Tuesday, June 28, 2011

They Fascinate Me So!

(Christopher Beck)
"The glory of each generation is to make its own precedents."
-Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood, American social reformer (1830-1917)

Happy Tuesday!
I hope this finds you doing well. Today, I am writing about a few people who fascinate me so. I call them stand-up people in a sit down world. People who get things done!

Christopher Beck is taking part in the NYCGMC Sing-a-thon to raise money for Big Apple Performing Arts (home of the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus and Youth Pride Chorus) - please make a donation by visiting Christopher's FirstGiving page: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/christopherbeck/nycgmcsing-a-thon

You can donate:

1) online with a credit card,
2) by mailing a check to Big Apple Performing Arts, 676A 9th Avenue, Suite 405, New York, NY 10036 or
3) by giving Christopher a check in person that he will deliver to Big Apple Performing Arts (saving you 44 cents).

All online donations are secure and sent directly to Big Apple Performing Arts (home of the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus and Youth Pride Chorus) by FirstGiving, who will email you a printable record of your donation.

Please send this blog on to anyone who might like to donate! Thanks for your support!
Please do what you can to keep this group and the MUSIC alive! God bless you, Christopher! I LOVE YOU!

(New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo looked like a hero after the State Senate legalized same-sex marriage Friday.)
Suddenly, we're a city where lovers of the same sex can marry.

Where people in the outer boroughs will be able to hail a livery cab just like people in Manhattan hail yellow cabs.

Where we do not have to worry about teacher layoffs and fire company closings for at least a year.

Where libraries are expected to escape drastic service cuts.

Where for one startling moment government actually worked.

Even in Albany.

Who would have thought that we would watch live coverage of the state senate doing something historic?

Or that afterward, the spectators would be so transported by this victory for fundamental freedom that they chanted "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" in the Legislature's halls with not a trace of irony?

The Legislature also approved a deal allowing livery cabs to pick up street fares legally in the boroughs and in upper Manhattan, as they did illegally for years.

Meanwhile, City Hall announced a budget deal that averted 4,100 teacher layoffs.

The deal also saved 20 fire companies that were targeted for closing.

And the libraries were spared devastating funding cuts.

So, what's a newspaper columnist to do?

I was all set to write that Connecticut put us to shame because gay marriage is not only legal there, but the present governor, Dannel Malloy, performed same-sex weddings while mayor of Stamford.

Instead, our governor, Cuomo, turned out a hero, doing all the right things to get gay marriage legalized here, with the full-hearted support of our mayor.

I couldn't even write about state Sen. Carl Kruger, who voted against gay marriage in 2009 while living with a man the feds later termed an "intimate associate."

After an indictment for bribery caused his private life to become public, Kruger announced a change of heart, saying he had "a better understanding of the impact that this bill will have on the rights of countless New Yorkers."

As for the teachers, I was ready to write how kids at Public School 119 in East Flatbush were writing letters of recommendation for their teachers in case they were laid off and had to look for work.

"He's a well-organized, well-oiled machine," one fifth-grader wrote of his teacher. "He's extremely smart and has a heart like gold. He's good with kids and knows how to fuse fun with learning perfectly."

"She stands for one thing and one thing only; to help people in need," wrote another fifth-grader.

And then there was this one: "Make sure you have her work in a boot camp, boarding school or military school."

As for the fire companies, I figured on writing about Ladder 128, which was slated for closing shortly after its century-old quarters in Long Island City underwent $9.6 million in renovations. The rehab was badly needed, so all I can say now is that the money was well-spent.

The proposed library cuts could have generated any number of stories. Dozens of branches were expected to curtail their hours or close altogether even as the New York Public Library seeks to recruit 100,000 youngsters for its summer reading program.

Now, history books will record a shining moment when our elected officials actually did their jobs and made life a little better, or at least kept it from getting worse.

Albany is still Albany and City Hall is still City Hall, so I don't really expect government to continue actually working.

But it is so nice to dream.

(Source:Michael Daly, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Remembering Alice Playten

By Seth Rudetsky
27 Jun 2011

Photo by Aubrey Reuben

I wanted to include this wonderful tribute to Alice Playten who passed away this weekend much too soon at the age of 63.

