Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Carol Channing, Melissa Manchester, Karen Mason, Bruce Vilanch, et al. Set for Help Is On the Way XVI
(SOURCE:Dan Bacalzo)

Leanne Borghesi, Carol Channing, Carole Cook, Franc D'Ambrosio, James Darren, Melissa Manchester, Karen Mason, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Lisa Vroman, Paula West, Bruce Vilanch, and the cast of Forever Plaid will perform in the benefit concert, Help Is
On the Way XVI, to be held at the Herbst Theatre, on Sunday, August 15, beginning at 5pm with a silent auction and the concert at 7:30pm.

This jazz, pop and live performance benefits four Bay Area AIDS Service Agencies: AIDS Legal Referral Panel, Larkin Street Youth Services, Meals of Marin, and New Leaf: Services for Our Community.

David Galligan will direct the concert, with musical direction by Bill Keck.
Tickets begin at $75 (performance only), with gala packages priced at $125 and $175. For more information, visit or

The age of YouTube in the theatre….
By Mark Shenton on May 7, 2010 9:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
You can run but you can’t hide anymore. There was a time that the uniqueness of theatrical performance was that it existed in the moment only, never to be repeated or replayed in exactly the same way again.

It was what you saw on the night and that night alone. Now, however, performances are so often illegally recorded that they can be replayed endlessly in YouTube clips.

And it has a peril for performers, as Patti LuPone, of course, found to her cost, when she stopped the show to publicly rebuke someone for taking photographs - only to have the rebuke itself recorded on audio by someone else who then posted it in all its glorious intemperance on youtube. Ditto Hugh Jackman’s stopping of the show when a mobile phone went off during his Broadway run last year in A Steady Rain, which was also recorded for posterity.

Last Sunday I went to see the annual Night of 1000 Voices at the Royal Albert Hall, headlined by Broadway’s Adam Pascal and our own Philip Quast and Kerry Ellis. Philip is a friend, and told me afterwards that he and Adam had discussed an entirely new kind of pressure that performers are under nowadays: “If you fuck up or crack on a note you know it will be on YouTube forever. It is a whole new ballgame out there. You know it is being filmed by hundreds of people, many of whom delight in capturing a moment of drama - we are in a reality TV show whether we like it or not.
You look out and there are phones up everywhere looking at you. Whoooahhhh! There’s nowhere to hide anymore!”

Not even, it seems, in your own bedroom. The other day I blogged here about how Tamzin Outhwaite was tweeting live from her sickbed: “Currently in bed with bronchitis and not allowed to talk” As a friend commented to me after reading this, “We have the reality stuff going into the sickbed now - into the bedroom.!!! Dramatising your life offstage onstage and between stage… God!!! When does the performance end and start?
Or are you promoting yourself 24 hours a day. You can be your own PR now.”

No wonder that Wicked, which of course has a rabid fan base worldwide who collect every bit of footage and performance they can, last month posted a warning to UK fans that anyone caught recording the show would be banned from all future performances. But as Kat Brown pointed out in a Guardian blog, the show’s executive producer Michael McCabe had recently “admitted that much of the show’s success was due to the instant word-of-mouth allowed by the internet, Facebook in particular”, and she went on to ask, “So, can Wicked have it both ways?
The success of fans breathlessly swapping stories of the shows has made it a hit, but in 2010 it’s all about video proof as well. The outpouring on Facebook and Twitter following the announcement made it clear that video clips were responsible for many fans having caught the show in the first place. This was certainly true for me. After seeing Wicked featured on Ugly Betty, I gorged myself on internet clips, then saw the show, which seems to be the path a lot of other fans have followed, too.”

As she says, “Like it or loathe it, fan clips are just as much a part of the West End Wicked experience as autographs and fancy dress costumes.”
And it can actually serve the show rather than compromise it: “Fan footage has extra value over a programme or sweatshirt in its long-term marketing reach; it’s a form of guerilla advertising - and it comes for free.”

And just as everyone likes to call themselves a critic nowadays if they can start a blog and string a sentence together, everyone’s a potential youtube star, too. Now Carol Channing or Patti LuPone need only turn on her computer and settle in at that 24-hour virtual piano bar called YouTube. There, staring into their own cameras (usually from their own bedrooms), would-be Carols and Pattis and Bernadettes and Idinas of all ages and sexes can be discovered crooning (or lip-synching) away on private clouds of narcissism, for the delectation of the general public.”
But now, he writes, the process is also going full circle, and two current Broadway shows themselves feature youtube clips and characters: “In one of the stranger new moves in the evolving dance between venerable old Broadway and new technology, YouTube has become a supporting player in two recently opened shows (both, as it happens, Roundabout Theater Company productions): Everyday Rapture and Sondheim on Sondheim.”
He cites one of the highlights of the latter being “a masterly YouTube montage of different people singing ‘Send in the Clowns.’ The featured vocalists include Sinatra, Streisand and LaBelle. But the segment that particularly captures our attention (and is allowed to end the sequence) appears to be homemade, by a preadolescent girl who has obviously put great time into her own rendition.”

And Everyday Rapture, he continues, “takes us to a new level of identity-blurring surrealism. In this semi-memoir of the self-described ‘semi-, semi- semi-star’ Sherie Rene Scott, the show’s heroine (played by Ms. Scott, natch) discovers she has a fan on YouTube, one with whom she kind of identifies. His nom de screen is Broadwayislove09; he is 15 years old, and he does a lip-synch to a recording of Ms. Scott singing ‘My Strongest Suit’ (from one of her semi-Broadway hits, Aida), with a panoply of gestures that Lady Gaga could learn from. Sherie reaches out to this seemingly Scott-struck lad, whom she imagines to be a misfit in school, rather as she was at that age, when she would sing to her reflection in a pie plate. But Broadwayislove09 (played with deliciously rabid self-obsession by Eamon Foley) sticks to the logic of virtual reality, in which no one’s identity is to be trusted. This leads to an increasingly bizarre exchange of e-mail messages between Sherie and her imitator that leaves her asserting ‘I am me,’ but in a feeble, self-doubting voice. It’s as if musical comedy has met The Matrix.”

