Saturday, March 3, 2018

Cabaret Month: Lisa Viggiano, Jinkx Monsoon, Robin Kradles...and MORE!

Everything has been figured out, except how to live. 
Jean-Paul Sartre

Happy Saturday, March 3rd, 2018!
March 3 is the 62nd day of the year. There are 303 days remaining until the end of the year.  My horoscope tells me that I may think I have a solid handle on my future, but the cosmos is poised to show me something I don’t know.
I am still enjoying a boost of energy like that which comes in the weeks following my birthday. My birthday month is over but I'm always celebrating. Today, and all this month, I am celebrating cabaret month here in New York.
Did you know today is I Want You to be Happy Day – This is a great day to share something with fans and followers! For you, it’s celebrating the great artists mentioned in today's blog. Plus, it’s also a great day to go and see a LIVE show! Please let me know who you would like me to celebrate.

Lisa Viggiano
And with that, the great artists and shows that are constantly shaping the landscape of our cabaret community. You may not be familiar with some of the artists that I celebrate in my blogs but they all are worthy of our attention and time.
Cabaret month's big finale will happen with the MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) Awards at the end of the month at BB. King's on 42nd Street in NYC.
Today, I celebrate three of this year's nominees: Lisa Viggiano, Jinks Monsoon, and Robin Kradles. Each are winners already!
Last year Celia Berk, Sally Darling, Meg Flather, Josephine Sanges, and Lisa Viggiano were all nominated in the category of female vocalist.

2017 MAC Award nominated vocalists: Celia Berk, Sally Darling, Josephine Sanges, Lisa Viggiano
They came together this past year in a show showcasing them as a group. The show was directed by MAC Award winner and 2018 nominee, Jeff Harnar! They called the show TOGETHER: 2017 CABARET Award-nominated VOCALISTS and guess what?

They are nominated in the category of REVUE OR SPECIAL PRODUCTION. Smart move! I celebrated Sally Darling (nominated again this year for Female Vocalist) earlier this week. Look for upcoming profiles of Celia Berk, Meg Flather, and Josephine Sanges. Today, I celebrate Lisa Viggiano.
Coast to Coast, VIGGIANO has performed as a singer/actor since she was a young child, sharing the stage and screen with talents such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Tom Hanks, Rita Moreno and Bonnie Raitt.

A native “Jersey Girl”, LISA has been seen singing the National Anthem  (Editor's Note: Today Is National Anthem Day!) for the NJ Devils, NY Rangers, and the NY Mets.
She has performed at  Feinstein's 54Below, Don’t Tell Mama, The Duplex and The Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York City, The Palace of Fine Arts and The Herbst, and The Gardenia in Los Angeles.
By day, VIGGIANO uses her voice as a speech-language pathologist for special needs students, helping them to find THEIR voices!

Recordings include the original cast recording for the musical Oh Progeny!Evening Prayer as well as her critically acclaimed live cabaret CD, One Private Moment.  LISA shares another creative hat; that of a lyricist. Following the birth of her sons David and Sammy, she joined composer Christopher Marlowe in penning and recording Keepsake Lullabies, a thirty-minute suite of personalized songs designed to put children to sleep. She not only wrote the lyrics but also sings the CD.
LISA’s most recent sold-out concert, NIGHT IN THE CITY, was reviewed by Rob Lester of Cabaret Scenes Magazine: “A sublime singer…refreshingly natural onstage, with charisma and grace, no diva attitude…her voice is a dream to hear, a glorious timbre capturing emotion and truth in its net… (Viggiano) comes close to the magic and openness of the late, much-missed Nancy LaMott who inhabited songs in the most touching of ways, whose sound was not dissimilar to hers. I can’t think of higher cabaret praise.
As critic David Hurst of ShowBusiness Weekly has written, “VIGGIANO has a heartfelt delivery that conveys a lyric with grace and clarity. She understands how to interpret a song, bringing out its inner quality and emotional center in a quiet and introspective way that is never self-indulgent.
Whether it’s a whispered excitement…a coy playfulness…a plaintive wistfulness, VIGGIANO’s readings always ring true as does her pitch-
Scott Barnes, Kevin Dozier, Laurie Krauz, Lisa Viggiano, Daryl Kojak, Reagan Stone and Sidney Myer
perfect musicality.”


