I have so much to write about today. This will be a long blog. I leave on Tuesday for Malibu and this will be my last blog till the 10th!
Have a great Labor Day weekend! Here goes...
Liza Minnelli's still got the razzle dazzle
Hollywood Bowl concert shows singer's magic endures.
By PAUL HODGINS
The Orange County Register
What becomes a legend most?
An adoring audience.
If you've got them on your side, nothing else matters.
Liza Minnelli had us worshipping at her altar Friday night at the Hollywood Bowl.
Her two-hour concert was an amazing display of showbiz savvy transforming weaknesses into strengths and flaws into poignant moments.
Minnelli is 63 now, and her wayward life is legend. Fellow diva Barbra Streisand has treated her voice like a pampered poodle and managed her career like a sergeant major.
Minnelli marches to her own drumbeat, sometimes eerily reminiscent of her mother's . Over the years the gossip press has followed Liza's travails like hounds after a hare, feasting on her drug abuse problems, uneven performances, wavering voice and trail of broken romances.
Recently, though, Minnelli has blazed a comeback trail. She won a Tony earlier this year for "Liza's at the Palace," the crowning achievement of a 75-city tour. Her appearance at the Hollywood Bowl is a prelude to an engagement next month at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
How did she do it? By embracing and even celebrating her shortcomings, not trying to gloss over them.
Minnelli's instrument is well past its prime. It was never a perfect voice, but at the height of her powers (most famously, her iconic performance as Sally Bowles in Bob Fosse's 1972 film version of "Cabaret") there was a thrilling lustiness and bravura to her delivery – think of the way she slayed "Mein Herr."
More than three tumultuous decades older, Minnelli's voice sounds fragile and its shortcomings are more apparent.
The chief culprit is breath support. She struggles to finish long phrases and seems winded after upbeat songs. That epic vibrato has widened to Grand Canyon proportions.
Minnelli can still sell a song like nobody else alive. Performing Broadway tunes is as much about acting and persona power as vocal technique, and in those departments Minnelli is better than ever.
Backed by a 12-piece orchestra playing lush arrangements, Minnelli didn't give us a string of chestnuts. "Cabaret" was lightly represented by its title song and "Maybe This Time." Kander and Ebb's earlier hit, "Flora the Red Menace" – the musical that gave 19-year-old Minnelli her breakout role and first Tony – was ignored on Friday. (We were hoping, at least, for the beautiful "A Quiet Thing"; its lyrics would have been a great opener.)
Nevertheless, the material was well chosen. For longtime Minnelli fans the lyrics in songs such as "I Would Never Leave You," "Cabaret," "My Own Best Friend" and "Maybe This Time" were pregnant with allusions to her life.
Friday evening was hot and nearby fires made the air treacherous for anyone singing or even breathing. Minnelli carefully marshaled her energy, bringing out a chair midway through the first act. She joked that in the old days it remained on the sidelines until after intermission.
Only a celebrity with this public a life and this rabid a following could possibly get away with it.
"We're all in this together," she said at the top of the evening, referring to the heat and the challenges it presented. Enlisting the audience's sympathy is an old showbiz trick that Minnelli has learned as well as anyone, and it worked like Merlin magic.
The crowd's affection bubbled over. "We love you, Liza," someone screamed more than once.
Another sign of Minnelli's confidence: she dared to evoke thoughts of another diva during her Palace Medley, a grab-bag of song snippets sculpted around the thrill of playing at New York's famous venue.
The audience loved it.
Every diva knows how to finish an act, and Minnelli is an old pro.
Minnelli delivered it with a touch of world-weariness, characterized by less-than-pinpoint accuracy in the phrasing and intonation. The song contained one of those art-imitating-life lines: "Well, that's what comes from too much pills and liquor." She milked the moment perfectly without saying a word; a knowing look was all it took.
Minnelli also offered a bit of touching revisionism at the song's end, which brought a supportive cheer from the huge house: "When I go, I'm NOT going like Elsie!"
