Q&A: JIM CARUSO'S CAST PARTY!

Every Monday night at Birdland in New York City, cabaret performer/impresario Jim Caruso hosts a party that's the stuff of showbiz dreams. For the past twelve years, his "Cast Party" has been the place for entertainment moguls and up-and-comers to rub shoulders, celebrate and entertain each other. Icons like Liza Minnelli, Michael Feinstein, Carol Channing, Natalie Cole, Martin Short and Donny Osmond have grabbed the mic for an impromptu performance, sharing the stage with up-and-coming singers, songwriters and the occasional wacko.

Recently, Caruso and musical director Billy Stritch have taken the extreme open mic on the road, celebrating talent in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas, Chicago and on the high seas. This next week, the dynamic duo will bring the musical madness to London, debuting at The Crazy Coqs on March 6 and 7. We spoke with Caruso about the upcoming events, the history of Cast Party, and his role as "the talent whisperer."

How do you describe Cast Party to the uninitiated?

Cast Party is an open mic for the Broadway, jazz, cabaret, pop, country, folk, comedy, polka and ventriloquial communities! It's been called the most 'extreme' open mic on the planet, because of the excellent musicianship, the wide variety of musical styles, and the occasional superstar drop-in!

How did it start?

I had taken a break from performing, and was doing press for a now-defunct nightclub. Nothing was going on at the venue, and I was writing press releases for drink specials and wanting to jump off the roof. I happened to throw a party for friends on a Monday night, and everyone I'd ever known showed up. There happened to be a piano, so thanks to Billy Stritch, we all entertained each other till the wee hours. The next day, the manager of the room asked if we'd do it again every Monday. It's now twelve years later, we're at Birdland and we haven't missed one Monday!

What's the process for performing at Cast Party?

Everyone needs to show up with sheet music for a snappy, peppy upbeat tune. That's our only rule! We keep the energy up, because it's a Party, and ballads seem to weigh the evening down a bit. I put everyone's name on a list, and we're off and running, creating the most unpredictable and spontaneous variety show!

After presiding over 14,000 Cast Party performances over the years, one article called you "the Talent Whisperer."

It sounds like a reality show, doesn't it? Good talent has always been my passion, and I've always loved show people! It's a thrill to give someone a stage on which to perform...it lets them show us who they are.

What are some of your most memorable moments at Cast Party?

Liza Minnelli announced her divorce at Cast Party. You don't forget that. Carol Channing spoke about arts education, then launched into "Before The Parade Passes By." Martin Short asked if he could try out new material he was to perform on "Letterman" the following night. A hula-hoopist had 50 hoops going at the same time. There were 11 ukulele players playing "Bye Bye Blues." A choir of 80 Australian high schoolers sang a medley of showtunes. We've seen a four-year-old singing from "Les Miserables" and a 94-year old tap dancer. There have been 9 Elphabas, 2 Miss Americas and 3 Osmonds!

Tell us about your past London experiences.

The first time was the year I turned 30! Billy Stritch, who happens to be my best friend AND musical director, was performing at The Ritz Hotel, and I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate my birthday! It was so chic! Years later, my trio Wiseguys worked with Donald O'Connor at the opening of a gorgeous cabaret that literally closed two nights after opening, and not without bloodshed! The last time was in 2008, when I was singing and dancing in the tour of what became "Liza's At The Palace." We did a short run at the Coliseum, and had the time of our lives!

What can we expect from the debut of Cast Party in London?

Billy and I both know a lot of brilliant performers in London, and we can't wait to see who shows up to Cast Party! Our fingers are crossed for a mad mix of West End stars, swingin' jazzers, and divine cabaret divas!

"Jim Caruso's Cast Party" with Billy Stritch

Friday and Saturday, March 6 and 7 at 8pm

The Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zédel

20 Sherwood Street

London W1F 7ED

020 7734 4888

brasseriezedel.com

CastPartyNYC.com

Related Articles View More UK / West End Stories   Shows






More Hot Stories For You

Before you go...

Like Us On Facebook
Follow Us On Twitter
Follow Us On Instagram
   



  SHARE