Monday, October 21, 2013

The Salon Wrap-Up for October 20, 2013 - "Two Heads Are Better Than One - The Art of Collaboration"

There are a lot of things one can learn from the Good Book, including this passage: "Therfore two are better then one, for they maye well enioye the profit of their laboure" (Ecclesiastes 4:9).  Them Bible writers used too many extra vowells...but anyway, the theme "Two Heads Are Better Than One - The Art of Collaboration" was much appreciated at The Salon last night, and themes of religion and Catholic childhood experiences (bad and funny) popped up every once in a while to boot.  Mark Janas introduced the theme by singing a parody song, a patter-list song with a lot of tongue-twisting pairings of famous writers, infamous historical characters, pop music and classical composers...very funny!  He then introduced our Co-Co-Hosts of the evening, the talented two-headed monster-team that is Jim Brochu and Steve Schachlin!  Mark met Jim in 2004 and then met Steve - the three of them had many late nights of Rhapsody in Blue.  Jim has been known for a number of Off-Broadway shows, including The Big Voice: God or Merman? and his current show "Character Man" can be seen on a cruise ship in November to Baltimore (!?!) and the Caribbean.  Steve himself is excited to introduce his 60th Birthday Concert and "Tales From the Bonus Round" Album Release Party on Sunday, October 27th at 4pm (hit that and our Halloween Salon after!) at the Metropolitan Room - it is also a benefit concert for Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS, so it is a complete win-win party, celebration, and good deed event!

To start the evening off, Jim and Steve sang from their original show, the song "Why" from The Big Voice: God or Merman?  It incorporates the concept that religion and showbusiness are the same thing, and utilizes Jim's personal childhood friendship with Ethel Merman as a backdrop.

Cathy Venable was the first up after Jim and Steve, singing "Skylark" and playing a gorgeous jazz flute in an instrumental interlude with Mark.  With her lovely low mezzo voice and equally skilled flute playing, Cathy made this song come alive!  Her next show will be "Jazzin' With The Band" at the June Havoc Theatre on November 3rd at 7pm, along with the Matt Baker trio (and other singers and musicians).  Court Graves, who produces this show, was up next, performing the classic swingin' song "Just In Time."  We then heard from our wonderful, supportive and sweet lady, Barb Malley; she gushed about Lennie Watts and Stephen Ray Watkins' Arrangement class, and then sang a wonderful arrangement by Stephen of "Love Makes The World Go Round" (a song from her childhood) and "Nature Boy."  Her final scheduled performance of her show "Out of Order" will take place at Don't Tell Mama on October 23rd at 7pm (and on the 25th is her Birthday as well as her hip's 1st Birthday!).  Next up was singer Joann Sicoli, who belted through her way through the soul-searching "Out Here On My Own" by Michael and Lesley Gore. Stew Frimer followed, singing a sweetly bittersweet but ultimately funny "Right Field" by Willy Welch - expect more news about an upcoming March show in a few months.  Richie Eisenberg kept the funny and cute going with his song "Two Again," a great list-patter of great duos and duets that kept all of our feet tapping.  As he says, he collaborates with himself on music and lyrics, argues with himself during the creative process, and usually wins all the arguments.  One of his original songs will be featured in Tanya Moberly's "I Love New York Songwriters" show, which starts on November 1st at Don't Tell Mama.

We then had a Salon Grande Dame of the evening, the ebullient Elaine St. George, who sang Andrew Lippa's "Old Fashioned Love Story," a song about someone who really, really, really wants to collaborate with someone at the bar she's at...if you get her drift.  Her Steve Goodman show starts on October 30th at Don't Tell Mama and will last for four performances.  A duet of catty men then showed up in the form of MAC Award-winner Adam Shapiro and BMI Advanced Songwriter David Ballard, singing "Moving Right Along" by Jeff Blumenkrantz.  David just finished a run of his show "Having It All," and Adam will be Co-Hosting this coming Salon on Sunday, October 27th with the theme "Out of the Closet...And Beyond: Costume Optional" (but highly encouraged).  After the bitchy duo walked off the stage (love you guys), we then had a different sort of duo: brother and sister Robert and Cristina Farruggia each sang a solo from their original works.  Robert performed his original "Straight Guy," which was featured in their cabaret show "Family Album."  He sings in an effortless tenor on a hilarious song that any straight man in musical theater could instantly steal for their own use...  Robert then sat at the piano himself to play for his sister, Cristina, who sang from the musical they are writing.  The song was "Always," and the musical is based off of a real-life brother and sister act in Vaudeville - expect a reading next Spring, and if Cristina's yearning, lovely alto voice on this song is any clue, the musical will be very interesting to hear.

