Wednesday, December 15, 2010

MERCEDES HALL, Patti LuPone vs. Richard Skipper,Mary Poppins Screen Tests with Judy & pals...And more!

"Tis the season! I LOVE THIS TIME OF YEAR! I don't know about you but I'm a sucker for this time of year! I love decorating our house, I love the parties, I love the excitement that pervades everything around us. A friend of mine stated on FACEBOOK last week that he hated Christmas songs! Bah, humbug! As a child of the sixties, I grew up on the Christmas specials of Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Doris Day's Christmas episodes of her TV shows.
I often think what a shame that so many of our cabaret friends who put together Christmas shows aren't necessarily household names to be seen by a wider audience. One such performer is Mercedes Hall. How excited I was to get her e-blast that she was doing a Christmas show AND that it was falling on a night in which I was actually available to go see her! I first saw Mercedes several years ago at The Metropolitan Room and became an instant fan. Unfortunately, because of conflicting schedules, I don't get to see her as often as I like. I actually believe that it has been two years. So, tonight, with a group of friends, to celebrate this special time of year, we will be at Kitano's to see The Mercedes Hall Christmas special. Perhaps in a different era, if you listen carefully, you might even hear, "Tonight, brought to you in living color, The Mercedes Hall Christmas Spectacular!" To learn more about Mercedes, please visit her website at
In my lifetime experience playing with singers, many of whom constantly strive for individuality; Mercedes Hall has few peers when it comes to that rare combination of spirit and energy - which does indeed help to define her very own true identity"- Jerry Dodgion, Arranger, Composer, Musician

Mercedes spirit and joy is evident throughout her second release as a leader, so aptly titled, Pure Emotion.
She uses a core group that features pianist Glafkos Kontemeniotis, who takes the lead in showcasing the trio as an integral part of the project. Among her guests are the jazz luminary Jerry Dodgion on flute and alto saxophone, percussionist Bashiri Johnson and the extraordinary pianist-arranger Arturo O'Farrill. Mercedes Hall is heard in memorable form on 14 well-chosen songs.
The program includes "Ghost Of A Chance" which alternates between three tempos, an unusual samba version of "What Is This Thing Called Love," a beautiful arrangement of "The Masquerade Is Over," the relatively obscure "Satan Never Sleeps," an adventurous interpretation of Thelonious Monk's "Well You Needn't" and a unique interpretation of "You've Changed."

Mercedes was born in Boston to a very large and musical family. "I came out of the womb singing!" Studying piano as a child, it wasn't long before she realized that her voice was her true instrument, along with her penchant for performing from an early age. After an early marriage which produced a son, the actor Anthony Michael Hall, she ventured far beyond Boston to work professionally, taking her son along with her. After performing across country including stints in Las Vegas and Arizona, she spent a year in Los Angeles, making a name for herself, garnering rave reviews including from world renowned jazz critic Leonard Feather who wrote in the LA Times: "Mercedes Hall is an ANOMALY... her sound quality, phrasing and feeling are more likely to conjure up memories of Dinah Washington or Aretha Franklin...There is nothing simulated or contrived about the soulful conviction and intensity she brings to a set of contemporary songs." Playing top jazz/R&B venues gaining recognition through press and live appearances on national television including many guest spots on the Merv Griffin Show, Mercedes worked with great jazz musicians including trumpeter Red Rodney, bassist John Heard and pianist John Hammond to name a few. The Hollywood Reporter stated, "Mercedes Hall, a wicked generator of moods, has superb phrasing and musicianship"
- Arranger, Composer, Musician - Lanny Meyers

In the early 1980s Hall stopped performing for awhile, turning her attention to managing her son's emerging acting career, starting a successful second marriage and giving birth to a daughter (singer Mary C). Heeding the advice given her years earlier by the famous vocal guru, Boston's own Dante Pavone, who was very impressed by her natural ability, she began teaching privately in New York City attracting students as far away as Asia and Africa.

While performing one night at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston, Mercedes caught the ears of Alma and Lee Berk, the founders of Berklee School Of Music, who immediately offered her a fulltime position at Berklee. She reluctantly turned it down due to her busy teaching schedule in New York City but agreed to return for a two day Vocal Clinic which concluded with a successful concert at the Berklee Performance Center. "Ms. Hall imparted many practical insights to our students who attended our vocal clinic and were thoroughly entranced. She demonstrated both by her performance and years of experience the wisdom and congeniality so essential to good teaching. Her ability to perform in virtually all contemporary musical styles enabled Ms. Hall to reach home to the diverse Berklee College of Music student body." - Kenneth Greenhouse, Chair/Voice Department/Berklee College of Music - Boston.

