Friday, July 8, 2011
Making Beautiful Music: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RITA HARVEY!
-William Carlos Williams, American author and poet (1883-1963)
and Happy Birthday to Rita Harvey (pictured above)!
The weekend is upon us once more and people, if they haven't already made plans, will be contemplating what they will be doing for the weekend. I always encourage everyone to keep LIVE entertainment as part of those plans. Schools have always struggled to keep art and music programs alive.
Schools are often threatened or even cut in hard economic times. OI want to make sure these programs are never gone. I salute the entertainers of our generation for doing ALL they do to keep the traditions of vaudeville alive...and that is truly what the art form of cabaret does.
In a perfect world, every public school would have the kind of "music class" offered by Neil Berg and Rita Harvey. I say "music class" because they offer these wonderfully entertaining evenings celebrating "100 Years of Broadway!" I even appeared in one of those evenings as Carol Channing...100 years ago! I feel like I've known Neil and Rita that long!
And that's a good thing!
I've known them both for almost as long as I've been in Rockland County...a little over 21 years. They make beautiful music together...both on and off stage! Look at these reviews:
-John Hunt, Ocean Reef Cultural Center
A mind-boggling evening! The audience jumped to its feet with 'bravos' a dozen times or more.
-Gian Morelli, Columbia Theatre for the Perfoming Arts
LOVED IT! Our Audience Went Crazy!
-Robert Freedman, Ruth Eckerd Hall
All five Broadway singers were fabulous! Our audience loved it. Some said they were going to follow them around Texas!
-Susan Thomae-Morphew, UT Tyler
That's just the tip of the iceberg! They garner rave reviews all over the country and now they are about to bring their show to the pinnacle of cabaret in NYC, Feinstein's!
Check them out! At the very least, this is an invitation to share the ride I have experienced as a fan of both.
Neil Berg is the composer/lyricist of the hit Off-Broadway musical "The Prince and the Pauper," which ran for two years at the Lambs Theater in New York City.
The New York Times raved "(Berg's) music soars on Angel's wings". The original cast CD is released internationally on Jay Records, sheet music published by Hal Leonard, and licensing by Samuel French Inc. Songs from this show are also featured with many other classic songs in the official Off-Broadway Songbook, published by Hal Leonard.
Neil is currently the composer for the new Broadway-bound musical "Grumpy Old Men," based on the Warner Brothers movie classic starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau,www.grumpyoldmenthemusical.com.
Neil is currently collaborating with Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Robert Schenkkan on a new rock musical called "The 12". Following a very successful showcase at the China Club in NYC, featuring Dan Spitz of Anthrax on lead guitar, "The Twelve" it had its World Premiere at the Broward Center in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on April 1, 2010, produced by Adam Friedson.
Neil's latest musical, "The Man Who Would Be King," with book and lyrics by DJ Salisbury, had a developmental reading/workshop at The Village Theater in Issaquah, WA, directed by Tony Award winner Brian Yorkey (Next To Normal). This follows a staged reading at the Rubicon Theater in CA. This show has been developed with dramaturgical guidance by Moises Kaufman of the Tetonic Theater Project. The fully-orchestrated CD recording, featuring Brian d'Arcy James, Marc Kudisch and Mandy Gonzalez, has recently been released, and can be purchased at www.neilberg.com.
Neil's musical "Tim and Scrooge," with book and lyrics by Nick Meglin (former editor of Mad Magazine), had its first developmental production at the wonderful Elmwood Playhouse in Nyack, NY. It was then voted "one of the best musicals" of the inaugural NYMF festival in NYC, then garnered a rave review in the NY Times after it opened for an Equity run, starring TONY nominee Bobby Steggert at The Queens Theater in the Park, and was recently presented as a special reading at the Criterion Theater in the London's West End.
Neil also composed the new musical "Heidi," book by Julia Jordan and commissioned by Douglas Love and the Walden Family Theater. Heidi ran for over eighty performances in its regional premiere in Denver. His musical "Hexed in the City" played Off- Broadway at the Zipper Theater. Other new projects in development are musical versions of "Pollyanna" and "The Count of Monte Cristo". Other commissioned works include "Percy Penguin" for the Penguin Repertory Theater (Joe Brancato, Artistic Director), "Threads" for the Helen Hayes Theater, and "Fiona: The Mother Goose Musical".
Rita Harvey recently starred in the role of Hodel in the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof starring Rosie O'Donell and Harvey Fierstein. She made her Broadway debut performing the lead role of Christine Daee in The Phantom of the Opera, after two years performing the role with the second national tour.
