Saturday, December 7, 2013


Art and rebellion will die only with the last person.
The Trapp Family Singers
- Albert Camus

Happy Saturday!
I hope this finds you well and enjoying the HOLLY DAZE instead of frantically being caught up in the frenzy.

What I really love this time of the year are the parties...being surrounded by friends and extended family. I also love all the holiday programming. December kicked off with the highly anticipated LIVE version of The Sound of Music.

I waited with great anticipation. I watched it and actually enjoyed it. I was surprised the next day to see so much hatred and vitriol hurled at such an innocent production.

Before Julie Andrews and Carrie Underwood, there was Mary Martin
ALL of the intentions of the creative team were in place to entertain. Did they make any missteps? Perhaps, but is it worth all this anger and cattiness and snarkiness?
I don't think so. Nightly, we are bombarded with violent images on TV and that doesn't seem to induce as much emotion. Something is wrong with that picture!
Looking at the Trapp Family Singers, or this glamorized version of such, and in anticipation of the Graff Family Holiday Special coming to New York's 54 Below next week, I desire to celebrate one of our favorite performing families. They join the ranks of The Barrymores and the Gumms which led to Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft and The Flying Wallendas, the Lennon Sisters, the Andrew Sisters, the Mills Family (John, Hayley, and Juliet) the Fondas, The Nicholas Brothers, and the Barry Sisters.

There are so many threads that tie this family and their guests together! Liz Callaway and Todd Graff created the roles of Danny and Lizzy in Maltby and Shire's Baby, Ilene and Joanna were the original Cleo and Monica in the Coleman-Stewart musical, I Love My Wife, and Nikka and Max appeared together in the Transport Group's production of Hello Again.

The family includes brother and sister Ilene (Grammy-nominated TV-mom), and Todd (Emmy-winning Tony nominee), cousin Randy (Tony and Drama Desk Award-winner), and Nikka, (triple-threat Broadway performer), the daughter of Ilene and Musical Director Ben Lanzarone (ASCAP-award winning composer).
In celebration of their close bond, they created this show, which combines a little bit of '60's TV, a dash of Pee-Wee Herman, some Happy Hanukkah magic, and secret surprises.
In the tradition of the Andy Williams Christmas specials that they watched as children, expect tight, four-part harmonies, color coordinated hats and mufflers, indoor sleigh rides, audience participation, mistletoe and plenty of high belting. As a bonus, watch in wonder as Nikka dances all the parts to Turkey Lurkey Time in a four by four foot space! It’s gonna be terrifying! As if that wasn't enough, their special guest the 12th through the 14th is our favorite nanny, Fran Drescher!

In addition to Ben Lanzarone on piano, their trio features John Miller on bass and Jared Schonig on drums. Randy's husband Tim Weil, the original Musical Director of Rent, will be joining her onstage at the keyboard.

“The Graff Family Holiday Special,”Starring Ilene, Randy & Todd Graff and Nikka Graff Lanzarone
December 14 & 16, 2013
with special guest Fran Drescher on 12-14!

Cover charge: $35 – $55
Food & Beverage Minimum: $25
Musical Director: Ben Lanzarone.

Sat, Dec 14     11:00pm     $35-45     Doors 10:00pm   
Mon, Dec 16     7:00pm     $45-55     Doors 5:00pm   

*Tickets on the day of performance after 2:00 are only available by calling 646.476.3551.
The Graffs will be joined by some very special guest-stars including Alexandra Silber and Joanna Gleason on
Saturday, and Ms. Gleason, Liz Callaway, Max Von Essen, and Julia Murney on Monday.
THE GRAFF FAMILY HOLIDAY SPECIAL was born of the realization that the family had never worked together on the same stage, and that the Holiday season was the best time to make that happen.

Ilene Graff
Ilene Graff' is a Grammy nominated recording artist (for her CD Baby's Broadway Lullabies) who is best known as the mom on the TV comedy, Mr Belvedere.
On Broadway she created the role of Cleo in the Cy
Coleman-Michael Stewart musical, I Love My Wife, played Sandy in the original production of Grease, and was a pit singer and Fran Kubelik understudy in Promises, Promises. As part of her extensive TV career, she co-starred with Glenn Close in the Disney film version of South Pacific,and currently recurs on the CW show Hart of Dixie. Ilene has performed her cabaret show First You Dream, on both coasts as well as on the Crystal Symphony cruise ship. She is married to composer Ben Lanzarone and is the mom of musical theatre performer Nikka Graff Lanzarone.

