Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Personality: Raissa Katona Bennett, Phantom of the Opera Anniversary., Charles Lane...and More!

Theater was a cathedral; we’ve made it a Chuck E Cheese.
-Read MORE

Happy Tuesday, January 26th, 2016!
We are still emerging from tons of snow here in New York.

As I down down to begin today's blog, the 50s classic, Personality, is playing on the radio. Today, I am writing about things births and events that occurred today as well as celebrating artists and events that are coming up.

On this date in 1961, a few weeks before my birth,  John F. Kennedy appoints Janet G. Travell to be his physician.
This was the first time a woman holds the appointment of Physician to the President and on this date in 1962, Ranger 3 is launched to study the Moon. The space probe later misses the moon by 22,000 miles (35,400 km).  On this date  in 1965, Hindi became the official language of India.
Charles Lane
Today is also the birthday of Eddie van Halen, and two great character actors, Zara Cully and  Charles Lane.
They both were veteran character actors whose lean frame and stern features were familiar to millions of movie and television fans, most of whom, it is safe to say, never knew their names.
Charles Lane lived to be 102!
Mr. Lane was busily employed from the 1930s to the ’90s, playing hotel clerks, cashiers, reporters, lawyers, judges, tax collectors, mean-spirited businessmen, the
Zara Cully
powerful as well as the nondescript.

Sometimes he was little more than a face in the crowd, with only a line or two of dialogue, which made it easy for him to trot from one movie set to another and rack up two or three film credits in a single day.
He appeared in hundreds of comedies, dramas, gangster flicks and musicals, ranging from You Can’t Take It With You (1938) and Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942) to Mighty Joe Young (1949) and It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963).
 Some directors sought him out. He appeared in no fewer than nine films directed by Frank Capra, including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Today is also the birthday of Maria von Trapp.
Maria Augusta von Trapp (née Kutschera; 26 January 1905 – 28 March 1987), also known as Baroness von Trapp,as the stepmother and matriarch of the Trapp Family Singers. Her story served as the inspiration for the 1956 West German film The Trapp Family, which in turn inspired the Broadway musical The Sound of Music and the 1965 film of the same name.
It is also Paul Newman's Birthday.
Happy Birthday to Paul Newman (January 26, 1925 – September 26, 2008)
Phantom of the Opera began Broadway previews at the Majestic Theatre on 9 January 1988 and opened on 26 January. Crawford, Sarah Brightman, and Barton reprised their respective roles from the West End.
In celebration of this special occasion, I reached out to one of the Broadway Phantom Christines for a mini Q and A, Raissa Katona Bennett.
She, along with Kenneth Gartman, has a show opening that I highly recommend.
However, rather than just announcing this project, I thought it would be fun to find out a little bit more about her based on a few random questions (in bold) and here are the results.

Raissa Katona Bennett.
Kenneth Gartman and Raissa Katona Bennett and

Broadway: PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (Christine) and CHESS Concert. First National Tours: CATS, PARADE. Recently created the roles of “Mommy, Back-Up Singer, Vanna Off-White” in WATER FROM THE MOON and “Mother Hawkins” in DEVIL AND THE DEEP off-Broadway. MAC and Bistro Award Winner and headliner at: Feinstein’s, Metropolitan Room, Beechman. Her CD, Another Kind of Light, is available on Amazon, iTunes and the LML Music label.  She returns to the Beechman Theatre on 2/17  and 2/21 with her duo show with Kenneth Gartman, 3 Decades in the Dark – Raissa and Kenneth Go To The Movies
She received the 2014 Ruth Kurtzman Benefit Series Award as host/president/producer of the MUSIC AND ART FOR CITY GREENS Benefit Concert Series, a 501c3 dedicated to preserving urban green spaces through free professional art and music events.
Raissa lives in NYC with her husband, Dr. Garrett Bennett, and their 3 tiny rescue dogs; Otie, Phoebe and Molly.
3 DECADES IN THE DARK - RAISSA and KENNETH GO TO THE MOVIES returns to the Laurie Beechman Theatre 2/17 and 2/21 - click here for tickets.

