Thursday, February 25, 2016

Lisa Kirk, Zeppo Marx, George Harrison...and MORE!

Happy Thursday, February 25th, 2016!

Tell me a fact and I'll learn. Tell me a truth and I'll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.
-Indian Proverb

February 25 is the 56th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 310 days remaining until the end of the year.
Once again, I celebrate artists who have shaped the world of entertainment as we know it today. 
Today is the birthday of Lisa Kirk.
There are a hand full of people who know that Lisa Kirk dubbed most of Rosalind Russell's singing in the film version of Gypsy. It is probably one of the most unique fusing together of two voices in the history of cinema.
Lisa Kirk
Born as Elsie Kirk in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, she was raised in Roscoe, PA. Her Roscoe home later became the Hotel Roscoe. She enrolled as a law student at the University of Pittsburgh but abandoned her studies when she was offered a spot in the chorus line at the Versailles nightclub in Manhattan.
It's unlikely there are many performers who ever took a better picture than Lisa Kirk. Photos evidence that she must have been a stunning presence.She attended high school in a town called Roscoe, outside of Pittsburgh. Ms. Kirk had enrolled as a law student at the University of Pittsburgh when during a trip to New York and a stay at the Rehearsal Club, she abandoned Blackstone for the Versailles chorus line. It wasn't long before Lisa was starring in such Broadway musicals as Allegro and the 1948 production of Kiss Me Kate.
Zeppo Marx and George Harrison were both born on this date. Herbert Manfred "Zeppo" Marx (February 25, 1901 – November 30, 1979) was an American actor, theatrical agent, and engineer. He was the youngest of the five Marx Brothers. He appeared in the first five Marx Brothers feature films, from 1929 to 1933, but then left the act to start his second career as an engineer and theatrical agent.[1] Zeppo Marx was a multi-millionaire due to his engineering efforts. Mary Chase was born on this date in 1907. She bought us Harvey and an iconic role for Jimmy Stewart.
Happy Birthday, Sally Jessy Raphael
On this date in 1910, Millicent Fenwick was born. She was a journalist and politician (d. 1992). Two Broadway shows that have become classics originally opened on this date: Wonderful Town on this date in 1953, and twenty years later, A Little Night Music in 1973. I have been lucky enough to see great revivals of Both on Broadway.
Jim Backus was born on this date. For some, he will always be Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island, for some Mr. Magoo, and many others as a great character acor, most notably as James Dean's father in Rebel Without a Cause.
Bobby Riggs was born on this day. It seems like yesterday that he was defeated By Billie Jean King!
Larry Gelbert was born on this date, most famous as a creator and producer of the record-breaking hit TV show M*A*S*H.
Sally Jessy Raphael was born on this date.

Sir Thomas Daniel "Tom" Courtenay
Sir Thomas Daniel "Tom" Courtenay is an English actor who was born on this day. He came to prominence in the early 1960s with a succession of films, including The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), Billy Liar (1963), and Doctor Zhivago (1965). Since the mid-1960s, he has been known primarily for his work in the theatre, although he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for the film adaptation of The Dresser (1983), which he had performed on the West End and on Broadway. He received a knighthood in February 2001 for his service to cinema and theatre.Early lifeCourtenay was born in Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, the son of Annie Eliza (née Quest) and Thomas Henry Courtenay, a boat painter. He attended Kingston High School and studied drama at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London.CareerCourtenay made his stage debut in 1960 with the Old Vic theatre company at the Lyceum, Edinburgh, before taking over from Albert Finney in the title role of Billy Liar at the Cambridge Theatre in 1961. In 1963, he played that same title role in the film version, directed by John Schlesinger. He said of Albert Finney, "We both have the same problem, overcoming the flat harsh speech of the North."

Shari Pine
Once in a blue moon there comes a gem whose luster is so reminiscent of pearls of the past, it
gives great hope for a brilliant future ...
Straight up, low down, burning and churning soul best describes Shari Pine. Her handling of rich RandB flavors as well as Pop and Soul material on top of American Roots Music distinguishes her as an artist at the crossroads of the Blues: firmly anchored in the tradition, but having one foot clearly stepping into the future. A singer and songwriter, this New Yorker isn't the first to hearken back to the bygone, less is-more days of Stax Soul with its deep and steady pockets and mantra like rhythm sections .. she's just phenomenal at it.
My special showcase today is Shari Pine!
Shari Pine and Righteous Rhythm are bringing the whole megilla to The Blue Note on March 19th.

