Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The "Ladies" Who Lunch

Here's to the ladies who lunch--
Everybody laugh.
Lounging in their caftans
And planning a brunch
On their own behalf.
Off to the gym,
Then to a fitting,
Claiming they're fat.
And looking grim,
'Cause they've been sitting
Choosing a hat.
Does anyone still wear a hat?
I'll drink to that.
-JOANNE: Company (Stephen Sondheim)

Happy Hump Day!

It is a rainy October Morning in New York. October 15 is the 288th day of the year (289th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar.

There are 77 days remaining until the end of the year.
My day began today with The Ladies Who Lunch With Elaine Stritch so I've decided to plan the perfect lunch at The Plaza Hotel today with five entertainers that I love and who would keep the conversation lively. 

We will, of course, start with the lady herself, Elaine Stritch. 
God, do I love that woman. 
She knows who she is and lives as Elaine Stritch to the fullest. 
I haven't seen her in as many shows as I would have liked. The first time I saw her live on stage was as Parthy Ann Hawkes in Hal Prince's Show Boat in Toronto. 
She can evoke a laugh out of a line like no other. 
She can also make you cry with the same line.
We presented her with a Bistro Award a few years ago. She certainly made the proceedings very lively, to say the least.  
Elaine Stritch studied at the New School in New York City under the direction of Erwin Piscator.  
Beginning her career in musical comedy on Broadway, she went from standing by for Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam to her Tony-nominated performances in A Delicate Balance, Company, Sail Away and Bus Stop to her 2002 Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning one woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty. 
Most recently she appeared as Madame Armfeldt in the revival of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music. Other Broadway credits include Angel In The Wings, Pal Joey, On Your Toes, Goldilocks, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Following Uta Hagen in the role of Martha), and Show Boat. In London's West End, she starred in Neil Simon's The Gingerbread Lady and Tennessee Williams' Small Craft Warnings
Other stage credits include the concert version of both Follies and Company at Lincoln Center and her appearance in A. R. Gurney's Love Letters with Jason Robards, as well as the New York and London productions of Sail Away (which she performed more recently in concert at Carnegie Hall to celebrate Noel Coward's centennial). 
She performed in BAM's recent production of Beckett's Endgame with John Turturro -four weeks in an ash can for which she received splendid notices. Ms. Stritch made her film debut in the 1957 remake of "A Farewell to Arms."

In 1975, Stritch starred in the British LWT comedy series Two's Company opposite Donald Sinden.
She played Dorothy McNab, an American writer living in London who was famous for her lurid and sensationalist thriller novels. Sinden played Robert, her English butler, who disapproved of practically everything Dorothy did and the series derived its comedy from the inevitable culture clash between Robert's very British stiff-upper-lip attitude and Dorothy's devil-may-care New York view of life. Two's Company was exceptionally well-received in Britain and ran for four seasons until 1979, despite being buried in the "graveyard slot" of Sundays at 10:30pm.
Stritch and Sinden also sang the theme tune to the program.
 She has appeared in numerous stage plays and musicals, feature films, and many television programs.

She is known, in addition to her performance of "The Ladies Who Lunch" in Stephen Sondheim's 1970 musical Company,  for her 2001 one-woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty, and recently for her role as
Jack Donaghy's mother Colleen on NBC's 30 Rock.
She has been nominated for the Tony Award four times in various categories, and won for Elaine Stritch at Liberty.

Elaine Stritch was born in 1925 in Detroit, Michigan to Mildred (née Jobe), a homemaker, and George Joseph Stritch, an executive with B. F. Goodrich.

Her family was wealthy and devoutly Roman Catholic. Stritch's father was of Irish descent and her mother was of Welsh descent.
Stritch was a distant niece of Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago.
Stritch trained at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York City under Erwin Piscator; other students at the Dramatic Workshop at this time included Marlon Brando and Bea Arthur.
Stritch made her stage debut in 1944.  However, her Broadway debut came in the revue Angel in the Wings in which she performed comedy sketches and the song "Civilization".


