Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Music of the (late) Night

Cost of two discounted cover charges and drinks at Le Jazz Au Bar: about $35
Cost of Jason Robert Brown's new CD:$16
Having a Tony-award-winning composer call you by your blog name as he's signing said CD: priceless.

Au Bar might be the most pretentiously-named cabaret space in the city, but it's a great one. Lush settings, very nice sound system, and a sweet-sounding grand piano made a great spot for Jason Robert Brown's CD release party. Jason and his backup band, the Caucasian Rhythm Kings, kicked tush and named names (okay, fine, the only name named was NY Post critic Michael Reidel, but they metaphorically named names, k?). This show at least was much better on our schedules than the last time we caught JRB at Au Bar, when we went to an 11:00pm show that didn't start till midnight. Jason, if you're still reading this blog: don't you think that "She Cries" is a bloody long enough song without a three-minute instrumental solo at the end? Still, an insanely great evening.

We managed to catch the revival of La Cage before it closed, and The Lovely Wife(tm) finds it remarkably unfair that men can look that good in heels. I might have noticed, but I was too busy cringing watching a chorus line go into full front splits one at a time... I think every straight man in the audience (all three of us) were thinking the same thing: "Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch!" I never saw the original, so I have little to compare this production to, but Jerry Mitchell's choreography was excellent, and Robert Goulet ("RobertGouletRobertGouletohmygodRobertGoulet!" Sorry, brief Chorus Line moment) was spot-on. Who the heck cast Gavin Creel, though? He's certainly not a bad performer, but having someone who's well over six feet tall and looks like he stepped off a Calvin Klein billboard sing "Who else can make me feel like I'm handsome and tall" is just ludicrous.

Most recent musical obsession: the sampler CD for the short-lived off-Broadway show Bare. Damon Intrabartolo's score is wild: finally, a full-out theatrical pop/rock show! A high-octane gospel number featuring the Virgin Mary convincing a gay high schooler to come out to his mother may not be to everybody's taste, but I've been replaying it on the ol' iPod much too frequently for the past week now (cognitive dissonance moment: listening to that number while reading Halakhic Man, Rav Joseph Soloveitchik's classic of Jewish thought).

Friday, June 17, 2005

Good for What Ails You

(note: I'm not quite sure what happened to the comments... I'll play with the template someday)

For those who are curious: when you've had a miserable day working on a thesis project, with three different pieces of glassware breaking in your hands (due to no fault of your own), you can feel a whole lot better by spending a couple of hours in the piano bar, singing Sondheim, Allan Sherman, and Tom Lehrer songs, as well as serenading an upcoming member of the tribe with an impromptu "Get Me to the Shul on Time." If you happen to catch Brian Nash and Kate Pazakis singing stuff from Jerry Springer: The Opera afterwards, well, that's just icing on the cake.

There are a bunch of ways in which life in the cabaret/show world beats "real life" hands-down. One of the best ones is that saying goodbye can be a whole lot more entertaining when you're saying farewell to a performer. Kate Botello was a fairly recent addition to our collection of cabaret/piano bar diva friends, but she grew on us real quick. A hysterically funny performer, who can mug with the best of 'em, and who does a great Judy Garland (yes, a FEMALE Judy Garland impersonator! Can you believe it?), Kate first burst on our scene singing a self-penned parody of "Send in the Clowns" and has been a full-fledged member of the circle ever since we saw her variety show at Helen's. Well, Kate's heading out west, so last week's Cast Party featured a fare-thee-well, with a slew-and-a-half of great performers waving her off. Kate started the festivities off with a kickin' rendition of Erykah Badu's "Tyrone" (NOT a cabaret standard), and then got the usual gang to sing her requests, which means that the rest of us got to hear some of the greatest voices on this planet do songs that they hadn't done before. I don't believe that Julie hasn't done Joni Mitchell songs before, but after her rendition of "River," I'll be mighty ticked if she doesn't add a bunch more to her reportoire. 80-year-old wunderkind Bob Dolphin tapped and improvised a farewell, and the Birdland was just rockin'.

Knock 'em dead out west, Kate. We'll miss ya!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Ohmigoodness, lookit the date!

TWENTY days since last I blogged? Bad Efrex! No Efrex-biscuit for you!

Weekends with The Lovely Wife(tm) have been all kinds of fun these last few weeks... for some reason, we've wound up spending three of the last four Shabbatot with friends who have little girls. I've long since noticed that I apparently have the words "jungle gym" tatooed on me in ink that only those under six can see, and when one of the shabbat meals was spent with not only our friends with their two little princesses, but the princesses' four friends, I found myself tired out reeeeallly quickly (smackdown to all of you who are thinking "just wait till it's your turn")

Coolest weekend, though, was Memorial Day weekend, where we spent Shabbat in Lakewood (For those not in the know, a heavily ultra-orthodox enclave), followed by Sunday and Monday sweating on the Atlantic City boardwalk. Going from wearing my black hat to strolling past casinos in less than 16 hours; not too shabby. For our first post-Omer show, we caught a well-done production of Cabaret at the Trump Plaza, although it mixed elements of the original production ("Telephone Song" & "Meeskite"), the Broadway revival (the MC's final costume change), and the movie ("Mein Herr," which come to think of it, was in the revival as well). Since my idea of gambling is playing those kiddie claw machines, we didn't come out too badly for the weekend.

Oh! The Tony Awards!

* Yay for Norbert Leo Butz, an actor whose talent is as unlimited as his name is unfortunate. I can remember seeing him understudying Adam Pascal in Rent back in the day and thinking: "This guy's gonna go places." Phenomenal in Rent (I think he wound up going on for just about every male role in the show, and I betcha he could've played Mimi in a pinch), he's consistently been excellent in everything he's done since, and it's just great to see him get recognized.

* I've said it before, and I'll say it again: sign Hugh Jackman up for all eternity as host. Even his so-so dance shtick (didn't Jason Graae do a similar medley on one of his albums?) didn't diminish his performance, and I let out a cackle at "Cassie, don't pop the head!" that must've echoed down Grove Street.

* I don't wanna hear any complaints about Christina Applegate. No, she's not Gwen Verdon, but she looks great, sings and dances just fine, and is able to laugh at herself. Brava!

* Of all the songs you pick to remember the luminaries who died last year, you pick the cynical "Razzle Dazzle?" Did anybody on the planning committee listen to those lyrics?

* Stop the nonsense of having non-theater people sing showtunes immediately. Aretha wasn't as hideous as Mary J. Blige or LL Cool J, but having her on stage added ZERO to the proceedings.

* I never ever thought that I'd applaud Al Sharpton, but his bit with the folks from "Spelling Bee" was just great.

* Maybe if Sara Ramirez started wearing clothing, she wouldn't have that nasty cough...

Oh, and thank you David Yazbeck for not picking your nose on camera this year!