Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Sondheim takes the stage

Edward Guthmann, Special to The Chronicle

We know Stephen Sondheim as the pre-eminent musical-theater composer of the past half century. We know him as the lyricist for "Gypsy" and "West Side Story," the winner of eight Tony awards and the composer-lyricist of such musically intricate, mold-breaking shows as "Sweeney Todd," "A Little Night Music," "Company," "Follies" and "Assassins."
But until last year, we didn't know Sondheim the raconteur. In March 2008, he was interviewed by New York Times columnist Frank Rich at the Herbst Theatre.

It was a dazzling evening: Sondheim was droll, generous and endlessly engaging as he shared anecdotes of Ethel Merman and Elaine Stritch, recalled collaborations with Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein, and praised Tim Burton's substantially re conceived film version of "Sweeney Todd."

The evening was part of a four-city West Coast tour assembled by Steven Barclay, a Petaluma lecture agent who represents such literary stars as David Sedaris and Michael Pollan, and was so well received that Sondheim continues to make similar appearances. This year he's been to New York; Richmond, Va.; Philadelphia; Akron, Ohio; and Dallas - sometimes with Rich, sometimes not - and will appear in Houston; Seattle; Vancouver, British Columbia; Austin, Texas; and Boston in coming weeks.
Sondheim returns to Northern California on Saturday for "Stephen Sondheim: A Life in the Theater" at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa.
Instead of Rich, the host will be Peter Stein, a former KQED documentary producer and currently executive director of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

Stein doesn't have the advantage, like Rich, of a pre-existing friendship with Sondheim. He's an avid fan and charter subscriber to the Sondheim Review, a quarterly journal that was first published in 1994, but has never met the master of musical theater.
"The prospect is daunting," Stein said in an e-mail, "only if you feel that you have to squeeze every question you and your audience want to pose into a short period of time, or if you dwell on the fact that you're talking to a giant of the theater."
In a phone interview from New York, Sondheim said the onstage conversations were the result of a casual dinner conversation with Rich. The two men met in the early 1970s, when Rich reviewed a pre-Broadway tryout of "Follies" for the Harvard Crimson - and built a friendship after Rich stopped reviewing theater for the New York Times in 1994.
"Frank and I were having dinner and he mentioned talking to colleges and arts communities. I said, 'That sounds really interesting.'

I don't know which of us suggested we do it together.

But it just came up that evening. Frank called Steven Barclay and said, 'What would you think of our doing this?' "

He and Rich approached the evenings as "two friends having a conversation that's being overheard," Sondheim said.
"The audiences surprise you. I certainly don't want to mention the cities that surprised us by having really hip audiences. But we've never had what I would call a dull audience, meaning one that seems either uninterested or uncomprehending."

It's been 15 years since a new Sondheim musical opened on Broadway, and yet his work is constantly in circulation. "Gypsy", "Sweeney Todd", "Company", "Sunday in the Park With George", "Assassins," "The Frogs" and "Pacific Overtures" all had Broadway revivals in the past five years. His work barely ages:
"Road Show," Sondheim's most recent musical about real-life brothers Addison and Wilson Mizner, ill-fated land speculators in 1920s Florida, ran last fall at the Public Theater in New York. It's never played on Broadway.

- "Stephen Sondheim: The Story So Far," a four-CD box set that features familiar work along with obscure Sondheim compositions - for film and television as well as stage - was released in September 2008.
"Saturday Night," a little-seen Depression-era musical that Sondheim wrote when he was 23, played early this year at the Jermyn Street Theatre and the Arts Theatre in London.
- A revival of "West Side Story," which introduced new Spanish-language lyrics by "In the Heights" composer-lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, opened on Broadway in March and is still playing. It will tour to San Francisco in fall 2010, said Shorenstein Hays Nederlander spokeswoman Anne Abrams.

-- "A Little Night Music," the meditation on desire that generated Sondheim's most famous song, "Send In the Clowns," will return to Broadway in December.
English director Trevor Nunn's production, which Sondheim describes as "Chekhovian" and "more of a chamber piece" than the 1973 Broadway original, will star Catherine Zeta-Jones as aging actress Desiree Armfeldt and Angela Lansbury as her mother, Madame Armfeldt.

Sondheim will turn 80 next year - a birthday tribute is planned at the Ravinia Festival near Chicago - but the composer isn't idle.

