Thursday, March 8, 2018

Cabaret Month: International Women's Day.. Jennifer Roberts, Lynn Henderson, Lauren Mufson...and MORE!

Remembering Lynn Redgrave on her Birthday
What the caterpillar calls the end of life, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.
-Lao Tzu

Happy March 8th, 2018!
March 8 is the 67th day of the year. There are 298 days remaining until the end of the year. 
Today's holidays are Girls Write Now Day, International Women's Day, Nametag Day, National Be Nasty Day (which I will never celebrate!), and National Peanut Cluster Day!
Today is devoted to the women! 
I am celebrating three women who are making a difference in cabaret. 

Jennifer Roberts: She Loves - Sheldon!
April 5 at 10:30 PM - 11:30 PM
Don't Tell Mama NYC
343 W 46th St, New York

What is it about performing in small, intimate venues that draws you to perform in cabarets?  
I love choosing my own material, working with great musicians and connecting with the audience. I love the energy and joy a responsive audience can create, and I love to make people laugh, and really move them.
I also love to find obscure, lesser-known material and introduce an audience to a whole new world of music.

What is the biggest challenge in the process of putting a show together?  
For me, it's not living in NYC. I've put together 3 shows now, and the challenge has been to find enough rehearsal time to really pull it together.
The current show, Jennifer Roberts: She Loves...Sheldon! we put together with very little rehearsal time.  I bought all my song choices - of Sheldon Harnick material, (I had been collecting for years) to our first rehearsal. Tedd (Firth) and I met a couple of times and ran through it all, and he started developing some arrangement ideas.
Then I left town, flew back a month later - met a couple of times, set some arrangements and keys, and then I left town again. I think we brought in our director, Lance Roberts, to listen to what we had come up with so far...he added some great ideas for arrangements we hadn't yet decided on, and I flew out again.
(Photo by Eileen Cote)
I flew back in town just a few days before the show - rehearsed only another 2 or 3 times, due to Tedd's ever-full schedule, and opened the show.
We've only had the chance to do that show once, 2 years ago, so I am truly looking forward to working with this marvelous material again.

How do you manage it all? In other words, how do you balance a personal life with a professional life 
That is a very tricky question, sometimes I manage it extremely well, I've been a multi-tasker since college, but I don't really make my personal life a priority. Being a single self-employed woman, it seems I work all the time. I own a home (I have for 22 years) so staying afloat has been a huge priority and responsibility. I keep up with audition opportunities as much as I can, and I keep my hand in several professions, and they all require attention and focus, so I learned a long time ago, to balance a lot at once. Every couple of years or so I feel I have to put myself out there as an Artist, and that's where the world of NY Cabaret has been such a wonderful outlet.
My joy has always been in the creating of the show, exploring and developing new material, learning a new role, new music....that is what brings me the most satisfaction and fulfillment.
I learned a long time ago that you have to eat well, sleep well and fit in some exercise to multi-task and juggle a 
beyond- full schedule.  It doesn't always happen, especially with a lot of travel, but it is always a goal.
When I do find some free time - to unwind,  I like to explore, wherever I am, find something new. Frequently I'm alone on the road, and it is great fun to find a new park, a new restaurant, a local shopping area or farmer's market.  When I do have real downtime, I try to catch up with friends, volunteer my time, browse used bookstores, read, set aside quiet time,  see a play or movie, and when home, try to get my house in order. It is all about balancing the time I have.