And, he concludes, “The show is taking back the Web, as it were, for the purposes of an older form of self-expression. At the same time, Everyday Rapture is one of the first pieces of mainstream theater to suggest how the rules of the game of Broadway stardom - and Broadway music - are changing.”

(TV/Movie Moms - Kim Rhodes, Ilene Graff, Florence Henderson and Dee Wallace)
Family, Friends, Fashion and Philanthropy
It was an abundance of family, friends, fashion and philanthropy as celebrated TV and movie Moms Florence Henderson (Brady Bunch), Ilene Graff (Mr. Belvedere) and Kim Rhodes (Suite Life of Zach & Cody), Nancy Dussault (Too Close for Comfort) and Dee Wallace (ET: Extra-Terrestrial) as well as other industry elite gathered for a pre-Mothers Day celebration at the Hollywood Museum for a special evening featuring the world famous Hollywood Graffiti Gown by Randy McLaughlin and Jerry Skeels of JERAN Design.

Found among those lending their support this evening were: Alison Arngrim, Donna Mills, Romi Dames, Eve Plumb, Kate Linder, JoAnne Worley, Dwayne Hickman, Rose Marie, Margaret O'Brien, Tania Gunadi , Edith Shain, Brenda Dickson, Rip Taylor, Jaime Monroy, Judy Tenuta and Stefanie Powers who starred in this weekends “Meet My Mom” on Hallmark on May 8th.
The Hollywood Graffiti Gown contains over 350 names of the most influential females including Bette Davis, Carol Channing, Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Dakota Fanning, Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, Cate Blanchett, Whoopi Goldberg, Mother Teresa, as well as the cast of Desperate Housewives among others. Currently the gown is being displayed at the Hollywood Museum (formerly the Max Factor Building at Highland Ave & Hollywood Blvd), in a specially designed glass case so guests can view it in its entirety, until November 28th where upon Heritage Auction House will auction it off. The creation of the Graffiti Gown was a vision that came together when McLaughlin's partner, Jerry Skeels (1939-2007), to raise AIDS awareness and to be auctioned with 100% of its proceeds to benefit AIDS causes.
(Designer Randy McLaughlin of JERAN DESIGNS with Florence Henderson)
JERAN Design was a leader in fashion design in the 80's and 90's, having designed for motion pictures, stage and television, having worked on such hit TV shows as “The Bold and the Beautiful,” “The Young and the Restless,” “Star Search,” and 22 years with “The Price Is Right.”
Both Skeels and McLaughlin have been EMMY® nominated for best design and are recipients of the United Nations International Spirit Award.

Accessorizing the gown are specially designed 5 carat diamond & topaz earrings by Michael John Image Jewelry ( The earrings are set in black and white gold to accent the black and silver gown and will be auctioned off as part of the ensemble.
During the scones and tea reception, the ladies amused themselves by trying on an array of beautiful diamond jewelry pieces supplied by Michael John Image. Harpist Dr. Vanessa Sheldon provided music along with strolling master magicians, Paul Green and Howard Jay, provided by the world famous Magic Castle also added to the festive atmosphere.
The Charities benefitting from the sales of the Graffiti gown include AID for AIDS (, Project Concern (, Academy of Friends San Francisco ( and AIDS Project Los Angeles (

(Rip Taylor)

The Hollywood Museum (, is the official museum of Hollywood and boasts 35,000 square feet, 4 floors of breathtaking exhibits and the home of more than 10,000 REAL Showbiz Treasures housed in the world famous historic Max Factor Building, where Max Factor, wizard of movie make-up worked his magic on motion picture stars since 1935.
The lobby has been restored to its original grandeur.

Photo Credits Alexander Koehne, Robert Freeman & Brian Putnam

MAC Awards :: Most entertaining in quite some time
(SOURCE: Kevin Scott Hall,EDGE Contributor)

The general consensus among those in the sold-out audience at the 24th annual MAC Awards (the third and final awards ceremony honoring the best in New York nightclubs) on May 4 was that it was one of the most entertaining in quite some time.

Although these things always seem to exceed four hours, a positive sign was that few headed for the doors until the end, just before midnight.

MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets) membership decides the winners and what it lacks in major star power-the big guns may not show up for this one unless they are guaranteed to take home a trophy-it gains in suspense, as it is the only awards show of the three (Nightlife and Bistro being the other two) where, old school-style, nominees are announced and then an envelope is opened and a winner is revealed.

As guests were being seated, Leon Hall tried to do the Joan Rivers bit, standing on stage (in jeans, no less) and inviting nominees up to discuss their clothing choices. It fell flat, namely because there was too much talking going on and-to no surprise-most New York cabaret artists don’t have a Hollywood wardrobe budget. Only young Jenna Esposito was memorable, rocking a form fitting, galaxy blue, starlit dress with a ruffled fringe around the knees.

Julie Reyburn opened the show with the celebratory "Sing Happy," beaming with the confidence of one who has had a banner year in the nightclubs.

Theater and club star Sharon McKnight was the inspired choice to host the event. For her part, she kept things moving and had several great jokes, costume changes and even a dead-on Bette Davis (a la "All About Eve"), where she came on stage with oversized martini and cigarette and said, "Betcha never seen a woman do Bette Davis, have you?"

She got the proceedings under way by explaining the procedures during an instrumental break, saying, "For all you non-winners, remember carbohydrates can momentarily solve all your problems!"