Our next duo was Bob O’Hare and Tom Nelson, who accompanied him at the piano.  Bob sat on a chair on the stage and sang "One Step" by Maltby and Shire, highlighted in the show "Recovery: A Show About Getting Better."  Using his experiences, he plowed through the song with humor, incorporating some of the aches and pains of spinal surgery. "Recovery" will have a run in November on the 11th, 17th and 22nd at Don't Tell Mama at 6:30pm, with Tom Nelson on piano, Tom Kirchmer on Bass, and Peter Grant on Drums, Directed by Eric Michael Gillett.  Matthew Martin Ward then sat at the piano to play for Sally Darling on a beautifully moody, then robust, version of Rodgers and Hart's "Falling In Love With Love."  Her new show, "The Way We Are" will feature Matthew Martin Ward as musical director - November 8th and 16th at 7:15pm and December 8th at 4:00pm at Don't Tell Mama.  We next got a double dose of the 2010 MAC Award (Best Duo) Ted Stafford and our brand new Etceterette of the evening, Lorinda Lisitza.  They sang two songs back-to-back (or rather side by side), with Ted on guitar and Lorinda on a snazzy harmonica.  They first sang a sultry and bluesy version of Antonio "LA" Reid and Babyface's hit "I'm Your Baby Tonight," and followed that up with their original piece, "Reassure Me (Monster)."  Their duo show "The Ted and Lo Show" will hit Don't Tell Mama's on December 16th.  Sierra Rein and my friend Kay "ThePal" Pringle (yes, that's her full name) came to the mic to sing "Friendly Star" with two heads and one voice (the song, by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren, is from the movie Summer Stock).  My vocal group, Marquee Five, just finished a show at 54 Below and will return again on October 31st for the Halloween Special "Into Sweeney Todd's Woods" featuring stars of Broadway Len Cariou, Salon regular and Sweeney original Sarah Rice, and original Rapunzel Pamela Winslow Kashani.

Classical Corner

Mark Janas sat at the piano for this week's Classical Corner and contemplated the collaborative process of creative creation, particularly the kind that occurs between the composer and the pianist when the only form of communication is through the notes and notations on sheet music.  In the traditionally "classical" period of music, we had no recordings of the composer playing the piece by him or herself, so we rely on the printed or written scores to gain insight as to what the composer meant to play.  Mark mused on Chopin's Fm Ballade, a piece he's been working on for a while, and how his perception of the markings on the page has changed as he ages.  "The Devil is in the details," Mark said, and played a bit of the Ballade through, from the first theme to a build, and then to a rooted theme with the phrase "dolche" (sweet) notated.  To Mark, the sweetness has to have a story behind the chords.  "To me, this part is a memory which launches into the real drama," Mark explained.  He also told us about a group of piano students (used to practicing 8-10 hours a day) who were visited by the famous pianist Arthur Rubenstein.  The students were shocked to hear that he only practiced 2-3 hours a day, but to him the rest of his time was spent reading, walking in nature, finding a lover, and living life beyond his music study..."otherwise, you won't have anything to SAY with your music," Rubenstein concluded.  Mark then played a few phrases of Chopin's Ab Ballade, and played with the term "sostenuto" (sustained).  He played the same phrase multiple times with different interpretations, concluding with what he felt the music was trying to say in his mind - and it truly was different in the voices and feeling.  He then played through the piece in it's entirety with expression and a full emotional story, bringing people to an ovation at the end.

Second Set:

Jim Brochu, with a towering figure and a voice to match, can preach a powerful sermon when he wants to, and at the beginning of the second set for the evening, he did just that - singing the Ultimate in Musical Theater Rap songs, "Trouble" from The Music Man.  He then regaled us with the story of how, as a kid, he stepped onto a Broadway stage to meet Ethel Merman after seeing Gypsy.  After 12 years of considering priesthood has a life goal, he was asked by Ethel what he wanted to be when he grew up? At that moment, the Broadway curtain opened to reveal the empty audience house, and wihtout missing a beat, young Jimmy stated "Ms. Merman, I'm going to be a showgirl!"  And the rest is history.  Jim then sang the acerbic and hilarious "The Butler's Song" from Enter Laughing, and with Steve Schachlin finished their set with Steve's "Every Day A New Amen," written along with Mark Janas for the Christ Church of Bay Ridge (it's the only church song that has the word 'karaoke' in it, Steve proudly stated).