For more information, please visit: www.lisaviggiano.com

Upcoming
Lisa Viggiano sings Bruce 4/14, 4:00 pm at the Duplex and 5/4 at Don’t Tell Mama, 7 pm; Lisa Viggiano & Christopher Marlowe Celebrate 20 Years, 6/21, 7 pm at Don’t Tell Mama

If you were not in this business, what would you want to be doing?
I’m grateful to say that my “day job” as a speech-language pathologist is a wonderful alternative.
Originally, I had studied speech-language pathology at NYU to become a voice therapist for singers (which I continue to do part-time as well), however, life’s paths have led me to work with children and young adults with special needs, aged 11-21, giving them communication therapy for the “real world”.  As you might imagine, I have the opportunity to use my music and acting skills in my job every day, so I guess I have a balance of all good things in terms of career and for that, I am truly blessed.

What is it about this business that keeps you doing it?
Hmmmm...this is a tough one to crystallize in words... Of course, there is the joy of music, which I love. And then there is the endorphin high you get from performing, which feels amazing. BUT, I would have to say that the connection and camaraderie that the arts bring are like no other.  That’s definitely the #1 reason.

Who is the most famous person you have ever met?
Back in 2001, I met and had the thrill of performing with Bonnie Raitt in a holiday benefit in San Francisco for the Richmond Ermet Aid Foundation.  She was not only radiant and super cool, but SO kind. I was 8 months pregnant and I was hobbling to the stage to sing WE CAN BE KIND.  Bonnie saw me and ran over to help me to the stage and patted my pregnant belly.  It was a moment I will never forget!

What's the best thing you've seen in NYC and why?
Ok, this is probably an odd answer, but this is the first thing that came to mind: To me, the best thing that I absolutely love to see in NYC is running into a dear friend on a crowded street.  It makes a city of 9 million people feel like a small town.

If you could perform with one person, who would that be? 
Well, my 11-year-old son Sammy is starting his first acting class next month.  If he would ever perform with his mom...well that would be absolute heaven to me!

Jinkx Monsoon
Nominee: IMPERSONATION/CHARACTERIZATION/DRAG ARTIST
JINKX MONSOON
Jinkx Sings Everything
Laurie Beechman

Jinkx Monsoon is the winner of season 5 of RuPaul’s drag race, and a critically acclaimed Cabaret artist and actor. Her sophomore album: The Ginger Snapped was released in January 2018, and recently she voiced the character “Emerald” in her favorite cartoon, Steven Universe.

What is it about performing in small, intimate venues that draws you to perform in cabarets? 
With TV and Film, the audience sees everything so you can get away with subtle nuance. It’s similar to a cabaret space. I love intimate venues because my audience is able to see the rise of an eyebrow; they’re able to hear you gulp or clear your throat. It allows you really converse with your audience as though you’re having a one on one conversation. I love that.

How do you give back your art/passion to younger artists and the community?
I am always surprised how much you can help a person just by being kind. I look back on every kindness that was shown to me by the artists and performers I look up to, as moments that helped define my passion and push me in the direction that I followed in life. So whenever I meet young artists, I try to be as gracious and as kind as possible, to encourage them to follow their passion. My motto is: a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.

What is your most useful tool for overcoming a creative block?
Honestly, whenever I’m having trouble finding inspiration, I try to go see other people’s shows. Not to take ideas from them, but to have a fire lit inside me. When I see truly amazing performances, it makes me wanna get up and sing with them. As a performer myself, it’s hard to watch great performances and not be inspired to hop up on stage and show off. Friendly artistic competition for the sake of generating better art: Arté.