Who are the important teachers in your life? And of those, who would you credit the most for your professional success? 
That is a really a tough one - top of the list would have to be Uta Hagen.  
She used to come to Detroit in the Summer, and teach workshops and classes.
One year my scene partner was really sick, and I thought rather than do a monologue at the last minute, I would observe and really listen to all she had to say.
I learned so much that year, that it affected me for life.  She really liked my work the next year, and I know I better understood her method, after so absorbing everything she said and did the year before. I was also reading her book at the same time, and that even changed my approach as a director and an actor.
I was a Drama Director at a couple of high schools for several years, and she really impacted my directing, the last 3 or 4 plays.  And, of course, she had a huge influence on my Singing, as well.
My college voice teacher, Elsie Inselman - I studied with her on and off years later when I was preparing to sing with a local Symphony and preparing for more Legit Musical Theatre roles.  The creator of THE ALL NIGHT STRUT, Fran Charnas, also impacted me, for her method in teaching Musical Theatre and Directing was similar to Uta Hagen's - in finding the truth in the song and respecting the material.  And, every director I've worked with has taught me something....Andy Gale and Lance Roberts have been my NYC Cabaret directors and they have been marvelous, and focused me back on the lyrics and telling the story.

I will give a shout out to 2 of my very favorite arrangers of jazz vocal material...Lloyd Wells, who wrote all those brilliant choral and jazz arrangements at Opryland theme park, in fact, all of the arrangements for the park. His glorious arrangements set the bar very high for me at a very young age. And also, Ed Wells (no relation) wrote brilliant, complex jazz-harmonies and arrangements for the All Night Strut and Christmas Strut, that were a challenge to learn and a joy to sing! 
They were strong influences in my musical life and education.
My WSU Theatre professors - Tony Schmidt, Bob Hazzard, Von Washington, Bob McGill, Russ Smith, Phil Fox, Martin Molson and others, who gave me my foundation, and cast me in wonderful plays and musicals that gave me such wonderful, practical stage experience. And of course, Nira Pullin, my dance and movement teacher, who accelerated my dance training, so I was able to work for many years as an Actor/Singer/Dancer.

Who are your biggest musical influences?  
In High School, I listened to everything, but my favorites back then were Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, and Natalie Cole.
In college, I was introduced to the magic of Barbara Cook, and I sang much of her repertoire. 
While working on THE ALL NIGHT STRUT I discovered all those marvelous voices from the 30's and 40's - June Christy, Doris Day, Betty Hutton, Jo Stafford, Julie London and more....loved them all, and listened to them continuously for several years. 
Also, listened continuously to Ella, Sarah Vaughn, Carmen McCrae, Nancy Wilson, and Rosemary Clooney. 

Putting together my first cabaret show 14 years ago, I discovered Nancy LaMott and Wesla Whitfield...I listened to everyone, but those 2 really stood out to me...
Top Musical Influences.....Ella Fitzgerald, Barbara Cook, June Christy, Nancy Wilson and Wesla Whitfield.

Do you have any CDS? When can we expect your new one?  
I just finished a CD...my first....(though I've sung on a few, and have a nice studio demo). 
I wanted to pay for the whole thing myself, so it has taken just over two years to complete.  It will be out by the end of March, early April.

It’s the studio version of my Cabaret Show of the same name, “An Evening with Jennifer Roberts” featuring the marvelous Tedd Firth, Steve Doyle, Tom Hubbard and a cast of characters. Special appearances by Tom Wopat, Jason Ellis, Sidney Myer, Lance Roberts, Jonathan West and Peter Carey.

Tedd Firth created some wonderful arrangements for the live show that are even better on the album, and of course, these marvelous musicians will make me sound that much better! It has been a journey, am I am anxious to share it with you.

How did you come up with the setlist for your show? 
Well, since the album is coming out soon, we will resurrect that show, so I'll talk about both.
For the Sheldon Harnick show, I bought to rehearsal all the music he had written that really moved me...I knew there were a few songs I wanted to do from his shows, SHE LOVES ME, FIORELLO! and THE APPLE TREE, but as I dug deeper and explored his lesser-known works, I discovered a whole treasure chest of Hidden Gems....hilarious, clever, sensitive and deeply moving...I bought that list to the first rehearsal and had a friend of Sheldon's transcribe a song that was never in print. He also supplied 3 songs himself. It is an incredible body of work, and this show focuses mostly on his lesser-known material.
"An Evening with Jennifer Roberts" is a version of the first show I did in NYC 14 years ago.  I bought a stack of music to that first rehearsal I
had 14 years ago with Andy Gale and Mark Janas, and we went through it all....we eliminated a few, they had a few suggestions and we put together the show.
Several years later, I reached out to Tedd Firth, told him it was time to put together that new show ( I had told him 2-3 years earlier I wanted to work with him) and I brought much of that old material to our first rehearsal.  Andy Gale, the director, was also there, and one by one we went through the songs....5 or 6 of my original song list I bought 14 years earlier, survived the cut...and are in the show, and on the album....but Andy and Tedd brought some new songs to me, and one by one it was a "Yes, I really like it," or "No, let's keep looking." I really have to connect to the lyrics... So, for the album, it was a 3-person team that brought these songs and this story together.  Every process is a wonderful learning and sharing experience.  We are really proud of the show....(the guys have yet to hear the album).

