Happy Monday! I hope this finds you well and enjoying a great Monday morning.
The pics you are seeing here are from this past week's show at The Iguana.
What a cast we had last week.
Along with Barry Levitt on keyboard and Saadi Zain on bass, I love sharing the stage with Dana Lorge. Having a different cast each week is exciting but also nerve-wrecking!
The talent makes it ALL worthwhile.
This past week, Jana Robbin's mother, Edith Eisenberg made her cabaret debut! She sang a medley of MEAN TO ME and IT HAD TO BE YOU (Jana joined her on the latter). They brought the house down and got a standing ovation. We also had the lovely Wendy Lane Bailey who sang The Dieter's Prayer and two other wonderful selections.
Cynthia Crane, who just celebrated her 45th Wedding anniversary yesterday with Ted Story by flying a hot air ballooon over the Catskills!,stopped by a sang a French tune. It was appropriate because she was joined by Sheldon Forrest who has been living and performing in Paris for the past two years! Welcome back, Sheldon.
Not content to coast, Liza Minnelli soars in Broadway reprise
By Joe Brown (contact)
LIZA MINNELLI stunned a star-studded audience by breaking down mid-performance during a show last week (begs28Sep09).
The Cabaret star was belting out a medley originally arranged for her mother, Judy Garland, at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas when she became “too emotional” to continue.
Stars including Barry Manilow, Renee Zellweger and Alan Cumming looked on as Minnelli took a few moments from singing before she “composed herself and finished the showstopper to a standing ovation”, according to New York Post’s gossip column PageSix.
Joe Brown Reviews
Death-defying and life-affirming, Liza Minnelli’s Wednesday night performance at the Hollywood Theatre at the MGM Grand exceeded all expectations.
Minnelli was here to re-create her limited-engagement Broadway show “Liza’s at the Palace!,” which recently won a Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event. She began her run at the MGM Grand last Friday; the Wednesday and Thursday shows were being filmed for a public television special and a DVD, and it’s a good thing, because this show — like its star — is one for the ages.
Throughout her career as a performer, Minnelli has famously thrown caution to the wind, and on Wednesday night she went full out in every song — if her voice breaks, what the hell? It sometimes seemed she might not survive to sing the next song, much less the two and a half hours she ended up delivering.
But the strangest and most wonderful thing happened: The 63-year-old Minnelli seemed to get stronger — and younger — with each song, as if she was receiving an energetic transfusion from the spotlight and the audience.
By the show’s end, Minnelli — in a Halston sparkling black shirtwaist mini, black sheer stockings and knee-high black suede boots — was incandescent, kicking and belting at full vitality.
I don’t know how she did it — I was exhausted after the show.
Minnelli opened with a suite of disenchanted love songs, and created characters for each, including the 1951 I-shot-my-man novelty number “If You Hadn’t, But You Did” which was a feat of memorization, just for starters) and Charles Aznavour’s “What Makes a Man a Man?” the quietly defiant soliloquy of a gender illusionist.
Perhaps unequaled in her ability to hold the stage alone, Minnelli has an emotional gravity (imbued by her classic showbiz lifeline) that — I’m gonna say it — Bette Midler and Cher combined can’t equal.
The first set was studded with signature songs, including a triumphant “Maybe This Time,” and in “Cabaret,” Minnelli acknowledged her much-discussed history of hard partying and recovery with a wry pause after the line “That’s what comes of too much pills and liquor.”
Minnelli assured the crowd that when she goes, she “ain’t goin’ like Elsie.”
Act II was a bouquet to Minnelli’s godmother, author/composer/actress/singer and bon vivant Kay Thompson, and Minnelli evoked not only Thompson’s eclat but addressed more directly than in other shows the memory and legacy of her late, legendary mother, Judy Garland.
Minnelli’s longtime choreographer and director Ron Lewis summoned a late 1940s performance featuring Thompson and the singing, dancing Williams Brothers (including Andy), whom Walter Winchell once called “the best nightclub act in history.”
