Saturday, May 21, 2016

John Meyer, Joan Ellison, Marieann Meringolo...and MORE!

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall married 71 years ago today.
We are all gifted. That is our inheritance. Ethel Waters

Happy May 21st, 2016!
May 21 is the 142nd day of the year. There are 224 days remaining until the end of the year.
As I begin my blog today, It's For My Dad sung by Nancy Sinatra is playing on the radio.
We had a great rehearsal yesterday for Wednesday night's show. I am a lucky man to be surrounded by so much talent. I cannot
5o years ago on May 24th, 2016, Mame opened on Broadway
wait to celebrate.
Leslie Orofino will be celebrating Dixie Carter in what would have been Dixie's birthday. I and Wendy Scherl will be celebrating Mame opening on Broadway.   And so much MORE! A celebration is not a celebration without YOU! I hope you'll join us! Details below.
Before we get there, today I celebrate three artists I admire greatly!

 A few days ago, I wrote about my relationship
with Dana Lorge, who sadly passed away a few days ago. I wrote about the first time I met her and the man who was sitting at the piano at a party that we both ended up at. That man was/is John Meyer. In a few days, he will be celebrating his birthday and I thought it would be fun to sit down and catch up. This is our mini interview.

What does THIS TIME in your Life Mean to you?
Although I’m supposed to be approaching my twilight years, it doesn’t feel that way. I have more energy now than I can remember.
I’m involved in three (count ‘em) 3 projects:
Adapting my Judy Garland book, Heartbreaker, as a musical.
Preparing a Julius Monk revue for the fall, drawing on a cache of private material I’ve been lucky enough to inherit. and,
Shooting a music video of a song I’ve written for Hilary’s campaign: It’s called, Take Back the Country. Gonna put it up on YouTube
in maybe 3/4 weeks.

I’m Jack the Ripper’s illegitimate son.
Nah, seriously, I guess it’d hafta be my taste for
White Burgundy -absolutely gaga about it, probably an incipient Wino,or Alcoholic -should find Jason Robards and go to AA meetings with him.

I was/am not assertive enough in pursuing opportunities.
A lawyer screwed up a deal with Warner Bros early in my career -and I should have
run after Warner’s and salvaged the deal. Didn’t do it, let it drop, been sorry ever since (tho’ if I’d rescued the deal, I would’ve gone to LA and not met Judy,
which was worth everything).

F!@# everyone.

Hand to God. No contest. Most imaginative, engrossing play
with stunning performance by Steve Boyer as a conflicted kid with his alter-ego attached to his arm -you really felt there was another person there, arguing with him.
At the end, he tries to smash the puppet with a hammer, thereby crippling himself.
Totally awesome play and production. Wow.

John Meyer's memoir of Judy Garland, Heartbreaker reveals two months in the last year of Judy Garland's life as told by the songwriter who was her intimate friend at the time. This compassionate diary paints a candid portrait of the legendary entertainer whose glamor and talent flickered in the shadow of the demons that plagued her.

Joan Ellison
Presenting the more positive aspects of Judy is Joan Ellison.

Joan Ellison has been praised for her "vocal prowess....[and] organic grasp of the classic songs" by Michael Feinstein, and described as bringing “a keen blend of vocal splendor and verbal crispness to every musical moment” and “possess[ing] a crystalline voice that never stops” (Donald Rosenberg, The Plain Dealer).

Here is our mini interview.
What does this time in your life mean to you?
Well, it is all very exciting for this midwestern girl to be making her NYC cabaret debut at Feinstein’s/54 Below in less than three weeks!
I can’t quite believe it. And singing Judy Garland’s songs, no less — somewhat daunting, and absolutely wonderful!

If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?
Singing classic American popular songs with symphony orchestras, especially in those history-filled theatres and concert halls, is just the most magical thing and the nearest thing I know to time travel — so I’d love to be doing it more often than I already do…and if we’re really dreaming big, then, heck, I’d love to play the Palace or sing with the John Wilson Orchestra!

What are you currently working on?

