Friday, October 21, 2011

A Hymn To Them!



"Silence is sometimes the severest criticism."
-Charles Buxton, English writer (1823-1871)

Happy Friday!
I am in a GREAT MOOD - and you should be too! :)

I hope that you had a great week and are gearing up for an equally greater weekend. Today, I am writing about an INCREDIBLE show I saw last night, a show that I am looking forward to on Tuesday night, and two incredible women who share a birthday today.

Last night, I went to school. AND I had an incredible teacher. I have to tell you all that Betty Lynn Buckley has officially and forever turned me into a Buckley-ite! I wrote about Betty in a blog last week. Check it out HERE if you want a history of her career.
I feel I have an obligation to tell her and my readers how incredible her current show is.
I truly hope there are plans to record this. The arrangements ALL hit a home run. The name of the show was Ah! Men. All of the songs were written for men to perform on stage and it gave us insight into the "masculine" side of Betty's persona. We learn that as a young girl in Texas, when she first saw Russ Tamblyn as Riff in West Side Story, that she wanted to be HIM.
She was outside performing the Jets song one day when her dad yelled for her to get into the car, that the "Jets" were going to church.
Last night, and this is what I love about cabaret, there are no boundaries. If she wanted to be Riff, she was Riff.
One of the interesting things that I see Betty do when she sings a song, is that she becomes the song!

Betty's life was also shaped by Fred Astaire who made her feel that all things were possible. She should compare notes with Donna McKechnie, who was in the audience last night. In Donna's show, she tells of an incredible evening with Fred Astaire.
He came backstage after a performance of hers and offered to take her to dinner(!) and she actually went back to his home for a nightcap. Not to worry! He was a perfect gentleman!! Donna performs a great song called "Astaire", written by Ann Hampton Callaway and Lindy Robbins, in her show which sums up what we all feel about him. Is there anyone who doesn't like Fred Astaire?
The other male film model for Betty was Gene Kelly. She knew he was hot before she knew what that meant! Again, I think so many of us felt the same way. I remember the first time I saw Gene Kelly in a movie. I snuck up late one night to see The Pirate with Judy Garland. I was a fan of Judy's before I knew it was fashionable to be so! SHE was the reason I stayed up late to see this film. HE was the one I fell in love with.
This was before I knew anything about sexuality. That was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with Gene Kelly.


And yet there was another man who influenced Betty Lynn; John Kerr as Lt. Cable in Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. She feels that if more men spoke to women as Lt Cable does when he sings Younger Than Springtime, it would eliminate a lot of the problems of the world. I'll go a step further, I believe that if more people began every day with a show tune, there would be no violence in the world!
In two instances last night, Betty talks of two instances where she stood in the wings in two different shows and watched as the leading men sang a particular song.
The first instance was when she was in William Finn's song cycle, Elegies, which dealt with the loss of friends and family and was a response to the September 11th, 2011 terrorist attacks. Most of the songs were composed in memory of Finn's friends, several of whom died of AIDS. Three songs deal specifically with the passing of his mother, Barbara Finn. The final set of songs deal with the collapse of the World Trade Center and its emotional aftermath. Betty talked about Michael Rupert singing Venice from that show. A story song that talks about three unlikely friends. Hearing Betty sing that song was worth the price of admission.
Beauty and pleasure is all we can hope to understand.
The other instance was when she was in Pippin with John Rubinstein and stood in the wings and watch him sing Corner Of The Sky, a fitting cap to an already perfect ending. Betty certainly OWNS her Corner of the sky.
Along the way, we get an incredible medley that starts with A Hymn To Her from My Fair Lady ("Why can't a woman be more like a man?") that is one of the best medleys that I have EVER heard in cabaret! And her trio of songs from Sweeney Todd from the characters Toby who is in love with Mrs. Lovett,
Anthony Hope who is in love with Johanna, and Sweeney Todd who is in love with revenge. I hope my review of last night is not too much of a spoiler alert. There are many more highlights to this evening. 
If you want to go just to have an incredible night out, go! If you are an entertainer, you owe it  to yourself to see a "Master" at work! Reservations a MUST!  Wish we'd had a chance to visit afterwards. Betty's pianist/arranger is Christian Jacob. Bass player is Peter Barshay & the drummer for last night (Thursday) was Joe Strasser. Joe is the sub drummer. Betty's normal guy is Anthony Pinciotti.
Her musical consultant is Eric Stern who also did some of the arrangements including the adaptation of Hymn to Her which was written by Eric Kornfeld. Christian did the lovely "Hey There" arrangement & the majority of the other charts. 
How wonderful it must be to be Betty Buckley. Yesterday, Betty was interviewed on Sirius' Broadway channel. Thank you so very much for talking about bullying, Coming Out Day, and being a high school nerd! 

Hearing someone like Betty share about her  experiences with bullies was powerful. 

I can't imagine Betty sitting in her dressing room at Pippin not wanting to face someone from high school. Thanks, Betty! You are not only the greatest star of them all ... you're an inspiration!
IT DOES GET BETTER! 

Please call 212-339-4095 for reservations or further information. Through October 29th only!
FEINSTEIN'S AT LOEWS REGENCY
540 Park Avenue (at 61st Street)
New York, NY 10021


I have a lot of friends who get up most mornings and go to jobs they absolutely hate. I don't think that's what life is about and I'm so fortunate that I actually love what I do.

Jerry Herman


I also want to acknowledge two celebrity birthdays today! And they are both friends! Happy Birthday, Joyce Randolph!  Of course, I grew up watching Joyce on The Honeymooners
I originally met Joyce through our friend Kevin McMullan. She has since become a fan of my work and eventually a good friend. 
Joyce Randolph (born October 21, 1924) is best known for playing Trixie Norton on The Honeymooners.
Randolph was born as Joyce Sirola in Detroit, Michigan, and moved to New York City in 1943 to pursue an acting career.
She took roles on Broadway and landed various television roles.

