Sunday, March 4, 2018

Cabaret Month, Marcus Simeone, Ian Herman, Josephine Sanges...and MORE!

No matter what happens each day, I go to bed thinking of something cheerful. Try it. – Sheryl Sandberg

Happy Sunday, March 4th, 2018!
March 4 is the 63rd day of the year. There are 302 days remaining until the end of the year.
As I write my blog today, I'm listening to My Favorite Broadway: The Leading Ladies - Full Concert - 09/28/98 - Carnegie Hall (OFFICIAL).
Isn't YouTube wonderful!?!?
I'm in preparation mode for the April edition of Richard Skipper Celebrates. More about that at another time.
In the early 1990's, New York cabaret club owners started "March Is Cabaret Month" to encourage club attendance during the winter months. now, I'm celebrating three 2018 MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) nominees. One is one part of MAJOR DUO/GROUP, one is a MUSICAL DIRECTOR, and one is part of a Review or Special production, proving to all of us that nothing succeeds like teamwork.  In any case, they are ALL winners!

Marcus Simeone
Nominee: MARCUS SIMEONE AND SEAN HARKNESS
Blue
Don’t Tell Mama
"Since his sensational club debut at Don't Tell Mama in January 2001, this Brooklyn native has emerged as one of the most celebrated voices to grace the stages of Manhattan's nightclubs since the days of Streisand at the Bon Soir ... " John Hoglund (Theaterscene.net)
Universally renowned for his achingly beautiful and emotionally-charged interpretations of soulful songs from the American pop songbook (with a penchant for power ballads,) red-hot jazz sensibility, and a fierce R & B flair, Marcus Simeone has been called a musical genius by his peers and fans alike.
This is immediately obvious to anyone who hears his unique 5-octave, pitch-perfect tenor soar the scales. In recent years, through the Miranda Music label, he has grown into a popular recording artist who has been played on many major outlets. Jonathan Schwartz said, "This is one beautiful voice..."
Marcus's pure, truthful delivery is also in evidence vocally as well as on his original material.
He appeared on "Star Search," "Showtime at The Apollo." and the "Charlie Daniels' Talent- Round-up." Between "survival jobs" as a social worker, counselor-therapist and volunteer for patients with AIDS and at-risk foster children, he has managed to earn two masters degrees from New York University where he graduated with top honors. He did this while assisting in the care of his disabled parents. Caring  has always played a huge part in his professional and private life; "I have always had a need to help and to share through whatever gifts I've been given and it starts by helping those less fortunate." The family has always been a priority for him and, at times, he put his singing career on hold as his parent's situations became acuter; "Seeing my parent's health decline took precedence. It was my privilege to help them in their hour of need."

Born Mark Anthony Simeone in Brooklyn, he moved (kicking and screaming) to Staten Island with his family when he was seven years old. A collision with a fire hydrant left him in a coma for almost 6 months when he was a child. He evolved into "Marcus" at the suggestion of his first musical director Rob LaRocca around 2001. At that time, he had become known throughout Staten Island as the "king of karaoke" - repeatedly winning contests. This helped him overcome a crippling shyness.
This also led to taking the microphone at local piano bars in Manhattan such as The Duplex, Don't Tell Mama and small clubs where he quickly built a reputation as "the new kid on the block with the magical voice."
... King of the power ballad! (Back Stage 2002)
Marcus has been performing and leading orchestras on both coasts as well as performing a solo act in Manhattan clubs, for several years.
He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of pop music from mainstays like Sinatra and Billie Holiday to Motown and today's eclectic music scene. Vocally, he admits to being influenced by the male as well as female artists such as Johnny Mathis, Phylis Hyman, Angela Bofill, Jane Olivor and Michael Jackson among others.
His haunting voice has made him an in-demand singer who has been compared to many greats including Al Jarreau, Little Jimmy Scott, Luther Vandross, Johnny Mathis and Michael Jackson. His vast repertoire spans the American classic songbook singing chestnut standards as well as rock & roll, gospel, jazz and even soul music.