Randy Graff is one of my Dolly's on my website celebrating Hello,
Randy Graff
RANDY GRAFF won the Tony and Drama Desk Award for her performance in City of Angels. Her other Broadway credits include: Fiddler on the Roof (2004 revival), A Class Act (Tony, Drama Desk Nominations, Moon Over Buffalo,Laughter on the 23rd Floor, High Society, Les Miserables (original
Fantine), and Grease.
Off-Broadway audiences have seen her in Damn Yankees and Do Re Mi (Encores!), Motherhood Out Loud (Primary Stages), The Long Christmas Ride Home (Vineyard, Drama League Nomination), Hotel Suite (Roundabout), and Coming Attractions (Playwrights Horizons).
 Ms Graff played the Countess in A Little Night Music for the acclaimed Sondheim Festival at The Kennedy Center. TV and film credits include Learning to Drive, Keys to Tulsa, Notes From the Underbelly, Law and Order, Mad About You, and The Tonight Show. She can be heard on several original cast recordings and her own solo recording, Randy Graff Sings Cy Coleman.
In February of 2014, Randy will bring her solo show RANDY GRAFF…MADE IN BROOKLYN to 54 Below.

Todd Graff as Naji, the strung out junkie in Fly by Night, written by Todd Graff. Courtesy Lumiere Productions.

Todd Graff's acting career included Broadway (Tony nomination and Theatre World Award for Baby), TV (the original Electric Company on PBS), and film (The Abyss, City Of Hope, Opportunity Knocks, Dominic and Eugene, etc.).
As a screenwriter, his credits include Used People, The Vanishing, Angie, Coyote Ugly, and The Beautician And The Beast. As a writer/director, he created the films "Camp" (Dramatic Competition -
Sundance Film Festival, New Directors/New Films at Lincoln Center, Grand
Prize at the Provincetown and Sydney Film Festivals, etc.), "Bandslam" and
"Joyful Noise". Current projects include the libretto for a new stage
musical, "Sheila Levine Is Dead And Living In New York" with a score by
Michael Devon, Sam Carner and Derek Gregor in development at the Vineyard
Theatre, as well as directing the film "Match" in 2014.

Nikka Graff Lanzarone first came to the Broadway scene as Marisa (the icy fiancée who really loved gazpacho and naps) in Lincoln Center Theater's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.
She has also played Velma Kelly
in Chicago at Broadway's Ambassador Theatre. Off-Broadway, she appeared as The Whore in the Transport Group's Hello Again and as a Birdgirl in
Seussical at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. Nikka has also performed in Jerry Mitchell's Peep Show at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. Favorite regional
credits include: The Jungle Book (Goodman/Huntington), A Chorus Line (Paper Mill Playhouse) Into the Woods (Baltimore Centerstage/Westport Country
Playhouse), Tommy (Bay Street Theatre). Film: Bandslam. TV: Smash (NBC),
Live From Lincoln Center (PBS). Recordings: “Women on the Verge…,”
“Seussical” cast albums. She is the co-creator and co-host of The
Ensemblist, a Broadway-themed podcast. @nikkalanz

Ilene, Ben, and Nikka
BEN LANZARONE (Musical Director), a winner of ASCAP's Most Performed Composer Award, is an arranger, conductor, pianist, and Musical Director who
has composed hundreds of hours of music for television shows.
He conducted and played piano for the original Broadway production of Grease, and conducted, played and arranged for some of the biggest names in the business
including Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darn, Peter Nero, Art Garfunkle, Mary Travers, Anthony Newley, Petula Clark, Lainie Kazan and Mason Williams. He has also played on countless records, jingles and movie scores and recorded
his own piano album, In Classic Form produced by the legendary Bob Crewe.

His work on wife Ilene Graff's CD Baby's Broadway Lullabies helped it earn a
Grammy nomination.

Liz Callaway

Now...the guest stars!

Liz Callaway is a Tony Nominee and Emmy Award-winning actress, singer and recording artist. She made her Broadway debut in Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, received a Tony Award nomination for her performance in Baby, and for five years, won acclaim as Grizabella in Cats. She has also starred in the original casts of Miss Saigon, The Three Musketeers, and The Look of Love.