How did this project come about? What is it that you like most about doing what you are currently doing?
This Sheldon Harnick show came about because I realized I had been collecting his songs for years.....and I realized one day, and told Tedd, that Sheldon Harnick is alive - I need to do a show celebrating all of his wonderful lyrics while he is still with us! 
This became our next show.
I already spoke of how I was overwhelmed by the amount of amazing unknown work he had created, and I felt I needed to share it with the world! That is how this project began.  Never dreamed it would be 2 years before we would the show again, but life sometimes does get in the way...
I like it best when I am creating something new when I am around creative, talented people, and we are preparing something special to share with an audience.  The body of work of Mr. Sheldon Harnick truly needs to be shared!!  Fortunately, my Musical Director for our upcoming show, Jon Weber, is an avid Sheldon Harnick fan, and he is looking forward to sharing this material with an audience as much as I am! 
Should be a very special evening, and perhaps Sheldon Harnick will try to attend this year.  
He was out of town and sent his best wishes the first time we did the show, hoping we would do it again :)  We are, and planning to continue.

What tips do you have for staying healthy when you are often performing?
Staying healthy while performing often is a huge priority.
I think it’s important to drink a lot more water- stay well-hydrated, eat very well - I will up my vitamins, reduce caffeine and dairy, and make wise nutrition choices.
Rest is very important - especially if I’m feeling under the weather or sleep-deprived.
I have allergies which often irritate my voice, so I usually incorporate vocal rest the night before the show, and during the day, when possible. 
I also drink warm tea, usually with honey and ginger, sometimes with lemon. 
I make sure I vocalize every day, to check out my voice and range, and then relax and think about something else.

I’ll also vocalize again before the show and perhaps sing a song or two.
I sometimes gargle with warm salt water or vinegar if my throat is irritated, and I use a Netti pot or steam my nose and throat so that everything is well hydrated.  I don’t do this every day, or show, but when I know my voice isn’t 100 percent.

I’ll use oregano oil in warm water if I think I am catching a bug. And I’ve tried Apple Cider vinegar, Kombucha tea, Airborne and other things.
Vocal rest, for me, is usually the key.
Jennifer Roberts: She Loves - Sheldon!
April 5 at 10:30 PM - 11:30 PM
Don't Tell Mama NYC
343 W 46th St, New York
Order your tickets HERE
Please visit Jennifer's Website for more info. 

********
Lynn Henderson
Skitch in Time: My Friendship with Maestro Skitch Henderson 
Singer Lynn Henderson Tributes the Founder of the New York Pops; Klea Blackhurst Directs Lynn Henderson is known for taste and style throughout several cabarets shows she’s performed in New York City, as well as her two recordings of Great American Songbook music. In 2016, she brought ‘T'Ain’t Nobody's Bizness If I Do to Don’t Tell Mama, including music from composers Charles Aznavour, Doug Cohen, The Gershwins, Jerry Herman, Amanda McBroom and Cole Porter among others. 

After performing in many venues in the Eastern U.S. since her college years as a big band singer,
Lynn debuted in cabaret in 2012 at the Metropolitan Room in Manhattan with TRY TO REMEMBER, and followed that with I TRAVEL ALONE, a musical memoir of the journey of discovery Lynn made, traveling on a bicycle, on foot and horseback. She wandered through Myanmar, Vietnam, China, Laos, Cambodia, India, South Africa and more. She released her debut CD, Singer at Work (available on CD Baby) in 2012, followed by If We Only Have Love (available on iTunes) in 2014.