Music historian, Wall Street Journal critic and best selling author Will Friedwald pointed out in his liner notes on Marcus's first album (At Last) that he is comfortable is so many genres: Impressive ... his beautiful voice, his extremely wide range, his ability to switch effortlessly from baritone to tenor to falsetto, and, likewise, his multi-generic ability to move easily between the worlds of pop, theater
music, cabaret, soul, and jazz ."
Marcus has been honored with six Manhattan Association of Cabaret (MAC) awards for a vocalist, CD, and song of the year as well as the coveted Back Stage Bistro Award (Outstanding Male Vocalist) and the Cabaret Hotline Award.
Marcus with his beloved Greg Kennell

Theaterscene.net named him Entertainer of the Year in 2010 as well as a vocalist of the year in 2009 and 2011. In 2013, his bossa-nova style version of "Brazil" was used in an independent film.

Marcus has headlined at almost every room in Manhattan. He was invited to appear at the Mabel Mercer Foundation's Cabaret Convention four times at Jazz At Lincoln Center. He has also sung at Town Hall, Symphony Space, Firebird, The Laurie Beechman Theatre, The Algonquin, B.B. King's, Birdland and Jazz At Lincon Center. Recently, he made his debut at the prestigious Cutting Room
and will be returning in 2015.
Aside from performances in Manhattan and the tri-state area, Marcus has also performed around the country in Chicago, Palm Springs, Florida, etc., with several bands at public and private functions. In 2008, he performed at The Waldorf Astoria for President and Mrs.Clinton.
Hillary Clinton said after, "I have never heard anyone sing like that ... just beautiful." Traditionally, he co-stars at the legendary St. George Theater on Staten Island in their annual Christmas show performing for thousands. He is a favorite of the children who look up to him.

Marcus has released five albums to date on the Miranda Music label. Two are live recordings: "At Last," "Everything Must Change"and three studio albums, "Haunted" and "The Truth About..."  And, Miranda has also released the highly praised "Marcus Simeone.. With Tracy Stark"with special guest vocalist Maria Ottavia featuring more one of a kind songs including classics like:"Where Or When," "I Have Dreamed,""The Twelfth Of Never" and "Misty"as well as more contemporary gems like Peter Allen's "I Could Have Been A Sailor,"Barry Manilow's "Sandra," David Shire and Alan & Marilyn Bergman's "I'll Never Say Goodbye"(from "The Promise") in duet with Maria Ottavia and the Janis Ian wrenching beauty "When Angels Cry." Some of the tunes were previously performed during a lengthy engagement at Manhttan's Metropolitan Room in the critically acclaimed show, "Quiet Storm" with vocalist Tanya Holt (see NY Times quote below.) On March 27, 2014, the show received a MAC Award as Outstanding Duo Show of the Year. Their performance at the award's ceremony at B.B.King's brought down the house.

... Tanya Holt and Marcus Simeone are so symbiotic onstage in Quiet Storm, it’s as if they’ve been working together for a decade. Both artists approach the material from the inside out, expressing emotion polished presence. The two voices weigh in and play off one another with finesse.
with sincerity and phrasing rather than gesture or volume, communicating even the deepest of these without abrasive vocal stress. Both have
During a duet, Holt sometimes reacts to what Simeone is singing as if sharing an intimate opinion with the audience.

What is one of the most unusual things to ever happen to you during a performance?
During my last performance at B.B. King's, a woman right in the front and her friends asked if they could wipe my brow. LOL, I thought it was hilarious. As much as people think its cool to have people wanting to do things like that to you, LOL !   Having been performing in cabaret for 15 years, we don't necessarily interact with an audience in THAT way. We communicate, but these audiences want to be hands on.

How do you give back your art/passion to younger artists and the community?
I've always worked with children. It's been an awesome experience for the last 20 years. The last 7 years, I have been more involved with children in the arts community mentoring in groups and one on one as well as developing nurturing relationships of which some of these kids have never had. I meet new kids every year in a beautiful Broadway type production called The Christmas Show, at the beautiful St. George Theatre. I'm so blessed.
I take the children/teens I'm working with to the ballet and opera at the Met,. were all the way on the top lol, but it's important for them to experience that. Then we have our fair share of outings like Bruno Mars, Daughtery,  some cabaret shows, and some Broadway shows. Most important, we learn, from each other,  that music is an art form of communication, expression, and passion.
These kids, in turn, inspire me with so much, and that's what keeps me doing what I'm doing.

What is your most useful tool for overcoming a creative block?

For me, when I run into a creative block, I just try and let things be and walk away for a while, a day or two. If I'm lucky, something in my usually hectic and chaotic life inspires me to tell a story I have seen, been a part of, or experienced.  I'm also very lucky to have such human contact with people, as a therapist, every day. It puts everything into perspective.

What inspired you to become a performer?

