Ilene Graff, Anna Elizabeth Kendrick, Doris Dear...and MORE

The tragedy is not that things are broken. The tragedy is that they are not mended again. 
-Alan Paton, South African author (1903-1988)

Happy July 18th, 2018!
July 18 is the 199th day of the year. There are 166 days remaining until the end of the year.

It is a gorgeous day here in NY. As I sit down to write today's blog, I'm listening to the Siriously Sinatra on Sirius/XM Radio, specifically Natalie Cole with Orange Colored Sky.
There is nothing like a good old-fashioned American standard to kick off your day.
It also happens to be Perfect Family Day! How appropriate to be writing today about Ilene Graff. Not only did she play the perfect mom in the Eighties sit-com, Mr. Belvedere, on TV. She is the perfect mom off stage as well.
This weekend, you will get the opportunity when Ilene Graff and daughter, Nikki Graff Lanzarone come together to share their lives through the lens of our Great American Songbook.
 I was thrilled to get an email from Ilene Graff that she and her daughter, Nikka Graff Lanzarone,  are coming to Feinstein's/54 Below here in New York. It is hard to believe that it has been six years since I last interviewed her. HERE is that interview.

Grammy-nominated TV mom (“Mr. Belvedere”) and Broadway vet, Ilene Graff (Grease, I Love My Wife), and her daughter, Broadway and off-
Broadway performer Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Women on the Verge, Chicago, Sweet Charity), are getting together for their first full-length show at Feinstein’s/54 Below.
From L.A. to New York, from baby ballet to Broadway premieres, this family will highlight songs and stories that show how those experiences have made their relationship stronger, more fun, more interesting, and generationally challenging.
Musical Direction by Nikka’s dad, ASCAP-Award winning composer, Ben Lanzarone.
The evening is directed by Robbie Rozelle.
This show is part of Feinstein’s/54 Below’s Summer 2018 concert series: Duo Shows at 54! From partners to siblings to co-stars and beyond, these evenings will celebrate the special collaboration of two artists brought together.
Today's blog is devoted to Ilene. Tomorrow, I will be giving Nikki equal time.

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. –  Maya Angelou

I hope you enjoy our mini-interviews and that you will fit this 'new' duo into your schedule this weekend!

If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be? 

What is your idea of happiness? 
Being with my family is what brings me the most satisfaction. We can be sitting around, watching tv, eating a meal, talking and laughing and I have a total feeling of well-being. My husband, my daughter, my son-in-law, my brothers, nephews, cousins, nieces, in-laws, aunts, uncles…they bring me the most joy.

Ilene, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into theatre?

I didn't do my first show (Lady Larken in Once Upon a Mattress) til my senior year of high school. I'd always sung, but I didn't have the opportunities to do anything else. Music was always in my life. My mom taught piano and led choral groups. My dad was a professional singer, so I grew up in show business and was very comfortable in that world. As a teen, my dad used me on several jingles and record dates that he contracted. But it wasn't until that first high school experience that I saw what a wonderful thing it is to be in a show! I majored in drama at Ithaca College and started working right after graduation.
I was fortunate enough to do three Broadway shows pretty much one after the other, made great friends, married my husband Ben Lanzarone (we met while doing Grease on Broadway) and had a fabulous daughter, Nikka. All because of theater. It's been a great life on stage, and off.

What do you do to stay connected to your creative self? 

I invent jobs for us to do! I'll get antsy, wanting to sing, wanting to try new material, so I'll book myself into a room and we'll get to work!
I love the process and I love working on new arrangements with Ben, who is my Musical Director, arranger, accompanist. Name it, he does it. But I like to process with a goal, which is why I like to have a show to work toward. I find that teaching is also very creative. We teach a vocal performance workshop called Making the Song Your Own and I love the creative challenge of getting the best out of each student. They force me to really think about technique, storytelling and emotional connection, and the best way to communicate the steps involved in putting together a great performance.

What is your favorite piece of art?
What a great question. The first piece that jumped into my mind was A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Seurat. I remember seeing it at the Art Institute of Chicago (where Nikka was doing "Jungle Book" at the Goodman) and being overwhelmed by its scale, its detail and the enormous feelings it brought out in me. There is nothing like actually seeing a great piece of art up close. Seeing the David in Florence and realizing that this was actually the piece that Michaelangelo sculpted, or seeing The Last Supper outside of Milan or the ceiling of The Sistine Chapel, or the Mona Lisa in Paris…what an honor to share the same space as these great pieces of art.

How do you see proceeding with your career? Do you have an upcoming project in mind after this 
Ilene with husband Ben Lanzarone

My career at this point consists of what I want to do. If I want to sing, I sing. If I want to teach, I teach. If I want to travel, I travel. I always want to sing more, and this upcoming concert with Nikka is something I've wanted for such a long time. She is an amazing daughter, a serious and thoughtful person, and a hilarious and touching performer. If we could work together regularly, I'd be the happiest person in the world.

You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not’? – George Bernard Shaw

Are you happy? 
I'm so happy to be able to work in a creative field, be with my beautiful family, and try to do good in the world.

Don't miss Ilene Graff and Nikka Graff Lanzarone this weekend! Order Tickets HERE.

Richard Skipper ALSO Celebrates...

Tonight, Anna Elizabeth Kendrick be singing sweet jazzy somethings to you at Flute Beekman, with Jeevan D'souza playing rhythm guitar to Marc Daine Dannenhirsch on lead guitar! She will be giving her second album "Old Fashioned Gal" out to the first NEW friend of hers who goes to her show, too!

Save a date for Doris Dear in December!
The Doris Dear Christmas Show at The Triad December 19th, 20th, and 21st. I will be attending on the 20th if you would like to join our party.

Oliver! at Goodspeed Opera House. I will be doing a road trip on Wednesday, October 25th. If you would like to join us, there is room for two in our car!

October 2nd! I see Betty Buckley in Hello, Dolly! at PlayhouseSquare in Cleveland Ohio!

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


A Few Audience Testimonials about Richard Skipper Celebrates
No one can deliver a show like Richard Skipper.
His passion and enthusiasm along with his singing and a brilliant roster of performers ......knocked it out of the park!
Thanks for being you,
Judy Stewart, American Popular Song Society
Ps. He is American Popular Son's good luck charm and I looking forward to what he produces for us next June as well.

There's nothing I love better than doing a lot of show tunes with a lot of superior performers – and that's what I got to do lin the John Kander Birthday Tribute, thanks to Richard Skipper! It
was such a pleasure to work with each other at long last, after knowing each other for 35 years! I have three words of advice, next time you hear of a Richard Skipper event with this level of talent: Don't Stay Home
-Fred Barton, NYC

What a great time we had at Richard Skipper's Celebration of Carol Channing's Birthday.  Loved the personal stories as well as the personalities onstage.  Looking forward to more surprises in the future 
-Anthony C. Andalft, Cherry Hill, NJ

If you have attended a Richard Skipper Celebrates Event, Please add your own thoughtsin the GuestBook at

Season Three Begins September 9th!
This Show Is Also Made Possible by  Wright Bros. Real Estate, Nyack New York

With grateful XOXOXs,


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This Blog is Dedicated to Paula J. Riley
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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Richard Skipper,
This Blog is Dedicated to Gary Beech