Several years ago, Rita appeared on Broadway in the original cast of the gorgeous new revival of Fiddler on the Roof.
In this beautifulproduction, directed by David Leveaux, Rita played the role of Fredel and covered the two older daughters, Tzeitel and Hodel.
The evening at Feinstein's is entitled “Broadway Show Stoppers and the Songs of Neil Berg.” Appearing from July 5th thru 16th, composer Neil Berg is eager to talk about his love of baseball, his early college days as a jock and playing at piano bars until his friend Spanky dared him to audition for what became his first role in a musical, Lerner & Loewe’s “Brigadoon.” From there he was smitten.
In reality, the evening serves as a showcase for Berg’s own material rather than the Show Stoppers, the music from the Great White Way. However, he was ultimately outdone by the talent he brought to sing the few Broadway tunes presented. The hot, spicy Luba Mason, a high school buddy of Berg, gave a sexy rendition of “All That Jazz,” and having been part of a benefit reading for his show Grumpy Old Men, reprised the powerful “Ariel View” from that show which he is trying to bring to Broadway.
Rita created the role of Lady Edith in the off-Broadway hit musical The Prince and the Pauper. Rita also created the role of Elizabeth in the highly acclaimed concept CD/DVD of Frankenstein the Musical available on Amazon.com.
Regional and stock productions include Laurey in Oklahoma! and Johanna in Sweeney Todd (both at Marriott's Lincolnshire Theater), Julie Jordan in Carousel, Christine in Maurey Yeston's Phantom, Amalia in She Loves Me, Fiona in Brigadoon, Ann Collier in 1940's Radio Hour, Katrin in the play I Remember Mama, and Rose in Street Scene.
Rita majored in Opera Performance at Simpson College and then received her Masters degree at Northwestern University.
Favorite opera roles include Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, Adele in Die Fledermaus, Rose in Street Scene, Laurie in The Tender Land, Marcelline in Fidelio, and Monica in The Medium.
NEIL AT FEINSTEIN'S FOR TWO WEEKS IN BROADWAY AND BERG JULY 5-16
Through July 16
Feinstein's at the Regency
540 Park Avenue (at 61st Street)
New York, NY
Back by popular demand, Neil Berg returns to Feinstein’s after a sold out show last summer with a new cabaret show, BROADWAY AND BERG: Broadway Show Stoppers and the Theater Songs of Neil Berg, hosted by Broadway star Rob Evan along with Mr. Berg, and featuring a star-studded cast.
The soaring William Michals is mesmerizing as his wondrous operatic tones fill the room with “This Nearly Was Mine.” Long time buddy Rob Evan pays homage to his friend talking about Berg’s touring show “100 Years of Broadway” in which he frequently performs and presented several of Berg’s songs including a duet with Michals, “Kingdom Calling” from The Man Who Would Be King, reminiscent of Wildhorn.
When Berg got to New York, it didn’t take long to join up with a Broadway baseball team – the Phantom of the Opera gang where he met Rita Harvey. He played piano for her audition and then married her. She performs a poignant “Far From the Home I Love.” Booming voiced Lawrence Clayton does a rockin’ job on “Let the Good Times Roll” and guest artist Natalie Toro wows with a spiritual number from a new show she’ll be doing.
Neil is also the recipient of the 1995 Bistro Award for Best Musical for his show "Asylum in the Night," a revue of Neil's theater music. Neil has had evening's dedicated to his music at Joe's Pub and Feinstien's in NYC. Neil was also the composer/music supervisor on the feature film "Searching For Bobby D." featuring Carmen Electra, Sandra Bernhard, and Mario Cantone. Also, many of Neil's theater songs are featured in various Hal Leonard's Musical Anthologies.
All in all, you will get to to know quite a bit about Neil Berg, his life and family members and especially about Grandma Lily who helped shape his musical spectrum and lived till the ripe age of 99. “The Stream,” a song he wrote, was a tribute that seemed to encapsulate her essence. Berg has a nice aura about him and the evening comes off as low-key, friendly with lots of remarkable singing talent, worth the price of admission. Neil studied musical composition with Robert Printz, Sue Peters, and is a product of The BMI Musical Writer's Workshop, mentored by Maury Yeston and Skip Kennon.