I am sure you have dug deeply into the American Songbook for your show.  
What’s one thing that you have learned in your work that makes you strive to work harder

What's been fun about doing this show with Kenneth Gartman and Lennie Watts as our director, is that, because of the 3 Decades we've chosen, the 70's, 80's and 90's, we have gotten to explore the newer generation of the
American Songbook.  I've always said that the great American Songbook didn't end in the 50's.  There are so many amazing composers and lyricists that started making their mark's after that - Lennon, McCartney, Hamlisch, The Bergman's, Mencken, Schwartz, AL Weber, Bricusse, Legrand - I could go on and on. 

These are just some of the artists whose work we present in our show.  So, that leads me to answer the second part of your question - the work we've done is this show, has just made us want to explore more, because there's not enough time to include in one show, all the wonderful music there is just from these 3 decades.

Just how much are you willing to pay for a premium ticket to “Hamilton”?

As one who has been on Broadway, I know how many incredibly talented actors there are, that haven't even been on the Broadway stage yet, but who will be. As much as I love seeing original casts, I also love seeing the replacements and understudies, because I know they will bring something wonderful to the shows when they take over.  Therefore, I'm willing to wait for tickets to be a regular price before I buy them.

Do you remember an occasion when a stranger did something nice for you for no reason at all? 
I'm happy to say it happens all the time, but just last night, 3 gentlemen "handed me off" to get across the mountains of snow as I was crossing 43rd street.  Sort of a chivalrous relay! 

What are you grateful for? 
I'm grateful for every experience I have, even the ones that don't feel good - it's part of my spiritual practice.  However, right now, what I'm really grateful for is the opportunity to work closely with one of my best friends, Kenneth Gartman.  It's nothing but joy to be with and sing with him, all the time.  I'm SO grateful for him and his friendship.
Why do you do what you do? 
Honestly, I can't NOT do it.  My soul would shrivel up and die.  I've also been made aware, by doing cabaret and breaking the "fourth wall", that we often give voice to the feelings and thoughts that many people have, but can't express.  I have had people come up to me after a performance and say "Your songs said exactly how I've felt - it feels good to know I'm not the only one who feels this way."   Many of my
colleagues have reported similar things to me.
I know when I go to see one of them after an especially trying time, and they make me forget everything but what THEY are doing onstage, I realize how important what we do is.  We spread joy, art, love, etc - what could be more important?

Anything else you would like me to include?

Yes - I always take any opportunity to urge people to OPT TO ADOPT their companion animals:  dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, horses, etc.  Especially dogs, because every time you buy from one from a pet store, you are supporting the puppy mill industry, which is HORRENDOUS. We need to put them out of business forever, until we are no longer killing thousands of animals daily, just because there aren't enough homes for them.  I've been active with the ASPCA and HUMANE SOCIETY for years, and my the rescue organization I work with closely as a foster and adoptions counselor is SHIH TZUS & FURBABIES RESCUE - www.stfbr.org  - We adopted 2 of our dogs, Phoebe (Toy Fox Terrier) and Molly (Havanese) from STFBR - small breed rescue in addition to Shih Tzu's.  Our chihuahua, Otie, is from the HSUS.  People can read my blogs at www.raissakatonabennett.com - one is about theatre and metaphysical musings, and the
other "Brandy's Page", named after our first rescue dog, is about animal rescue, care and adoption.

Please visit RaissaKatonaBennett.com for more info.

Also, coming up...later this week is Josephine Sanges's latest show.    Click on the link under her photo for more info. She took a few moments to answer a few random questions.

What’s one thing that you have learned in your work that makes you strive to work harder?
Often times being a perfectionist gets in the way of learning. I can get stuck on the smallest things: maybe a phrase of a lyric that just won’t stick, or looking for a pair of earrings I’ve misplaced the night before a show, or even what shade of lipstick I should wear.  Sometimes I just let these things get in my way. Maybe ruminating on these things keeps me from focusing on the things that really scare me. Like patter…patter has always scared the bajeezus out of me! And now, a year after making my cabaret debut, I’m finally realizing that when it comes right down to it, it’s just another skill I’ve needed to develop.
Josephine Sanges
But just as memorizing lyrics for a fifteen song set seemed so daunting to me back then, I’m anticipating that time and experience will lessen this fear as well.
Watching and talking to other performers has also been a wonderful resource for me, so look for me out in the audience, too! I’m enjoying every step of this process, and I am so ready to learn!!