The evening ended with another Kander and Ebb standard, "New York, New York." Minnelli gave it the old razzle dazzle. She even found an opportune moment or two for a display of jazz hands (Minnelli must be the only performer alive who can use that gesture without irony). Predictably, it brought a standing O.
Fragile as she seemed, Minnelli had the energy for a quiet encore with her beloved accompanist, Billy Stritch: Cole Porter's "Every Time We Say Goodbye." It was a melancholy valentine to the audience.
Perched like a bird on the edge of Stritch's piano stool, wearing a black T shirt, Minnelli looked eerily like her mother. (The illusion is reinforced by her persona: the tumbled-out words and vulnerability are spookily Judy-like.)
Judy Garland, of course, was dead by 47. Liza is still very much with us – and the way her career is humming along now, I'd say all the odds are in her favor.
Contact the writer: 714-796-7979 or firstname.lastname@example.org
An opening date has been set for the previously announced Broadway transfer of the Olivier Award-winning revival of La Cage aux Folles.
The production’s Olivier Award-winning star, Douglas Hodge, will make his Broadway debut as Albin. The revival will open on April 18, 2010 at a Shubert theater to be announced, directed by Terry Johnson.
The London revival of La Cage aux Folles played at the Menier Chocolate Factory from November 23, 2007, to March 8, 2008, and moved to the West End’s Playhouse Theatre on October 30, 2008, where it is still running.
No other casting for the Broadway production has been announced.
Featuring music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and a book by Harvey Fierstein (based on the play by Jean Poiret), La Cage aux Folles centers on Georges, who owns a Saint-Tropez nightclub, his partner Albin (who headlines under the name Zaza), and Georges’ son, Jean-Michel, who’s engaged to the daughter of a right-wing politico.
The original 1983 Broadway production won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book for Fierstein and Best Score for Herman and ran for more than four years. A 2004 Broadway revival met with mixed reviews and lasted fewer than eight months.
Hodge’s London theater credits include Guys and Dolls, Titus Andronicus and Dumb Show (Olivier nomination). His film work includes Vanity Fair, Scenes of a Sexual Nature and the upcoming The Descent 2. His television work has included roles in Mansfield Park, Middlemarch, Men of The Month, True Love, Red Cap, It Could Be You, The Way We Live Now and Spooks.
La Cage aux Folles features choreography by Lynne Page, set design by Tim Shortall, costume design by Matthew Wright, lighting design by Nick Richings, wig and makeup design by Richard Mawbey and orchestrations by Jason Carr.
The 2010 Broadway revival will be produced by Sonia Friedman, David Babani for the Menier Chocolate Factory, Fran and Barry Weissler and Robert Bartner/Norman Tulchin
The following is a letter from Barack Obama regarding Ted Kennedy's death:
Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy.
For nearly five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well-being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.
His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws and reflected in millions of lives -- in seniors who know new dignity; in families that know new opportunity; in children who know education's promise; and in all who can pursue their dream in an America that is more equal and more just, including me.
In the United States Senate, I can think of no one who engendered greater respect or affection from members of both sides of the aisle. His seriousness of purpose was perpetually matched by humility, warmth and good cheer. He battled passionately on the Senate floor for the causes that he held dear, and yet still maintained warm friendships across party lines. And that's one reason he became not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy.
I personally valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I've benefited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.
His fight gave us the opportunity we were denied when his brothers John and Robert were taken from us: the blessing of time to say thank you and goodbye.
The outpouring of love, gratitude and fond memories to which we've all borne witness is a testament to the way this singular figure in American history touched so many lives.
For America, he was a defender of a dream. For his family, he was a guardian. Our hearts and prayers go out to them today -- to his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family.
Today, our country mourns. We say goodbye to a friend and a true leader who challenged us all to live out our noblest values. And we give thanks for his memory, which inspires us still.