What is it about performing in small intimate venues that draws you to perform in cabaret?
I like the closeness of the audience, being able to look into their eyes and tell my musical
stories.

What made you want to go into this business?
I have always performed since the age of sixteen when I was a big band singer. I love cabaret
because at my age it gives me a venue for sharing of my life experiences with the audience.
The subject matter and songs are all my choices to share as I like.  I have enjoyed a wonderful, full and fascinating life.  
I have also been blessed to have two adult children.

What inspired you to be a performer?
I have performed my whole life because I love to sing and share wonderful lyrics. 
It all started
with a Doris Day recording of Secret Love when I was a kid.  I wore it out.  I sang with big bands
in college, performed in the Westport, Ct. area for years doing five concerts at the Levitt Pavilion
there, sang in bistros all over, created six shows in Litchfield County for a private club's members,
created my own shows in Litchfield County and was soloist in several classical choirs.  I recorded
two CDs with Jim Czak at the Nola Studio which was in the Steinway building.  Sadly, Jimmy passed
away last year.

Do you feel that you are part of the cabaret community?  What do you like MOST about the 
community and what do you like least?
Yes, even though I am new to NYC in the last four years, I have found the cabaret community
very friendly and I have been welcomed by such wonderful people as Sidney Myer and Bernie
Furshpan. There is nothing I dislike about the community.  I am just a bit envious of the
fact that so many of the community have known each other for forty plus years.

What are you currently working on?  
I am creating a new show about my friendship with Maestro Skitch Henderson who founded the New York Pops Orchestra at the age of 65.

How did the project come about?   
I was contemplating what to focus on in my next show.  Since I am seventy-eight years old and don't plan to stop ever,  I view Skitch as a role model and mentor.

What is it that you like the most about doing what you are currently doing?  
I love working with my
Music Director, Douglas J. Cohen.  The very happiest times are spent unearthing just the right
songs and creating the arrangements.  The final product reflects long hours of research and practice.

Are you introducing any unsung or new songs in your show?  Yes, my friend, lyricist, and songwriter Tom Toce has shared with me a song he wrote with Lew Spence that talks about the fact that I do this performing because I can and I must.

A Skitch in Time: My Friendship with Maestro Skitch Henderson 

A Skitch in Time: My Friendship with Maestro Skitch Henderson is directed by Klea Blackhurst, with Musical
Direction by Douglas J. Cohen. Bob Sabin will play bass. Shows are Tuesday, April 10 at 7:00pm and Saturday, April 14 at 4:00pm. There’s a $20 cover charge and a 2 drink minimum per person. Don’t Tell Mama is a CASH ONLY room at 343 West 46th Street, NYC. For reservations, please call:  212-757-0788 (after 4:00 pm) or visit donttellmamanyc.com.

Lynn Henderson and Skitch are not related, despite their shared last name. After bonding over music at a benefit in their shared Connecticut town, Skitch assisted Lynn as she created a show about his friend, Cole Porter, for a local club with a cast ranging in age from five to eighty-five. Later, Lynn and her musicians brought her cabaret shows to Hunt Hill Farm - the cooking school, store, and gallery which were the Connecticut home of Skitch and his wife, Ruth. 

 n (Brandys) by Syvonne Kozuch
Lauren Mufson
Lauren Mufson Is Nominated for a 2018 MAC Award for Female Piano Bar Entertainer (Brandy's).
Lauren is a singer, actress, entertainer, and teacher.  Her passion for live performance began early when at age 11 she chose to sing Janis Ian’s At Seventeen a capella for a community theater audition.   According to Lauren, "it was the saddest song ever written." So she belted it.  Merman-belted it.  And found her joy.

