Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lauren Fox!

Live to the point of tears.
- Albert Camus

Next Monday night in NYC, the 27th annual Bistro Awards are being presented at the Gotham Comedy Club. On the one hand, awards are new to the person I am writing about today. On the other hand, this is her SECOND award this year. She just won a MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) Award for outstanding female debut. She wasn't even born when I came to New York to pursue a career. As you will see from today's blog, she has a level head on her shoulders, I see major success for her, and now, I am a Lauren Fox groupie. February 2011, Lauren made her cabaret debut. A lot can happen in a year!

Photo: Kelsey Oldershaw
Lauren's parents saw in her at a very early age an innate talent and encouraged it. Lauren's mother, a professional singer in her own right, got Lauren into jingle and session singing at an early age. When she was a teenager, she stopped singing for a while to concentrate on her acting. She did "straight" acting for a long time building up an impressive resume in "indie" films.

Performing in "cabaret" was something she wanted to do for a long time having known Andrea Marcovicci. She also grew up around Mark Nadler and KT Sullivan. KT Sullivan features prominently in Lauren's career acting as an adviser and mentor. Mark is one of Lauren's dad's best friends. Lauren had always watched all of them and thought, "I'm going to do this someday."
She always wanted to but was a little afraid.

Photo: Linda Kaufman
Talking to Jon Weber (also a 2012 Bistro Award winner and one of my favorite accompanists that I have worked with), who her dad introduced her to, they started working together. Lauren says, and I agree, that there are not enough adjectives to describe Jon. Jon, and Lauren's entire band, will be playing for her at The Bistros. (Peter Calo, Ritt Henn, Jon Weber). Lauren's approach was that she always wanted to do this, although "nobody ever makes a career at this!"
She approached it from the point of view that she loves her acting career. She has her restaurant, Alice's Teacup. She was just going to have fun. She is not thinking about the money. So what if she loses money doing this. Everything else that has come along have been bonuses and perks. Her feeling is "let's just ride this wave out. Nobody knows what is going to happen.It could all stop tomorrow. "   She is reminded of the Sally Field Oscar acceptance speech, "You like me. You really like me." 

Lauren and I sat down yesterday at her family restaurant, Alice's Teacup on the upper Westside in Manhattan to discuss all things Lauren Fox. I couldn't help thinking that we had met before. This morning, when I set down to write this blog and went to her website, I almost fell off of my seat! I had seen her in the play Hillbilly Women directed by my friend Sondra Lee and also starring my friends Annette Hunt and Donna Hanover (currently on Broadway in The Best Man). Lauren's performance was riveting and incredible!

"The play has one particularly attention-getting performance that leaves you hoping that some casting directors make the trip uptown to see it.  Ms. Fox is the show’s standout, not just for that fine singing voice, but for nailing her character, a droopy young woman who, with two of the older characters, is trying to survive the early years of outsourcing by starting an independent textile business. You’re left wishing someone would try creating a one-woman show out of the same source material, just for her.

Photo: Eva Kaufman
-Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times review of “Hillbilly Women.” 

The above quote by Albert Camus is Lauren's motto for life. She even has a tattoo of that quote. I didn't ask where! She has been sporting this tattoo for six years.

The most iconic person that Lauren has met in her life thus far was Elizabeth Taylor. She met her when she was a child. Lauren's father was working with her. He was a journalist and was doing a story on her. Lauren was not as impressed as she would be now. Lauren admits that she was excited and that Elizabeth was lovely to her.

I asked Lauren if she has ever lost her concentration on stage, and, if so, what she did to get back on track. She admits that there have been times when she has simply "zoned out". It is a very rare occasion, but she had to stop herself  by thinking, "Hey, I'm thinking about something other than what I am singing about.Reel it in, Lauren" This happens when she knows the song by rote and her mind goes somewhere else.She says again, it is rare; it's when her "ADD" gets the better of her.

One lesson that Lauren has learned so far in this business is that you won't be supported by others unless you support others. Lauren feels that she has a lot of very good friends in this business. She senses a real strong community. They show up at each other's shows. She really believes that what you give out, you get back. She wants to be part of that support system. She says its the right thing to do. She feels that that is an important component in any field but especially in the performing arts. Obviously, especially in the cabaret community, there is a lot of self-promotion. We need to be there for each other.