Growing up, music has been the only constant thing in my life. I have been lucky to have many loving friends, a loving husband for 17 years, as well as family. 




For me, it's saved my life, and so I give back whatever the universe gives to me, it's give and take.

Do you feel that you are part of the cabaret community?
I feel like I am embraced and respected by most of the community, therefore making me feel like a part of it, but I think I have always been an outsider. It has its pros and cons. I came to cabaret from a whole different world of performing. I believe that there are some folks that want to keep cabaret traditional, but I don't know what that tradition would be. Many years ago, here in the states, we had nightclubs, in Germany, they had a traditional cabaret.
Since the death of the nightlife and nightclub community in New York City, folks have been using cabaret as a hybrid of theatre, concert, vaudevillian and that's what it has become. The best part of cabaret is the intimacy between the performer and the audience and that remains a treasure.

 What do you like MOST about the community and what do you like least?
Sean Harkness

What I like most is that you get to meet,  watch and become friends with some really wonderful and talented people. We feed off each other as humans, not in a bad way, but in a way that's a cycle of spirituality and enlightenment  We learn, we grow and we inspire each other.
What I like least is that it isn't always all-inclusive, but then again, what in life is? I believe we have a few folks at the helm of writing reviews, celebrating and giving honors, that is from an antiquated disadvantage.  This leaves very little room for the growth within the community, of particular types of artists. It also stifles the growth as an art form, as a living entity of its own, ever changing and evolving.

What are you currently working on?

I'm working on several different things at the moment. I've been running a show called Blue with the amazing Sean Harkness at Don't Tell Mama. We have one coming up Saturday, March 10th at 7: pm. I recorded an entire CD of the show Blue with Lina Koutrakos, ( on the record), and Sean Harkness. Lina,  Sean, and I did a show which we hope someday may turn into a jam session series called Stormy Mondays, that was at The Cutting Room. I'm working at Lucille's and B.B.King's doing tribute shows. I also have a tribute show coming up at Club Bonafide celebrating the music of Mathis, Darrin, and Bennett Friday, March 9th at 6PM. We will also be back on the main stage at B.B.Kings on March 26th at 7pm.

How did this project come about?
It came about as a result of my going through the stages of grief after my husband of seventeen years, Greg Kennell, years passed away.
Lina Koutrakos and Sean Harkness have been tremendous friends, tremendous, caring, giving and TALENTED artists.
Kitty gave us a gift when she jumped up after opening night and said, "I have to call the studio tomorrow, we're going to record this".

What is it that you like most about doing what you are currently doing? 

The other tribute projects and rooms like Lucille's and BBs and a bunch of other gigs are as a result of working with a new agent. We also have a new show called Timeless Duets with Miss Emilie Surtees, we just played BBs and singing and dancing in and with the audience is such a great experience, that's what I love about this project.
We meet tourists and from all over the world as well as New Yorker's who are just so amazingly kind and giving. ?

Come Up with one question I did not ask you for next profile
How do you sleep at night? LOL

Anything else you wish included?
 Thank you, Kitty Skrobela for giving me the opportunity over the last 10 years to record 7 CDs with the best musicians and the best material and the best engineers, all grown from warmth and love. Thank you for making my dreams come true.

*********************************************************************************

Nominee: MUSICAL DIRECTOR
IAN HERMAN
Carole J. Bufford/"You Don’t Own Me" (Feinstein's/54 Below); Dawn Derow/"My Ship: Songs from 1941" (Laurie
Beechman); Amy Beth Williams/"A Thousand Beautiful Things" (Don’t Tell Mama); Sharon McNight/"Soup to Nuts"
(Duplex); Tanya Moberly/"The Ian Herman Show" (Don’t Tell Mama)
Ian Herman began his musical career studying classical piano. At the age of thirteen, he was a guest soloist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. After attending Manhattan School Of Music, Ian began working with performers  including Jane Olivor, Donna McKechnie, Anita Morris, Judy Kaye, Tom Andersen, Karen Mason, Sharon McNight, Marilyn Sokol, Angela LaGreca, Carole Demas, and Joy Behar in nightclubs in New York and around the country and has continued ever since!