The bandstand set became the glamorous Ciro’s nightclub in Hollywood, and Minnelli stepped in as Thompson, buoyed by her exuberant quartet through a medley of “I Love a Violin,” “Clap Yo’ Hands,” “Jubilee Time” and “Hello Hello.”
This was a loving, period-perfect evocation of a specific moment in showbiz history, presented without camp or irony, and the harmonies and snappy choreography were as razor-sharp as the parts in the chorus boys’ hair.
At moments — when Minnelli raised her in-turned arms or mussed up her hair — we were left with the uncanny afterimage of Mama, and Minnelli made the invocation explicit in an encore, nestling on the piano bench next to longtime accompanist Billy Stritch and singing a teary, tremulous — and sincere — “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
If you missed it, Minnelli’s studio recording of the “Palace” show is available as a double CD; the Vegas performance is scheduled for broadcast by American Public Television in December; a DVD release is projected for early next year.
Hodge Back in La Cage Pre-NYC,
Douglas Hodge will reprise his Olivier Award-winning drag queen performance as Albin/Zaza in the West End production of La Cage Aux Folles this Christmas prior to a planned Broadway transfer in 2010. Hodge, along with previous co-star Denis Lawson as his on-stage lover Georges, will return to Terry Johnson’s multi award-winning production at the Playhouse Theatre for five weeks only from 30 November 2009.
The revival of Jerry Herman’s 1983 Broadway musical comedy opened at the Menier Chocolate Factory at Christmas 2007, before transferring in October 2008 to the West End’s Playhouse. Since Hodge stepped out of his stilettos, the role of Albin/Zaza has been tackled by chat show host Graham Norton, Roger Allam and, currently, John Barrowman, who faces critics on Monday night (5 October, previews from 14 September) playing opposite Simon Burke as the new Georges.
Based on the 1973 French play by Jean Poiret and subsequent 1978 French-Italian screen version, the musical focuses on a gay couple – Georges, the manager of a St Tropez nightclub featuring drag entertainment, and Albin, his star attraction - and the adventures that ensue when Georges' son Jean-Michel brings home his fiancée's ultra-conservative parents to meet them.
La Cage Aux Folles has a book by Harvey Fierstein (Torch Song Trilogy) and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, whose other classics include Hello Dolly!, Mame and Mack and Mabel. The score features songs including “I Am What I Am”, “The Best of Times”, “Song on the Sand”, “Masculinity” and the title number.
Welcome to the wonderful world of Joyce Aimee
By Melora B. North
“My music is out of style,” Aimee says with candor, “but I have a following. For this show I’ll play the accordion and my musette accordion, which is tuned for French songs. It has a bit of an off-key sound. [Provincetown pianist] John Thomas will accompany me.”
No stranger to the accordion, Aimee, originally from Brooklyn, which she refers to as the “left bank of the East River,” has been playing the instrument since she was three years old, when her career was hatched. She now shares her time between Provincetown, where she eventually wants to retire, and Los Angeles.
“When I got into the business I used to jump through a screen, then do tap on my toes,” she says. “Milton Cross, who narrated the Metropolitan Opera on Saturdays, discovered me. I was on the ‘Coast to Coast on a Bus’ radio show in the ‘30s and ‘40s, where I played the accordion. Milton could just see the top of my head, the accordion was so big. [Actor] Dick Van Patten was on the show too, we went to a professional school in New York together.
We’re still friends.”
It was at age six that Aimee got that first, important accordion.
“My father gave me one when I was six and I took lessons for 25 cents with a teacher who would hit me on the knuckles with a ruler when I made a mistake,” she laughs.
However, Aimee’s lessons took a more serious turn when she was 11 and sent to audition for a renowned teacher who only taught the cream of the crop.
