Monday, March 7, 2016

Jennifer Ashley Tepper, Marcus Simeone, Maria Ottavia...and MORE!

Happy Birthday, Anna Magnani
Great passions, my dear, don't exist: they're liars fantasies. What do exist are little loves that may last for a short or a longer while.
-Anna Magnani

Happy Monday, March 7th, 2016!

March 7 is the 67th day of the yearin the Gregorian calendar. There are 299 days remaining until the end of the year.
There is a lot to celebrate today. Hello Dolly!  Dolly Parton to tour tour for the first time in 25 years. I am super excited! It's National Cereal Day.
There are things that need to be remembered as well. Those moments in our lives shape who we are TODAY!As sent to me by Ellen Easton, "This will take your breath away.  Judy sang this on the CBS tv show for JFK in 1963 after the assassination.  I remember the night.  Liz Smith ran it today in her column.  The show airs on getTV on March 28th."
Here's the clip...

Today is the birthday of  Anna Magnani (Italian pronunciation: [ˈanna maɲˈɲaːni]; 1908 – 26 September 1973). She was an Italian stage and film actress.
She won the Academy Award for Best Actress, along with four other international awards, for her portrayal of a Sicilian widow in The Rose Tattoo.

Today is also the birthday of Willard Scott and Daniel J. Travanti, American actor.

Other Notable Birthdays Today
1942 – Michael Eisner, American businessman 

On this date in 1967, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown opened off Broadway. Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz's characters come to life in this Clark Gesner musical. It
“Elvis” Visits Tennessee Governor – March 6, 1961
will run Off-Broadway at Theatre 80 St. Marks Place for 1,597 performances. 1999 will see a Broadway revival of the show, featuring Kristin Chenoweth as a newly-added character, Charlie Brown's sister, Sally.
I love bridging the past with the present. Today, I celebrate three people who are changing the landscape of the entertainment world for the better!

One spreads the word herself through various media. The others are gracing cabaret stages this month as we celebrate Cabaret Month.  
I hope you enjoy my mini interviews with each of them.
Jennifer Tepper
IF you know them, I hope you learn something new about them. If you don't know them, I hope that you will take the time to look them up and GO SEE THEIR SHOWS! Live shows are meant to be experienced LIVE!
There is nothing like the experience of being part of a collective group of people. You may laugh and/or cry at the same things. You may not. But the one thing that cannot be negated, you shared in that experience together.

I start by celebrating Jennifer Ashley Tepper who just had a birthday this past weekend.
Jennifer Tepper's parents and her at her Bat Mitzvah, when she was 13!

I began by asking Jennifer what this time in her life means to her. I'm loving 2016. 
I turned 30 years old this past week, and it feels amazing to be surrounded by so many people I love, and to be working on so many things I care about. In the last two years, I've seen this huge leap forward for so many of my friends, in terms of what we want from life and from NYC. I'm excited for that to grow and get even better.
Why Do You Do What You Do?
I want to help other people to discover for themselves that theatre is life-changing... the same way that I feel about it.

Have you ever considered giving it all up because you didn’t get a job you desired?
There have definitely been tough months and years in my life when I wasn't getting work doing what I wanted to be doing- especially right after college when I was juggling day jobs with other day jobs with applying for positions I wasn't getting hired for.
with Jessica Kent

But those times made me carve out my own opportunities. It was experiencing that that made me start my own concert series, and seek out new collaborations, and write more on my own. Literally all of the most important parts of my career have happened because of a seed that was planted during those difficult years when I had to forge my own path to try to gain experiences doing what I was interested in. There were moments when I considered giving it up, but only moments - probably because my family was incredibly supportive and because I had an undying belief I was meant to be in the theatre.
What advice would you give young artists who wish to pursue a career in this business?
Figure out all of the things that you can do that nobody else can, all of the weirdest, most unique aspects of your talents and interests - and cultivate those things and be proud of them. Always be prepared and give 200% effort, whether the job pays $1 or $1,000. And just do it! The thing you want to do, you don't need anything but your own guts to get started. Do it at the smallest level the first time, whether it's writing a show, producing a show, designing a show - anything! Go do it at your community theater or in your basement for 10 people or on the street for your stuffed animals. The next time you do it, it'll be bigger and you'll have more experience, and you'll grow from there. But just get started.

What are you currently reading?

The Stories of John Cheever. I'm reading all of the books Matthew Weiner had the Mad Men writers read.

What do you desire your legacy to be?

I want to help make musicals of this era that I believe in, happen. I want to shine light on worthy, under appreciated musicals of the past. I want to make it so that our theaters themselves are safe, so that they go on forever.