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, continues its star-studded Summer 2011 season with Neil Berg for a Two - Week return engagement through July 16, 2010. All shows at 8:30pm. For ticket reservations and club information, please call (212) 339-4095 or visit them online at feinsteinsatloewsregency.com and TicketWeb.com.
(Source: Sandi Durell, TIMES SQUARE CHRONICLES) Go for a fun night! You'll thank me!
In this exclusive NYC engagement, "BROADWAY AND BERG", Mr. Berg and friends are recreating well known Broadway showstoppers, sung by the very stars who performed them on Broadway, along with songs from Mr. Berg's musicals of the past, present, and future. This dynamic evening features classics from “The Phantom of the Opera", “Les Miserables", and “South Pacific,”
Neil Berg and his national touring Broadway concert revue "Neil Berg's 100 Years of Broadway," is the number one booked Broadway touring concert in the United States, playing in over 125 cities last year alone. His show has been voted the number one rated entertainment in many PAC's across the country, including Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL. His songs have been sung by such stars as George Hearn,
On June 2, 2011, Mr. Berg produced, hosted, and performed a sold-out "Night of Broadway Stars" at Lincoln Center's Rose Hall, raising over one million dollars for Covenant House, which helps provide shelter and care for homeless teens in NYC. He also hosted similar events over the years at The Borgata in Atlantic City, The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, and at the NJPAC in Newark. Among the many other charity fund-raisers he has been involved with, Berg has produced several events for BC/EFA, including, with Rob Evan,
For his charitable efforts, Neil was awarded the Distinguished Citizen Award last May, along with his wife, Broadway star Rita Harvey, and Academy Award-winning actress Ellen Burstyn. Neil has also been chosen to receive the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in May, 2012, at Ellis Island, along with Frankie Valli.
For over 15 years, Mr. Berg has been a teacher of musical theater, giving workshops in Manhattan and various universities and performing arts centers around the country. He is co-owner of St. Joseph's Regional H.S. Theater Camp, a musical theater academy in Montvale, NJ, which enrolls over 200 theater students a year. He has been a guest lecturer at his Alma Mater, Binghamton University, and a guest faculty member in the theater department of Rockland Community College.
As owner of Leftfield Productions, Inc., Neil has produced over a thousand Broadway concerts worldwide with such stars as Michael Crawford, Bernadette Peters, Ben Vereen, Betty Buckley, Rita Moreno, Donna McKechnie, Liz Callaway, Mark Kudisch, Alice Ripley, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Stephanie Block, and many other greats.
Neil is also currently producing, in partnership with Adam Friedson, the Twenty Year Anniversary production of Maltby and Shire's classic musical revue "Closer Than Ever".
The show just played to rave reviews in April/May of 2010 at the Queens Theater in the Park and Bristol Riverside Theater, starring original cast members Lynne Winterstellar and Sally Mayes.
Plans are underway to bring Closer Than Ever to an Off-Broadway theater this fall.
Neil recently produced the concert version of the Broadway musical "The Secret Garden" in association with its composer, Lucy Simon.
He has also produced concert versions of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," "Chess," and "Jesus Christ Superstar".
Neil was the Producing Artistic Director of The Broadway Series at the world famous China Club in NYC. Over the past 20 years, Neil has been the musical director/entertainment coordinator for such great organizations as Covenant House, and The Leukemia Society of America. He has produced countless corporate events all across the world for UBS/Paine Webber, Goldman Sachs, Deloitte Touche, John Hancock, Marriott Corporation, IBM, The United Hospice Organization, The American Red Cross, and many others.
Neil can be heard on radio around the country with his jingle for Shock Coffee. Neil also toured the US with rock band Joe D'Urso & Stone Caravan and played on their past seven CDs as well as performed with them on the recent 100 Year Anniversary Tour for Harley Davidson.
Another star on the rise is Joshua Desjardins!
Yesterday, I wrote about David McBride. I want to mention once again that I am getting a group to go see him on Sunday Night at The Metropolitan Room. If you would like to join our party, please contact me.
An Intimate Celebration of the Music of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Michael Buble, Barry Manilow and More!
Starring David McBride
Featuring Musical Director/Pianist Phil Hinton
Ranses Colon on Bass/ Frank Derrick on Drums
Saturday, July 9, 2011 9:30 PM
Sunday, July 10, 2011 9:30 PM...Please note, WE are going on Sunday night!
The Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd St., (between 5th and 6th Avenue), NYC
Tickets: (212) 206-0440 or visit http://metropolitanroom.com
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TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED JULY!
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com