What inspired you to become an entertainer?
It’s hard to pinpoint. As a child, I would sing songs and do skits and tell jokes for my family. I’ve wanted to perform since the moment I could talk. For me, the best thrill is making people laugh.
There’s no way to synthesize that feeling of landing a joke or singing a song to a captivated audience. I guess I got addicted to that feeling at a young age. I was an outcast and a loner through much of my childhood, but I always felt like I belonged onstage.

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? 
I would like to think I’m a part of the cabaret community. I’ve certainly been doing it long enough. Ha ha. Even though I’m known for Drag Race, and I often take my acts into the clubs- I made a choice at the beginning of this journey into show business that Cabaret and theater was where I and my drag belonged. I’ve always hoped to create work that may benefit from my notoriety on drag race, but stands on its own without the TV fame. I have strived to make the work that I do effective and inspired, so that my audiences who are there for “Drag Race” are treated to a piece of theater that they may not have expected, and my theater-going audiences leave with a positive experience even if they’ve never watched an episode of Drag Race.
My favorite part of the cabaret community is the insider language we share. I adore sitting around with other performers at the end of the night, swapping war stories and comparing notes.
My least favorite aspect of it is when competition brings out the worst in us. Competition is good. It pushes us to work higher and raise the bar- but the desire to succeed can make us do crazy things.
We shouldn’t compromise our values for success, even if that means being patient while you wait for your moment.

What is one of the achievements you feel most satisfied to have personally accomplished? 
RuPaul and Michelle Visage both came to see the Original run of The Vaudevillians in New York. Two people who played integral roles in giving me my “big break”, were finally able to see something I created and was extremely proud of. To hear their laughter, above everyone else’s made all the years of scraping by and doing shows for tips, worth it. If you would have told the scrappy little queen I was, fresh out of college, that one day I would be performing a show I wrote, for the most influential drag queen in the
world, I wouldn’t have believed a word of it. RuPaul’s laughter was the best gift he ever gave me.
Beyond the crown and the title and the exposure- his genuine enjoyment of my cabaret show was the best gift.

Anything else you wish included?

I love performing more than anything else. I plan to perform till the day I Die. I always say, no matter what happens to me throughout my life, I will find a way to get on stage. If I go blind, I’ll hire a makeup artist.
If I ever need to use a wheelchair, it’ll be a rhinestoned wheelchair that lights up and I will get myself
on that stage. It’s where I belong.
I do this for myself because it’s my passion and my greatest joy.
But when audience members tell me after that the show affected them in a way they never saw coming, and brought them joy or inspiration, or helped make a bad day better- that is the best-added bonus in getting to do what I love.
Read more about Jinkx HERE.


Robin Kradles
Nomination: IMPERSONATION/CHARACTERIZATION/DRAG ARTIST
ROBIN KRADLES (Richard Becker)
Gambling on Love
Don’t Tell Mama
A versatile performer, Robin Kradles has appeared in movies and on television both as herself and playing other drag roles. Of late, she’s made something of a specialty of impersonating Marlene Dietrich. Robin is available as a singer and host for club appearances and private parties. Click HERE for more info.

What inspired you to become a performer?
I was in the chorus in high school and had a one-word line in the senior play, “How!” (I was an Indian) —nothing that would have predicted the performer’s life for me. I was basically extremely shy if you can believe it. Art and design have always been my creative outlets.
Then twenty years ago two of my friends suggested that the three of us should get done up in drag as Charlies Angels for a Halloween party and I couldn’t think of any reason not to. I was hooked. One
thing led to another and before you know it I was inventing shows and pageants just to have opportunities to perform... lip synching, of course. One of my outlets was the Community House Theatre in Cherry Grove on Fire Island. There I met Jim Speake and we often performed in the same shows.
He suggested that I try singing in my own voice and the rest is history.
I was really pretty bad in the beginning. But a lot of hard work and some great voice and performance coaches have improved the product.