McKnight then reminded the audience that they were missing "American Idol", where "five people under the age of thirty are tackling the Frank Sinatra songbook."
The audience howled with her from then on.

An early presenter (and former MAC winner) was Mario Cantone of "Sex and the City" fame, who, naturally, presented awards to the best comics.

Other notable stars who appeared were Karen Mason, of Broadway and clubs, who presented the Board of Directors Award to Playbill; Broadway’s Brian Stokes Mitchell, who presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Leslie Uggams; sassy Marilyn Maye, who presented and picked up an award; and presenter Lucie Arnaz, looking like a supermodel half her age in a sleeveless, slim black dress, who impressed the crowd with an energetic medley, perhaps more suited to Vegas but nonetheless entertaining.

The talent at all levels was astonishing: Chuck Sweeney as Peggy Lee had the audience in stitches; the Les Paul Trio performed in honor of Paul, who died last year, and was joined by smoldering vocalist Tony DeSare, who then sat down to do his own rousing version of "I Love a Piano"; Therese Genecco did a pared down blues version of "Heartbreak Hotel" accompanied by masterful guitarist Sean Harkness; cabaret vet Baby Jane Dexter proved she’s still got it; and Hansen Award winner Angela Schultz wowed with Hector Coris’ over-the-top "My American Idol Moment"-once again reminding all, side-splittingly, that good singing is not about dramatic riffs and key changes.

A surprising touch was a performance by the behind-the-scenes bartenders and tech directors at the clubs, many of whom held their own against the veterans on stage.

Randy Lester, a longtime presence at Don’t Tell Mama, ended the group medley with Streisand’s "A Piece of Sky," ending on a note so long and glorious, it brought the audience to its feet.

The only other standing ovation of the night went to Uggams herself, who looked stunning in a gold, knee-length jacket over a sparkling black pantsuit. She regaled the audience with showbiz tales and when she did a song from her Tony-winning "Hallelujah Baby," the silent audience was rapt with attention.

The only double winners of the night were Richard Skipper and Dana Lorge, both for producing "Wednesday Night at the Iguana" and for hosting, and Anne Steele, who got the triple crown this year-Nightlife and Bistro Awards, as well as MAC Awards for Female Vocalist and Piano Bar Entertainer. Skipper, long known for impersonating Carol Channing, quipped, "This is the first time I’ve won an award without wearing a dress!"

Musical director Tracy Stark led an all-female trio and managed to master all styles put before her.
The evening was dedicated to the son of beloved cabaret icon Ryan Ritzel, who tragically drowned in Hawaii in April.

Complete list of winners

Lifetime Achievement Award: Leslie Uggams
Board of Directors Award: Peter Leavy of Cabaret Scenes Magazine
Board of Directors Award:

Hansen Award: Angela Schultz
Time Out New York Award: Brandon Cutrell
Female Vocalist: Anne Steele
Male Vocalist: Hector Coris (pictured)
Jazz Vocalist: Mary Foster Conklin
Major Artist: Baby Jane Dexter
New York Debut-Female: Danielle Grabianowski
New York Debut-Male: Tom Rocco
Celebrity Artist: Marilyn Maye
Stand-up Comic-Male: Danny Cohen
Stand-up Comic-Female: Mary Dimino
Musical Comedy: Gretchen Reinhagen
Vocal Duo/Group: Marquee Five

Special Production: Ricky Ritzel "Hysterical Blondness"
Variety Production/Recurring Series: Wednesday Night at the Iguana
Open Mic: Algonquin Salon
Host-Variety Show/Series or Open Mic: Richard Skipper & Dana Lorge
Piano Bar/Restaurant Singing Entertainer: Anne Steele

Piano Bar/Restaurant/Lounge Instrumentalist: Jerry Scott
Technical Director: Jean-Pierre Perreaux
Director: Lennie Watts
Musical Director: Tracy Stark
Major Recording: Daryl Sherman, "Johnny Mercer: A Centennial Tribute"

Recording: Susan Winter, "Love Rolls On . . . Live!"
Song: "Things That Haunt Me", Brett Kristofferson
Special Musical Material: "Identity Theft," Ray Jessel

Kristin Chenoweth Attacks Newsweek Article on Openly Gay Actors

(SOURCE: Kyle Buchanan)
Last time I saw Kristin Chenoweth guest star on Glee, I may or may not have made a few comments about her worryingly overtanned exterior, but all is forgiven, K-Chen! The actress and Broadway veteran has positively ripped into Newsweek for its ridiculous, Ramin Setoodeh-written article on how openly gay actors simply aren’t believable when they play straight. Setoodeh saved the bulk of his criticism for Sean Hayes (who currently costars opposite Chenoweth in the musical Promises, Promises) and Jonathan Groff (who’s also guesting on Glee, and about whom Setoodeh wrote “When he smiles or giggles, he seems more like your average theater queen”). In a comment posted under his article, Chenoweth has come after him with both guns blazing.
As a longtime fan of Newsweek and as the actress currently starring opposite the incredibly talented (and sexy!) Sean Hayes in the Broadway revival of ‘Promises, Promises,’ I was shocked on many levels to see Newsweek publishing Ramin Setoodeh’s horrendously homophobic ‘Straight Jacket,’ which argues that gay actors are simply unfit to play straight. From where I stand, on stage, with Hayes, every night — I’ve observed nothing “wooden” or “weird” in his performance, nor have I noticed the seemingly unwieldy presence of a ‘pink elephant’ in the Broadway Theater. (The Drama League, Outer Critics Circle and Tony members must have also missed that large animal when nominating Hayes’ performance for its highest honors this year.) I’d normally keep silent on such matters and write such small-minded viewpoints off as perhaps a blip in common sense. But the offense I take to this article, and your decision to publish it, is not really even related to my profession or my work with Hayes or Jonathan Groff (also singled out in the article as too ‘queeny’ to play ‘straight.’) This article offends me because I am a human being, a woman and a Christian.