He's working on a two-volume annotated edition of his complete lyrics, the first of which, "Finishing the Hat: Volume One," is due for publication in late 2010.

"It's just surprising," Sondheim said. "When you're young, 80 is very old. When you're old, it's not so old."

E-mail Edward Guthmann at pinkletters@sfchronicle.com.

Actress Carol Channing promotes arts to students, parents in Corona

The Press-Enterprise

The arts are like fertilizer for the brain, entertainer Carol Channing told students, parents and teachers Friday evening at Susan B. Anthony Elementary School in Corona.
Channing, 88, won a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award in 1995, and has now committed her life to encouraging arts education in California public schools.
She made her Broadway debut in 1948 and won a Tony in 1964 for her portrayal of Dolly Levi in "Hello, Dolly!" She also was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe Award for the role of Muzzy in "Thoroughly Modern Millie," released in 1967 and also won a Golden Globe Award.

Susan B. Anthony Elementary School third-grader Danielle Soria, center, and her sister Natalie Soria, a first-grader, get their paintings autographed by actress Carol Channing as she talks to students and parents in the school library during the school's ArtsWalk.

Principal Jo Melillo said the school's ArtsWalk event was intended to sustain the school's arts programs and encourage parents to donate by purchasing their children's "masterpieces" created in class and by Channing's presence.

"I'm thrilled to be here because you're studying the arts," Channing said. "You're not aware of it, but you're getting way ahead of the other pupils."

She said she was able to skip half of first grade and half of second grade because she was busy singing with her father.

Channing recalled that as a child, she learned to imitate her principal, whom she adored, on stage at her grammar school, and made the whole school laugh, including the principal, who was flattered.
"Ugly and comedy are not synonymous at all," she said.

She made a career out of making other people laugh and making them happy.

"We're trying to get the arts back into the public schools," Channing said.

Her husband, Harry Kullijian, said it's a message they plan to take to the nation's capital.
"This is one of the most fortunate schools in the United States of America," he said, because the arts are supported by teachers and parents and students succeed.

Local artists at the school event included musicians, a novelist and gallery from the Corona Art Association.

"If we can't duplicate this across the nation, our nation will not any longer be a leader of democracy in the world," Kullijian said.

Reach Dayna Straehley at 951-368- 9455 or dstraehley@PE.com

This article appeared on page Q - 35 of the San Francisco Chronicle

The Cabaret Chronicles: Angela Shultz, Barry Lloyd and More!

Saturday, October 17, 2009; Posted: 11:10 PM - by Jenna Esposito

Hello and happy weekend! Evidently, Mother Nature has opted to skip fall here in New York and get straight to winter. Despite the chill in the air, though, the clubs have been as hot as ever and I was able to catch some great entertainment this week!
On Sunday afternoon, I headed over to Don't Tell Mama to see Angela Shultz in her show, Kiss Me Like You Mean It. Having heard Angela sing one or two songs at a time on a number of occasions before, I was really looking forward to this show! She is graced with a beautiful voice and a nice, easy onstage manner, both of which were showcased very nicely in this show.
With direction by Hector Coris and musical direction by her longtime best friend and collaborator, Brett Kristofferson, Angela wound her way through a varied set list, which included songs from contemporary songwriters such as Jill Sobule, John Bucchino, and songwriting duo Zin a Goldrich & Marcy Heisler, as well as bastions of the Great American Songbook like Harold Arlen & E.Y. Harburg. Her easygoing, upbeat personality makes her instantly likeable onstage, and she has a great knack for making songs seem conversational, so that it seems as if she's not putting on a performance, but simply sharing her experiences and feelings with a room full of friends. She does a great job with all of the material, but my personal favorites were Arlen and Harburg's "I Don't Think I'll End It All Today," which she delivered with perfectly pitched humor; Mr. Kristofferson's poignant "Things That Haunt Me," which speaks of simple, everyday things that "haunt" the singer after the end of a relationship; and Mr. Coris' hilarious spoof of American Idol, "My Moment," with which Ms. Shultz brought the house down! The show was a terrific way to spend a Sunday afternoon and will be returning to Don't Tell Mama on Sunday, November 22nd for another 3:30 p.m. matinee.