In 1999 he received the Backstage Bistro Award for Best Musical Director. He was a pianist and vocal coach at the Broadway revival of Grease, working with guest stars such as Al Jarreau, Jon Secada, Sheena Easton, Chubby Checker, and Darlene Love. His other Broadway credits include “Jelly’s Last Jam”, “The Who’s Tommy”, Song And Dance, “Swing”, for which he wrote vocal and dance arrangements, and “Laughing Room Only” with Jackie Mason. He was also the conductor for "The Toxic Avenger" at New World Stages.
Ian is Resident Musical Director at Salon Astoria, where he directs, arranges and composes for the intimate genre of true salon style cabaret and concert performance.
with Francesca Capetta 
Ian has been passionately coaching singers and actors from the New York Broadway and Off-Broadway stage as well as the pop and jazz worlds for many years and continues to do so: cultivating new and upcoming talents as well as continuing long and fruitful relationships with seasoned performers.

One of Ian’s favorite aspects of his work as Coach/Music Director and Arranger is creating new and exciting arrangements of classics from all genres as well as writing his own original music for a variety of versatile performers.
During 2013 he and the virtuosic guitarist Sean Harkness released their CD of original music entitled Duet.

What is it about performing in small, intimate venues that draws you to perform in cabarets?
The first cabaret I played in was Brothers And Sisters on West 46th St.  I think it was in the late 1800’s. Over the years I did a lot of Broadway. 20 years or so. But there’s a big difference between being in a pit and playing on a stage in a club.
Eventually, I quit the whole theater thing and started doing more clubs and concert work. It’s more fulfilling, and I feel like I’m actually part of the show, unlike theater. For musicians, it’s usually a lot more fun and rewarding.

How do you manage it all? In other words, how do you balance a personal life with a professional life
What personal life?

How did Carole J. Bufford/"You Don’t Own Me" (Feinstein's/54 Below) ...one of your shows come
about?
Carole always comes up with the ideas for the shows  She then comes to me with a stack of songs and ideas and we start going thru them. We connect very well, and the arrangements just sort of flow.
It’s pretty instantaneous. Then we start sorting out which songs will work best in the show.

What are you currently working on? 
Actually, people usually assume I’m always busy. Probably too busy to work with them. That’s always been a problem for me, but its just not the case. I do have a number of people I work with regularly…. Carole, Tanya Moberly, Dawn Derow, Carole Demas, Linda Glick, Tennie Leonard, Nicci Nichols, Amy Beth Williams, Donna McKechnie, to name a few.  I also do some vocal coaching. I’ve been working a lot on my writing. In the last number of years,
I’ve done a few concerts of my original pieces. I also had a collaboration with Sean Harkness.  We did a few concerts together and recorded a CD called “Duet”.  So right nowI’m trying to figure out what’s next, and how to get my stuff out there as a soloist. It’s difficult.

What is it that you like most about doing what you are currently doing?
Well, I’ve been doing what I’m doing since I was 4 years old.  I don’t really know any other life.  I’ve never had another job. I’m reminded how special it is when I meet someone from the corporate world, or a visit to a doctor’s office, or from someone in the grocery store. They seem to be fascinated by what I do for a living. It’s just a kind of life they’ve never experienced.
For me, it’s just about always being creative, passionate, and emotional. And sometimes actually being paid for it.
with Mary Bond Davis

Come Up with one question I did not ask you for next profile
How old are you?
None of your damn business.

Josephine Sanges
Nominee:TOGETHER: 2017 CABARET AWARD-NOMINATED VOCALISTS
Featuring Celia Berk, Sally Darling, Meg Flather, Josephine Sanges, Lisa Viggiano, directed by Jeff Harnar, musical
direction by John M. Cook
Don’t Tell Mama, Urban Stages

Josephine Sanges, 2017 Whiting Award winner, MAC award and Broadway World nominee for Female Vocalist, and 2015 Metro Star runner-up entered the world of cabaret in 2014.
Since then she’s been a featured artist at several Mabel Mercer Foundation events, performing at Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, and Lincoln Center. "When a vocalist comes along with a strikingly rich and radiant voice with real 'chops' PLUS can do the connecting with the listener and personalizing the material, that’s when you have…well, someone like Josephine Sanges.”
(Rob Lester - Nitelife Exchange)

Based on her show celebrating the music of Ann Hampton Callaway, her newly released album entitled Finding Beauty (available on CD Baby and Amazon) has been described by Callaway as, “beautifully sung with fresh arrangements of so many signature songs of my life.” 
Stay tuned for her new show, a tribute to Harold Arlen, opening soon and running throughout the early part of 2018.
What is it about performing in small, intimate venues that draws you to perform in cabarets? 
Cabaret clubs have been a great place for me to really learn the art of performance. Watching performers make the choices they do has been something of a “college education” for me. I’ll never forget seeing Annie Ross at the Metropolitan room for the first time back in 2014. I was so enthralled by her demeanor and with her total command of the stage and the musicians, she had surrounding her. At that moment an she became utterly ageless to me and I could see it all so clearly in that intimate setting. What an incredible inspiration that was!