“He told me, ‘I never take young people but I will take you on if you promise to practice two hours a day and four hours on Sunday.’ I had to, the lessons were $10, and if I didn’t practice I knew I’d get killed. My accordion weighed 40 pounds and my mother and I had to take a bus, then the subway.
The el steps were high, it was a long commute to get there. My mother, who was a social worker, was a very little lady. She had to carry it to every lesson.”
But the lessons were taking and Aimee was progressing in her studies. So serious was her passion that her father bought her an $1,100 accordion when she was 12.
The only hitch to the deal was that Aimee had to pay for the “gift.”
“I would play parties and after each one I gave my father the money,” she says. “It was the biggest gift he ever gave me. I learned a great life lesson.”
As Aimee was climbing the ladder in the world of entertainment she went on to perform in U.S.O. shows with Buddy Rogers, husband of actress Mary Pickford.
“We were performing in California,” she says. “I had to lie about my age,” she laughs again with glee.
Meantime, back in New York she was making her name by performing on such programs as the “Arthur Godfrey Show,” and the “Robert Q. Lewis Show.” Eventually she got her own in 1947 called “Musical Miniatures” on WNBC.
“Everything was live,” she says. “The timing didn’t always work out on the shows so I would fill in with timed numbers.
I had to wear purple lipstick, dark makeup, no white or black.”
In 1949 Aimee got a message that perhaps changed her life on a certain level.
“I got a call that Bugsy Siegel had been shot,” she says. “I needed to get to the Flamingo in Vegas as soon as possible. I opened with Vic Damone and we played for two weeks.
Then I went on to perform in Reno with Joe Frisco, he was a comic. He was superstitious. For 50 years he rented his hats,” she chuckles.
A big break came in 1952 when Aimee took over the Palace Theater in New York where she performed for six years. It was there that famed chanteuse Josephine Baker dubbed her as a “Chanteuse Dangereuse,” for it was there that she was beginning to really showcase her French song repertoire. “I was fascinated with Edith Piaf,” she explains. And with a French mother, who was always correcting Aimee when necessary, the transition was an easy one; after all, in school she had earned the French Medal.
It was in 1955 that Aimee headed south of the border to South America for a year during which she performed with Baker. Then it was off to Hollywood for a frustrating, aborted film debut.
“I was to play Hannah Williams, wife of Jack Dempsey the fighter,” she says. “The movie was about him and his life. They sent me for acting lessons, a makeover to be a brunette [she is a natural red head]. I sat around Hollywood and they never came to an agreement with the estate so I went back to Vegas and made a music group. We played the Vegas, Reno, Tahoe circuit for seven years. Then rock and roll came along. I played the lounges with Sonny and Cher, we were lounge performers.”
It was in 1962 that Aimee, by then married, had a baby. Sadly, the marriage was short-lived; the union disintegrated when the baby was just seven months old. However, that did not deter the diva from her destiny. As she says, “Things were just starting to happen.” However, not in her musical career. She wasn’t a rock singer and that was the scene then.
“All I knew was showbiz, I asked an agent to teach me the business,” she says. “I was working in a cocktail lounge at the airport to pay the bills.”
She eventually opened Aimee Entertainment in 1962, which is still an active endeavor, while working small jobs on the side. As she says, “Once a ham, always a ham.” In the meantime, the business took off and she was booking jobs for entertainers out on the coast.
She also got herself married again, this time to an aerospace engineer who sadly died in 1991. Together the two had a child in 1968.
It was while handling legendary singer Tony Bennett that she was inspired to take up her singing and accordion career once again.
“He persuaded me to go back to singing,” she says. “I began working local clubs like the Gardenia in Hollywood. I did some television and films. I was in ‘The Way We Were’ with Barbra Streisand and did ‘Tall Tail’ with Patrick Swayze. I played a one-eyed saloon keeper, we became friends, it is such a shame he died.”