Well, I’m preparing intensely right now for Get Happy! at Feinstein’s/54 Below — I do all the arrangements from original recordings, which is a labor of love, and today I was working on a piano transcription of Johnny Green and Judy performing The Trolley Song at the Hollywood Democratic Committee dinner in October of 1944, which is likely the first public performance of the song since the movie wasn’t released until November. Daily practicing, of course, because Judy was a vocal athlete.  And also working on several upcoming concerts with symphony orchestras, which involves working closely with arrangers and conductors.  

If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?
Introducing a new audience to these classic American pop songs. I was so delighted when one
Photo credit: Beth Segal
of my college students at The Cleveland Institute of Music said, after attending the first go-‘round of Get Happy! in Cleveland, that he’d never really heard any music of this era before, and had all kinds of questions about it and clearly enjoyed the evening. I think good music is good music. 
What is your first memory of entertainment?
I think the earliest one is going to see Disney’s Cinderella and Bambi in the theatre with my mother. I was in love with Cinderella, but Bambi was so tragic I’m not sure I even made it through the rest of the movie.

Scare somebody in five words
May I get political? "Donald Trump won the election."

What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?
I wanted to get to sing some of Judy’s more mature songs. Since 2009, I’d been performing a theatrical retro-style radio show of her songs up through 1944, and had also recorded many of them on my debut CD.
with Liza Minnelli, for whom she sang when she was 14 growing up in Des Moines
Then, synchronistically, about a year ago a conductor asked me whether I did any of Judy’s Carnegie Hall repertoire (I didn’t at the time) and a director in Florida asked me to PLAY the role of Judy Garland in the first U.S. professional regional production of The Boy From OzI realized that her style really evolved in the decade spanning 1944-’54, so Get Happy! started to gestate.
Destined for the stage!
Maybe I’ll tackle her next decade soon, but for that I think we’d need a few more musicians!

If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?
What other projects would you like to tell us about?
I just released a CD called Retrophonic Gershwin last July with duo-piano accompaniment that was CRAZY to transcribe/arrange but truly a kick to sing with. That project took more than three years. Next season I’ll be doing my first full-length Garland concert with the Ohio Valley Symphony; a Garland and Hollywood concert with the Cleveland Pops that includes dancers, called “Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance;” a Sinatra and Garland concert with a wonderful jazz trumpeter/singer and the Bemus Bay Pops on Labor Day weekend, and a Big Band Christmas concert with the Canton Symphony.  I’m also working on another cabaret show called Love Finds Judy Garland, using all the pre-1945 Garland arrangements I’ve been performing for years.  My husband, Mark Flanders, co-writes and co-researches.

If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?
Love of pastries!! 

What recent show has resonated the most with you, and why?
This isn’t so recent, but seeing The Light in the Piazza — it was during the transit strike and I didn’t care if I had to walk 80 blocks back to the friends I was staying with afterwards! — still resonates. It was just so visually and sonically beautiful, and so beautifully acted and really isn’t like any other show that I’ve seen.

Who was the most influential person on your work?
Well, Judy Garland, of course! Hearing her sing Over the Rainbow on my Wizard of Oz album (I’m dating myself here, aren’t I?) made me decide I wanted to be a singer at age 2 and shaped my whole concept of what it is to sing a song.
What is your guilty pleasure?
3-shot Americanos and dark chocolate. Clearly, I prefer uppers.

What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?
It’s always been difficult for me to ask for help, but I know I’m on the path when the right people appear at exactly the right time. I keep waking up overwhelmed with gratitude for the kindness of people who have helped get this particular project going and provided encouragement and advice along the way. 
If you could do or accomplish ANYTHING and money wasn’t an object, what would that be?
Hmmm….rent out Carnegie Hall and hire the New York Philharmonic or the John Wilson Orchestra and do a Judy concert spanning her whole life!

What is your favorite piece of art?
Hard to pick just one, but I actually read Jane Eyre seven times growing up, so that could qualify as my favorite. 
If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?
It’s okay not to know what is coming down the path beyond the reach of your flashlight.  And when it’s a little scary and shifting a bit under your feet, you’re probably on the right path.
Don't miss Joan Ellison at Feinstein's/54 Below on June 3rd! 
Michael Masci LIVE show, Joan Ellison is the guest! LIVE 05/25/2016 on BlogTalkRadio. See the details and set a reminder at

Marieann Meringolo

Sadly, we have to wait until June 3rd to see Joan Ellison (I'll be there! Please join me!) However, you can see another great artist this eve, also at Feinstein's/54 Below: Marieann Meringolo. WE sat down recently to discuss HER body of worth!