Salon Producer Tanya Moberly then performed the amazing Stephen Schwartz duet "Two's Company," the message of which was "two heads are better than three."  Her "I Love New York Songwriters" show will feature songs by many of the Salon regular composers - it will take place at Don't Tell Mama November 1st, 2nd, and December 3rd and 4th.  She can also be seen at the "Good and Evil" Cabaret Cares show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre on October 30th (more on that later).  Next up, Lou Iacovino swung through "It's All Right With Me" with his signature Rat Pack-esque style.  Jaye Maynard then sang the loving and thankful ballad, "Bless Your Heart" by Alex Rybeck and Ira Gasman - she is in the midst of preparing for a recording of the first Blossom Dearie Songbook in the new year.  The effervescent Ann Dawson then sang Sondheim's "Live Alone and Like It" and was excited to share that she will have a new act after the new year.  Broad and brassy, Ann recalled how Cole Porter was asked how he felt about a beautiful Rodgers and Hammerstein song: "It's beautiful, but why did it take two guys to write one song?" Mr. Porter replied. Ouch! Bobbie Horowitz then bounced to the mic to sing the adorable "flashback to the 50's" song "Whatever Happened to the Kids from Brooklyn."  Her Holiday-themed Unity Cabaret Matinee show will take place on December 14th, and was excited to get a great review of her recent "Great Songwriters" show.

Matthew Martin Ward returned to the piano to ruminate on the collaborative art of songwriting; he usually writes his music to someone else's lyrics (as in Peter Napolitano's lyrics for the show The Lady in Penthouse B).  But then he related how vocalist Annie Roos took a piece by tenor saxophonist Wardell Gray (full of wonderful twists and jazz turns) and added the "My analyst told me..." lyrics to create the song "Twisted," which he proceeded to artfully and playfully perform.  In addition to Sally Darling's show, Matthew is performing at the SSMAC Street Faire on Saturday and for "Silly Witches" at 54 Below on November 2nd.  Joan Jaffe then joined Matthew to sing Christine Lavin's adorable "Cold Pizza for Breakfast," which is from her upcoming show "Food," at Don't Tell Mama Thursday, October 31st at 7pm, November 2nd and November 30th, and December 1st.

Robin Westle, along with Jeff Cubeta at the piano (and with innocence), sang "Little Known Facts" from You're a Good Man Charlie Brown.  Her show, "No Regrets," has two performance times coming up: Tuesday October 22nd and Sunday, October 27th, both 7pm at The Laurie Beechman Theatre, with Jeff as MD and Eric Michael Gillett (more on him later) as Director.  Oh! It's "later" already - Eric Michael Gillett and Melanie Vaughn (original Sunday in the Park With George castmember and Mrs. Claus at Radio City Music Hall) joined Jeff Cubeta to sing a touching song that was cut (between the Baker's Wife and the Baker) from Into the Woods entitled "Rainbows."  They then switched to another amazing Sondheim duet, the fast-paced "You're Gonna Love Tomorrow" from Follies.  Eric is a multiple MAC award winner as a vocalist as well as Director, and is directing a bunch of shows this season, including Jarrod Spector's new show at 54 Below, "With A Little Help From My Friends."  Jeff Cubeta stayed at the piano to play for Cookie Stark, who sang "Ready to Begin Again" by Lieber and Stoller; Cookie has three benefit Cabaret shows in North Carolina for the Benjamin House, a non-profit that helps adults with mental disabilities.  Jeff Cubeta stayed for one final song, performing his quirky and hypnotic "Love Bunny."  Jeff will be the Music Director in "Good and Evil: Songs from the Great White Way," Wednesday, October 30th at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, 7pm.  It will benefit Help Is On The Way and will feature Salon regulars Stearns Matthews, Kathleen France, and our Producer, Tanya Moberly.  Jim Brochu and Steve Schachlin then thanked the Salon family and audience members for their work that evening, and recalled how they have been together for 29 years (!!!), minus 80 days where they broke up and lived apart...only to ask the question "How Do You Fall Back in Love," a song Steve penned after making up again.  They chose to keep their two heads together in harmony, and after Sunday's Salon we in the audience were grateful for their collaboration.

NEXT SALON! The Halloween theme will be "Out of the Closet and Beyond - Costumes Encouraged!" Our Co-Host will be Adam Shapiro, and if what he tells me is true, you will see some fabulous characters cross up onto the stage that evening.  Join us for a spoooooky and fun Halloween evening!

-Sierra Rein
Blogette for The Salon
Please email me if I got anything wrong-o

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