Other credits include television’s “Laverne and Shirley,” where she played an accordion singer, and more recently, “My Name is Earl,” where she was a one-woman band, complete with cymbals on her knees. A more current appearance is in a Yoplait yogurt commercial for the Web.
But it is her current stint with famed Carol Channing, Joanne Worley and Carol Cook that most intrigues her these days.
“It is the most exciting thing in my life now. We are trying to bring art back into the schools, we are trying to get together a show in Provincetown next year,” she says. That said, she was the commissioner of arts in Los Angeles county for 15 years, during which time Aimee founded the Americana Dance Theater, a non-profit company through which children are introduced to the forgotten people of show biz, one of which is the DeMille dynasty, showcasing the late William DeMille, the first president of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, and his niece Agnes deMille [sic], another of Aimee’s clients, who appeared in such films as “Oklahoma,” “Paint Your Wagon” and “Ballet to Broadway.”
Aimee is now involved in working with John LeBold, a former Hollywood costumer, who lives in Brewster, to present an exhibition of his costume collection next year in Doylestown, Pa.
A visitor to the Cape since childhood, Aimee built a house in Provincetown in 1997 on Beach Point where she came to regroup after her late husband died.
“It is a comfort,” she says. “When I am here in the house I am in a different world.
I hope to retire here. I just love it so. I have wonderful memories.”
In the time being, Aimee is enjoying time with her focus planted firmly on enjoying life and the here and now.
“I focus on doing the things that I love. If it’s not fun I don’t do it, it’s not important to collect things… but people,” she says with her candid wisdom.
This was sent to me last night. I'm going to see Leslie Orofino on November 5th. Please let me know if you would like to join us!
This has to be said. I saw last night one of the most exciting blues singers in decades.
Her name is Leslie Orofino and she was brilliant. She gave meaning to a lyric like nobody has and with a sense of humor that made the night one of the most enjoyable one in years.
I see a lot of Cabaret but very few will match up to this woman's presentation. The party I was with was so taken by her that he couldn't stop thanking me. It was like a magic night in Cabaret and musically I had a ball listening to her. The woman sings, The woman acts and the woman has meaning with her profound understanding of what she is singing about.
I couldn't wait to get home and email to all my friends. I was so impressed by her performance. And yes I want to see her again, and a gain.
A skeletal frame is all that's left of the main building at the Pocono Playhouse in Mountainhome after a 1 a.m. Friday fire gutted that building and damaged two others.
No one was injured, and the fire is under investigation.
For 62 seasons, Playhouse brought culture and star luster to Poconos Film, TV stars filled Pocono Playhouse marquee Located on Playhouse Lane off Route 390, the landmark community summer theater is owned by Philadelphia-area resident Ralph Miller, who has owned two other theaters targeted by what authorities called arson.
Barrett Township Fire Chief Kevin Ayers said a neighbor reported Friday's fire.
"By the time we got on scene, the fire had already burned three-quarters of the way through the main building," Ayers said. "The biggest challenge for us was having to bring water from a half-mile away to fight the fire."
A state police fire marshal was called in to determine the fire's cause and exact point of origin.
Miller, who owns also the Bucks County Playhouse in Bucks County, owned the Woodstock Playhouse in New York, destroyed in a 1988 fire, and the Falmouth Playhouse on Cape Cod, Mass., destroyed in a 1994 fire.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined both fires were set by an arsonist using kerosene, but no arrests were ever made in either case.
In December 2002, Miller said kerosene was kept in the theaters for the heaters.
"To imply that somehow kerosene was brought into the building for subversive purposes is just not true," he said. "The bottom line is the insurance company paid half the claim. If I was a suspect, the insurance company would not have paid."
Miller was at the Pocono Playhouse fire scene Friday morning, waiting with Barrett Township police for the fire marshal to arrive.
He declined to comment at the time, but said he would be available for comment by phone later in the day. He did not return a Pocono Record phone call Friday afternoon.