On Monday evening, it was off to the Metropolitan Room to catch Bay-Area singer/pianist Barry Lloyd in his show Slumming On Park Avenue: A Celebration of Bobby Short. Accompanying himself on piano and supported by Saadi Zain on bass and David Silliman on drums, Mr. Lloyd exuded charm and style from the moment he entered the room and continued to enchant the audience throughout the course of the evening as he wound his way through a number of Bobby Short hits, weaving in stories about what each of the songs meant to him. He discovered Bobby Short at the age of fourteen, when (for reasons he can't recall), he was in a record store looking for an album of Noel Coward songs.
Well, the album he found was of Bobby Short singing Noel Coward, and he instantly became a fan of Mr. Short's!
So, this show was made up of Mr. Lloyd's favorite Bobby Short songs, some of them, of course, being some of Bobby Short's biggest hits; others that were perhaps more obscure, but had more personal meaning. The beautiful Vernon Duke tune, "Autumn In New York" was beautifully delivered, as was the Noel Coward classic "If Love Were All," which Mr. Lloyd sang with a kind of wistful resignation that really breathed new life into it for me.
From top-to-bottom, it was a classy, enjoyable show that kept the audience bopping, grinning, and eagerly awaiting a return visit from Mr. Lloyd!

After Mr. Lloyd's show, I grabbed a cab and headed up to Birdland to catch the last half of Cast Party, which was, as always, wonderfully entertaining! I walked in while the fabulous Marilyn Maye was singing, and was also treated to performances by Ray Jessel, Maureen Taylor, violinist Aaron Weinstein, and more! Host Jim Caruso did his usual terrific job of keeping things movin' and groovin' and Tedd Firth & Paul Gill (on piano and bass, respectively) provided excellent accompaniment for all!
Wednesday evening found me at The Iguana on 54th Street for the appropriately named Wednesday Night At The Iguana. Hosted by Richard Skipper and Dana Lorge, this weekly showcase has really become a hot destination for performers in the city. Each week features five special guests, each of whom perform a short set, and "surprise" performers, who are mixed in among the special guests and each perform one song. The special guests this past week were Barbara Gurskey, Andrea Mezinsky-Kolb, Jonathan Long, Martin Vidnovic, and my sister, Kelly Esposito Broelmann! One of the special surprises for the night was Richard Skipper himself, who wasn't able to be at the first half of the evening, as he was performing elsewhere, but who opened up the second half of the show doing his renowned Carol Channing impersonation - in full Carol Channing dress, hair and makeup!
The audience just adored it, and it was a very fun surprise! It was a great evening from top to bottom with some truly outstanding performances. I'm looking forward to going again soon!
That's all for my showgoing this past week, but be sure to check back next week for a new article!

Where I'm going this week:

Tuesday, October 20th: Liz Callaway at the Metropolitan Room. One of my absolute favorite singers, Ms. Callaway will be at the Metropolitan Room to celebrate the release of her new CD, Passage of Time, which is being released on the P.S Classics label. I can't wait to get my copy (or to see the performance)!

If you haven't caught Singer and Actress, Leslie Orofino in her brand new show, RED HOT AND BLUES, the songs of vamps, tramps, heartbreakers, mantakers and the girl next door, you can catch her singing the songs of Alberta Hunter, Eartha Kitt, Peggy Lee, Carolyn Leigh, Sophie Tucker and many more. Ms. Orofino will be accompanied by legendary musicians Daryl Kojak on piano and Boots Maleson on bass. Louis Pietig is the director. "Head on over to The Laurie Beechman Theatre in the West Bank Cafe, 407 W. 42nd Street, NYC. 10036 on Friday Oct . 2 at 8:00pm or Thursday, Nov. 5 at 7:00pm. Reservations are recommended because tickets never last for Leslie's shows. Call 212-695-6909 or zip over to her website www.Leslieorofino.com. Tell them Times Square Gossip sent you !
Source: Leslie Orofino In Nyc's Red Hot And Blues

LIZA Minnelli received her first standing ovation before she'd even sung a note.
On the opening night of her Australian tour, Minnelli performed to a full house at the Sydney Opera House concert hall.

As she made her entrance, dressed all in white, to several minutes of thunderous applause and calls of ``we love you Liza!'' it was clear she was playing to the faithful.

It has been 20 years since Minnelli last performed in Australia, and at 63 she was the first to admit that time has taken its toll in some ways.