President Barack Obama
Imagine a hotel where, in a single weekend, Brad and Angelina, Jennifer Aniston, John Mayer, and Jessica Simpson all stay under the same roof—without a single catfight or a single tabloid reporter there to document the drama. Sound impossible?
It’s not if the “celebrities” are look-alikes, and the hotel is hosting the annual Celebrity Impersonators Conference.
Here, not only do all of today’s A-list stars get along—even long-gone VIPs come to join the party.
This might be the only place in the world (apart from a wax museum) where you can get a photo op alongside Elvis and Marilyn Monroe.
This gathering for faux celebrities—and those who appreciate them—is just one of the wacky conventions that happen around the world every year. And given the thousands of people who congregate at these fetes to celebrate their shared passion for horror movies, cake decorating, and TV sitcoms, the fun of uniting around a common interest seems abundantly clear.
“The community of celebrity impersonators and tribute artists is one huge family,” says Janna Joos, director of the conference. “These kids are amazing to see networking with each other—Cher sharing with other Chers, Tina tapping out dance steps with other Tinas, Tim McGraw comparing cowboy hats with other Tims, or Oprah dishing the gossip with Whoopi.”
No matter the common ground, it’s fair to say conventions bring people together—both literally and figuratively.
Perhaps the best-known example of this phenomenon is Comic Con, the annual comics convention in San Diego that draws a motley crowd of geeks, celebrities, artists, writers, and gamers. The event has such broad appeal and is so heavily promoted and anticipated that even non-comics enthusiasts around the world know about it. (As such, it’s become enough of a cultural norm that it didn’t even make our “World’s Strangest” list.)
Want some guaranteed celeb sightings, without having to battle the paparazzi? Head to the Celebrity Impersonators Convention in Las Vegas (March 1–3, 2010), where you can mingle with Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, and Elvis Presley; wink at Sarah Palin while discussing healthcare reform with Barack Obama; croon alongside Frank Sinatra before voguing with Madonna ... you get the idea.
The annual World Toilet Summit & Expo, however, is another story.
It may seem bizarre that a quotidian fixture like a toilet could inspire an entire weekend convention—one that brings together droves of toilet-industry professionals, innovators, buyers, and, ahem, everyday end-users. But such gatherings aren’t unusual at all. Witness the LEGO World conference, for example, where lovers of the brightly colored childhood building blocks amass each year. Or the Sunshine State Eggfest, a Florida convention for devotees of a particular brand of barbecue grill.
It seems, in fact, that for every human activity or passion or fad, there’s a conference somewhere where people can commemorate it. And if some of these mass gatherings seem odd, well, it’s also kind of nice—heartwarming, even—that they exist. No matter how eccentric or unusual your secret hobby is, these conventions will make you realize: you’re not alone.
Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center, makes the point in a column for the Huffington Post, that there are nine different federal agencies that support art projects: the NEA, the NEH, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, plus the Departments of Commerce, Education, State, Agriculture, Defense, and Transportation.
And none of these coordinate with the others. To a degree, Kaiser echoes what Baylor prof David Smith argues in his book, Money for Art: It’d help — in deciding what art gets funded and by how much — if we first decided what federal arts funding is for. That way, we could all get behind the program (or not) and see the money more effectively targeted:
The problem is not that federal funding for the arts is unwarranted; the problem is that we need to be assured, as citizens, that we are getting the most value for our money.
What is needed is a coordinated approach to arts grants to ensure that the arts programming supported by federal funds truly serves our national interest.
But how can we accomplish this? How can we coordinate the efforts of so many federal agencies? There has been discussion of the need for a Ministry of Culture in the United States. I am concerned that the formation of such an entity would cost too much and put too little money in the hands of the grassroots arts organizations which truly do the most important arts work in this nation and rarely get the spotlight.
(Why do we always use arts celebrities to lobby for government support? Doesn’t anyone realize that the American people do not believe their tax dollars should support the work of the most famous and richest performers?)