Photo: Eva Kaufman
Arts in education is very important to Lauren. Growing up, she was a one hundred percent creative child. She really wasn't into academics in any way, shape, or form. Not that she wasn't a smart child. She just wasn't interested in math and other academic subjects. She also had the luxury of two parents who were in the arts and supported her passions. Her father was a lyricist, songwriter, journalist. He was also a manager and a record producer early on in his career. He managed Andrea Marcovicci at the beginning of her career. Lauren considers Andrea as a "spiritual" godmother. Andrea has played a very big part in Lauren's life. Lauren's mother was a singer. She was a recording artist and has sung back-up on almost all of Neil Diamond's albums. Music was always around the house. Lauren tells me that her mother had pretty much trained her ear before she could even speak. Lauren's mother was also the lead singer on several girl groups of the 50s. Lauren has a younger sister who gave up a life in the spotlight to be a mother. Lauren and her sister also have Alice's Teacup together. She has training in acting and directing.

Photo: Eva Kaufman
I asked Lauren if she could go back in history and befriend anyone from anytime, who that would be and why. In the arts, it would be Fred Astaire and Ella Fitzgerald. Lauren's dog was even named Astaire. Ella is Lauren's very favorite singer of all time. She considers Ella the best interpreter of songs ever. Outside of the arts, there are so many but two that come to mind are Jane Goodall and Amelia Earhart. These are two strong independent women.

Speaking of strong, independent women, Lauren feels that Carol Channing absolutely deserves the 2012 Kennedy Center Honor! Lauren admits that she is not "up" on her Carol Channing. However, when you say Carol Channing, one word comes to mind: Legend. There is no one else like her in the world. She's up there with Liza, Judy, and all the show business greats.

Photo: Richard Weaver
Lauren says the material she chooses to do is what she calls "the 'new' American songbook." She feels that the new American songbook starts in the 50s and goes to present day. The material that she is doing in her current show is really the 60s and 70s. The oldest song in her show is from Joni Mitchell's first album. Lauren's show is a tribute to Joni. The most recent song chronologically in Lauren's show is Leonard Cohen's I'm Your Man.

The next time we can all see Lauren on stage is next Monday night at The Bistro Awards. After that, she will be returning to the Metropolitan Room on May 12th and 17th. When Lauren received the phone call from Bistro Awards producer Sherry Eaker that she was receiving this award, she screamed. Sherry laughed and said, "This is why I love doing this for as long as I have.Moments like this make it all worthwhile. " She was walking down the street going about her business when she got the call. She was actually on her way to The Metropolitan Room to see Tonya Holt's show.

Photo: Richard Weaver
The May 12th and 17th is Love, Lust, Fear and Freedom: The Songs of Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen.” THIS is the award winning and critically acclaimed show that is turning everything around for Lauren. She will be taking the show on the road for some out of town gigs and then back to The Metropolitan Room in the fall. 

The biggest benchmark so far for Lauren was Stephen Holden's rave in The New York Times. 
“A speculative exploration of their personal and artistic chemistry is only one aspect of Lauren Fox’s remarkable cabaret show, “Love, Lust, Fear and Freedom: The Songs of Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen.”
“Ms. Fox, with her long straight hair and penetrating gaze, resembles a brunette version of the young Ms. Mitchell crossed with the actress Vera Farmiga. Her show strings together 16 songs — 9 by Ms. Mitchell and 7 by Mr. Cohen — into a spellbinding his-and-hers dialogue that conjures the charged erotic climate of the hippie culture of the Woodstock era, when sex was infused with romantic mysticism...” 
“Ms. Fox’s rendition of Mr. Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was the deepest and most dramatically revealing of any I’ve heard. The bitterness and self-laceration of this song about the failure of a relationship — and all relationships — registered keenly. With minimal melodrama she conveyed the steep prize of being in the thrall of romantic heat as time goes by: serial, deepening disenchantment.”  -Stephen Holden, The New York Times

