Review: THE LINEUP Brings Variety and a Vivacious Volcanic Hostess at Birdland

Nearly every Tuesday at Birdland, Susie Mosher presents an engaging assortment of cabaret singers

By: Feb. 04, 2024
Review: THE LINEUP Brings Variety and a Vivacious Volcanic Hostess at Birdland

Open mics can feel unpredictable, but one thing you can bet on with “The Lineup,” Birdland’s downstairs Tuesday tradition, is the wall-to-wall energy of the off-the-wall musical theatre pro/comedienne Susie Mosher, who hosts it with hearty heart and hardy-har-har hilarity.  Brash, irreverent, inventive, self-deprecating, down to earth and down for anything that will make you laugh, she prowls the stage like a loud, loopy lioness. She may win you over right away.  If not, will she wear you down or wear you out as she claims to worry that some ringsiders “hate” her at first or talks about the vagaries of show biz and life, bursting into belting a line such as “My mother was an alcoholic…”  Then she’ll give herself the hook with a smile.  (But, when the mood strikes her, she might just wow us with her big voice and doesn’t need to rely just on schtick and instant pastiche.)  She can be great fun, quick with quips and improvising song lyrics to fit the moment and fill the time if there’s a lull.  Bringing on her guests with sometimes heaps of praise or heaps of questions, depending on how well she knows them, she is an enthused booster of talent.   

My most recent visit was on January 30th.  Unlike some “Let’s see who shows up” open mics, those on the bill aren’t kept as a total surprise because their names can be found in advance on Susie Mosher’s Instagram page.  This night was indeed a mixed bag.  Even though it won’t go down in history as the most “starry, starry night,” the song with those words painting a portrait of Vincent van Gogh was an elegant souvenir from Ari Axelrod of his solo show at the venue the night before.  (In her irrepressible T.M.I. kind of way, our burdened mistress of cere-moan-ies shared with those enjoying their Birdland menu fare that she’d planned to go, but was sick with food poisoning.)  Madeline Kunkowski offered pop from 1966 with “(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay.” Jayson Kerr serenaded the esteemed object of his affection, Mr. Potato Head, as he removed his body parts (the aforementioned toy, not his own body parts).  Sarah Rachel Lazarus peppered her comedy routine with the F word and groused and grumbled about various vexations: the world, her breasts, being typecast as an older character when she was a teen, and the audience’s lack of audible laughter on some lines.  Opera’s Jessica Fishenfeld graced the proceedings with a musicalized Emily Dickinson poem.  Stella Cole channeled Judy Garland and followed up with a Sondheim classic, “Being Alive,” without the Garland-esque vibrato. And then there were instrumentalists: Keve Wilson on oboe and the dazzling violin virtuoso Marissa Licata. 

The fine and affable house pianist/musical director got a break (part of it spent looking for the harried host’s misplaced clipboard with her essential notes!) when veteran Lawrence Yurman took over the keyboard to accompany Mr. Axelrod and Miss Cole, while a beaming, bow-tied Zalman Kelber did very well partnering the oboist du jour. Susie Mosher gives away raffle prizes including a computer mousepad and bassist-singer John Miller's CD (which is pretty cool, by the way), while sighing with exaggeration that “nobody” plays music in that format anymore. Clint de Ganon completes the trio. 

This coming Tuesday, February 6th, the downstairs Birdland stage will be traversed by a Walker (Jon Patrick) and a Skipper (Richard Skipper), and two Melissas (Errico and Driscol), among others lined up for “The Lineup.” Be open-minded about open mics, and you might open yourself up to an adventure.

Visit Birdland's website to find more upcoming shows, including future installments of the Lineup with Susie Mosher.