[Not to dismiss Kaiser's point but to explain what seems to me the thinking behind the tactic: Arts supporters trot out the stars because, although they may not win over the average American, they wake up Congressional committee members who like to hobnob with the celebrated and beautiful. It's one of the few perks that arts lobbyists can offer politicians -- instead of barrels of raw cash. The stars also draw attention to arts issues from Washington's political journalists who otherwise couldn't care unless some art work is causing a scandal.]
Instead, we need someone in the administration, perhaps the new Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts [that would be Rocco Landesman], to provide leadership and coordination to ensure that all grants-making agencies are working in a common direction and that the money expended creates an arts ecology that benefits all Americans. We need policies in at least three key areas: sustaining American arts organizations (both large and small), arts education, and cultural diplomacy.
Jessica Molaskey and John Pizzarelli Talk 'Radio Deluxe' And Tanglewood 2009
by Randy Rice
John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey are the epitome of the sophisticated urbane couple; a modern day, musical, William Powell and Myna Loy.
Pizzarelli has had a multi-faceted career as a jazz guitarist, vocalist and bandleader. He has recorded nearly an album a year for the past twenty years. He frequently appears with his trio or quartet and often with his father, legendary jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli.
He recently released ‘With a Song in My Heart', a tribute to Richard Rodgers.
Molaskey began her Broadway career nearly 30 years ago in a revival of Oklahoma! and most recently appeared in the 2008 Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park with George. In between she appeared in another 10 or so Broadway productions along with numerous U.S. tours.
In September 2008, Molaskey released her 5th solo album, ‘A Kiss to Build a Dream On'.
For the past three years the couple has hosted a weekly radio show from their "Deluxe living room high atop Lexington Avenue" in New York City. The show has a focus on "The Great American Songbook". Guests from across the musical spectrum are invited into their "Deluxe Living Room" for a relaxed, freewheeling chat.
Recent guests include David Hyde Pierce, Curtis Stigers, Bebe Neuwirth and Liza Minnelli.
The un-scripted feel of their show is no accident. A conversation with the couple can take twists and turns as every story reminds the other of another story they want to share. They each possess an encyclopedic knowledge of music. John can call up arcane trivia about nearly any 20th century performer or composer. Jessica is a walking Broadway database. The couple has been married for 11 years and frequently performs together. On their show and in life, they frequently finish each other's thoughts and sentences.
BroadwayWorld.com was recently invited to sit in on a taping of "Radio Deluxe".
Lounge singer Richard Cheese and his accompanist Bobby Ricotta were the guests. (John and Jessica's daughter Madeline also sat in and declared it one of her favorite shows, yet.)
After the show John and Jessica sat down to talk about their careers, radio program and their plans to record an episode of Radio Deluxe during the 2009 Tanglewood Jazz Festival, which takes place in Lenox, MA over Labor Day weekend.
Randy Rice: I know that the two of you were in a Broadway production together.
Is that where you met?
John Pizzarelli: It is. We met during the production of Dream.
Jessica Molaskey: It was a tribute to Johnny Mercer, and a rather chaotic production.
John and his trio were in it and seemed to know what they were doing. I thought "I should hitch myself to them".
John: In the show, Jessica was singing this beautiful arrangement of "Skylark". I told the director that she should be singing with us. She did.
Jessica: And the rest, as they say, is history.
Randy: Jessica, you are, pretty much, a Broadway gypsy, right?
Jessica: I am not sure I would call myself a "gypsy". I am a performer who has been lucky enough to perform in a lot of Broadway shows. I was in Cats. Perhaps, if being in Cats makes you a "gypsy", I am one. I have been working as a solo artist for the past few years, often with John, as well as getting back to Broadway when possible; most recently in last year's production of Sunday in the Park with George.
When I first came to Broadway, there was a way things worked. You worked in the chorus, worked your way up and eventually you got a lead. That changed somewhere along the line. Performers who had never stepped on a Broadway stage where being given the leads roles.
