Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Review: Impressive Talent Populates BROADWAY BOOKER AT BIRDLAND

pixeltracker

An innovative new company provides special opportunities and a great night of entertainment.

BWW Review: Impressive Talent Populates BROADWAY BOOKER AT BIRDLAND

A group show played Birdland on Monday that could easily become a regular series in the jazz club, and hopefully the creators of that show, BROADWAY BOOKER AT BIRDLAND, are in talks with owner Gianni Valenti and talent booker Jim Caruso to make it a reality because it was a fun evening showcasing the talents of several Broadway performers, and a new business designed to take them to their public.

BWW Review: Impressive Talent Populates BROADWAY BOOKER AT BIRDLAND
Kate Rockwell

In days gone by the talented actors of The Great White Way did their shows while their fans sat in the audience and, later, dreamed of what it would be like to have a lesson or a special performance with one of them. Those days are a long time gone and, today, those Broadway actors are actually within the reach of the public, available for Master Classes, private lessons, one-on-one conversations, and private events. While the acting industry pre-dating the internet and, specifically, pre-dating the social network had to hustle to find work between Broadway shows, the theatrical artists of today have taken control of their destinies by singing at corporate gigs, team-building events, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, parties of all sorts, all bookings that have been coming by way of random emails through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and whatever way the client finds to reach out. In 2019 Spencer Howard and wife Kate Rockwell formed BROADWAY BOOKER, an agency through which the public can engage Broadway performers for appearances, using their computer or an app on their phone. It's an ingenious idea that will insure the continued prosperity of the acting community, and we all know how mercurial that can be. And who doesn't want to throw a party where a MEAN GIRL belts out some tunes and hangs with the guests?

BWW Review: Impressive Talent Populates BROADWAY BOOKER AT BIRDLAND
Kirsten Scott

By way of introducing Broadway Booker and some of their roster to the public, Howard and Rockwell presented a concert to a live Birdland audience with a simulcast playing on streaming platforms, and it was an auspicious introduction, to say the least, because the Broadway Booker artists arrived in splendid fashion, ready to put their best foot (and voice) forward in performances worthy of Broadway, Birdland, and being booked. Each of them in splendid voice, the actors demonstrated exactly why they have made it to Broadway, and why people buy tickets to their solo shows in clubs around the country. Often these days one attends a group show featuring stars of the cabaret and Broadway communities and has to look at the actors' roots, as they gaze down at their music stands, tablets, and even iPhones, reading their lyrics. It is an unacceptable practice and one for which this writer has crusaded to be cancelled. The Broadway Booker team of performers showed up on Monday night with their songs memorized and rehearsed, so that their audience could benefit from their stellar storytelling abilities (though Justin Sargent should have his wrist slapped for breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience during "Heaven On Their Minds" - not on this number, Justin, save that for Journey). As, one by one, the likes of Tally Sessions ("Being Alive"), Erika Henningsen ("New York State of Mind", and Kirsten Scott ("Sing Happy") brought some proper Broadway to the concert stage, the live and streaming audience was given a top-shelf evening of entertainment, as well as a glimpse into the potential of Broadway Booker, and some of the talents that might not be quite so well known.

BWW Review: Impressive Talent Populates BROADWAY BOOKER AT BIRDLAND
Tally Sessions

Broadway musicals are filled with actors whose names are not above the title, gifted working artists who don't achieve the acclaim of, say, a Donna, a Kristen, a Stokes or a Llana, and when you get an eye-opening introduction to a Dee Roscioli and ask yourself,"WHO is THAT?!" or a Ryann Redmond and you say, "WOW!" or a Krystina Alabado and decide that "SHE is the person we should book for our wedding," it can be a sweet moment of revelation. Even for people not looking to book an artist, Monday's concert was a splendid showcase of wonderful New York actors, a show perfectly suited for Jim Caruso's Broadway At Birdland series, which we miss and which needs to be put back into regular rotation, as soon as possible. Broadway Booker At Birdland could be a regular series in that rotation - it would be good for the audiences, good for Birdland, good for Broadway Booker.