Read the full review

Metropolitan Room, NYC
Photo: Adam Jason Scherer
Being nervous the night Mr. Holden was in the audience doesn't even scratch the surface. She knew two weeks before that he was coming. She desired him to see the show in a big way. Stephen Holden is featured in the documentary, Joni Mitchell - Woman of Heart and Mind: A Life Story (2003) on Joni's life and career. He is also mentioned in her biography. He is considered a leading authority on Joni. Stephen showed up so much in Lauren's research on Joni that his opinion REALLY mattered to her. She was so careful when doing this show that she wanted to do them both Joni and Leonard  justice. She didn't want to pass judgement. She wanted the audience to form their own opinions on their music. The music is about their short lived relationship before either of them were solo artists. She wrote a lot of songs inspired by their relationship. Without beating you over the head with it, this show paints a picture of their relationship. Lauren has no idea why their relationship did not work out. But the songs in the show are almost like a back and forth dialogue between the two. 

Luckily for Lauren, Stephen Holden "got it". She knew that it would not be a mediocre review. He would either love it or hate it. Lauren does not take this for granted. She got a bad review on her very first show last year. She admits that the show that that critic saw was not a good show. She was off that night but it was devastating to see it in print. She says she was/is new. You just forge ahead. 

Metropolitan Room, NYC
Photo: Adam Jason Scherer
Lauren has been in the business for a while but as far as the world of cabaret is concerned, it has been just within the "past year". The one change Lauren would like to see happen is for the great American songbook to be "expanded" to included the 60s and 70s through today. Our music has changed. She believes the "consistency" of great songwriting was greater "back then". But there has been a lot of great songs created since then. She would like to see some new energy. She was raised on good music but she would like to see a wider variety brought into the spotlight. 

Metropolitan Room, NYC
Photo: Adam Jason Scherer
Lauren considers what she wears on stage definitely a costume. She wears the same things in her shows for consistency. She establishes a look, her dress, her whole image. It is consistent in her pictures, her marketing, everywhere. She is first and foremost an actress. She thinks in terms of theatricality and production. She thinks in terms of character. Each of her shows, she is creating a character. Again, it is a costume. She is creating a costume for that character.She holds on to ALL of her "costume" pieces.

Lauren is very happy at this point in her career. Complacency makes her unhappy. She like to be busy. She likes to be spontaneous. She would rather be overwhelmed than bored. She doesn't like to have too much free time on her hands. What makes her unhappy is when there is not enough going on. 

There are so many choices! Last night, I went to see The Vortex starring KT Sullivan (brilliant!), Natalie Douglas was at Birdland. There was a memorial for Barbara Lea, who recently passed away. There was the Yankees game. On television, Dancing With The Stars! How does Lauren reach her audiences these days. Lauren feels the best thing to happen to independent promoting is Facebook. She has a good fan base. She very rarely tweets. She doesn't think it has the same impact as Facebook.It has been an invaluable tool for her in terms of spreading the word. When friends see her shows and then post about it and then spread the word, it helps tremendously.

A genie pops out of a bottle and grants her three wishes. At the risk of being a cliche, the first is world peace. The second would be lifelong health and happiness for her friends and family. The third would be that she gets to do what she loves and make a living at it. 

Lauren's favorite song (she was only allowed to pick one) is With A Song In My Heart.
The last stage show she saw was Barb Jungr's The Man in the Long Black Coat at The Metropolitan Room. She says it is remarkable and she is remarkable. 

Photo: Richard Weaver
To prepare for a show, Lauren rehearses the day before with Jon to go through the music. She has an "unusual" ritual to prepare for a show. She has learned to apply individual lashes. It is not easy. It takes a lot of concentration. She goes into a zen state to apply them. It has become the ultimate ritual. You HAVE to be in a calm state in order to apply these. 

Last week, I interviewed Myles Savage. He is part of Randie Levine-Miller's "Divo" night at Feinsteins on April 29th. My interview with him will be posted on the 25th. He came up with my next question: Have you shared your love today? 
Lauren sure has! She is in love with a wonderful man. He is fairly new in her life. They met doing a play. He is an incredible and talented actor. They worked together for six weeks just as friends and colleagues. At the end of the run, they realized they were just a little bit more than that and have been in love ever since. 