Neighbor Edna Reisenwitz said she was asleep when the fire started.
"Someone came and woke me up and told me I should call 911 because the ashes were falling on my car," Reisenwitz said. "When I looked out, the fire was from the front of the main building) all the way to the back. It's terrible."
Her next-door neighbor, Bob Vogt, said, "I heard my wife and daughter talking on the phone, saying the theater was on fire. I looked out and saw the flames."
Having breakfast nearby at the Mountainhome Diner on Route 390, Buck Hill Falls couple Ed and Dawn Kendall recalled once seeing the musical "Chicago" at Pocono Playhouse. Dawn Kendall said she first heard about the fire when getting her hair cut prior to having breakfast.
"It's an unfortunate thing," she said. "Sometimes people in our neighborhood would make an outing to go see a show there. I think it had some good support, especially the children's theater. Local children have performed there throughout the years."
Ed Kendall said, "That main building didn't appear to be very well-maintained. There have been a lot of cases in the Poconos of buildings becoming dilapidated and then burning down. I call it urban renewal in the Poconos.
"If they don't rebuild the Playhouse, I have a feeling it will just sit there," he said.
Diner employee Jackie Jasko said, "My grandchildren played munchkins in 'The Wizard of Oz' there. At least we'll have that as a memento. It's devastating."
Pocono Playhouse opened its 62nd consecutive season this past summer with the popular Disney hit, "High School Musical 2." Other shows included "Godspell," "Little Women," "A Chorus Line," "My Fair Lady," "Kismet," "Camelot" and "Nunsense A-Men!"
The Playhouse also had a Children's Theater series with "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Cinderella," "Beauty and the Beast," "Pinocchio," "The Wizard of Oz" and "Annie, Jr."
In its heyday, the Pocono Playhouse had been host to star-studded performances which featured the likes of Betty Grable, Ted Knight, Steve McQueen and Shaun Cassidy.
The theater building had changed little since New York native Rowena Stevens, who wanted to provide the Poconos with quality theater, opened the playhouse on July 7, 1947.
Pocono Record writer Howard Frank, Online Managing Editor Marta Gouger and archivist Janis Dahlman contributed to this article.
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 MY WORK:
Had a ball at the Iguana on Wednesday. You and Dana were fabulous. Paul loved that you did a number from "Sugar." He loves that score.
I just love your Carol. She is so captivating by mixing a vibrant, riotous rapporté with touching moments of nostalgic storytelling and song. Her courage to charge into the audience and take no prisoners is brilliant.
The audience feels teased, exposed and tickled, but never insulted nor humiliated. Carol's quick wit and warm charm win every heart in the house.
John Tidd, After recent Malibu gig
Richard - hearing you this past Wednesday nite at The Iguana VIP Lounge pull out of your back pocket a wonderful ballad as 'Old Man River' was so enjoyable! You sang with such tenderness and feeling. You really stopped me dead-in-my-tracks. I always see you exhibiting such energy and excitement in your emceeing duties that to hear you sit and hold court in that spotlight was thrilling for me and the entire audience. You are truly the "consummate entertainer".
Love, Jillian Laurain
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NYC
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).
WEDNESDAY NIGHT OF
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!
CASH ONLY PAID AT THE DOOR! 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_
RESERVATIONS A MUST!!!!!!!!
212-765-5454. No one admitted before
October 7th: Edd Clark, Marianne Meringolo, Wendy Russell, Marcus Simeone, Maureen Taylor
October 14th: Kelly Esposito- Broelmann, Barbara Gurskey, Robert Hodge, Jonathan Long, Andrea Mezvinsky-Kolb , Martin Vidnovic
October 21st: Esther Beckman & Stearns Matthews, Leslie Orofino, 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: 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
December 30th: Linda Fields, Ritt Henn, Annie Hughes
Keep checking http://www.richardskipper.com/schedule.html