For example, there was a time when Jewish actors had to change their names because anti-Semites thought no Jew could convincingly play Gentile. Setoodeh even goes so far as to justify his knee-jerk homophobic reaction to gay actors by accepting and endorsing that ‘as viewers, we are molded by a society obsessed with dissecting sexuality, starting with the locker room torture in junior high school.’ Really? We want to maintain and proliferate the same kind of bullying that makes children cry and in some recent cases have even taken their own lives?
That’s so sad, Newsweek! The examples he provides (what scientists call ‘selection bias’) to prove his ‘gays can’t play straight’ hypothesis are sloppy in my opinion. Come on now!
Openly gay Groff is too ‘queeny’ to play Lea Michele’s boyfriend in Glee, but is a ‘heartthrob’ when he does it in Spring Awakening? Cynthia Nixon only ‘got away with it’ ‘cause she peaked before coming out? I don’t know if you’ve missed the giant Sex and the City movie posters, but it seems most of America is ‘buying it.’ I could go on, but I assume these will be taken care of in your ‘Corrections’ this week.

Similarly, thousands of people have traveled from all over the world to enjoy Hayes’ performance and don’t seem to have one single issue with his sexuality! They have no problem buying him as a love-torn heterosexual man. Audiences aren’t giving a darn about who a person is sleeping with or his personal life. Give me a break! We’re actors first, whether we’re playing prostitutes, baseball players, or the Lion King. Audiences come to theater to go on a journey.
It’s a character and it’s called acting, and I’d put Hayes and his brilliance up there with some of the greatest actors period. 
Lastly, as someone who’s been proudly advocating for equal rights and supporting GLBT causes for as long as I can remember, I know how much it means to young people struggling with their sexuality to see out & proud actors like Sean Hayes, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris and Cynthia Nixon succeeding in their work without having to keep their sexuality a secret.

No one needs to see a bigoted, factually inaccurate article that tells people who deviate from heterosexual norms that they can’t be open about who they are and still achieve their dreams. I am told on good authority that Mr. Setoodeh is a gay man himself and I would hope, as the author of this article, he would at least understand that. I encourage Newsweek to embrace stories which promote acceptance, love, unity and singing and dancing for all!

As Glee’s Matthew Morrison would say after a vigorous round of applause, “THAT’S what I’m TALKIN’ about.”

Remembering Lena Horne: An Iconic Talent and True Trailblazer
(SOURCE:Ben Widdicombe)

Lena Horne, who died at age 92 on Sunday night, was not only one of the 20th century's most popular performers, she was also a civil rights trailblazer whose career suffered gravely for her principles. Her aching signature tune, 'Stormy Weather,' is often seen as a metaphor for a life that saw great triumphs, but also personal tragedy and professional sacrifice for her commitment to racial equality.

Shortly after moving to Hollywood in 1941, Horne became the first black performer signed to a major film studio when she was picked up by MGM. But like singer and dancer Josephine Baker, who was eleven years her senior, Horne achieved international stardom while racial discrimination in her own country dramatically restricted her professional and private lives.
MGM rarely gave Horne actual acting roles, largely limiting her appearances to show-stopping musical numbers that would be edited out entirely in racially sensitive markets like the American south. Her 1947 marriage to a Jewish American, MGM's musical director Lennie Hayton, took place in France and was kept quiet in the U.S. for three years.

Also like Baker, Horne's roots were in nightclubs. Starting out at Harlem's legendary Cotton Club at 16, she was lured to the West Coast to headline a new Hollywood nightspot.
At the time, blacks were not allowed to live in Hollywood, so she rented a house signed for by somebody else. Of that time, she later said: "When the neighbors found out, Humphrey Bogart, who lived right across the street from me, raised hell with them for passing around a petition to get rid of me. [Bogart] sent word over to the house that if anybody bothered me, please let him know."

She was discovered by MGM executives while singing in the Little Troc club, and in 1943 director Vincente Minnelli gave her an early notable role in 'Cabin in the Sky.'

The day after her death, his daughter Liza Minnelli said in a statement released to PopEater: "My father discovered Lena ... I knew her from the time I was born, and whenever I needed anything she was there. She was funny, sophisticated and truly one of a kind. We lost an original. Thank you, Lena."

Singer Lena Horne, who broke racial barriers as a Hollywood and Broadway star famed for her velvety rendition of "Stormy Weather," has died at age 92. (AP Photo)

During WWII, she toured with the U.S.O., but was dropped by the organization when she complained about the unequal treatment of black soldiers. Her outspokenness, and her friendships with fellow left-leaning activists like Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois, doomed her film career in the anti-Communist hysteria of post-war Hollywood. She later said of her experience with the U.S.O.: "From then on, I was labeled a bad little Red girl."

Although she made only two films after MGM dropped her in 1950 (including the glorious 1978 musical 'The Wiz,' in which she delivered a sparkling performance as Glinda the Good), her popularity endured with television appearances and wildly successful live shows. In 1981, she won a Tony for her Broadway show 'Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music,' which later went on to a national tour, with its soundtrack album snagging two Grammys. (She later won additional Grammys for best jazz vocal performance and lifetime achievement.)

While Horne paid a heavy price for her activism, her steadfastness and popularity helped younger actresses like Diahann Carroll achieve their own important firsts in the entertainment business. Her notable civil rights work included participating in the 1963 march on Washington, D.C., where the Rev. Martin Luther King delivered his historic 'I Have A Dream' speech.

