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Review: Jim Caruso and Susie Mosher Prove the CAST PARTY and LINEUP Magic is Still There At Birdland

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Review: Jim Caruso and Susie Mosher Prove the CAST PARTY and LINEUP Magic is Still There At Birdland

It was the party of the year. It might even have been the party of the decade. And it lasted for two nights.

In back-to-back performances on Monday and Tuesday nights crowds flocked to and flooded Birdland, the legendary jazz club located on 44th Street in the Hell's Kitchen district of Manhattan, one block over from Broadway and two blocks down from Restaurant Row, and although the club's legendary status and renowned jazz artists are reason enough to hit the hotspot, these guests were there for two very special reasons. This crowd was there, more specifically, for two very special people: Jim Caruso and Susie Mosher.

Jim Caruso's Cast Party and The Lineup With Susie Mosher are but two of Birdland's resident shows. Regularly, patrons of Birdland can catch the incomparable Natalie Douglas in action or the irreplaceable Klea Blackhurst at work; great artists like Karen Mason, Nicolas King, Benny Benack III and Marilyn Maye call Birdland home. And while all of these artists were a part of the proceedings earlier this week, there is no denying that Ms. Mosher and Mr. Caruso and their weekly shows, his an open-mic night and hers a variety show, are the club's most popular acts. Since their inception Cast Party and The Lineup have packed houses every Monday and Tuesday, and with this being Birdland's first week back, it was to be expected that the crowds would be their biggest ever.

Expectation met.

Like your favorite madcap Auntie and Uncle, Jim Caruso (one of the most naturally funny human beings alive) and Susie Mosher (one of the most theatrically hilarious human beings of all time) preside over shows that welcome to the Birdland stage a coterie of guests with a variety of talents. Acting as impeccable hosts, this male version of Kay Thompson and female Robin Williams reincarnate create very specific moods for their acts, his dry, wry and with a twinkle in the eye, and hers manic, titanic, but never in a panic, and their sold-out houses of devoted patrons are all the better for it after. While Cast Party comes with the element of surprise every week, Mr. Caruso always makes sure to have a ringer or two in the audience; Mosher's Lineup, though, is a selection of talent expertly curated by Her Hilariousness - this week, though, Susie and Jim both invited their friends and the Birdland family to populate their time on the stage, the result being a glittery array of Manhattan artistry brought to life by the beautiful members of the cabaret community.

For the premiere post-pandemic Cast Party Jim and his partner in crime, the exquisite Mr. Billy Stritch, put a spotlight on jazz Wonder Woman Nicole Zuraitis, Broadway Leading Man Max von Essen, tap dance kids Luke Hickey and Elizabeth Burke, and many more, including the aforementioned Misters Bennack and King and Misses Douglas, Mason and Mayes, with each and every artist rising to the occasion and feeding the celebration. It was a glamorous welcome home to everyone, filled with emotion and humanity, but what could be more human or emotional than an entire nightclub full of people emitting a collective sigh when Ari Axelrod sang "I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do, They're really saying I missed you"? No mere open-mic night was this. This was an evening of homecoming, not just into this hallowed hall, but into the presence and arms of dear friends and favored artists, all at the hands of a madcap man who wishes that all we saw was his wit, but who everybody knows is all warmth. There's a reason Cast Party has lasted eighteen years.

For her share of the festivities, Susie and her main man at the piano, the extraordinary Brad Simmons, brought a vibe that leaned not into the aesthetic and more into the frenetic. With many of her signature on-the-spot improv'd songs about her life (ALL of her life) Susie and co. left most of the jam-packed house wiping the tears of laughter from their eyes... the rest of the crowd was simply holding their stomachs to stop the pain. Authentically one of the most original talents ever to grace the business of show, Mosher's gift as an entertainer is making people happy, usually through her own self-deprecation. What a job for a Tiny Titan. Ms. Mosher's other job is creating the actual lineup mentioned in the title, and it is a job well-done, as last night's guests included actress Alice Ripley, comedian Dan Finnerty, dancers Kelly Sheehan & Bryan Hunt, crooner Anne Steele, with Nicolas King and reigning Birdland queen Natalie Douglas in their second appearances on the Birdland stage in twenty-four hours. Nobody, though, would dare dispute that the brass ring of the night was absconded with (along with everyone's hearts) by the unbelievable comedic actress/singer Leslie Carrara-Rudolph. The lucky patrons who knew, knew what was coming when she got up on the stage, and the lucky patrons who didn't know, now have a new obsession, one they wouldn't have, were it not for Susie Mosher making sure to shine that bright light of hers on the Sesame Street puppeteer. It's a light Mosher uses for good, and she's good at it, too.

The parties may be over, but the shows will be back on again, every week on Mondays and Tuesdays, so the Jim and Susie magic is still there, and there it will stay for a good, long time. What won't always be there, at every show, were the tender moments these last few nights when Birdland owner Gianni Valenti stood on the stage to welcome the people back, to thank his team, to honor the 18 years he and Jim Caruso have worked as Birdland Brothers, and to thank Mister and Mister Tom and Michael D'Angora, whose fundraising efforts kept Birdland alive during the pandemic, and whose photo now adorns the Birdland wall. These have been emotional times and they will continue for a while longer, but once inside the magical Land of Bird, it's all family, fun, music and meaning.

That's certainly something worth celebrating. Isn't it?

The Cast Party Band is Steve Doyle on Bass and Daniel Glass on Drums, Billy Stritch MD
The Lineup Band is John Miller on Bass and Clint De Gannon on Drums, Brad Simmons MD
Both bands are beyond compare and worthy of praise and attention. When at these shows, please take out some time to observe their contribution to the evening

Jim Caruso's Cast Party plays Monday nights at 8 pm
The Lineup with Susie Mosher plays Tuesday nights at 7 pm

For tickets to these and all Birdland shows please click HERE

Visit the Jim Caruso website HERE
Visit the Susie Mosher website HERE

Visit the Billy Stritch website HERE
Visit the Brad Simmons website HERE

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From This Author - Stephen Mosher

Stephen Mosher is the author of The Sweater Book (a collection of his photography featuring celebrated artists from the entertainment communities of New York, Los Angeles, and London), Lived In Crazy... (read more about this author)

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