Under the musical direction of bassist-to–the-stars, Ivan Bodley (Kinky Boots, Rock of Ages, Spider-Man), Shari will be joined by Mac Award™ winner Sean Harkness, drummer Andrew Pastorino and Pianist Glauco Lima.

“Her voice can thrill, I was totally impressed …terrific voice with many colors, power and style!”-Rob Lester, Talkin’ Broadway

With performances at the The Iridium, Birdland, and Metropolitan Room, Ms. Pine has one foot
firmly anchored in traditional, straight ahead jazz and the other foot knee deep in Pop and American Song; hijacking the familiar
and breathing into it a fresh fire, to return it to her listeners transposed into
the key of life. “Anyone Who Had a Heart” (Bacharach), “This Moment”  (Bucchino), “Bless Your Heart” (Rybeck), “Lush Life” (Strayhorn) and “Meadowlark” (The Baker’s Wife) are just a few instances where Ms. Pine’s luster is reminiscent of pearls of the past. But anyone in the know will confirm that a ‘Shari show’ isn’t complete without her ripping the room with some straight up, low-down dirty  and greasy blues songs
that Aretha Franklin recorded for Atlantic Records during the Atlantic Era  (1967-79.)

Here is my special mini-interview with Shari.
What is YOUR morning Motivation?  A good night's rest is -hands down - perfect fuel for my morning no matter what's on the clipboard.  That's the starting point.  An honest workout, (at the gym or outdoors) truly promotes a positive attitude, helping to keep my engine from stalling. I know this because when I'm not working out I feel like an all-around-loser.  Funny thing - endorphins!  That leaves 'cranking music', others' songs or my own, if it's a quality recording, it puts everything in fifth gear (I drive a stick) and I'm cruising through the day.

If you could have been anyone in history who would you like to have been? A gun-toting, whiskey slugging, truck (or horse!) driving, womanizing, tight -fitted -blue -jeans wearing, heart throb.  Whoever that was.  No drugs or tattoos, though.  That, or Seiji Ozawa, Zubin Mehta or Leonard Bernstein -having control of all that music at the tip of a baton!

Why do you place so much emphasis on what you do? Why should others? "It's what I am", is the simple answer. A flower blooms. The wind blows. Nature is finite. But art doesn't resolve, I think.  It chases *me*, and I try to catch it.  It's a constant ache that needs addressing.  I don't mean to imply anything negative, just that it grows with, and seems to hover just ahead of me, thereby keeping the pursuit alive.
I think it's like that for everyone. For sure the desire to create ebbs and flows but my point is there's constant movement -unlike a deciduous tree that goes months before it's back in action.  It's something on which emphasis is naturally placed because it's a path to validation. We all need validation now and then.  The wind doesn't care who it's blowing or which way, but people do. Liza Minnelli once sang: ''Money makes the world go around .."  But it's people.  People make the world go around.

If you could have lunch with one celebrity, who would it be and where would you like to take
Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein
Yikes! if they're a celebrity aren't they're taking me?  It would have to be strictly kosher and ...Gene Wilder!  Yes! We'd be in Young Frankenstein character the entire meal.  

Favorite theater? My favorite theater is The MET.  Does that count?  It's rather a House, but I was raised on opera so I'm a bit biased.  I like the Beacon, here in NYC.

Could you tell me what your creative process is like? Thank you for asking, I would love to try.  As far as original music, I write on piano and guitar. Melody or chord progression is always at the fore of inspiration for me, however.
If a beat or rhythm comes to me first, the faucet must be dripping cause that's usually last for me - and I'm pretty good with a wrench, so it's normally not that.  Words are always swirling around my head. I'll reach for a crayon as long as I get lyrics down on paper.  These elements of a song usually develop independently but it sure is a good time when it all comes together at once!  Ultimately, whatever inspires first, I go with.    My primary instrument is voice. I sing my, yours and other peoples' songs. I vocalize for an hour and then let my voice cool down the rest of the day before a gig.  I'm a trained coloratura soprano so my voice stays aloft in the stratosphere a l-o-n-g time before coming back down.  I can't be too legit on a blues gig for example, so I time my warm up.