I distinctly remember telling a colleague that I was going to have to go somewhere else, become famous, and then return.
Randy: Was it hard to make the transition from acting in a book musical to performing without a character?
Jessica: Oh my God! It was absolutely terrifying at first. Then I became comfortable performing each song as a story. I worked to find the character that is singing, and that made it easier. Working with John also makes it easier, because I know he has my back.
Randy: Jessica, after singing as a character for the first couple of decades, you have been singing in your own "voice" for the past 10 years. Who are your musical influences?
Jessica: My mom was in radio while I was growing up and we had all of these records around the house. I remember listening to Blossom Dearie and Peggy Lee records over and over again.
Randy: Both of you are prolific recording artists. Jessica, you have released
5 solo jazz standards albums in the past 7 years. John, you seem to release a disc a year. How do you do it?
John: We are very lucky. Most of my "singing" is done on the Telarc label and they are great to work with. I also have the freedom to appear as a guest on other artists' records, including Jessica's. We also write music, together and separately.
For years, I wrote really bad pop songs. I had them all in a binder and I remember asking Jessica to look at them. She looked at a song told me to move this word over here, switch that phase around, and then the song would work. I told her I wasn't sure, but as soon as she left the room, I made the changes.
Randy: Where did the idea for "Radio Deluxe" come from?
Jessica: John and I had been appearing together for a while.
John: I was working, I think at the Algonquin, and they wanted a "girl singer". We drew up a list of possible singers.
All of them would have been great, but Jessica was, obviously, familiar and comfortable on and off stage. Sometimes those lines blur. We, [the trio] can be just about to go on, and my Dad [Bucky Pizzarelli] will say something like "Oh, I forgot to tell you, I accidentally locked your mother out of the house", or something equally as crazy. I thought that there were not a lot of singers that would be comfortable stepping into that family dynamic.
Jessica: On stage, John and I have a comfortable, sometimes funny, report. It isn't necessarily intentional. We were approached by some folks who thought it would translate well into a radio show and it has. We love doing "Radio Deluxe". Radio is such an intimate medium. We get letters and Facebook postings from listeners all over the world. Folks can listen to the show online and there will soon be a podcast that you will be able to download. As a bonus, every week we get to play our friends' records.
John: The focus of our show is "The Great American Songbook". Some folks think that the "Songbook" is in a little box and anything that doesn't fit in that box doesn't belong. I knew that there are a lot of performers who wouldn't necessarily fit in that box, but should be played.
When we started, I certainly didn't think about the show as recording history. But now, when I think that we recorded a show with the great Kenny Rankin, who just died, I think "Wow!" We got Margaret Whiting to sing a bit of "Skylark" when she was on. Everyone was moved to tears. When Liza Minnelli came on, she was so open about her relationship with the legendary Kay Thompson. We don't like to do a lot of prep with our guests on the show, because we want the spontaneity to be real.
Randy: I know that John just got back from a short tour in Japan. How do you deal with each other's tour schedules?
Jessica: Living in New York City certainly helps. There are lots of places for us to work here. There is the Oak Room, Birdland, Feinstein's and the Carlyle. Obviously, our priority is [our daughter] Madeline. If John goes to Japan during the school year, I stay home.
John: For the past few years we have been lucky enough to do a West Coast tour during the summer. That way, we all get to go together.
Randy: Over Labor Day weekend, you will be taping a show at the 2009 Tanglewood
Jazz Festival. Have you recorded a show outside of the "Deluxe Living Room" before?
Jessica: We have. But not like this.
John: We are really excited about the Tanglewood gig.
We are planning some really exciting things. We will have guest performers. It is going to be a lot of fun. We aren't going to tell you the details, because we want the spontaneity to be real for the audience as well.
John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey (in her Tanglewood debut) will tape their radio program, "Radio Deluxe," at the 2009 Tanglewood Jazz Festival in Lenox MA on Saturday September 5th.