Stritch understudied Ethel Merman for Call Me Madam, and, at the same time, appeared in the 1952 revival of Pal Joey singing "Zip".


Stritch later starred in the national tour of Call Me Madam and appeared in a supporting role in the original Broadway production of William Inge's play Bus Stop. She was the lead in Goldilocks.
She starred in Noel Coward's Sail Away on Broadway in 1961. Stritch started in the show in a "relatively minor role and was only promoted over the title and given virtually all the best songs when it was reckoned that the leading lady...although excellent, was rather too operatic for a musical comedy."
During out-of-town tryouts in Boston, Coward was "unsure about the dramatic talents" of one of the leads, opera singer Jean Fenn.

"They were, after all, engaged for their voices and...it is madness to expect two singers to play subtle 'Noel Coward' love scenes with the right values and sing at the same time."  
Joe Layton suggested "What would happen if ...we just eliminated [Fenn's] role and gave everything to Stritch? ... The show was very old-fashioned, and the thing that was working was Elaine Stritch... every time she went on stage [she]was a sensation.
The reconstructed 'Sail Away'...opened in New York on 3 October."

Stritch became known as a singer with a brassy, powerful voice, most notably originating on Broadway the role of Joanne in Company (1970).
After over a decade of successful runs in shows in New York, Stritch moved in 1972 to London, where she starred in the West End production of Company.
Her earliest television appearances were in The Growing Paynes (1949) and the Goodyear Television Playhouse (1953–55).
She also appeared on episodes of The Ed Sullivan Show in 1954.
Scene from "New Television Set" (Left to right: Elaine Stritch, Pert Kelton, Jackie Gleason, Art Carney).
She was the first and original Trixie Norton in the pilot for Honeymooners sketch with Jackie Gleason, Art Carney and Pert Kelton.
Her character was a burlesque dancer, but the role was rewritten and Trixie became a regular housewife.
Stritch was replaced by my friend Joyce Randolph.
Other television credits, include a number of dramatic programs in the 1950s and 1960s, including Studio One.

She co-starred in the 1977 Alain Renais film "Providence". Other film credits include "Cocoon: The Return", "Out to Sea" with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon "Krippendorf's Tribe" with Richard Dreyfuss, "An Unexpected Life" with Stockard Channing and Stephen Collins in Woody Allen's  "September and Small Time Crooks", "Autumn in New York" with Richard Gere and Winona Ryder, "Monster-in-Law" with Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez, and "Romance and Cigarettes" directed by John Turturro.

Her other British television appearances included Roald Dahl's Tales of The Unexpected.

Although she appeared several times in different roles, perhaps her most memorable appearance was in the story "William and Mary", in which she played the wife of a man who has cheated death by having his brain preserved. In his introduction to the episode, Dahl observed that humor should always be used in horror stories, in order to provide light to the shade, and that was why Stritch had been cast, as "an actress who knows a lot about humor".

Stritch became a darling of the British chat show circuit, appearing with Michael Parkinson and Terry Wogan many times, usually ending the appearance with a song.
She also appeared on BBC One's children's series, Jackanory, reading, among other stories, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.


On returning to live in the United States, she was a regular on the short-lived The Ellen Burstyn Show in 1986, playing Burstyn's character's mother.
She appeared as stern schoolteacher Mrs. McGee on three episodes of The Cosby Show (1989–1990).

Elaine Stritch as Colleen Donaghy on 30 Rock
She followed later with appearances on Law & Order (1992, 1997) as Lainie Steiglitz; as Judge Grace Lema on Oz (1998); and as the character Martha Albright (mother of Jane Curtin's character) on two episodes of 3rd Rock From the Sun (1997, 2001), alongside her Broadway co-star George Grizzard, who played George Albright (the names George and Martha were a play on the characters Stritch and Grizzard played in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf).

Stritch was reportedly considered for the role of Dorothy Zbornak on The Golden Girls but, as she related in her show Elaine Stritch at Liberty, she "blew her audition".
Elaine Stritch and Ray Bolger in Washington Square, 1956
The role was subsequently cast with Bea Arthur (who had appeared with Stritch in 1956 in the television series Washingon Square).
With Alec Baldwin in a 30 Rock Christmas episode
More recently, she was seen on One Life To Live (1993) and recurring roles on Law and Order (1992, 1997) and 3rd Rock From The Sun (1997, 2001).