Lauren starred as Donna in the Broadway and National Touring companies of Mamma Mia!  Off-Broadway she appeared in Kari Floren’s The Porch (Altered Stages) and Voices of Swords (Urban Stages), William Finn’s A New Brain (Lincoln Center), and Elizabeth SwadosGroundhog (Manhattan Theater Club).  She has originated roles in workshops at the Public Theater, BAM’s Next Wave Festival, Circle Rep Lab, NYMF Festival, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center as well as in the world premieres of Kiss of the Spider Woman directed by Harold Prince, Jason Robert Brown’s The Predators’ Ball in Florence, Italy, and The Book of Candy at Playwrights Theater of NJ.  Regional theater credits include Aldonza in Man of La Mancha, Nancy in Oliver, Sarah in No Way To Treat A Lady, Sheila in Hair, leads in Smokey Joe’s Café, The World Goes ‘Round, Side By Side By Sondheim, and Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill.
Lauren has sung with concert orchestras, in piano bars, cabaret shows, benefits, as a volunteer with Hearts and Voices (an organization bringing live music to people with AIDS) and for countless special events (weddings, birthdays, bachelor parties, you name it).
In addition to her stage work, she has narrated audiobooks, appeared in print ads, TV commercials and has been featured on Law and Order: SVU, Unsolved Mysteries, and the Rosie O’Donnell Show.

What is it about performing in small, intimate venues that draws you to perform in cabarets? 
When I walked into Brandy's in 1987, I  fell in love.  Just about a year out of college and looking for survival work as I started a theater career, a friend suggested I check it out. Julie Shepard was our waitress, Chris Marlowe
Julie Sheppard as Judy Garland
played that night.
Total pros. Julie served us drinks, sang her heart out, and talked about her Judy Garland tribute show.  She was in charge: smart, funny, spontaneous and God, her voice! I was completely mesmerized.  The intimacy of the room made her performance all the more powerful.  I sat three feet from a vulnerable, connected, magnetic entertainer and felt like I was home.  So the intimacy of a room, for me was and continues to be something very special.  I have performed in huge theaters, arenas, concert halls, etc but there is absolutely nothing more magical and gratifying than the connection one can create in a small room.  Julie showed me that the first night I walked in the door.  Over the years, it's been a connection I have loved exploring and expanding.


What is the biggest challenge in the process of being a PIANO BAR/RESTAURANT SINGING ENTERTAINER? 
The greatest challenge in being a piano bar entertainer is crowd control.  By that, I mean the ability to achieve focus when there are tons of obstacles to that goal. The main obstacles are alcohol, cell phones, and what I see as a shortening of the American attention span.  It's not only happening in live performance venues, distractedness is pretty much everywhere, but we piano bar folks experience it in stark relief working in such a small room.

How do you manage it all? In other words, how do you balance a personal life with a professional life? 
 The last few years, piano bar work has allowed me to have a personal life.  Having kids later in life, I didn't want to be away from my daughters often so for me, the piano bar makes more sense than eight shows a week plus rehearsal.  Brandy's provides a steady income stream as well as the opportunity to perform.   I do private parties and events and still, squeeze in some theater when I can, but Brandy's is a godsend as my kids grow up.

Who are the important teachers in your life? And of those, who would you credit the most for your
professional success? 
My mom was a Broadway starlet back in the Golden Age, my dad is a doctor who plays piano and accompanied me from the time I was little: they are my greatest teachers and supporters and have never once discouraged me from pursuing my dream to be a performer.  I am very lucky. Also, I've trained a lot over the years as both an actor and singer.  Some of the phenomenal teachers I've worked with are Marden Bate, Carol Skarimbas, Lynda Sharmin, Patrick DeGennaro, David Brunetti, and Fred Kareman.

What do you love most about Brandy's?
Ahhhhh, so many things.  The people I work with:  among the smartest, most talented, generous,  and interesting people on the planet.  The place is magical: it's tiny, raw, unpredictable and usually incredibly joyful.  I've grown tremendously as a person because of my experience there...the agony, the ecstasy, and everything in between.