The “Radio Deluxe” from Tangelwood program will feature special guests Bucky Pizzarelli, Aaron Weinstein, Harry Allen, and Kurt Elling. For more information about the 2009 Tanglewood Jazz Festival visit www.tanglewoodjazzfestival.org.
Radio Deluxe is syndicated can be heard on each week on radio stations across North America and online. For more information, visit www.johnpizzarelli.com or www.jessicamolaskey.com.
Don't forget to contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING & HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS: http://www.carolchanning.org/Foundation.htm
With grateful XOXOXs for your support!
Richard SkipperFollow me on Twitter @RichardSkipper
HERE IS WHAT AUDIENCES ARE SAYING ABOUT WEDNESDAY NIGHT OF THE IGUANA:
What a ball it was to be among the wonderful entertainers last night (8/12/09).I had a ball singing with Barry Levitt on piano.
Richard, I think you and Dana are doing a grrreat job at the Iguana. Keep up the loving atmosphere of supporting the artists and providing entertainment to the consistent audiences. Congratulations dear friend. Love, Leslie Orofino
You are the best!! Passionate about everything that you do & always thinking of others.
You are an amazing entertainer - but, more importantly a sincerely generous person.
THIS WEEK’S GUESTS!
September 2nd: Dana Lorge hosts. Guests Scott Albertson (with Daryl Kojak on keyboard), Steve DePasse, Laura Hull, Anthony Santelmo, Jr.
Had a great time last nite at the Iguana. That was a wonderful show with marvelous talent.
The most fun I have had in a long time. Thanks for your generosity and your great spirit.
I will come again soon! It was a great crowd.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS NOT AN OPEN MIC!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NYC
Now a night out in NY to see a show at a VERY AFFORDABLE price! Joan Crowe
started this Wednesday night series. Dana Lorge and I have
now put their OWN spin on it and are now hosting this weekly variety show in
NYC at The Iguana VIP Lounge (http://www.iguananyc.com) in the heart of
NYC (240 West 54th Street 8-11PM/with an intermission). WEDNESDAY NIGHT OF
will showcase 5 entertainers.
Barry Levitt returns on keyboard and Saadi Zain on bass!
bass. Each week will be different. Time: 8 - 11:00 p.m.
Cover: $10 - no food or drink minimums – but remember – the food is great!
CASH ONLY PAID AT THE DOOR! This is a nice night
out with the family! A
"throw back" to the variety shows we grew up with.
For more info, please call 845-365-0720 or visit _www.RichardSkipper.com_
RESERVATIONS A MUST!!!!!!!!
212-765-5454. No one admitted before
SEPTEMBER 9th: Richard returns from Malibu! Special guest stars: John Demarco, Jackie Draper, Robin James, Sue Matsuki!
September 16th: Ann Dawson, Lou Iacovino, Sara Rice, Val Ryder, & Bill Zeffero
September 23rd: Risa Benson, Stewart Brodian, Jenna Esposito, The Kim Schultz Improv Group, Frank Torren,
September 30th: Wendy Lane Bailey, Bobby Belfry, Ben Rauch, Rick Younger, Josh Zuckerman
October 7th: Edd Clark, Marianne Meringolo, Wendy Russell, Marcus Simeone, Maureen Taylor
October 14th: Kelly Esposito- Broelmann, Barbara Gurskey, Jonathan Long, Andrea Mezvinsky-Kolb , Martin Vidnovic
October 21st: Esther Beckman & Stearns Matthews, Leslie Orofino, Susan Winter
October 28th: Hector Coris returns!, Laurie Krauz & Wicked’s very own Walter ONeil, Angela Schultz, Mauricio Villa-Lobos!
November 4th: Arianna & Moira Danis, Elaine St. George
December 30th: Ritt Henn, Annie Hughes
Keep checking http://www.richardskipper.com/schedule.html for updates