Now with the release of Pure Emotion, to rave reviews and successful engagements this past summer at Birdland, Jazz Standard, Metropolitan Room in NYC and Andy’s Jazz Club in Chicago and her return at Cape Cod Jazz Festival were she played to sold out crowds for the last three years. She will be returning to Birdland where she launched her new CD and live DVD performance. There’s an edited 8 minute clip of the performance that can be seen on her gallery’s page.

Mercedes continues to teach privately in NYC and is available for clients. She also has plans to perform at many more jazz festivals and tour around the world. "I love performing; it is such an extension of who I am." As Scott Yanow, jazz critic stated, "She is not a performer that one can forget easily, for Mercedes Hall is quite unique, a jazz stylist who has created her own category".
Please join us this evening as we celebrate this joyous time of year AND Mercedes Hall!

OK, Santa, I have a Christmas wish! I want to play Carol Channing as Dolly Levi in The Upcoming Revival of "HELLO, DOLLY! Don't laugh. I'm serious. It was done in London many years ago with Danny LaRue in the title role. From what I understand, he camped it up. That is NEVER my intention. But rather, to be true to the original intentions of all that were involved.A certain trifecta is taking place in 2011. Carol Channing turns 90, I turn 50, and Jerry Herman turns 80. All milestone birthdays! As I write this, Carol just came on my Ipod singing The Motherhood March! It must be meant to me. I did get the chance to do it several years ago with The Revision Theatre in Asbury Park and "God willing, will happen again!
Go to, Go to Testimonials, Click on Revision Theatre to read what Thomas Morrissey, our director had to say about my performance.

So, you can imagine how my heart races when I hear yesterday that Patti LuPone is slated to do this on Broadway!
Hello, Patti: What’s Next for La LuPone?

Even as a supporting character in the Broadway musical “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” Patti LuPone is letting her diva flag fly as the scorned wife and domineering mother Lucia. What next for La LuPone after “Women” closes on Jan. 23? Among the projects that the two-time Tony Award winner (“Gypsy,” “Evita,”) is considering is a return to the center-stage spotlight as another diva, the title character in the musical “Hello, Dolly!”

Nederlander Presentations has been developing a revival of the show with Ms. LuPone in the central role of a spirited, meddling matchmaker in New York, and Ms. LuPone is eager to make the show happen, according to two people who work in Broadway theater and have spoken with the producers and Ms. LuPone about the project. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the producers do not want the project discussed publicly since it is not a done deal. The two people cautioned that Ms. LuPone could well undertake a different project next, but they said that her interest in “Hello, Dolly!” was high. Nederlander executives declined to comment through a spokesman; representatives for Ms. LuPone also declined to comment.

“Hello, Dolly!” first ran on Broadway in 1964, winning the Tony Award for best musical and nine others, including a best-actress award for Carol Channing as Dolly. Ms. Channing has long been associated with the role, though Barbra Streisand played it in the 1969 film version. The last Broadway revival of “Hello, Dolly!” was in the 1995-96 season, with Ms. Channing once more in the title role.
Well, the bottom line is that I do LOVE Patti!

And now for something frivolous!

And don't forget ONE WEEK FROM TODAY! Previews start for Richard Skipper as "Carol Channing" in Concert

Off-Broadway Premiere Begins December 22nd
Opening Night is Wednesday January 12th at St. Luke’s Theatre

“Richard Skipper is a true musical comedy star! He is FABULOUS as me!”
-- Carol Channing