A man went up to Lauren after one of her recent Joni and Leonard shows and he said a couple of years ago, Leonard declared a moratorium on people singing Hallelujah. The man went on to say "I think he would be very happy with your version. It's time to retract that moratorium."   
Sing Hallelujah! Lauren Fox is worth celebrating! And celebrate we will Monday night at the 27th Annual Bistro Awards!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE            Contact: Beck Lee/MEDIA BLITZ, LLC (718) 403-0939   beckblitz@aol.com


Columnist Liz Smith, composer and conductor Marvin Hamlisch, choreographer George Faison, and jazz artist Annie Ross are among the presenters appearing at the 27th Annual Bistro Awards on Monday April 23 at 6:30pmat Gotham Comedy Club in New York, 208 West 23rd Street.

Liz Smith, the “Grande Dame of Dish,” presents the Bob Harrington Lifetime Achievement Award to Kaye Ballard. Best known for her gossip column (that was syndicated in nearly 70 newspapers), Liz is one of the owners of a new website for women, wowOwow.com.

Marvin Hamlisch, the composer of more than forty film scores ("The Way We Were," "Three Men and A Baby," "Ice Castles"), Broadway shows ("A Chorus Line," "They’re Playing Our Song," "The Goodbye Girl," "Sweet Smell of Success") and the principal pops conductor for a half-dozen symphony orchestras across the country, Hamlisch presents the Bistro Award for Outstanding Contributions to American Popular Music to Melissa Manchester.

The Tony Award-winning choreographer of more than 30 plays and musicals, and the co-founder of the Faison Firehouse Theater, George Faison presents the Bistro Award for Ongoing Artistry in Jazz to Dee Dee Bridgewater.

A founding member of the legendary jazz vocal group Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, Annie Ross was inducted into the ASCAP Wall of Fame in 2009.  She appears weekly at the Metropolitan Room with her band, which includes Warren VachĂ© to whom she presents the Bistro Award for Ongoing Excellence as a Jazz Instrumentalist.

The evening, under the direction of Sara Louise Lazarus, musical direction by Lenny Babbish, is hosted by comedian and actor Jim David, and will feature performances from most of this year’s Bistro-winning artists.  In all, a total of 26 awards will be given out during the course of the gala evening.  Sherry Eaker is the producer.

The evening's festivities include a Champagne reception for the Bistro recipients and Premium Ticket holders (5 pm), followed by the awards presentation and show (6:30 pm).

This year's Bistro Awards Committee comprises the journalists Elizabeth Ahlfors (Cabaret Scenes, CurtainUp.com, and BistroAwards.com); David Finkle (Village Voice, The Huffington Post); Kevin Scott Hall (Edge Media Network, BistroAwards.com); Rob Lester (Cabaret Scenes, NiteLifeExchange.com, TalkinBroadway.com); Erv Raible, executive/artistic director of the Cabaret Conference at Yale University; Roy Sander (BistroAwards.com, chairman of the Advisory Board of MAC), and Mark Dundas Wood (Simply-Showbiz.com, BistroAwards.com). Eaker, who heads up the Bistro Committee, is the former longtime editor-in-chief of Back Stage, and the producer of the event since its inception.

Melissa Manchester
The Bistro Awards are sponsored by ASCAP and BMI, with additional sponsorship from Branson B. Champagne, Banfi Wines, and the Loews Regency Hotel. General Admission tickets are $60; Premium Tickets are $95, which includes the pre-show Champagne reception, priority seating and After Bistros buffet. There is a two-drink minimum. A food menu is also available. To purchase show tickets, go to www.bistroawards.com. For additional information, please call 917-239-5467.

Thank you Lauren, for the gifts you have given and will continue to give to the world.

Your devoted fan,

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Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!
Tomorrow's blog will be..My exclusive interview with Wanda Richert on the occasion of her Birthday!
Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

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

Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com                            

This Blog is dedicated to Al Koenig! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!!

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