You can see Elaine this Saturday night in concert at Town Hall (NYC).


The Town Hall's Seventh Annual Broadway Cabaret Festival continues with Elaine Stritch at The Town Hall on Saturday, October 22nd at 8pm and A Tribute to Judy Garland and The Art of American Dance on Friday, October 28th at 8pm. The festival is created, written and hosted by Scott Siegel and is presented in a new format of three consecutive weeks. (Broadway Originals! took place on Sunday, October 16th).

Ms. Stritch comes to The Town Hall following her triumphant engagement at The Cafe Carlyle.
Rob Bowman is the musical director.



 The next guest on my list is my friend who also happens to be one of my favorite ENTERTAINERS, Lee Roy Reams! I've written about Lee Roy Reams many times here. you'll have to look through previous blogs  for that! I'll give you a few highlights.
Born in Covington, Kentucky, Reams earned a Master of Arts degree and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. He made his Broadway debut in Sweet Charity in 1966.

Sweet Charity is a musical with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields, and book by Neil Simon. It was directed and choreographed for Broadway by Bob Fosse starring his wife and muse Gwen Verdon.
It is based on Frederico Fellini's screenplay for Nights of Cabiria.
However, where Fellini's black-and-white Italian film concerns the romantic ups-and-downs of an ever-hopeful prostitute, in the musical the central character is a dancer-for-hire at a Times Square dance hall. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1966, where it was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, and also ran in the West End as well as having revivals and international productions.


Reams was nominated for both theTony and Drama Desk Awards as Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance in the original production of 42nd Street in 1980.
He played the role of Frank Schultz in the 1989 Paper Mill Playhouse production of Show Boat, which was televised on Great Performances by PBS.

Robert J. Donahoe, Terry, Jerry Herman, Lee Roy Reams





Lee Roy Reams will host a benefit for the Astaire Awards' Fred and Adele Astaire Dance Therapy Program at 8pm on Tuesday, October 25 at the Neighborhood Playhouse.
The event will include readings of short plays and musical performances. Participants will include Melissa Errico, David Alan Basche, Alysia Reiner, Alex McCord, Nicole Kontolefa, Jed Peterson, Gregory Korostishevsky, Carl Kissin, and Peter Dizozza.

For tickets and information, call 917-916-3514.
Reams has appeared on concert stages and in cabarets throughout the country. At present he is serving as the resident director of the Theatre at Sea program sponsored by the Theatre Guild.

 Next on my list is someone I don't know personally. I first saw her perform in 1981 and have been a fan ever since.

I've written before about The Piano Bar. A TRUE Piano Bar in every sense of the word as part of Beefsteak Charlie's at 67th and Broadway. With Houston Allred at the piano, every night was a party!

Thursday nights were considered Broadway nights and after the shows let out, a few of the Broadway entertainers would stop by for a song or two.

That is where I first saw Debra Monk. She was appearing in Pump Boys and Dinettes (see below) at the time.


Monk was born in Middletown, Ohio.

She was voted "best personality" by the graduating class at Wheaton High School in Silver Spring, Maryland. She graduated from Frostburg State University in 1973.
In 1975, Monk received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.



Pump Boys and Dinettes is a musical written by a performance group of the same name. The performance group, "Pump Boys and Dinettes" consists of John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel and Jim Wann. Not only did the members of this group write the musical, they starred in the Broadway production and directed it as well.



The musical premiered on Broadway on February 4, 1982 at the Princess Theatre and closed on June 18, 1983, after 573 performances. It had premiered at the Chelsea West Side Arts Theatre in 1981, moving to the Colonnades Theatre ( Greenwich Village) in October 1981.
The show opened in London's West End at the Piccadilly Theatre from September 20, 1984 to June 8, 1985 and transferred to the Albery Theatre from June 11, 1985 to September 2, 1985.
The production starred, amongst others, Paul Jones, Clodagh Rodgers, Joe Brown and Kiki Dee.
The musical tells the story of four men who work at a gas station, and two women waitresses at the "Double Cupp Diner", a dinette, located somewhere between Frog Level and Smyrna, North Carolina. The music is mostly from the country rock/pop music genres.
They perform on guitars, piano, bass and kitchen utensils.Love you, Debra!