``If any of you ever saw me before, then you will remember I used to sit down in the second act,'' Minnelli said.

``Now I sit down in the first act.''

While not without its slight wavers, her voice was still powerful and resonant, and her energy amazing.
Liza Minnelli has given away the Sex & The City movie sequel's biggest secret - she'll be performing with Barbra Streisand in the film.

The actress/singer plays a marriage celebrant at the gay wedding of characters Stanford and Anthony, and now she's revealing all about her hilarious scenes.
She belted out some of her best-loved hits, including Cabaret, Liza With a Z and Maybe This Time.

``As you know, over the years I have been particularly drawn to songs about falling in love.

However, at this time in my life I find I'm particularly drawn to songs about falling out of love,'' she laughed, introducing If You Hadn't, But You Did.

When she launched into New York, New York she brought the house down.

Over the course of the evening, Minnelli was the ultimate showbiz professional - funny and entertaining. She didn't miss a beat.

CABARET: Matthew Westwood | October 19, 2009
Article from: The Australian

Liza Minnelli
Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House, October 17. Riverside Theatre, Perth, Wednesday; Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Friday; Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, October 25; Brisbane Entertainment Centre, October 30; Sydney Entertainment Centre, November 2.
THERE was a lot of love in the room on Saturday night, the second of Liza Minnelli's concerts at the Sydney Opera House. It was Minnelli's return to Australia after a gap of 20 years -- her last concerts were billed as The Ultimate Event with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr -- and her fans let forth something like two decades' worth of adulation when their idol stepped on to the stage.

"I love you, Liza," a lone voice would cry from the auditorium.

"Oh, I love you too," Minnelli would reply, emphasizing every word.

The pitch of mutual admiration continued through the evening, but the love was well earned. Minnelli put everything into opening numbers Teach Me Tonight, If You Hadn't, But You Did and My Own Best Friend.
God knows where Minnelli -- the survivor of four marriages, encephalitis, hip and knee replacements and battles with addiction -- gets her energy from.

And one may have a certain admiration for the singer-as-survivor, emerging triumphant and sequined from private and public travails.

In truth, though, the noise of victory becomes a little wearying. Some songs were belted into shape, the diction unclear and the vibrato wide enough to walk through.

The stage act, too, verges on self-parody, with all that arm-flinging and hands raised in salute. This reached an apogee in the show's climax, the Theme from New York, New York.
Part of the show (with a terrific 12-piece band led by drummer Michael Berkowitz and Billy Stritch at the piano) is based on Minnelli's Tony Award-winning season Liza's at the Palace, at the Palace Theatre in New York. But much of the evening was given over to songs by John Kander and Fred Ebb that were written for Minnelli, or which she made famous: Cabaret, Liza with a Z, and anthems But the World Goes Round and the New York, New York theme.

One longed for quieter numbers that would display another side of Minnelli's gifts. This came in the Charles Aznavour song What Makes a Man a Man and Cole Porter's Every Time We Say Goodbye, but even this tender ballad had to be brought to a show-stopping conclusion.

The show ended in un-diva-like fashion, with Minnelli in a baggy T-shirt and wiping her face with a towel, singing Peter Allen's All the Lives of Me. Even stripped of make-up and false eyelashes, she revealed herself as the supreme entertainer she is.
Minnelli made the expansive concert hall feel intimate, and when she revealed she was having slight wardrobe difficulties - ``my knickers keep riding up!'' - she received cries of ``take it off!''

The concert ended on an emotional note, with an encore tribute to Minnelli's first husband, Boy from Oz Peter Allen.

Returning to the stage in an oversized Chet Baker t-shirt with a towel draped around her neck, Minnelli dramatically pulled off her fake eyelashes, rubbed the make-up from her face, and messed up her hair.
She then closed the show with the moving All The Lives of Me and a special ``thank you Peter'', and received yet another standing ovation.
That's Liza with an eye for young Idol James
17/10/2009 4:00:00 AM
NEWCASTLE Australian Idol contestant James Johnston found himself staring into the large of eyes of Liza Minnelli while preparing for tomorrow night's show.

The Cooks Hill lad, who is down to the final seven contestants on the show, has worked with music greats such as Suzi Quatro and Harry Connick jnr during this season.