What are you currently working on and WHY this project? 
Aside from putting my own spin on works from the Great American Songbook and bringing it to places likeMetropolitan Room and Blue Note, I've been sitting on ten new original songs - just shy of an LP.  My stuff is largely Americana/Pop with a 1/2 teaspoon of Jazz and Blues.  You can totally get a sense of what I mean here:  and I aim to release the finished product by Fall 2016.
Shari Pine

In Entertainment News

The statistics are unequivocal: Women and minorities are vastly underrepresented in front of and behind the camera. Here, 27 industry players reveal the stories behind the numbers — their personal experiences of not feeling seen, heard or accepted, and how they pushed forward. In Hollywood, exclusion goes far beyond Oscars being so white. (Interviews have been edited and condensed.) (Read MORE).

Viola Davis on equal pay: Women of color are battling twice as hard. Read MORE.

Camille Saviola tells me that she is in a reading of a new play, # BOX SEATS, written by Blaine Teamer, It's a modern
tale about secrets, lies and videotapes. No. Wait.
It's about how things are not always as they
appear to be. And that Includes class, race and
sexual identity. Speaking of identities, Camille assumes
several in this play.
Fun! Can't give too much plot
away! You'll have to see for yourselves.
Please go join them and support new work.

Craig Pomranz internationally known MAC award winning singer/song-stylist brings his new show “Love is a Necessary Evil” to Café Noctambulo Saturday, March 5th at 8pm (tickets HERE).
With musical director Michael Roberts, Craig explores love with music from Basie, Berlin, the Bergmans and more. Craig just released a new song, “Different,” written for him by Amanda McBroom (Bette Midler’s The Rose) and Michele Brourman (My Favorite Year).
The song was inspired by Craig’s children’s book Made by Raffi, now in 8 languages and 11 countries! Listen and download HERE.

Penny Fuller

Anita Gillette and Penny Fuller were at the top of their game last night! They were joined by Paul Greenwood and Ritt Henn at Feinstein's/54 Below. We were joined by Lynn DiMenna and Diane J Findlay. Also in attendance tonight: Lee Roy Reams, Robert J. Donahoe, Don Correia, Sandy Duncan, Tony Roberts, Karen Mason, Christopher Denney, Maryann Lopinto, Jamie DeRoy, Stephen Sorokoff, Eda Sorokoff, Karen Bakker, Debbie Damp, Stacy Sullivan , Deborah Grace Winer, Richard Holbrook, Ken Starrett, Joe Regan Jr, obviously, this was the place to be. They will be back next Wednesday night at 7 PM reserved now and don't be left out.

Karen Mason
It was great to see Karen Mason last night. Here is a blog that was written sometime ago about Karen.  From the time she was auditioning for singing-waiter gigs in Chicago in the mid-'70s, Karen Mason has been known for her voice. Her big, beautiful voice. It got her to Broadway as a by-all-accounts extremely worthy standby for Glenn Close as Sunset Boulevard's Norma Desmond. By all accounts it also redeemed Mason's last Broadway outing, the 2011 flop Wonderland. Read MORE

Onstage and Backstage: Which One of His Idols Did Seth Rudetsky Meet During Disaster! Previews? | Playbill Click HERE to find out!

Thanks to for this wonderful story about the history (and future) of the theatre community's beloved Drama Bookshop.

Shawn Moninger is back on Saturday at 4 PM with "Because I Can"  Make sure you get your tickets so you have your seat. ORDER HERE

Thank to ALL of the artists mentioned in this blog for the gifts they have given to the world and continue to give!

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!    

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

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Richard Skipper,
Penny Fuller


March 2nd

Anita Gillette and Penny Fuller return in a sequel to their critically acclaimed, Sin Twisters! This is Sin Twisters, Too! Directed by the incredible Barry Kleinbort with great musical direction by Paul Greenwood. They will take all of us on a great musical romp through their Broadway careers, which have criss crossed from time to time, resulting in confusing the two!...even though they don't look a thing alike!
This show WILL sell out! So reserve today and be a part of their star studded audience!
Anita Gillette
Richard Skipper is the publicist for Sin Twisters, Too! For press reservations, interview requests, or more information, contact Richard Skipper at or 845-365-0720

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