What are your thoughts on the Republican Debate last week?

Oof. I haven't watched it yet - can't remember the last time I watched TV live other than the Tony Awards, but I'll stick to "oof".

You just had a Birthday! What does that mean to you?

I like my birthday! And everyone in my life made it extra special this year.

and Tracy Stark have joined forces to celebrate the collaborations of Rodgers and Hart and Rodgers
Maria Ottavia (seen here with her father)
and Hammerstein.
They will be bringing their next appearance of this show to The Metropolitan Room on Sunday night, March 13th at 7PM.
They will be joined by

Director: Collette Black
Music Direction: Tracy Stark

Sunday March 13 (show time: 9:30pm)
Metropolitan Room

Here is my Maria Ottavia Interview
What kind of people do you avoid? 
I avoid Negative energy.  I'm  no bed of roses and know when to step back when I get in a mood.  I just want to enjoy life and pour everything I have Into My music. Negative energy is a waste
Maria Ottavia, Peggy Eason, Bryon Sommers, Marjorie Morris, Joan Hughes, Carol Siwek
of time.

What does SATURDAY mean to you?  (It was Saturday when this interview took place)
Saturday's are usually a music filled day!  Saturday mornings, I am singing a couple of funeral services.  Later in the afternoon I cantor services at St Charles Church, SI, NY.  I am having a great time and work with amazing musicians I am blessed to have as friends. Saturday's Rock!

Name what you admire the most about your profession and one person in it that you think I should
Colleen Zenk, Peggy Eason, Maria Ottavia
interview and what you would like us to discuss if I got the opportunity to interview that person! 
I found my voice through musical theatre. Music has opened up a new world for me.  I was painfully painfully shy.  I spent most of my time listening to Karen Carpenter, Judy And Liza albums and practiced my ballet  didn't care much about anything else.  I spent most my youth studying tap , Jazz and ballet at my uncles dance school, the former Gregory Dance school (Staten Island/ Brooklyn NY). 
Having arthritis since childhood I was not the most graceful ballerina. But I was a trooper! Arthritis would act up on the middle of a dance routine. 
I come from a musical family (dancers, musicians and singers) .  It's because of my background I
eventually came out of my shell. 
Richard, I would love for you to interview, Gregory Kennell (aka Greg K Jones). He is courageous in his long fight to heal and to come home , following a Five year residency in a nursing facility.  When I think of strength and determination, Greg is at the top of my list.

Finish this sentence: If I had another chance... I would complete my screenplay/ book I am writing about my family and dedicate it to my father.  I have so many true stories written on napkins and scrap paper. Sometimes I feel like the boat passed. But when those negative thoughts enter my noggin, I start typing and my heart pours onto the paper.  I am also working on a CD of inspirational hymns with the amazing Daryl Kojack.   It's a labor of love project. Every song has a very special and personal meaning.  I am producing this on my label, Mockinbird Records.

What is YOUR daily motivation? 
My parents are my inspiration. They had much to overcome in life. They came from struggle and always gave to my sister and I with all their heart. 
I bring myself back in a time when daydreaming gave me hope and negative comments against my goals only made me fight and move forward.  
I am "hungry", and knew from the very beginning what I wanted. However I did not find myself until the age of 35.   I took a lot for granted . In my 20's I was an extra in low budget horror movies and hired to scream and die. I was the best in the biz!  I did extra work in major motion pictures : played drunk woman at the wedding (Mickey Blue Eyes); I was covered in blood in the middle of Times Square (The Seige)  and spent 10 seconds in a zipped up body bag , screaming and crying while lying on cold rocks by riverside  drive.
Compliment three people right now.
DARYL KOJAK: he is a very supportive  and kind spirit i am honored to work with. 
PEGGY EASON : an inspiration of Strength and determination, I want to be just like her!!
NATASHA CASTILLO:  her positive and Energetic spirit is an inspiration. 
I need to add two more people:
BRYON SOMMERS:  he is a wonderful musician I am in awe!  I am glad we are friends 
You act on sincerity and with your heart! You would never hurt a soul! I am blessed to have you as a friend!