What made you want to go into this business? 
Performing has always been a dream for me. Although I’d like to say it had been put on the back burner, I had all but abandoned the idea long ago. At the age of 48, I found myself suddenly faced with a definite “second half of my life” question as to what I was going to do. My kids were off to college and my father’s dementia had made it so that I could no longer care for him at home. I had a choice to make. Either I could give in to this growing sense of depression or...I could get busy! And, thankfully, Cabaret is the only place I know of where you can create your own performance opportunities.

What is your most useful tool for overcoming a creative block? 
So far we’ve been lucky in that regard.
John Cook and I have a really wonderful way about coming up with arrangements. He’ll hand me a first draft of something and I make sure to keep an open mind, giving it time settle in. It’s always been my philosophy to never reject a piece of music at the first hearing.
More often than not it grows on me and becomes something I absolutely love. The trust we have between us really allows for the freedom to play with ideas and move quickly on them. So, I’m not sure we’ve had to deal with a creative block so far as much as we’ve had to decide what ideas to put aside until “next time.”

What inspired you to become a performer? 

I loved watching Shirley Temple when I was a young child. I would sing along with her into the handle of my jump rope while I watched her on television. I wanted to “be” her. And, of course, I consider Judy Garland the greatest performer of all time. I listened to her albums, particularly “A Star is Born” constantly when growing up. A reviewer once said I was something of an “anti-diva” and admittedly I’ve often struggled with a tendency to isolate. However, the other side of me looks
forward to the next show, the next performance, so I guess I’m now in the position of watching both sides of myself “duke it out.”

How did your current project come about? 
When I saw Jeff Harnar do his Cole Porter show at the Beach Cafe last summer I saw how well a tribute show to one composer can work.
Doing a Harold Arlen show was one of the ideas that John and I had previously discussed.
I already knew I wanted Jeff to direct my next show and so, when I came to him with several ideas, he responded most enthusiastically to this one.

What is it that you like most about doing what you are currently doing?   
Every day is a different day. There’s no room for boredom. The American Songbook is such a vast and rich canvas. How can the work ever become routine?

What is the biggest challenge in the process of putting a show together? 
I would say that the biggest challenge for me is in the days just before opening a new show. The “what to wear” the “what to say” the “how to be.” And then getting past all those “daggers of doubt” that seem to shoot out at me right before it’s time to perform. The “I have no right to be here” voices that interfere with doing what I know how to do.
I recently read an article that said the best way to get past all of that is to think about the audience. To get yourself away from thinking about your own insecurities and to turn your focus outward to them. To remember that, ultimately, your purpose as a performer is to help them forget about their problems for a little while or, better yet, to give voice and validation to their feelings and emotions so they know they’re not alone. And, most of all, to bring them joy. That’s what I really hope to do.
Josephine's album is up for the Lamott/Friedman award. “Finding Beauty-Celebrating Ann Hampton Callaway” Here’s a link to hear the album on YouTube.
https://youtu.be/XaGC4ZBEBGI

Now, Go out and Do Something Nice For Someone Tonight Without Expecting Anything in Return!


Here are a Few Testimonials for Richard Skipper Celebrates: Next One March 18th 1PMLaurie 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

Richard Skipper was never better 1/31/18--bristling with excitement and energy, and of course, love. Congratulations on a well conceived and executed show -- we all enjoyed it.
Keep up the great work, Mr. Ziegfeld
-Jacqueline Parker, NYC

What a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season! My daughter Jamie and I felt the Christmas magic, and for me I took a wonderful stroll down memory lane. Thanks Richard for all that you do and for putting together such a wonderful show, we'll be back!
Rich Braaten, Ridgefied, CT

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 All under the musical direction of Fred Barton with Rex Benincasa on percussion, Erik Lawrence on Sax, and Steve Doyle on bass. $30.00 cover/$25.00 Food Drink Minimum https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pe.c/10230842

Thank you, to ALL who are mentioned in this blog for showing me that it is up to ME to lead by example!

With grateful XOXOXs ,

 
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I can't believe what you say, because I see what you do. James Baldwin

  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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