be pretty while it's coming down, right?

So, anyway, I've got some exciting news - it seems my blogging skills have actually gotten me a regular column on! My first column was posted yesterday - you can look at it by clicking here. I'm going to be posting a new column every Friday, so be sure to check it out! Rest assured, though, I will still be faithful to my blog! Since my Friday column will be similar to what I've been doing on this blog, I'm going to try to shake up the format a bit here and do shorter, more frequent blogs - so be on the lookout!

On that note, let me tell you a bit about the fabulous MAC New Face Showcase I hosted yesterday! MAC has been doing New Face Showcases for about a year and a half now, as a way of introducing newer members of the cabaret community, and I always enjoy attending them. The showcase that was held yesterday was part 1 of 2 in a special edition showcase which features all of the artists who appear in the debut categories on this year's preliminary MAC Award ballot (the second showcase will be held next Saturday, 3/7). The performers featured yesterday were Shannon Brown, Edd Clark, Cait Doyle, Kevin Dozier, Nicole Kafka and Stearns Matthews - and I have to say, I was really blown away by the talent level! Each performer sang two songs, and I really enjoyed getting a chance to hear all of them - and talk about variety! We had everything from country to comedy to heartbreaking ballads...and pretty much everything in between! I'm so looking forward to hosting next week's showcase, too - it's at 3:30 p.m. at the Reprise Room, so if you're looking for something to do, come on in and check it out! It's free for MAC members and only $10 for non-members - hope to see you there!

That's about it for now, but be sure to check back for another update soon!