The Cabaret Chronicles: Tudor City Greens Concert, Cabaret Hotline Anniversary Celebration and More!
Happy Saturday, everyone!
Boy, time flies when you're...busy! It seems like I was just sitting down at my computer to write last week's article, and here I am again! It's been another busy, entertainment-packed week, beginning with the Algonquin Salon on Sunday evening! As usual, the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel was filled with fabulous folks and terrific entertainers, including Deb Berman, Sean Harkness, Ray Jessel, Erin Cronican, Dana Lorge, and the fabulous guest co-hosts of the evening, Christine Pedi & Matthew Ward! The optional theme of the night was "Comedy Tonight," and most participants did their best to stick to the theme, which made for a fun, lighthearted evening of entertainment!
Monday evening, it was over to Jim Caruso's Cast Party at Birdland for ANOTHER talent-packed evening! Unfortunately, I had to leave a little early, but I had a great time while I was there - seeing the likes of Hilary Kole (who just opened for Jamie Cullum at the Toronto Jazz Festival), Patrick Oliver Jones (who recently returned from playing the role of Enjolras in Les Miserables at the Actors' Playhouse in Florida), Eric Millegan (of TNT's Bones), and virtuoso violinist Aaron Weinstein, among others, made for quite a night!
On Tuesday, I had another performance of my show Jenna Esposito Sings Connie Francis at the Metropolitan Room, and as soon as that was over, my band and I hightailed it to Tainted Blue, a Times Square recording studio that periodically produces concerts which they record live. I had done one of the concerts in April, and was pleased to be a part of this past Tuesday evening's lineup as well! Also on the bill were Susan Winter and Deb Berman (unfortunately, I had to miss both of them, as I was still at the Metropolitan Room), as well as Karen Mack & Michael Holland, a.k.a. Gashole! I did get to catch their performance, and as always, I found them highly enjoyable! Gashole is one of my favorite cabaret acts in the city - unique, fun, and slightly irreverent, Gashole is also plain ol' great entertainment! Karen and Michael are both very talented vocalists, and they have a penchant putting together fantastic medleys of well-loved pop tunes from the '70s through the '90s. They're performing Saturdays at The Duplex from next week (July 18th) through August 1st - if you have a chance to catch them, I'd highly recommend it...I know I'm going to do my best to see them!
Wednesday evening found me at Tudor City Greens for a marvelous outdoor concert featuring Raissa Katona Bennett (who produces the TCG concert series), Eric Michael Gillett, Spider Saloff, Julie Reyburn, Daryl Glenn, Ricky Ritzel, Nina Hennessey, and Philip Chaffin. It was a simply gorgeous evening, and over 300 people stopped by to listen to the beautiful music floating through the air! Each performer did 2 songs each, and there was something for everyone - from the jazzy renderings of Spider Saloff to Ricky Ritzel's comedy, to the more musical-theatre sounds of Nina Hennessey and Raissa Katona Bennett. The next concert in the series is on Wednesday, August 5th at 6 p.m. The concerts are completely free, although attendees are encouraged to contribute a freewill donation to support the Tudor City Greens!
Thursday night, I headed to Cabaret Hotline Online's 19th Anniversary Celebration, which was also a 70th birthday celebration for its founder, Stu Hamstra. Stu did a terrific job of putting together a lineup of talented performers, and one of my favorite parts of the night was that he mixed in cabaret newcomers along with more established, well-known performers. The lineup includEd Grace Cosgrove (who produces a terrific series called Grace Notes at Don't Tell Mama); Moira Danis (who, in addition to her lovely song, charmed the audience with the research she'd done on the history of the date July 6th, which is Stu's birthday); Ryan Greer (a new face with a great voice and some smooth dance moves); Jim Speake (who had everyone in stitches with his "Thank God I'm Old"); Shana Farr (a lovely, talented gal who is in the middle of a run of her debut cabaret show!); waitress Becca Johnson (a "surprise" guest, who appropriately sang "It's An Art" from Working); The Delivery Girls (a girl group featuring musical director Tracy Stark, along with vocalists Amie Carey, Mary Carey, and April Henry); the aforementioned Raissa Katona Bennett (who did a fantastic new song with music by her musical director David Caldwell and lyrics by Hector Coris); Terrell Baker (a relative newcomer who treated us to a soulful "His Eye Is On The Sparrow"); Jim Van Slyke (another surprise guest, who delighted the crowd with his beautiful rendering of Neil Sedaka's "Solitaire"); and cabaret favorite Tom Anderson (who did a hilarious song that about his love for the Yankees' Derek Jeter - now THAT, I can relate to!). The Jeff Matson Award, which is given annually to a person who has "done extraordinary work in supporting, mentoring, and giving leadership to others in cabaret" was presented to a true pillar of the cabaret community, Sue Matsuki, who graciously accepted and treated us to a laugh-out-loud funny song called "One Stop Shopping," (which she co-wrote and won a MAC award for last year!). The Dottie Burman Songwriter Award was presented to Brett Kristofferson (whose music I just wrote about a few weeks ago!), who brought up the talented Angela Shultz to lend her lovely voice to his song, "Things That Haunt Me." It was a great night celebrating the art form of cabaret, and one of its biggest, most stalwart supporters, Stu Hamstra.
That's all I managed to squeeze in this week, but check next week's column for more fun cabaret buzz!
Where I'm going this week...
Sunday, July 12th: The Algonquin Salon at the historic Algonquin Hotel. Founded by Mark Janas, this is THE place for singers, songwriters and musicians to hang out, network, and perform on Sunday evenings. No cover, no minimum, just a lot of talent! Talented singer/songwriter/pianist Bill Zeffiro is the guest co-host this week. The optional theme, appropriately, is "Summer In The City!"
Thursday, July 16th: The creative team behind the fabulous Algonquin Salon have a special treat for the remainder of the summer: The Summer Oak Room Salon! This will run Thursday evenings through the summer, in the gorgeous Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel. The Oak Room Salon will operate in a similar manner to the Algonquin Salon, but there will be a few differences: in addition to the guest co-host, there will also be a featured star each week, in addition to the Oak Room lights! Again, Mark Janas will serve as host and Peter Napolitano is the producer, but they're also bringing in Roy Sander as Artistic Advisor. The new series kicks off this week with the fabulous Julie Reyburn as co-host and the legendary Julie Wilson as the guest star!
Pictured: Raissa Katona Bennett