Over twelve terrible months around 1971, Horne suffered the deaths of her father, her estranged husband Lennie and her son from an earlier marriage, Edwin, who died of kidney failure. She is survived by a daughter, Gail, and two granddaughters, who also work in the entertainment industry.

Set Up a Cabaret or Comedy Act

According to the song, life is a cabaret, and working an intimate room with a singing or comedy act can lead to steadier jobs on stage or on TV—think Ray Romano, Kathy Griffin, Roseanne, or Caroline Rhea. But mounting a solo show for such a venue is a tricky proposition.
How do you find and put together your material? Where do you find musicians?

How much do you have to pay them? We spoke with industry insiders on both sides of the stage lights for tips.

Richard Skipper, an award-winning performer famous for his Carol Channing impersonation, also books acts for the Iguana restaurant in New York. He advises seeing other performers.
"Before I sat down to do a show, I went to see as many cabaret shows as I possibly could," he says. "I wanted to know what was working and what wasn't. From doing that, I discovered my first director, Lina Koutrakos. I would also suggest appearing at some of the open-mike shows around town—there seems to be a resurgence of those—and really go out and network and market and promote yourself. Some in New York are the Salon at Etcetera Etcetera, Metro Jam, Jim Caruso's Cast Party. What I do at the Iguana is not an open mike, but if a performer wants to come on and do one song, we will put them on. If the audience response is great, we'll give them a featured spot in one of our upcoming shows.
Then if I feel they are ready, I'll give them guidance about getting booked at either the Iguana or other rooms around town."

Sydney Myer, booker for Don't Tell Mama in New York, agrees about the importance of seeing other cabaret shows. He says, "Every night of the week, in clubs all over town, there are ladies and gentlemen performing who can each be a master class in song selection, accompaniment, musicians, direction, patter, costuming, flier design—every element involved in creating your own show."

Skipper also points out the importance of having more than one experienced accompanist for your act: "When I first started, I got great advice from [singer] K.T. Sullivan, who said, 'Have five people who know your work and have great charts.' I can't tell you the number of times a musical director has gotten sick or gotten a better gig or a million reasons why they're not available for you, and performers have had to cancel a gig because you're at their mercy." The accompanist's fee comes out of the performer's pocket. Skipper estimates that it ranges from $50 to $300 for a single performance, not including rehearsal time. "You will definitely spend more than you make," he says, "but it's an investment in your career." Al Martin, owner and booker of the New York Comedy Club and the Broadway Comedy Club, advises: "Don't approach too many clubs at the beginning of your career. Let just a few clubs see you when you're just starting out, and then, when you've got everything really honed down, when your act is smooth, then audition for the other clubs. Use that first club as sort of your laboratory."

For comedians, Martin also suggests attending a comedy class to learn how to structure a joke and build a series of jokes into an act. A good next step is applying for an internship at a comedy club. Duties involve ushering and answering phones, in exchange for stage time and access to the management and their career advice.
You can also see the shows and learn from comics with more experience.

Martin's biggest advice for aspiring funnymen and -women? "Get to the funny as quick as possible. People tend to talk too much before the punch line. You should tape your sets, listen to the tape, then see what words can be eliminated to get to the funny.
Because being funny in front of an audience is different than being funny in front of the water cooler with your co-workers. In the club, you get people that are drunk and have no attention span. If you get into a long drawn-out story that does not get to a punch line quickly, you'll lose the audience."

Finally, "Approach it as you would any other business," says Skipper. "Always be a professional both onstage and offstage, and for God's sake dress to impress your audience. The grunge look doesn't work for someone in their 30s or 40s. I've paid money to see a performer and I'm dressed better than them when they walk out on stage."

—David Sheward

A Singer Comes Out; Now Will Nashville Let Her Back In?

By the time the country singer Chely Wright appeared on “Today” last Wednesday morning, the secret was out. This minor star of the 1990s and early 2000s was coming out as a lesbian. During her early years in Nashville, “I knew that I needed to hide this to achieve my dreams,” she told the host Natalie Morales.

But while her dreams may have changed, the scale of this announcement — made on “Today” in conjunction with an article in the next issue of People magazine and on had little to do with Ms. Wright.
Only one song of hers has cracked the Top 10 of the Billboard country singles chart — “Single White Female,” from 1999, which went to No. 1 — and she’s been largely absent from public view since her 2004 single “The Bumper of My S.U.V.,” a genteel, apolitical pro-troops song.

Rather, Ms. Wright’s high-profile declaration casts a spotlight on the world of country music, which has historically had little room for differences. Ms. Wright’s dissent from the genre’s talking points — often conservative and religious, though rarely blatantly homophobic — arrived in tandem with the release of her memoir, “Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer” (Pantheon), and a new album, “Lifted Off the Ground” (Painted Red/Vanguard). But the impact of her story is really more powerful on country music’s monolithic image than on her own image.

Country music has seen no shortage of scandal and redemption over the years, but the last few months have been particularly thick with female singers seeking to move beyond old identities, in some cases looking to have past behavior forgiven, and in others, forgotten.

Ms. Wright’s album arrived on the same day as the self-titled debut album (on Columbia) by Court Yard Hounds, the project by the two-thirds of the Dixie Chicks — Emily Robison and Martie Maguire — who didn’t announce, at a 2003 concert in London, “We’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”
(That was Natalie Maines(Natalie Maines & Dannii Minogue & Ivanka Trump---Dolce & Gabbana), the group’s main agitator, who doesn’t appear on this album.)

From a financial perspective that sentence cost the Dixie Chicks dearly: once multiplatinum county radio darlings, they’ve been on an extended hiatus and have all but disappeared from many playlists. They entered into a war of words with Toby Keith, a reliable jingoist and pot stirrer, that only ossified their reputations as antitraditionalists. Now Ms. Robison and Ms. Maguire are in an unusual position: exceedingly famous artists attempting to pass for a new act, free of negative associations.