"Let me start my column by mourning the loss of Alice Playten. She suddenly passed away last Saturday, and I was so shocked and saddened. I first heard her when I was playing in the pit of Seussical and she was playing the Mayor's wife. I loved her old-school style of singing.
I then realized I had heard her numerous times while listening to the Hello, Dolly! and Oliver! cast albums because she was the original Bet and Ermengarde.
(Nicole Barth (Dear World), Bert Michaels and Alice Playten)

We then worked together on a workshop of Michael John LaChiusa's R Shomon, and when Kelly Bishop had to leave my Actors Fund concert of Funny Girl due to a family emergency, Alice stepped in with a few days' notice. She was such a great stage comedienne. I also got to interview her a few times about being part of those great Golden Age shows and she told me that when she got to replace Baby Louise in the original run of Gypsy (!) she met Ethel Merman who immediately asked, "Does she know about the joke?"
Ethel was insistent that Alice set up her joke clearly; Baby Louise has to clearly say, "Mama. Why do I have five fathers?," so Mama Rose can quickly answer, "Because you're lucky!" Alice then told me she went back to Broadway years later to see one of the numerous Broadway revivals of Gypsy, and the Baby Louise asked, barely audibly, "Mama, why do I have five fathers?" and the Mama Rose slowly intoned, "Because…you're lucky." Alice looked at me and said, "Apparently, neither of them knew about the joke." Excellent bust! She got a Tony nomination for her part as the lovably evil girl named Kafritz (from Henry, Sweet Henry), and I've obsessed about her performance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" many times. You must look at the face she makes when she sees the paltry amount in her hand that the audience has donated. Brilliant!

This clip just fascinates me! http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=jJrzIdDUfT4&vq=medium


- Wednesday, June 29th; Mondays July 11th & 18th @ 7:00 pm (doors open for dinner at 6:15 pm) - THE WEST BANK CAFE/LAURIE BEECHMAN THEATRE(407 West 42nd Street, NYC - 212-695-6909 - ) - $20 cover plus a $15 food/drink minimum. Musical director is Jeff Cubeta with arrangements by Jeff Cubeta and Christopher Denny. Directed by: Arthur Masella.
SPECTACULAR SHOW! Interesting, beautifully sung, intelligent - a MUST SEE!

If you want to see how to put a show together in a way that is worthy of an Off-Broadway run (for just $20!) and hear a voice from the heavens sing it, please mark your calendars today to make sure that you do not miss Eric Michael Gillett in this amazing show.

With 22 songs, this show runs just over an hour and 20 minutes but it flew by for me.
The story of each tune or cluster of tunes creating a mini-drama were little pieces of art unto themselves. The "cast of thousands" comes in the form of Eric playing all the different roles (flawlessly and seamlessly) in this show. From a lady who lunches in a duet with Jeff (who is also wonderful in this show), to a little kid, to an older jaded man, to an every day "Joe", to a cowboy, to a bereaved widower he was as fascinating to watch as he was to hear. This man can sing. What a voice but, to use it the way he uses it, is another lesson to us all as singers.

On one a tune where most would press or soar to make big notes, Eric lays back.
In another tune where you think the song is going to "get angry" because that's how we have always heard it done before, he finds this new energy of "this is what it is" that was chilling. He has nothing to prove because he's the real deal here. He just "is" on stage.

He always finds really interesting "to do's". For example, coming out of an arc of "What You'd Call a Dream" (the baseball song) back into "The Kid Inside" to "Magellan" where he has a crush on his teacher, rather than use words to move the script (Craig Carnelia's lyrics are enough and Eric knows and respects this) Eric just simply raises his hand as if to catch that ball in the outfield and he moves the scene by simply making that grab for the ball move into his raising his hand in class - boom - next scene. It was charming and smart and efficient and emotionally moving to me.

He uses patter sparingly because he allows the songs to do their job. He is an original songwriter's dream because he takes what they have written and brings it to life in a real character we all know (or are!) The other star of the show is Craig's body of work.

My favorite line in the entire show was in "What a Song Should Say" where he sings: "We should be IN the song." While this simple phrase is used in a different context in the song, I heard him loud and clear because he is, in fact, always and completely "IN" his music. He's an inspiration to me as a singer. PLEASE see this show. It is one of my top 10 shows all year (and ya'll know how many shows I see!) STUNNING WORK!
(Source: Arthur Masella)

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