What is your favorite “escape” in NYC? 
Greatest escape from NYC is hopping in my car and driving home to NJ!

What are the last three songs you learned?
The last 3 songs I learned were "Burn" from Hamilton, Lady Gaga's "Million Reasons", and John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy." The latter was for the wedding of a dear friend for the mother/groom dance. I didn't choose it but it is a simple, lush ode to parenthood in lullaby form....so it chose me in a way.
"Burn" is a big belty ballad, very traditional song in a groundbreaking show.  I love the juxtaposed vulnerability and strength of the lyrics.
"Million Reasons " is from Gaga's "Joanne", one of my kids' favorite albums. We sing it in the car on a daily basis. It's a good, raw love song.

Anything else you wish included?
I would like to include my gratitude to Joe Connell, Jim Luzar, and the Pham family for being wonderful employers and providing me with something rare: a creative and financial home base over many years.

Thank you, to ALL who are mentioned in this blog for gifts you have given to the world and will continue to give

Now, go and do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return!




Here are a Few Testimonials for Richard Skipper Celebrates: Next One March 18th 1PM Laurie Beechman Theater:

Richard Skipper Celebrates Carol Channing on Her 97th Birthday on 1/31/18 was a party with a marvelous host and a group of his very talented friends. I wasn’t just an audience member, I was a fellow celebrant. The wonderful stories and songs and a sensational video made it feel like Carol was in the room with all of us.
-Joshua Ellis, NYC

I had the immense pleasure of performing in Richard's Nov. 5th show. Richard's introduction of me was so lush, that I was looking at myself to see who he was talking about! So, with his wonderful band behind me, I hope that I gave the folks something to 'write home about"! By the end of the evening, I felt as if I had been missing out on a tradition that is integral to showbiz!! Before I could even get through the doors of the theater, I was warmly greeted by people who had seen me perform in other venues but were "fierce cheerleaders" of the 'RICHARD SKIPPER CELEBRATES MOVEMENT' ...YES.I see this as a 'MOVEMENT', a wonderful way to keep us 'Baby Boomers' connected to iconic shows that set a standard for every show that would come down the pike! Richard's show took me back to the grand days of variety shows that drew you in and held on to your heart for 60 to 90 minutes every Saturday and Sunday evening. Hey Richard, I could've sworn that I saw Pearl Bailey, Perry Como & Dinah Shore sitting at a table in the back of the room! If you ever need me again, just remember the lyrics of that famous Michael Jackson song and "JUST CALL MY NAME AND I'LL BE THERE"!
Denise Spann-Morgan, Brooklyn NY

Richard Skipper Celebrates! 
A delightful afternoon of cabaret, beautiful voices and Richard Skipper being the ultimate host! Beautifully produced by Russ Woolley.
What a wonderful way to share a joy-filled afternoon! 
Pat Palumbo, Amawalk, NY

March 18th, 2018 

Russ Woolley Proudly Presents
Richard Skipper Celebrates
John Kander... On His 91st Birthday!
 

1 PM Brunch Show Laurie Beechman Theater  
Confirmed to perform are Tony Award winner Lilias WhiteDonna Marie Asbury currently in Chicago on Broadway, Jana Robbins (Zorba with two separate tours with Georgio Tozzi and Theodore Bikel), Lucia Spina (Kinky Boots), David Sabella (originated Mary Sunshine in the current revival of Chicago on Broadway), and Sandy Stewart (My Coloring Book) and two-time Grammy nominee Bill Charlap
Click HERE to see our Promo Video. 
If you have attended Richard Skipper Celebrates, and if you haven't already, Please add your thoughts in Richard Skipper's Guest Book at RichardSkipper.com
You never Know Who You Might See There and What Might Happen!


With grateful XOXOXs ,

 

Deborah Jean Templin as Dolly

CallonDolly.com
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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!  
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TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY

Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com






4 comments:

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  3. Thanks so much, Richard, for the wonderful write-up, for including me and OUR SHOW on your Blog...thanks for and for your ongoing support for the Arts and Artists....xo

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