BWW Review: Impressive Talent Populates BROADWAY BOOKER AT BIRDLAND
Justin Sargent

If, however, Birdland and Booker can strike a deal that makes this into a regular thing, this writer who sees a LOT of cabaret and concert has some friendly and caring suggestions for Spencer, who created the company and who hosted the show, the captain of the entire venture and the man who has the most to gain by being put squarely in the picture that I saw on Monday night. This may savor as criticism but it's not; it is a sincere suggestion from someone who doesn't know either Howard or Rockwell personally, but who believes in their company.

At times during the presentation on Monday, Spencer seemed unsure in his position as host, sometimes possibly uncomfortable in the role, other times maybe embarrassed by what was, ostensibly, a Tupperware party for Broadway singers. It's ok. This was the first one of these shows, and hopefully there will be more (as strongly suggested above), so here's the hosting advice. Mr. Howard should invest a couple of Mondays and a couple of Tuesdays in seeing CAST PARTY and THE LINEUP to see how Jim Caruso and Susie Mosher have mastered the art of hosting, how their emcee style is completely informed by who they are, by their individual aesthetic and how they relax into it. All Spencer needs to do is find his Master of Ceremonies voice and wear it with confidence because he is charming as heck, a natty dresser, and more than easy on the eye. The key is absolute sincerity - more valuable than humor or wit, it will carry the program through from start to finish with ease and authenticity. Ask the onstage guests questions to which you truly want to know the answer (the conversation with Dee Roscioli about baking cookies hit exactly the right tone) and the audience will stay with you the entire time. As far as the sales pitch aspect of the presentation goes: Broadway Booker is your company, it is a great company, and it is a great service, tell that to the audience with pride and sincerity twice - once at the top of the show and once at the end of the show - and in between those bookends, do the program. Don't apologize for offering the public something good, and don't feel like your concert is a Channel Thirteen pledge break because it's not: it is a moment to notify the public of something they might not have known existed, an opportunity they hadn't even thought of, it is a chance to bring some excitement and something special to their event, all the while creating prosperity for New York actors. These are all beautiful goals from which many can benefit - live in that knowledge and beauty in every word and every moment of these concerts, rather than saying "I'm gonna stop talking now" as you rush off the stage. Say what you want to say about your company and your guests, introduce them to your audience like the proud patriarch that you are, and walk on and off the stage with pride, in the light, shoulders back, head high. This is your moment, Spencer Howard, and it's a good one: own it.

Attention has been paid.

The Broadway Booker At Birdland Musical Director was the exceptional James Sampliner.

BROADWAY BOOKER AT BIRDLAND was (so far) a one-off but other great shows can be found at the Birdland website HERE.

THIS is the BROADWAY BOOKER website.

The Broadway Booker At Birdland cast gets a five out of five microphones rating for performing their entire show without the use of a lyric sheet, tablet, or music stand.

BWW Review: Impressive Talent Populates BROADWAY BOOKER AT BIRDLAND
Spencer Howard with Krystina Alabado
BWW Review: Impressive Talent Populates BROADWAY BOOKER AT BIRDLAND
Krystina Alabado
BWW Review: Impressive Talent Populates BROADWAY BOOKER AT BIRDLAND
Erika Henningsen and Krystina Alabado
BWW Review: Impressive Talent Populates BROADWAY BOOKER AT BIRDLAND
Erika Henningsen
BWW Review: Impressive Talent Populates BROADWAY BOOKER AT BIRDLAND
Ryann Redmond
BWW Review: Impressive Talent Populates BROADWAY BOOKER AT BIRDLAND
Jennifer Apple
BWW Review: Impressive Talent Populates BROADWAY BOOKER AT BIRDLAND
Tally Sessions and Jennifer Apple
BWW Review: Impressive Talent Populates BROADWAY BOOKER AT BIRDLAND
Dee Roscioli
BWW Review: Impressive Talent Populates BROADWAY BOOKER AT BIRDLAND
Teal Wicks
BWW Review: Impressive Talent Populates BROADWAY BOOKER AT BIRDLAND
Justin Sargent and Kate Rockwell

Photos by Stephen Mosher


Related Articles View More Cabaret Stories

Buy at the Theatre Shop

T-Shirts, Mugs, Phone Cases & More

From This Author Stephen Mosher