But their foibles were political, not personal. Looking to capitalize on, and overcome, her troubled past is Mindy McCready, once one of the most promising young singers in country music, but whose personal life has derailed in spectacular fashion over the last decade: arrests, drugs, rehab, two suicide attempts, revelations of an affair with the baseball star Roger Clemens, a sex tape.

This year Ms. McCready appeared on the VH1 reality series “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew,” and, in one of the show’s most moving scenes, serenaded her fellow patients with a defiant new ballad, “I’m Still Here.”

That song is the title track of her recent album (on Iconic/Capice), a modest but elegant record that refers to her struggles only obliquely. Ms. McCready still has a tough, sensual voice, and it remains in good shape, strong enough to broach the question of Nashville’s capacity for forgiveness, though the album has not yet made a significant impact.
Ms. Wright, for one, is hoping that capacity is vast. Often on “Lifted Off the Ground,” her seventh studio album, Ms. Wright’s writing is strong, with sharp lyrics. On “Notes to the Coroner,” which takes the form of a suicide note, she sings, “If you just read on you’ll know how I died/Terminal sadness, chronic regret/A big ball of pain in pajamas.” It’s the most energetic song on the album.

But musically “Lifted Off the Ground” is limp, a light, middling, folk-influenced country album with only brief flickers of attitude. (Also, two tracks have curses in the lyrics, a Nashville no-no.) It’s a record that those in the country mainstream would likely overlook anyhow, which dims the force of Ms. Wright’s announcement somewhat.
As a former star making a small-scale comeback album, she is already an outsider.

But where Ms. Wright’s album largely fails, her memoir succeeds. She’s direct about the toll that her secret life exacted on both her and her partners. In the book, the presumed intolerance of the country music industry is depicted through an uncomfortable interaction with John Rich, of the duo Big & Rich, often regarded as one of the most progressive voices in Nashville. “You know, that’s not cool, if you’ve chosen to live that kind of lifestyle,” he said, according to Ms. Wright. “Fans won’t have it. This industry won’t allow it.”

Mr. Rich’s warnings were only partly accurate. Ms. Wright is not the first country artist to announce herself as a lesbian. K. D. Lang came out in 1992, though by that time she had mostly left country music behind. The original incarnation of Sugarland included the lesbian singer-songwriter Kristen Hall, who wrote much of the material on the group’s debut album before splitting off on her own.

Neither of those artists made mainstream country songs about their sexual orientation. On “Like Me” Ms. Wright comes close, addressing a former lover struggling with issues of sexual identity — “Who’s gonna end up holding your hand?/A beautiful woman or a tall handsome man?” — tying the song together with a double entendre at the chorus that captures the futility of love behind closed doors: “Will anyone ever know you like me?”

Apart from this, though, there’s no grandstanding on this album, no overt statements of pride. For that, one must turn to Court Yard Hounds, who tackle the subject head on in “Ain’t No Son,” a song addressed from a bitter, resentful father to his gay son:

Yeah, you must get around
’Cause it sure got around

Don’t you know that I can’t

Show my face in this town?

It’s far angrier, and far blunter, than anything on Ms. Wright’s album. In fairness, Ms. Robison and Ms. Maguire are already pariahs — multimillionaire pariahs — with little to lose. But this is Ms. Wright’s first brush with scandal, and she’s handling it gently. It’s not really about her anyway.

Mitzi Gaynor: "Razzle Dazzle! My Life Behind The Sequins"
at Loews Regency Hotel: Feinstein's at Loews Regency, New York, NY

Feinstein's At Loews Regency, the nightclub proclaimed "Best of New York" by New York Magazine, and "an invaluable New York institution" by The New York Post, will continue its star-studded Winter/Spring 2010 season with Hollywood legend Mitzi Gaynor from May 18 - 22. In her show, Razzle Dazzle: My Life Behind the Sequins, Ms.
Phone: (212) 339-4095
Age Suitability: None Specified

Feinstein's At Loews Regency, the nightclub proclaimed "Best of New York" by New York Magazine, and "an invaluable New York institution" by The New York Post, will continue its star-studded Winter/Spring 2010 season with Hollywood legend Mitzi Gaynor from May 18 - 22. In her show, Razzle Dazzle: My Life Behind the Sequins, Ms. Gaynor will bring her incomparable brand of showmanship to the stage in a glittering multimedia one woman tour-de-force of music and memories from her show-stopping life and career. After decades of television, film and touring, she is excited to make her New York performance debut in an intimate setting like Feinstein's, to get up close and personal with her fans. The evening will feature classic elements of her fabled concert performances along with video footage culled from her television, concert and film work in an all new up-to-date setting. The show runs at the Regency Hotel Ballroom (540 Park Avenue at 61st Street).
Gaynor says "over the years I'd been asked to play New York on numerous occasions but the stars never quite aligned. That's why I was thrilled when Michael Feinstein asked me to bring my show to his club and said I could have the Regency's Ballroom so I'd have more room to play. I really can't wait to be there. There's no city in the world like New York."
"Razzle Dazzle: My Life Behind the Sequins" is an intimate and affectionate love letter to that fun "razzle-dazzle" era of show business featuring Mitzi's often hilarious recollections of famous friends and costars including Frank Sinatra, Ethel Merman, Marilyn Monroe, Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Marlene Dietrich and more. Interspersed with dazzling television & film footage and rare personal photos, embraced in a concert setting, this multimedia theatrical extravaganza is a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the electrifying magic and incredible spirit of a true entertainment icon. Mitzi shares personal stories, moving reminiscences and behind-the-scenes anecdotes from her life and remarkable show business career including those of starring in such classic motion pictures as There's No Business Like Show Business, Les Girls, The Joker Is Wild, and making the blockbuster adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
and performing in her Emmy Award winning television specials and nightclub & concert appearances that secured her place as an entertainment superstar.
Razzle Dazzle: My Life Behind the Sequins reunites the Golden Globe nominee with the original creative team behind her acclaimed television specials and concert performances -- world renowned fashion icon Bob Mackie, who has designed eight new breathtaking costumes for Ms. Gaynor's return to the stage, Emmy-winning director/choreographer Tony Charmoli (Woman of the Year) and Emmy Award nominated musical arrangers Dick DeBenedictis (Funny Lady) and Bill Dyer (An Evening with Diana Ross).
Mitzi will perform a virtual songfest of signature musical hits from her film, television and nightclub catalog including "There's No Business Like Show Business", "Honey Bun" and "I Can Cook, Too" in addition to a diverse slate of song selections from John Kander and Fred Ebb, Leon Redbone, Irving Berlin and Betty Comden and Adolph Green amongst others while also tackling new material from the recent Tony-winning Broadway hit The Drowsy Chaperone - all set to brand-new staging and choreography by Mr. Charmoli.