Book Maria Ottavia for your next Event

Since his sensational debut in January of 2000, Marcus has emerged as one of the most celebrated
singers to grace the stages of Manhattan's nightclubs since the days of Streisand and the Bon Soir.
Universally regarded for his heart-wrenching interpretations of ballads, red-hot jazz sensibility, and powerful pop flair, Simeone's musical genius is in evidence on his original material as well. Earlier in his career, this native of Brooklyn appeared on Star Search, Showtime at The Apollo, and the Charlie Daniel's Talent- Round-up.
Both a singer and a songwriter, Marcus has been performing as a solo act and leading orchestras on both U.S. coasts for the last decade. His haunting, multi-octave voice has been compared to many greats, including Al Jarreau, Marc Anthony, and Johnny Mathis. Simeone cites among his greatest inspirations Jane Olivor and Phyllis Hyman.
Photo: Heather Sullivan
After having staged nearly a dozen distinct shows, Marcus has received multiple awards for both singing and songwriting from the Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs, as well as the coveted Back Stage Bistro Award. He has also been invited to perform at the annual Mabel Mercer Cabaret Convention, representing today's scene, numerous times.

Following a string of disappointments from record producers and companies that even folded, Marcus's first album, "At Last," HAD to happen. Recorded live with the Barry Levitt Trio, the album characteristically refuses to be pigeon-holed. Marcus's voice defies comparison and is at home in all genres of music.
 Simeone's eagerly awaited second live CD, Everything Must Change, was released in April of 2010.
The album showcases the various musical styles he has perfected including a demanding song list that includes R & B/Pop tunes as diverse as
Many Rivers To Cross,"A Change Is Gonna Come" and "Everything Must Change." His voice soars with ease through some classic and rarely heard tunes that also includes Since You Stayed Here and "There'll Be Some Changes Made Today." All the electricity that sparked that exciting show has been captured on the live album. Musical director Barry Levitt heads the trio.
Marcus' third CD and the first studio recording, "Haunted," was released on the Miranda Music label in 2011.
For more info regarding that CD, read a personal letter from Marcus. His fourth CD, "The Truth About..." was released in 2014. Throughout this album of deeply compelling and intimate songs he
collaborates with some extraordinary contemporary songwriters and musicians on great arrangements of story songs that serve a purpose: to share a journeyman's truth about a life and that journey – his journey. His fifth CD entitled "Alone... with Tracy Stark", has just be nominated for a MAC award for Major recording 2016, and April 2016 will see the release of his 6th CD on the Miranda label entitled "Together" an album of duets with various other Miranda Recording Artists.
Here is our interview...
  What kind of people do you avoid?
 People that do not have the rare quality of empathy. Unlike sympathy, which is a feeling of sorrow for others, empathy puts you in the position of that person and imagine what it would be like to experience life in their skin.                  

What does SATURDAY mean to you?(Again, this interview took place on a Saturday!)                    Saturday means I can sleep late..LOL. It also usually means I'll be performing somewhere at some point that night. Its a day of relaxation and work a the same time.

Name what you admire the most about your profession and one person in it that you think I should interview and what you would like us to discuss if I got the opportunity to interview that person!
Having three professions, I assume you are asking about the musical / acting singing/songwriting profession. I love that the arts are transcendent. It is a way to speak to others, create change and awareness through art. Music, like therapy (I am a psychologist/Licensed Clinical Social Worker),and
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bring people to a new awareness of themselves and the world around them and how the two interact. and change their whole life and the life of others.
In terms of interviewing someone, I would say Kitty Skrobela, as she knows almost every side of who I am and how my life experience influences my music.            

Finish this sentence: If I had another chance...
I wouldn't change a thing. I am blessed with both tragedy and triumph. I will continue with the duet show On Sacred Ground- The Songs of Janis Ian with Tracy Stark and a full band, I will continue with the revue "Rodgers , Hart and Hammerstein": with Maria Ottavia, who is still the most underrated treasure of a vocalist.
                        I am releasing my 6th CD on the Miranda Music Label, it's called "Together" and it is a duet CD featuring me and Stacy Sullivan, Hilary Kole, Maria Ottavia, Sue Matsuki, Marissa Muldar , Karen Oberlin, Emilie Surtees, Kathleen France, Lina Koutrakos, Sean Harkness and Greg Kay JOnes.

What is YOUR daily motivation?
It is only when we truly know and understand
 that we have a limited time on earth                    and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it were the only one we had.
 - Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Compliment three people right now.
Kitty Skrobela - She is selfless.
Gregory Kennell - his positive and Energetic spirit is an inspiration.
John Hoglund -He is a TRUE inspiration who is sincere to a  fault , although some folks don't want the truth, he'll give it to you!!                      

Closing out today is MAC nominated Pamela (Champaigne Pam) Lewis!