Impeccable! A vocal resemblance to Barbra Streisand!The New York Times

What Does This Show Mean To You?
This show means so much to me in so many ways…The lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman speak to me and always have.
I’m a real romantic and look at life that way, I truly feel love is the answer to all, and the Bergman’s have such a poignant, heartfelt, mind boggling, intelligent and deep connection to that expression that just blows me away. I feel honored to be able to sing their songs and give them life on stage. I love the arrangements my Musical Director, Doyle Newmyer and I have come up with for this show, and I’m very excited to share them with my audience.
Also, this is the first time I am working with my Director Will Nunziata and he has helped push me into new territories of expression…It’s all about trust. And, getting to share this concert on the beautiful stage of Feinstein’s/54 Below feels pretty special as well. As I write this I just got word that the venue had to add tables because tickets are selling so well, and for that I am so grateful!

What is the biggest challenge you’re facing right now?
Well, I’m going to be completely transparent and share with you that my girlfriend and I recently broke up.
When I was first gathering material putting this show together that was not the case. So, It’s been a bit of a challenge for me me to sing all these gorgeous love songs about heartache and longing without getting emotional. And, at times wondering how am I going to perform them in front of a live audience?

Who originally inspired you to sing/perform/act?
That would be Barbra Streisand!

What do you do to refill the well when you've worked too hard and feel your life is out of  balance?
I always look toward something inspirational and spiritual to get me back into balance. I regularly go to Unity of New York on Sunday mornings at Symphony Space for my weekly spiritual tuneup. I also follow the work of Marianne Williamson and recently started reading A Course In Miracles. I have also incorporated using Essential Oils into my daily routine for emotional and spiritual balance.

What draws you to your genre of entertainment?
I love the intimacy and expression that the art of cabaret brings out in a performer. I love to witness it
as an audience member as much as I love being
the one expressing it on stage.

How do you measure success?
By how open and grounded I feel. When I’m happy and enjoying life,treating people with kindness. A knowing that God has got my back and I am always taken care of…even when going through a difficult time. Success is an overall feeling to me, it’s not an achievement, it’s a state of being.

Tell me about one person who is your hero or heroine, personally , professionally, and even deceased, and why.
That person for me today is Marianne Williamson. I find her talks and books to be so brilliant and inspiring. They tap into a place that makes me want to be a better person than I was yesterday.

What are you doing to make the world a better place?
I think bringing my singing into this world helps make it a better place. People need entertainment in their lives…I know I do…I can’t imagine a life without it! And just being kind to people, you never know what someone is going through that is maybe making them cranky…so offering kindness and compassion to others not only helps them but it also helps you.

What disappointment ended up teaching you an essential lesson?

I can’t think of one specific disappointment but anytime I experience one and go into “poor me” mode, I’m reminded that everything is presented to us for us to achieve our highest good…even if it doesn’t feel that way as we are experiencing the perceived disappointment.

What comes up next for you?
Good Luck Getting Tix Tonight: Click HERE

I’m going to be working on dates for the fall to present a longer run of Between Yesterday and Tomorrow: The Songs of Alan andMarilyn Bergman, so look out for that! I’ll also be headlining on some cruise ship’s with Oceania and Regent Seven Seas in October and December and plan to do my Annual Holiday Show In The Spirit in December as well.

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

With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating the legacy of Dolly Gallagher Levi!


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

In 4 Days, Richard Skipper Celebrates premiers at The Triad Theatre, NYC !We will joined by Carole Demas and others a! Check out our new promo for our show on the 25th! See if you could come up with a great tweet and tweet it, please tag Richard Skipper for a chance to win two comps! What would YOU like to celebrate on May 25th?
Call 888 596-1027 to purchase tickets or YOU can also do it on THEIR website.
Check out Our Promo:

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

Keeping Entertainment LIVE!

Richard Skipper,

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so very much, Richard. I can't believe you included me on this page in such stellar company! Wish I could be at your show next Wednesday — break legs! Most Gratefully Yours, Joan