But it was Minnelli who really got Johnston shaking in his trademark skinny black jeans.

"Being mentored by Liza was one of the most intense things I've ever done," 18-year-old Johnston said.

"She has these massive eyes and she stares really intently at you.

"I found it a bit intimidating. But she gave me some great advice.

"She sees music from a different angle and that's a new experience for me."

The theme for tomorrow's Australian Idol, featuring Minnelli, is a stage and screen night.

It was a new genre for Johnston, who has been singing since he was four and cut his teeth in Star Struck.

"I've never really experienced musical theatre before, so to have someone from that background giving me constructive criticism was great," Johnston said.

Born in Wingham, Johnston has entertained Star Struck audiences since 2002, performing in front of more than 100,000 people.

Cabaret queen Minnelli has been performing in Sydney and is taking part in her first Australian tour in 20 years.

Minnelli is the daughter of two Hollywood legends, Judy Garland and director Vincente Minnelli.

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 Skipper

Follow me on Twitter @RichardSkipper


RICHARD! ~ It was so great to see you perform at the Iguana last WEDs night (Oct 7) ... My date and I agreed it was the best night we had spent in NYC this trip and plan on making it our regular routine henceforth ~ Truly the BEST bargain in town!! The venue, the talent, AMAZING ~ we couldn't have seen that much talent had we spent two weeks hitting the shows ... please give my kudos to EVERYONE. As for you, you stole the show that night with your singing of "I Am What I Am" ... never have I heard it sung with more clarity; and by that I don't mean just gorgeous sound, but a clarity of understanding and COMMUNICATING that to your audience ... BRAVO!!
Ron Runyon, Indianapolis

Dear Richard Skipper, and other personalities! You are in a position few can hold a candle to. You were the supreme example of what a generous star talent can contribute to an evening..
At my book signing, after the one at Barnes and Noble which you were at.. I was stumped for what to do to top that glorious evening..and I thought at this next event, who? how? can it be equaled? and zoom! shazam! I had it ...Could I ask RICHARD SKIPPER to just appear as Carol Channing and just do what he does? I called and asked a favor, and you blessed me with YES! But I never dreamed what a sensation and delight you would create this night.. Richard I owe you big time!
Thank you is not enough!! You are a great artist! And a most generous friend...the guests were enchanted and believed you WERE ...ARE Miss Channing or whoever you want to be... I am grateful forever to you..you made my evening brilliant! and.. and I sold out!!!! thank you, thank you,...... thank you....SONDRA LEE, HELLO, DOLLY!'s original Minnie Fay

I want to let you know that every time I see you
my heart skips a beat. I think you're so beautiful
strong and talented.
I love you!
Sunny Leigh


Now a night out in NY to see a show at a VERY AFFORDABLE price!
Dana Lorge and I have
now put their OWN spin on The variety show format and are now hosting every Wednesday night 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).
Each week
will showcase 5 entertainers.

Barry Levitt returns on keyboard and Saadi Zain on bass!
on bass. Time: 8 - 11:00 p.m.
Cover: $10 - no food or drink minimums – but remember – the food is great!

This is a nice night
out with the family!

"throw back" to the variety shows we grew up with.
For more info, please call 845-365-0720 or visit _www.RichardSkipper.com_


212-765-5454. No one admitted before

THIS WEEK, October 21st: Jack Donahue, Stearns Matthews, Leslie Orofino, George Stella, Susan Winter

October 28th: Jenna Esposito returns!, Laurie Krauz & Wicked’s very own Walter ONeil, Angela Schultz, Mauricio Villa-Lobos!

November 4th: Arianna, Moira Danis, Elaine St. George, Daryl Glenn, Lynn DiMenna

December 2nd: Cynthia Crane, The debut of The Marquee 5 (Mick Bleyer, Adam Hemming, Vanessa Parvin, Sierra Rein, Julie Reyburn) singing selections from their upcoming revue, "We Can Make It...The Songs of Kander & Ebb" and Hector Coris!

December 9th: Richard Holbrook, Josh Zuckerman, Helena Grenot, Jillian Laurain

November 25th: OUR THANKSGIVING SHOW! James Alexander joins us!

December 30th: Linda Fields, Ritt Henn, Annie Hughes, Yvette Malavets-Blum, David Nathan Scott

Keep checking http://www.richardskipper.com/schedule.html

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