Pamela Lewis is the recipient of the 2013 New York Cabaret Award and is a nominee for a 2016 MAC Award - Both in the “Best Female Vocalist” category. For over 13 years she has been the lead female vocalist in the most successful band for hire in Long Island - CODE BLUE, and most recently has been performing with Long Island’s Premiere 18 piece Big Band - THE NEW MILLENNIUM JAZZ BAND.
Pamela also writes, records and performs original music with her guitarist husband John Hurley. Their new single “Dreams Come True” is on iTunes.

Check out the music video!
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on original music and the creative juices are flowing…. I have some ideas for a new cabaret show as well, so there is a lot going on in my head.

I have always been a performer, singer, actress. For me, there was, and is, no other option. Nothing else came as natural to me as being on stage. At this time in my life, I feel that all of my experience in the last 25 years is really starting to pay off. I’m seeing a return in my investment. I make my living as a professional singer and I am very proud of that. I have found an outlet in the cabaret genre that I adore right here in NYC and I am so grateful for that too. My original music with my husband is a big part of my life - our lives - and I am MOST thankful that I have found a true soulmate and partner to share life, love and music with.

In addition to being a professional singer, I have other careers - one of which is being a model for art
classes. yes - nude, for the last 20 years. I have worked for many different artists/teachers in many different mediums. I can’t tell you the invaluable information I have absorbed on the model stand listening to the teachers and students alike regarding art. It’s fascinating.

Textures, contrast, lighting, angles, moods, symmetry, shapes, foreshortening, boldness, thoughtfulness, implication, inspiration.
The list goes on and on…. I am grateful for this wonderful aspect of my life, in which I have met incredibly talented people who truly inspire and amaze me with their passion.

If I were to choose another medium - I think it would be to sculpt - with clay.

It isn't necessarily a “performance” medium, but it is another art form that I have been enchanted and surrounded by for years.

It’s time to panic when - I don’t feel inspired

If I had another chance - I would go to a theatre/drama school right out of high school

The first people that come to mind to immediately compliment would be:
My Father - for being the best father a child could have.
My Husband - for being the best husband a woman could have.
My High School Chorus teacher Mr. Blanton* - for being the best teacher a student could have.

All three of these men have an enormous impact on my life. Their support, inspiration, guidance, example, patience, knowledge, strength, structure
and influence they have bestowed upon me is an integral part of who I am, both as a performer and a person.

(*Another VERY special project I am working on is a special performance with my high school chorus for their spring concert - with Mr. Blanton conducting and giving me a special honor on the 25th year anniversary of my graduation! We are working on a Billy Joel song - how cool is that!??)

The biggest challenge I face each week….where do I start?
I have many many things I want to accomplish. The list is endless. I try to do everything at once, so there are unfinished projects all over my house - lol, whether it be loads of laundry, learning a song, writing a song, scheduling a rehearsal or show, planning a dinner, cooking dinner, making time for friends and relatives, updating my website, connecting to my fans via email or FB, doing promotions for a performance, attending someone else’s show, editing video footage, doctors appointments, dog walking, etc, etc….

At the end of the day, they all seem to get done.

It’s hard to prioritize, but I’m getting better at it!

So basically, my biggest challenge each week is time management.

Among the other careers I have, the one I do on a daily basis is Dog Walking.

I’ve had my own dog walking business in my town (Long Beach) for the past 15 years. My dog schedule is different every day. So, yes, I plan my day the night before. Everything else I do revolves around the M-F doggie schedule!

I spend a lot of time with my four legged friends and I find it to be the perfect time to run my shows and sing my songs while I’m with them…

They never tell me what they think though - oh well, an audience is an audience!!
Here's a tiny teaser clip from Pam's Billy Joel show at The Metropolitan Room!
 Catch Pamela at GRASSO’S jazz club in Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island on Friday, April 15th at 7pm.
Also at The Long Beach Public Library, Long Beach, Long Island on Sunday, April April 17th at 1pm  - Pamela will be performing “New York State of Mind” The Songs of Billy Joel…

Please visit Pam's website for more info.

Doris Dear supports The Imperial Court of New York's work.

MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) Nominee Doris, Dear! 

What the work you are doing mean to you at this point in your Like?
“Doris Dear’s Gurl Talk” was inspired by my mother, Taffy, a woman who gave up a glamorous modeling career to be a mother and “just a housewife”. I originated this piece while my mom was declining mentally from Alzheimer’s. It opened up her life to me in a way I had never known before.
I wrote the show to deal with the pain and sense of loss.
Doris Dear's Gurl Talk with Ray DeForest
All the stories in the show are true. The quotes are real, the magazines are real, the journey is real. My director Lina Koutrakos once said to me… “You must be authentic at all times with your story.”
No truer words have been said.