New York City is getting a very special Christmas “Carol” this year! Richard Skipper, brings his critically-acclaimed show RICHARD SKIPPER AS “CAROL CHANNING” IN CONCERT Off-Broadway, with performances set to begin December 22nd at St. Luke’s Theatre, 306 West 46th Street (between Eighth & Ninth Ave.) Opening night will be Wednesday January 12th. The production will be directed by Mark Robert Gordon. A portion of the proceeds from this Off-Broadway premiere will benefit The Dr. Carol Channing & Harry Kullijian Foundation for The Arts.
RICHARD SKIPPER AS “CAROL CHANNING” IN CONCERT celebrates the career and persona of the unique theatrical legend. Accompanied by a three-piece band led by John Fischer, Skipper blends Channing’s standards with original material and other familiar songs sung in a spot-on Channing-on-Broadway perfection. The musical surveys Channing's life with many stops along the way for Skipper's unique --and riotous-- "ad-lib" interactions with the audience.
Richard Skipper is a four-time recipient of the MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabaret) Award and a Back Stage Bistro Award for Best Performer. He was named one of the Top Ten Cabaret Performers by Cabaret Hotline and one of the Top of the Century Premiere Cabaret Acts by Cabaret Scenes Magazine.
Director Mark Robert Gordon is the Founding Artistic Director of Do Gooder Productions (2 1/2 Jews, On Deaf Ears), has co-starred in a dozen Off-Broadway plays (Grandma Sylvia’s Funeral, The Magic Formula, the dreamer examines his pillow), has directed New York premieres by noted playwrights, and is the author of multiple plays. Later this season, he will perform in the Off-Broadway premiere of his one-man play about Alexander Hamilton, “H”: Hamilton or Honour.
Carol Channing made her New York debut in Blitzstein’s For an Answer and is the winner of three Tony Awards: Best Actress in a Musical (for her legendary portrayal of Dolly Levi in Jerry Herman’s Hello, Dolly!), a Special Award, and Lifetime Achievement. Other notable Broadway credits include: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Show Girl, Lorelei, and The Vamp. Among her numerous TV and film successes was the madcap Muzzy in Thoroughly Modern Millie, which earned her an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe Award.

The Dr. Carol Channing & Harry Kullijian Foundation For The Arts is dedicated to building a nationwide awareness campaign heralding the benefits of arts in the curriculum of public schools and providing musical instruments for low income school districts via the funding of scholarships for students and teachers in the arts.
RICHARD SKIPPER AS “CAROL CHANNING” IN CONCERT is presented Off-Broadway by The Camelback Kid.
Performances will be every Wednesday at 2 pm and 8 pm; special added performances December 24th (7:30pm), Sunday January 2nd (3pm) and Monday & Tuesday January 10th & 11th (7pm). Tickets will be $41.50 to $66.50 (with Premium Seats at $76.50) and are available at or by calling 212-239-6200. For more information, visit
David Gersten & Associates
240 West 44th Street / Penthouse
New York, NY 10036-3906

Check out our promo video created by Russ Weatherford:


What a fun and fabulous night of great entertainment at the Iguana! Richard, you and Dana are the King and Queen (you decided who is which) of herding a huge group of crazy singers into a wonderful show. I loved the eclectic mix or performers, the friendly vibe, and the fact I could actually hear myself when singing on stage! Oy! What a relief.
There was never a dull moment, never a lull in the energy, and that's hard to accomplish in this kind of show. Now I understand why Wednesday Night at the Iguana is an award-winning production.
Thank you for including me, and I will definitely be taking that 2-hour train ride from Kingston to the city to be at the Iguana again.
Nancy Tierney,

Thank you Richard for such a great time at the Iguana! I think that there may be no where else in NYC where you can hear such a wonderful diversity of style and talent. It is an honor and a pleasure to be included in your Company.
Vicki Burns,

I have seen Richard's show many times! OK I am a big fan. This summer Richard brought the show to Provincetown. How perfect. My friends and I could not have enjoyed it more. Congratulations Richard.
Phyllis B. Frank,
Phyllis B. Frank (middle), VCS Gay Pride Director, with Juried Art Exhibit & Sale to Benefit Gay Pride Rockland Curator Susan Harrington and Exhibit Chair Hal Parker.

Richard, I just unearthed the CD of the radio interview we did 3 years ago, with you on the phone in NYC and Carol Channing on the phone in LA - I hope you still have access to it;we had so much fun and she was just so complimentary of you!
Ginny Wolf, Spotlight On Connecticut,

What a joyous night! Richard and Dana, you are the most welcoming, entertaining, beautiful hosts in town (or, for my money, anywhere)! I had a terrific evening, surrounded by gracious, supremely talented people, greeting old friends, making new ones, and enjoying fabulous food. Thank you for including me in your roster of entertainers last night at the Iguana! Jackie Draper

It was great to see you again - this time in Provincetown. What a wonderful show!!
Sam Sagenkahn, New York, NY


. . . the first time ever I have been shown with such love, respect and polish. Richard Skipper is a true musical comedy star! He is fabulous as me!"~ Carol Channing

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With grateful XOXOXs for your support!
Richard Skipper,

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