Just how much are you willing to pay for a premium ticket to “Hamilton”?
Hamilton, eh, not so much. Not terribly interested to tell you the truth.

 I was thrilled to hear Josephine Sanges recently. She is one to watch. Great voice, control, technique and a lovely person. KT Sullivan knew a wonderful talent when she heard it and put her in the Cabaret Convention. Also great arrangements and skill on the piano by John M. Cook. Beautiful job John. Looking forward to hearing Josephine again.
Bryon Sommers (pictured)

 Yvette Amos, Joanna Sanges and Rosie Burkard.
Do you remember an occasion when a stranger did something nice for you for no reason at all?   
 Not a stranger exactly, but maybe a once acquaintance, my now dear friend and music director, John Cook. About four years ago he brought a spotlight over to the church where I worked from the church where he worked. I needed it for a big benefit concert we were doing with singing police officer, Daniel Rodriguez. A year later, still before we knew each other very well, he agreed to collaborate with me on a CD of sacred music. And in a crazy round about way that project led us to working together on a second album, this time of music from the American Song Book, and now we continue to work together doing shows in this wonderful world of
with John M. Cook

What are you grateful for?
I am grateful for the chance to feel joy. Life is nothing without joy.

Why do you do what you do?
To feel inspired. It feels that much better waking up every morning.

In the end, some of your greatest pains become your greatest strengths.
-Drew Barrymore

In other Entertainment News 
Thursday, February 4th
Come Dance With Me.. Or just sit back and listen to
Jerry Costanzo and His All-Star Swing Orchestra.. Vocalist and Bandleader Jerry Costanzo, has been Wowing connoisseur's of Jazz, Swing and the Great American Songbook since hitting the scene in 1995. Steeped in the tradition of the great Big Bands, Jerry and his swinging pals pay tribute to the Kings Of Swing themselves.. Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Crooners like Frank Sinatra, Joe Williams, Bobby Darin, Nat King Cole and others. Jerry's 8-piece ensemble, consisting of 5 Smoking horns and 3 Driving rhythm

will set the stage and carry dancers and listeners back to an era when this sultry and swingin' music was the "Pop Of The Day"

Swing46 Jazz and Supper Club offers Dining, Dancing and Cocktails, A Dance Lesson with Swing DJ in between the 1st and 2nd Live band set.

First set: 8:30pm - 9:30pm
Complimentary dance lesson: 9:30pm - 10pm
Second set: 10pm-10:45pm
Third set: 11pm-11:40pm

Bernie Furshpan
Bernie Furshpan, Scott Barbarino and Frank Dain this morning at the Metropolitan Room announced the First International Cabaret Festival on February 17-21. Also announced the Cabaret Hall of Fame the first inductees: Barbara Carroll, Andrea Marcovicci, Marilyn Maye, Steve Ross, Nancy LaMott, Bobby Short, Jan Wallman and Julie Wilson. The opening Gala is February 17 at the Metropolitan Room.

In the sad news department, according to the New York Times, Abe Vigoda, the sad-faced actor who emerged from a workmanlike stage career to find belated fame in the 1970s as the earnest mobster Tessio in The Godfather and the dyspeptic Detective Phil Fish on the hit sitcom “Barney Miller,” died on Tuesday morning in Woodland Park, N.J. He was 94, having outlived by about 34 years an erroneous report of his death that made him a cult figure.

Honoring Her Contributions to The Theater!
A Benefit for The Actors Fund

7 PM Show is SOLD OUT!

An extraordinary array of musical theater stars will perform on the stage of the Metropolitan Room to pay tribute to Barbara Siegel on Wednesday, January 27th at 7 PM & 9:30 PM. The concerts will be performed by Broadway stars of the first rank, major award nominees and/or winners. Barbara, a theater critic and columnist, has been a nominator for both the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk (the latter for a total of 18 years, 12 of them as chairperson), and she has influenced the careers of countless performers. 
A great many of them are converging at the Metropolitan Room to say thank you. By the same token, a percentage of the profits for this event will be turned back to the people Barbara loves so much by making these two shows benefits for The Actors Fund.