In 1951, she was seen in a Clorets commercial by Jackie Gleason and was asked to appear in a skit on Calvacade of Stars, Gleason's variety show on the DuMont Television Network. Soon after, she was cast as Trixie in The Honeymooners.

Several New York columnists referred to her as the " Garbo of Detroit". “That’s still a mystery”, Randolph stated. “I was a nobody in Detroit. Why Garbo? Well, she was Scandinavian — and so was I.”
Randolph is the last surviving member of the famous Honeymooners quartet, which included Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden, Art Carney as Ed Norton, Audrey Meadows as Alice Kramden (after replacing a blacklisted Pert Kelton), and Randolph as Trixie Norton.

Randolph was not the very first "Trixie Norton"; Elaine Stritch appeared as a burlesque "Trixie" circa 1951 in Cavalcade of Stars, where the premise for The Honeymooners first took root.
Stritch only played the role once and Randolph took over.
Randolph had met her future Honeymooners co-star Meadows long before they did the television series, meeting as fellow actresses in a summer stock production of  No, No, Nanette.

Randolph married Richard Lincoln Charles, a wealthy marketing executive, in a Baptist church on Long Island, New York, on October 2, 1955. Charles died in 1997 at age 74. Their son, Randolph Richard Charles (born 1960) is a marketing executive in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
She is the great-aunt of Colorado Rockies pitcher Tim Redding
Flanking the silver Rolex clock above the bar, are the four caricatures of the sacred sitcom’s characters: hers and the portraits of Jackie Gleason, Audrey Meadows and Art Carney of “The Honeymooners.”
Randolph is presently on the Board of the USO. (Source: Wikipedia)



Happy Birthday, Joyce!


Another great birthday is The Queen of Cabaret, Miss Julie Wilson!
I first saw Julie Wilson on Broadway in Legs Diamond with Peter Allen.
Believe it or not, that was the only time I saw Peter Allen perform live and I LOVED IT despite the critics skewering. I still think the critics were out for that show. I still remember Julie being absolutely glorious in that production and falling instantly in love with her.
I am thrilled to be able to call her friend.

When Julie Wilson's eyes slyly skim the room, her husky voice toying with Stephen Sondheim's, "Can That Boy Fox-Trot" wow, does she ever evoke that old Maisonette magic of the 'Fifties, when she reigned as hostess over the famed St. Regis Hotel club room. Tossing that scarlet feather boa around her shoulders, Julie can still wear those same signature slinky, silky sequined gowns; her hair is back in a sleek chignon; that white gardenia, a tribute to the late Billie Holiday, is still tucked behind her left ear. But except for that svelte figure, sculptured profile, and generous smile, Julie Wilson has journeyed a long way from her famed niche during the glory days of cabaret.
And today she's better than ever -- dramatic, wise and experienced. Regarding the Stephen Sondheim classic song from Follies that she made her own classic, "I'm Still Here", Julie says,








"That song is everyone's anthem."

 


-Elizabeth Ahlfors

"Julie Wilson looks the part. She has the humor, the tolerance, she loves doing it, and it comes across so clearly." Bobby Short, singer/pianist.

 
"Cabaret is one-to-one, like a party, and you're the hostess who wants to please. Most of all you have to have a good time and hope your audience joins in the fun." - Julie Wilson 





Speaking of cabaret parties, on Tuesday night I'm going to see Jason Graae in his trubute to Jerry Herman!

I'm trying to bring a new generation into the musical theater and to create a new audience.
Jerry Herman

Jason Graae has graced stages from Broadway to the Met; guest starred on Friends, "Frasier", Providence" and "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" among many others; appeared in several films: and recorded on more than 25 albums.primarily musical theatre cast recordings. 
He was even the voice of Lucky the Leprechaun for Lucky Charms cereal, five years running.



Graae grew up around the theater; his mother was a nightclub entertainer and his father worked the stage door at Ben MardenÍs Riviera, a 1930s New Jersey club overlooking the newly constructed George Washington Bridge and the Hudson River. 
Graae remembers watching his mother perform in a community production of Wonderful Town when he was just three years old, and from that point on he was hooked. Despite the fact that his parents tried to steer him toward a career in music instead of musical theater, Graae was soon appearing alongside his mother on stage, playing one of the newsboys to her Gypsy
He eventually studied the oboe as a music major “ all the while singing and performing on stage “ and today he happily combines his love of music, musical theater, and comedy by playing chamber music occasionally, singing with orchestras, appearing on Broadway, and delighting audiences with his unique solo performances.
Graae attended the University of Tulsa and the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and then headed for New York City, where he immediately landed a role in an Equity Library production of Godspell. 
His first on-Broadway show was Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?, and since then he has performed in A Grand Night for Singing, Falsettos, Stardust, and Ragtime, among others. He made his Metropolitan Opera House debut as a vocal soloist in Twyla Tharp's "Everlast" with the American Ballet Theatre, and performed his acclaimed one-man show, for which he won Bistro and Robby awards, in both New York and Los Angeles.
Having spent several years in New York City, Graae moved to Los Angeles, where he was recently featured in Forbidden Broadway Y2K, a performance that earned him an L.A. Ovation Award.  
He also starred opposite David Hyde Pierce in The Boys from Syracuse at Reprise. 
Upcoming projects include playing a cow in Alan MenkenÍs new animated Disney film, Sweating Bullets; a P.G. Wodehouse concert at The Library of Congress; two Jerome Kern recordings with the London Sinfonetta; and a tour with Jerry Herman. “

(Source: Stu Hamstra, Cabaret Hotline)

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Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com



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