Doris Dear aka Ray DeForest

Why Do You Do What You Do?
“Theater is my life” sounds like a cliché, but it is my truth. My professional journey started at age 19 when I was cast in my first summer stock job in the Catskills. I have had the great pleasure to be a working actor/singer/dancer for 37 years now and have never done anything else. The stage has always been my second home.

Have you ever considered giving it all up because you didn’t get a job you desired?
Doris, Dear, Richard Skipper, Robin Kradles, 30th Annual MAC Awards

The hardest part of being a professional entertainer is the rejection. You are
rejected more than accepted or hired. You have to have a strong belief in
yourself and your talents. Although there were those times I felt defeated by a rejection or the words “NEXT!”, I have always just climbed back on the horse and rode to next audition.
Leonard Nimoy with Ray DeForest

What advice would you give entertainers who wish to pursue a career in
this business?

Study and know your craft! Just like anything else in life, it takes years of working on your craft and the lessons never stop. I still take dance, voice and acting lessons when I can. It enriches my performances and keeps me on my toes.

What are you currently reading?
Two books concurrently. On the Line: The Creation of A Chorus Line by Robert Viagas, because knowledge is power and I am now a Broadway producer and this book is the beginnings of the way we producer musicals for Broadway and Sex and the Office Girl by Helen Gurley Brown because … well a girl should know!

If you could travel to ANY destination for a vacation or getaway, regardless of cost or practicality, where would if be... and why?
Hawaii. I was lucky to live there for 2 years when I was doing my singing act there and it gives me a sense of beauty and peace I have never felt anywhere else.

What's Your Specialty that might surprise many?
Cooking and entertaining at home. I was on television for many years .. HGTV, The Food Network, and many other networks, as the “male Martha Stewart”. I hosted shows on the networks under the name “Chez Ray”. It was a blast. I also traveled as a celebrity chef with “Food Network Live” and brought my sensibility when it comes to food and entertaining to the masses. Good times that rank high
in my memory book!

What major event in your life truly changed the trajectory
Cliff and Doris Dear (Photo: Tom McKee)
of your life?

My mothers death. My Show “Doris Dear’s Gurll Talk” all came from my mothers struggle with, and eventual death from Alzheimer’s.
She was an amazing women and through her decline I learned what a great strong “housewife” this lady was.
She was my best friend, my biggest supporter and my life. Her passing left a void in my heart. When I perform my show I feel her and see her next to me. When my sister came to see the show, she thanked me for “keeping mom with us”. That is the greatest compliment of all.
Doris Dear sings Gimmie Gimmie from "Thoroughly Modern Millie" for a fund raiser at Stonewall Inn for the Imperial Court of New York.
Thank to ALL of the artists mentioned in this blog for the gifts they have given to the world and continue to give!

With grateful XOXOXs ,



Check out my site celebrating the legacy of Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly!
World, Take Me Back *Hello, Dolly, March 28, 1970* - Ethel Merman


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

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

Prince Charles and his fiancee Lady Diana Spencer with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, 7th March 1981.
Please leave a comment and share on Twitter and Facebook

March 1961. Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio in Redington Beach, Florida

Keeping Entertainment LIVE!

Richard Skipper,

MARCH 19th in NYC

The Metropolitan Room Presents...

David Meulemans returns in Lucky To Be Me! Directed by the incredible Sally Mayes with great musical direction by Tex Arnold. David will take all of us on a great musical romp through the ups and downs of his life.David Meulemans combines a love for the American Songbook with his classically trained voice to entertain audiences from Miami to New York, London and around the nation.  In a recent review, Charles Truenski describes David’s performance of “Lucky to Be Me” at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Room, as “a perfect night of cabaret” stating this is the kind of cabaret New York City needs more of.  A popular leading man in South Florida musical theatre, David brings his comfortable style, passion for music and remarkable vocal talents to every project he tackles, with humor, heart and joy.   
This show WILL sell out! So reserve today and be a part of his star studded audience!
This is a CD Release Event! ALL in attendance will receive complementary copy of Lucky To Be Me: Recorded LIVE at the Metropolitan Room August 22nd, 2015

Richard Skipper Celebrates is the publicist for David Meulemans and Lucky To Be Me at NYC's Metropolitan Room. For press reservations, interview requests, or more information, contact Richard Skipper at or 845-365-0720  


  1. Love this blog. Always entertaining as much as it is informative.

  2. Thank you for this great write up! Hugs and love from Doris Dear!