Performing at the 7 PM Show (SOLD OUT!):
Chuck Cooper - Tony Award Winner, Drama Desk Nominee
Robert Cuccioli - Tony Award Nominee, Drama Desk Nominee
Stephanie D'Abruzzo - Tony Nominee, Drama Desk Nominee
Jason Graae - Drama Desk Nominee
Lisa Howard - Tony Award Nominee, Drama Desk Honoree
Beth Leavel - Tony Award Winner, Drama Desk Nominee
Karen Mason - Drama Desk Nominee
Luba Mason - Drama Desk Nominee
Ryan Silverman - Drama Desk Nominee
Mary Testa - 2X Tony Nominee, Drama Desk Honoree
Michael Winther - Drama Desk Nominee
Josh Young - Tony Nominee

Performing at the 9:30 PM Show (limited availability):
Christina Bianco - 2X Drama Desk Nominee
John Bolton - Drama Desk Nominee
Phillip Boykin - Tony Nominee, Drama Desk Nominee
Jim Brochu - Drama Desk Winner + Additional Drama Desk Nominee
Alison Fraser - 2X Tony Nominee, Drama Desk Nominee
Julie Halston - 3X Drama Desk Nominee
Julia Murney - 2X Drama Desk Nominee
Alice Ripley - Tony Award Winner + Tony & Drama Desk Nominee
Margo Seibert - Drama Desk Nominee
Emily Skinner - Tony Nominee, Drama Desk Nominee
Bob Stillman - 2X Tony Nominee, Drama Desk Nominee
Josh Young - Tony Nominee

[casts subject to change]

Tickets are $30 plus a two-drink minimum
To Reserve your seats call: 212-206-0440
The Metropolitan Room is located at: 34 W 22nd St, New York, NY 10010

The 7 PM Concert is Sponsored by Dr. Stu Chassen, Edwin & Doris Cohen, Dr. & Mrs. Ken Schneider, and Anonymous.
The 9:30 PM Concert is Sponsored by Dr. Stu Chassen, Anonymous, Carolyn Montgomery-Forant, Robert Aaron & Stuart Bloom, and Steve Phillips.

 Liz Callaway joins Great American Songbook sensation Michael Feinstein, in the first performance of an extraordinary three-concert series at the Kravis Center, celebrating the city that probably has inspired more songs than any other place in the world. New York, New York explores this rich musical heritage with fresh and authentic orchestrations, including such classics as Lullaby of Broadway and 42nd Street, plus big band standards and other favorites. Click HERE for more info.

Thank to ALL that are mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give! 

Make 2016 the year of YES!

With grateful XOXOXs ,


Check out my site celebrating the legacy of Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly!


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!   

You don’t need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are!
John Lennon

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
Please leave a comment and share on Twitter and Facebook

Happy Birthday to PAUL NEWMANCourtesy Ken Fallin

Keeping Entertainment LIVE!

Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com

Anita Gillette
Sarah Rice, Broadway's original Johanna of Sweeney Todd, will sing a Valentine's Day concert of songs from the operetta, classical and musical theatre repertoire, with Paul Jackel, in upstate New York, Feb. 14. - See more at: http://www.playbill.com/news/article/kiss-me-sweeney-todds-sarah-rice-sings-of-love-with-paul-jackel-feb.-14-111546#sthash.bYCP2Q2p.dpuf

February 13th, Peter Filichia in conversation with Richard Skipper at American Popular Song Society 

with Musical Director Michael Lavine
Anita Gillette and an all star cast
join  Peter Filichia and Richard Skipper
to celebrate the 1963/64 Broadway Season
Talk/Performance/Book Signing

Call Richard Skipper Celebrates at 845-365-0720 if you need more details.
Many surprises are in store. 
Please contact me if any questions.
Please LIKE Richard Skipper Celebrates on Facebook
Admission is Free for Members/$15.00 for Non-Members .

Doors open at 12:30 for those who want to buy sheet music Also members can take tables and sell their stuff. 2:30 -1:30 "Flea Market" 1:30 seating - showtime: 1:45 - 3:30.

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