Levitt Pavilions presents
An Evening with GRAMMY Legends
Jimmy Webb and Thelma Houston

WHAT/WHO: Two extraordinary careers, one unforgettable evening. Legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb and celebrated R&B singer Thelma Houston will perform together for the first time in forty years. Jimmy Webb is the writer of “MacArthur Park” - the famous song inspired by the park in Los Angeles, where a Levitt Pavilion is now located. Proceeds from the event will support the free summer concert series at Levitt Pavilion MacArthur Park. Houston's first album “Sunshower” was written, arranged and produced by Webb. Together, Webb and Houston will perform songs from this critically-acclaimed album. Webb will also perform his classic hits which have become a permanent part of the American music landscape.

WHEN: Friday, May 21st, 2010
7:00pm Reception by Wolfgang Puck
8:00pm Performance
9:30pm VIP Dessert Reception with Jimmy Webb and Thelma Houston

WHERE: GRAMMY Museum® Sound Stage at LA Live
800 West Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90015

The Grammy Museum Sound Stage is on the corner of Olympic Boulevard and Figueroa Street in downtown Los Angeles on the campus of LA Live.

$250/$350/$500, Call 310-275-5628 or visit for more information

PRODUCERS/EDITORS: Jimmy Webb is the only artist ever to receive Grammys for music, lyrics and orchestration. “Up, Up and Away” earned Jimmy his first Grammy in 1967. The following year, Jimmy earned a Grammy for “MacArthur Park” performed by Richard Harris. Donna Summer's 1978 disco version of “MacArthur Park” went to #1 on the pop charts. Jimmy received another Grammy in 1985 for “Highwayman” performed by country heavyweights Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson. Webb's songs grace a multitude of major artists' albums, including Tony Bennett, Glen Campbell, Barbra Streisand, Reba McEntire, Linda Ronstadt, Diana Ross and Thelma Houston. He is a member of the National Academy of Popular Music Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Webb's “By the Time I Get To Phoenix” and “Up, Up and Away are two of the most performed songs in the last fifty years. As a performer, Webb continues to draw sold out audiences in major cabaret venues, nationally and internationally.

Thelma Houston's first solo album “Sunshower” was written, arranged and produced by Jimmy Webb. The critical acclaim of this album led to her contract with Motown records. Thelma claimed the top of the Pop, R&B and Dance charts in 1977 with her high-powered rendition of “Don't Leave Me This Way.” That classic gave Houston the distinction of being the first solo female artist at Motown to win the Grammy award for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance. In 2009, Thelma headlined at the official inauguration dinner for President Barack Obama. She also appeared on American Idol, America's Got Talent, and here in Los Angeles, at the Hollywood Bowl.

Friends of Levitt Pavilion MacArthur Park is a nonprofit organization which presents 50 concerts every summer at the Levitt Pavilion, featuring a diverse lineup of artists from acclaimed, emerging talent to seasoned, award winning performers. All concerts are FREE admission, making live music and the arts accessible to all. Since 2007, Friends of Levitt has presented 130 concerts with over 85,000 in attendance. The tide has turned in MacArthur Park. As music has filled the park, so have families, friends and Angelenos from all over the city, creating community through music.

Press Contact: BHBPR/B. Harlan Böll Tel 626-296-3757 E>

Liza Minnelli’s Call to Action
(SOURCE:Diana Cage)

On Saturday May 1st PFLAG honored Liza Minnelli at the Straight for Equality Awards Gala. Liza! (don’t you think her name should always be followed by an exclamation point?) was presented with the 2010 Straight for Equality in Entertainment Award, recognizing her lifelong role as a gay icon—oh sorry, I meant Straight Ally of the LGBT community.

Caroline Rhea emceed, running around the banquet room at the Marriott Marquis in her stockings, joking that if her Spanx blew she’d take out the first row with nylon shrapnel. She was the cutest, armed with self-deprecating humor and enough dick jokes to keep the bids high at the live auction, and I’m sure auction host "Amazing Race IV" winner Reichen Lehmkuhl’s chiseled jaw and perma tan didn’t hurt. Lehmkuhl’s jaw line is lost on me, but he won this lesbian’s heart when he got the entire audience to drink a toast in honor of his recently deceased cat.