Joanna Gleason also comes from a show business family. Her father is game show legend Monty Hall.
Joanna Gleason
Although Gleason has had an active film and TV career, she is probably best known for her stage work.
Gleason made her Broadway debut in 1977 in I Love My Wife, for which she was honored with a Theatre World Award.
Additional Broadway credits include Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, Peter Nichols A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, Nick and Nora, Into the Woods (for which she won several awards including a Tony Award in the lead role of the Baker's Wife, which she played in the PBS Great Performances production of the musical), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and The Cartells.
Her film and television career began in 1977, with her first appearance on Let's Make A Deal, then in Hello, Larry. She had film roles in Hannah and Her Sisters (a cameo) and Heartburn (both 1986). Gleason would work again with Woody Allen in Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), this time playing the wife of Allen's character.

Max Von Essen made his Broadway debut in Jesus Christ Superstar, and also starred in Dance of the
Max Von Essen
Vampires alongside Michael Crawford.

He also played the role of student revolutionary leader "Enjolras" in Les Misérables at the Broadhurst Theater on Broadway. In 2006, he was a soloist at the biggest Andrew Lloyd Webber musical gala to date, held in Tallinn, Estonia.
He last worked on the national tour of Xanadu as "Sonny", and in the Roundabout Off-Broadway production of Maury Yeston's Death Takes a Holiday at the Laura Pels Theatre in New York.

Julia Murney last appeared on Broadway as Elphaba in Wicked after playing the role on the national tour for which she received an Acclaim Award.
Other New York credits include Lennon, Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party (Drama Desk nomination), Falling (Drama Desk nomination), The Vagina Monologues, A Class Act, Saved, Crimes of the Heart, Queen of the Mist, Closer Than Ever, and Time and Again (Lucille Lortel nomination).
Julia Murney
She’s been seen regionally all over the U.S.-Signature, Williamstown, Reprise! LA, Sacramento Music Circus, NCT, MUNY, Rubicon and Goodspeed, to name a few-and in concert she has performed at Carnegie Hall, Joe’s Pub, 54 Below, Feinstein’s, The Kennedy Center, Caramoor, Town Hall and Birdland as well as with the Philly, Cincinnati, and Boston Pops.
Among her TV credits are 30 Rock, Sex and the City, Brothers and Sisters, Ed, NYPD Blue, all three Law and Orders and about a gazillion voiceovers.
A Syracuse University graduate, her recordings include the original cast albums of The Wild Party and A Class Act, the Grammy nominated Actor’s Fund Benefit of Hair and her first solo album, I’m Not Waiting which is available on Sh-K-Boom records and at

The Huffington Post said about Alexandra Silber “The
Alexandra Silber
fastest-rising soprano in musical theatre...the firestarter for getting the Broadway world re-acquainted with its ‘legit sound’ — the same crystal clear, open voice that Leonard Bernstein would have heard in his first ‘Maria...”

She recently made her Carnegie Hall debut singing the role of Nina in a concert performance of Song Of Norway with the Collegiate Chorale and American Symphony Orchestra, followed by an appearance with The Orchestra of St. Luke's at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts as Amalia Balash in She Loves Me, marking the first time a musical had ever been presented at this venue.




54 BELOW, Broadway's Supper Club, is the new performance venue in the grand
tradition of New York City nightlife.

A few blocks from the heart of Times Square and just below the legendary Studio 54, 54 BELOW is a classically designed state-of-the art nightclub in the theatre district that hosts audiences with warmth and style.  The venue provides a food and beverage menu from early evening through the wee hours of the morning that is worthy of the world-class entertainment on the stage.  In their description of 54
BELOW, The New York Times writes “the club has the intimacy of a large
living room with unimpeded views and impeccable sound; there is not a bad seat. Its sultry after-hours ambience is enhanced by brocade-patterned wall panels planted with orange-shaded lanterns. And the atmosphere is warmer and sexier than in Manhattan's other major supper clubs.”   Located at 254 West
54th Street, 54 BELOW features up to three shows nightly with cover charges ranging from $15-$95.

Thank you all of the artists mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give! Thank you Harlan Boll and for the contents of this blog. 

 With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!
Courtesy: Margo Feiden Gallery

I desire this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!

If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at


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 mentioned in this blog!

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

I hope you can join us February 16th in NYC as we celebrate Eileen Fulton to benefit Habitat For Humanity! Would LOVE to see you! Bring friends! It’s going to be star-studded party!
With grateful XOXOXs for your support!
Richard Skipper 845-365-0720

Keeping Entertainment LIVE!
Richard Skipper Celebrates

Richard Skipper,

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