The Cabaret Chronicles: Alice Ripley, Bernie Bierman, and More!
Happy Weekend! As August comes to a close, the nightlife scene in NYC thankfully continues to remain lively! I kicked off this week, as usual, by heading to Jim Caruso's Cast Party at Birdland on Monday evening. As always, it was a most enjoyable evening, filled with all kinds of wonderful entertainment! The terrifically talented Klea Blackhurst, filling in for Jim Caruso, got things off to a rollicking, high-energy start, and the talented lineup of performers followed her lead. The fabulous Tony DeSare stepped out from his usual perch behind the piano and took center stage to deliver a smokin' "Sweet Lorraine," accompanied only by Steve Doyle's great bass line, jazz/Broadway/cabaret diva extraordinaire Ann Hampton Callaway blew everyone away with her gorgeous "At Last," 2010 MAC and Bistro Award winner Gretchen Reinhagen had everyone in stitches with her rendition of "Name Dropping," and teenage violin sensation Jonathan Russell brought the house down with "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby"...and that's just the tip of the iceberg! Of course, the stellar Cast Party Symphony Orchestra (Tedd Firth on piano and Steve Doyle on bass) was, well, stellar!
Thursday evening found me at the 102nd birthday party of songwriter Bernie Bierman. A true living treasure, Bernie Bierman's songs have been recorded by some truly amazing performers, including Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstine, Sammy Kaye, Xavier Cougat, and Guy Lombardo. His birthday celebration the other night was packed with friends, family, and entertainment colleagues, and the birthday boy was the life of the party! Bernie kicked off the evening's entertainment himself, sitting at the piano and doing performing "Makin' Whoopee" (complete with parody lyrics he'd written). Following his performance, it was a virtual who's who of NYC nightlife, with entertainers like KT Sullivan, Steve Ross, Joe Bachana, Marieann Meringolo, and Frank Basile all taking the stage in celebration of Bernie! I was honored to be among the performers, and one of the best parts of the night was watching Bernie's face as all of the terrific singers took the stage and sang his songs. Kudos to musical director (and vocalist!) Marty Silver for assembling such a wonderful show! The finale of the evening was Marieanne Meringolo's beautiful performance of "Now and Then," which was accompanied by the birthday boy, himself, on piano! A rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" followed, accompanied by an absolutely enormous birthday cake, which was enjoyed by all.
Friday evening, I headed over to BACKSTAGE dopo teatro on 44th Street to catch Tony-winner Alice Ripley's solo show. BACKSTAGE dopo teatro is a relatively new performance series, produced by Dale Badway and Michael Alden, and hosted by Dale Badway. Ms. Ripley performed to a sold-out crowd last month, and has returned to BACKSTAGE this weekend for two more performances. Located beneath Trattoria Dopo Teatro, this intimate venue is cozy and inviting, and the ambience is divine. The room was packed to the gills with fans of Ms. Ripley, and in the time leading up to the show, the excitement was palpable. She entered from the back of the room, guitar strapped on, and headed up to the stage for a completely solo performance. No other musicians, no other vocalists - just Alice and her acoustic guitar...and it was incredible! Sticking primarily to rock music and mixing in her original tunes with well-known favorites like Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road" and Alanis Morrisette's "You Oughta Know," Ms. Ripley held the audience firmly in her grasp from start to finish. Keeping patter to a minimum and delivering heartfelt, passionate renditions of each of her selections, she was, in a word, captivating. Her husky voice was perfectly suited to the material, and her self-deprecating humor was understated and absolutely charming. She was clearly appreciative of the enthusiastic crowd, and rewarded a die-hard fan seated in the front row by taking time out of the show to sign an autograph! From beginning to end, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening - great venue and terrific show!