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? 
Being nominated for a MAC Award has reinforced for me just how connected I feel to this wonderful community. It’s been a warm and welcoming group to get to know over the past eight or so years. It helped, I think, that I was introduced to it by Jim Speake who is such a well-liked and respected singer. He was forever introducing me to everyone we encountered as I tagged along with him to shows and workshops and MAC events. He introduced me to Lennie Watts who ultimately became my director and with whom I’ve been studying ever since.
Lennie is a virtual center of gravity in the
cabaret world, of course, and I value him as a mentor and as a friend.
I find cabaret folks to be generous, supportive and encouraging. And for the most part, that’s true across the board, from beginners to very accomplished performers at the top of their game. I guess the thing I like least is the expense of seeing so many shows, but I wouldn’t want to miss any of them.

What is one of the most unusual things to ever happen to you during a performance? 

I was doing one of my Diva Selections group shows and hadn’t had a chance to eat anything all day (think of the typical show day and add two to three hours of shaving, makeup and costume prep. It’s easy to understand how eating can get forgotten). I guess I had a low blood sugar attack. In any case, the end of the show came when I was supposed to bring all my guests back up and do a group encore. My mind went completely and utterly blank. I did not know the name of a single guest and God knows where the lyrics came from for that song…muscle memory I guess. I thought I was having a stroke. Somehow I managed to make it all into a big joke so the audience thought it was part of the act. It was very scary though.
What are you currently working on? How did this project come about? What is it that you like most about doing what you are currently doing?   
I’m working on two new shows. One has been marinating for a while. It’s a challenging concept and a challenging writing assignment so I’m taking my time. I’ve played a Marlene Dietrich impersonator in two movies and can look quite like her and I do like many of the songs she sang as well. So this project is based on her life and takes a more theatrical approach to the cabaret experience.
The other show will celebrate an impending birthday which is one of those landmark birthdays you’d rather hide under the bed from. But instead, I’ll celebrate it in song.

What is your most useful tool for overcoming a creative block? 
Deadlines and fear of failure. Seriously, the fact that I work with my musical director, Rick Jensen on a weekly basis even when I’m not preparing a show and with my voice teacher, Carmen Cancél, keeps me involved and moving forward. I try to have a show concept in mind all the time even if it is nebulous and unscheduled. That keeps things fresh and motivates me.

How do you give back your art/passion to younger artists and the community? 
I love the cabaret world so much that I’m always talking it up. I tell young performers about the workshop experiences that have been so helpful to me, for instance. I’ve received so much support myself that it feels great to have the opportunity to share my acquired knowledge with newer performers i chance to meet.
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:
I commented on Facebook, but I wanted to write you a personal note to let you know how much my
wife and I enjoyed your show Wednesday night. You are a consummate entertainer! And it was obvious from watching you onstage how generous you are and how delighted you were to offer your talented friends an opportunity to entertain a full and enthusiastic house.
I also loved the opening montage—especially the extended clip from What’s My Line? How cool!
I wanted to reciprocate your support for my York Theatre show last year, but I got far more out of attending your show than I could have imagined! Congratulations!
Best regards
Charles Troy

Most of the things I do musically are stylistically quite different than this but still very much the same in one important way. Richard Skipper and the performers he chooses get right to the heart of these songs we all love. It’s our life’s breath and it is what makes us human and makes being human very special. In case I don’t get to say it over the holidays, I am truly grateful to Richard Skipper and Russ Woolley for adding my voice to what they hold so dear. It’s the greatest compliment and it always feels like my honor when someone entrusts me to hold the energy of the stage for them. Erik Lawrence, http://www.eriklawrencemusic.com

I was so happy attending the wonderful event on Monday, October 30th, with Richard Skipper interviewing my old friend Joyce Bulifant at the Drama Book Shop.  Richard's knowledge of show business and his infectious good humor were ideal to bring out the best stories from Joyce's  terrific new book.  Richard has the ability to make every event a very special occasion.  I look forward to attending the next special night when Richard Skipper celebrates another remarkable
person.
Joel Vig, 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
With grateful XOXOXs ,

 
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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!  
  Keeping America great through Art!     

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
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TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY

Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com

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