Straight for Equality, in case you haven’t been keeping up, is a project of PFLAG National to encourage, educate, and empower straight allies to speak out for their LGBT friends and family. By bestowing honors on celebrities and businesses who make an effort to eradicate injustice around them PFLAG shows our straight allies how much of a difference their voices and efforts can make. It’s a brilliant idea; think about the people around you who harbor no prejudice, if all of them made an effort to say so and declare their support we could drown out the hateful rhetoric coming from the homophobes and the far right.
It’s not enough to be an ally, anyone who believes in equal rights for all people is obligated to publicly fight injustice. Individuals who believe in social justice but don’t speak out because they fear backlash from their community are themselves part of the oppressed. Their right to espouse their own beliefs are curtailed by the same hatred that legislates gays and lesbians into second-class status. Think on that for a while.It just so happens that Straight for Equality took place on the same night as the car bomb scare in Time’s Square. Lucky for us Liza! kept us entertained with a little impromptu performance. Not kidding, the diva stopped in the middle of her acceptance speech to sing an a cappella selection from her forthcoming CD "Confessions."
I felt pretty awesome until I found out she’d also given an impromptu performance -- to which I was not invited -- in her dressing room before the show. Wouldn’t you just die?

This year’s Straight for Equality in Business Award went to Sodexo. The company has earned the highest rating for diversity and inclusion in a national survey. Dr. Rohini Anand accepted the honor, recounting a story in which Sodexo received hate mail for their efforts to create LGBT equality at the company. Her speech was so heartfelt and authentic I teared up.
Other companies honored were American Airlines, AOL, Campbell’s, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, and the New York Stock Exchange.
The Straight for Equality in Sports Award went to New Orleans Saints NFL player Scott Fujita.
“Love is love,” he said plaintively during a video appearance.
Fujita noted that because he plays the macho sport of football, straight guys will listen to him talk about LGBT rights.
He added, “When it comes to this fight, I think, ‘Should I shut my mouth and just play football, or stand up and fight for something?’ I’d rather fight for something.”

Tell your pals and family to check out PFLAG’s Straight For Equality program and encourage them to speak up. More information can be found here: Straight for Equality

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Michael Holmes Brings Judy Garland Show to Acorn Theater 5/21

The spirit of Judy Garland is alive and well and coming to Acorn Theater Thursday, May 21 @ 8:00 PM with the all new "The Judy Show!" Tickets are $15.00 and can be purchased at or by calling - 269 - 756 - 3879.

Judy Garland celebrates the Great Standards of the Swing Era with new music and celebrity guests in Michael Holmes' riotous parody of the old Judy Garland Show! Holmes impersonates Judy Garland who, in her 1964 television variety show, played host to some of the greatest stars of Hollywood - also played by Holmes.

This hysterical and completely unique blend of humor, music and you explode into a comedy studded night of music including glamorous guest stars Bette Davis, Carol Channing and Mae West (all performed by Holmes on stage) singing many of your favorite standards including Hello Dolly, Stormy Weather, San Francisco and many more as well as the Judy favorite such as Over the Rainbow.
Holmes, is a celebrated entertainer, singer and impressionist who has performed throughout the country to sold out houses. Being one of the most sought after celebrity impressionists and cabaret entertainers in the United States, Holmes splits his time between the Midwest and the West Coast. In addition to impressions Holmes has become one of the country's premier jazz vocalists releasing his second CD Everything Old Is New Again this year. For more information you may visit Holmes website at

Accompanying Holmes' on piano is celebrated pianist Mark Kahny.
More information at:

Support THE ARTS! LIVE THEATRE! Go see a show this week!

Send me your reviews and suggestions and I will put them in my next blog coming out May 15th Here's to an ARTS-filled week! Don't forget to contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING & HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS:

With grateful XOXOXs for your support!

Richard Skipper

Follow me on Twitter @RichardSkipper

Hi Richard,
I had the pleasure of attending WEDNESDAY NIGHT AT THE IGUANA recently. I have to commend Richard Skipper and Dana Lorge for presenting a thoroughly delight-full evening with a talented array of performers.It was great hearing and seeing Richard & Dana performing live. As General MacArthur said, "I SHALL RETURN."
Len Schlosberg, Leonard Talent Associates Inc.

Well, what a treat Wednesday night was (4/7/10)! I so enjoyed singing at the Iguana. It's a very supportive community that Richard Skipper and Dana Lorge have created. Job well done! I'm looking forward to many more Wednesday nights on 54th Street....Many thanks to Richard and Dana for all their hard work!! This guy and doll are just terrific!!
Phyllis Molen

What a great night! I have been to events where singers get up and share their music before. But I have never, ever experienced such a supportive, organized, professional experience doing so.(In front of a packed house of happy patrons!) Wednesday Night at The Iguana is top notch. Dana and Richard host this event with such humor, warmth and expertise. They bring out the very best in each singer so that the singer when he or she gets up there does their very best to entertain this packed room. I was honored to take part. This is the real deal. What music making in NYC, "back in the day" must have been like. Dana and Richard have brought a bit of that magic back and I for one, am very thankful. Meg Flather,

Dana Lorge and I have put our OWN spin on the variety show format and are now hosting every Wednesday night in NYC at The Iguana VIP Lounge ( in the heart of NYC (240 West 54th Street 8-11PM/with an intermission).

Cover: $12 - no food or drink minimums – but remember – the food is great!
or more info, please call 845-365-0720 or visit _www.RichardSkipper.com_

MAY 12th: Tod Hall and RITA ELLIS HAMMER return!

May 19th: Jack Demonte, Adrienne Haan, Barbara Gurskey, Bobbie Horowitz, Evan Lawrence

May 26th: Michelle Collier, 2010 Bistro Award winner Danielle Grabianowski, and Catt John

June 2nd: D'Yan Forest and Tod Hall, Pam Palmieri

June 16th: 2010 Julie Reyburn, Lisa Raze returns!

JUNE 23rd: Sigali Hamberger, Pam Tate

June 30th: KEVIN DOZIER!




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