The next guest at our lunch is Leslie Orofino. Leslie is a true dear friend!
After recently seeing Leslie in Red Hot And Blues at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, International Cabaret Star, Julie Wilson exclaimed, "I had such a great time,  I had to go back again...She's a winner! Leslie has a certain elegance mixed with sex appeal that sells each and every song. She's also a great comedian."

Leslie Orofino, Eileen Fulton, Richard Skipper

    


Leslie will be appearing at The Laurie Beechman Theatre on 11-11-11. Corduroy Day!
 7:00pm - 9:00pm


Laurie Beechman Theatre
407 W. 42nd St., N.Y.C. 10036
New York, New York
2007 Hanson Award Winner
Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs 2005 Outstanding Female Vocalist
Cabaret Hotline


Actress/Singer, Leslie Orofino has been enchanting sold out audiences with her sultry voice  from New York City's  legendary Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room  to Napa Valley's Silverado Country Club for the last 20 years. Leslie is accompanied by her musical director on piano or entire trio (piano, bass and drums) in theaters, nightclubs, benefits or private parties with her several critically acclaimed cabaret acts . 
This show will SELL OUT! Don't wait to make your reservations!!!

Leslie Orofino, and acclaimed musical director Daryl Kojak will join together and present an evening of "mostly" covers...
For one night, Leslie and Daryl (joined at times by bassist Boots Maleson) will weave together an evening of songs that have inspired and moved them by some of their favorite artists.

AFFAIRS OF THE HEART.....
things that make everyone's heart beat a little faster....
Romance, Latin Dancing, Five Star
Hotels, Your First Child , Dear Friends ....all through the songs of Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart,
Tony De Sare, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe and many others.
A little rock, jazz, comedy, tender ballads.

Reservations 212-695-6909 are strongly recommended.

A few of Leslie's New York City nightclub engagements include the Waldorf Astoria, The Plaza Hotel , The Algonquin's Oak Room, Opia, Danny's Skylight Room, and the Hideaway Room at Helen's.
In  2010 Leslie is appearing at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York City  with her new act Red Hot And Blues... the songs of vamps, tramps, heartbreakers, mantakers and the girl next door....songs of Alberta Hunter, Eartha Kitt, Carolyn Leigh, Peggy Lee, Edith Piaf,  Sophie Tucker and many others.

Love you, Leslie!


Our next guest is Davis Gaines! Davis Gaines (b. January 21, 1959, Orlando, Florida) is a stage actor. He has performed as the Phantom in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical The Phantom of The Opera more than 2000 times, on Broadway, in Los Angeles, and in San Francisco. In the latter location, he won the Bay Area Critics' Award for Best Actor.
He performed in the roll for The Kennedy Center Honors in 1994. He originated the lead role of The Man in Whistle Down The Wind (1996).
Gaines was the singing voice of Chamberlain in The Swan Princess (1994). He guested in "Murder in White", a 1993 episode of Murder, She Wrote.
He was also a musical guest star for Broadway on Ice, a touring ice show with live music.
One of his first jobs was as a costumed character at Walt Disney World theme park,as a high schooler, he played Pinocchio character J. Worthington Foulfellow.
Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!

Thank you, to all the stars pictured in this blog! I love you ALL!!



Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

Now, GO OUT AND DO SOMETHING FOR SOMEONE ELSE TONIGHT!

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TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED WEEK!
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com

1 comment:

  1. This blog only serves to remind me what a horrific job I have coming up. In this small community, we are all friends and all my lady friends are going to audition for Joanne in COMPANY which I am directing for a March 2 opening. It's going to be a tough one.
    Cheers,
    Stephan

    ReplyDelete