Monday, May 17, 2010

The Salon Wrap-Up for May 16, 2010: "Back to Our Roots"

A few years ago, the talk of New York was a new musical, "The Talk of the Town" by Ginny Redington and her husband, the late Tom Dawes. Performed in the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel from May, 2005 - August 2006, the show featured a pianist by the name of Mark Janas. The cast and crew would often wheel the grand piano into the lobby of the Algonquin and sing showtunes and standards. Castmember Chris Weikel started the idea of calling their after-show meetups…

…a Salon!

This week's Salon brought the original charter members back together again to host the theme of "Back to Our Roots." Castmembers from the original production of "The Talk of the Town," as well as composer/book/lyricist Ginny Redington herself, were on hand as both co-hosts and special guests of the evening. They sang many pieces from the show itself and took turns introducing Salon members up to the microphone throughout the evening. The cast members that evening were Jeffrey Biering (as George S. Kaufman), Donna Coney Island (as Edna Ferber), Adam MacDonald (as Robert Sherwood), Kristin Maloney (as Dorothy Parker), Michael Daly, Chris Weikel (as Robert Benchley), and Stephen Wilde (as Marc Connelly).

After the ToTT cast sang the title song (brilliantly evoking the Algonquin Round Table by utilizing a round table as a set piece in front of the stage), Shana Farr was introduced to sing "Will He Like Me?" from She Loves Me, and we certainly liked Shana! Her next show will be at Feinstein's coming up in August – details to come, she says. After Shana, Kevin McMullan sang his comedic, a cappella version of "Anabel Lee," based off of the same poem by Edgar Allan Poe. He is working on a solo show with Miles Phillips and Mark Janas – again, details to be announced in the future. Next, Jim Speake crooned the classic 1950's song "You Send Me," with a beautiful call & response backup vocals from the crowd. Jim's next CD project, "Jim Speake Sings My Generation," a collection of songs from the 1960's and 70's, will have its launch via a show at Don't Tell Mama in September. Bringing a compositional blast from the past, Richard Eisenberg sang a song he wrote in Summer Camp 20 years ago about Snow White's "rotten and hideous, sly and perfidious" nemesis in his "Evil Queen Song."

Beth Falcone then took to the piano, singing a charming original song (along with "audience-student participation") in honor of musical teachers. Then, baritone David Krohn - with pianist/composer Chris Berg - beautifully sang "A Warm Day for December," a Frank O'Hara poem set to Berg's original music. Krohn has a gorgeous voice, and lucky for us Berg and Krohn are in the midst of recording this and simlar material for an eventual CD. After that beautiful piece the ToTT crew lifted our spirits (figuratively speaking, of course) with the intoxicatingly funny song "Robbie Sherwood." Then Michael Daly (who is the most recent castmember of ToTT) sang a beautiful Irish ballad a cappella. Michael will be seen soon at both the Pennsylvania and Utah Shakespearean Festivals this year!

You've heard of certain family singing troupes, but none can compare with the Ritt Family Singers – Ritt Henn and his original family "root," his mom Bets were in attendance to sing and play "If I Had a Hammer" on ukulele. Ritt is musical directing for Tom D'Angelo Presents "Spotlight at the Iguana" on Saturday June 12, and is making his usual rounds as bassist for such upcoming shows as Tanya Moberly's "Theater Songs" at Don't Tell Mama this Wednesday night. After the Henn's left the stage, ToTT composer Ginny Redington Dawes sang a haunting solo that referred to "the faces that we wear." Then Christopher Walken made an appearance, climbing out of Michael Daly to instroduce co-castmember Stephen Wilde, who sang the caveman comedy song "Way Ahead of My Time." Then Christopher Walken introduced Donna Coney Island to sing the terrific tango "Because It's There" from "ToTT."

Edie Stokes sang the wistful "It Might as Well Be Spring" from State Fair, introducing the verse that precedes the classic song for the first time to many ears. Then, ToTT's Chris Weikel sang the darkly comic "Cosmetic Surgery" by Johh Wallowich. Next, Tanya Moberly and ToTT's Kristin Maloney duetted on "Damn Everything But the Circus." Then, Sierra Rein brought back an old High School role (and hopefully future role!) as Mama Rose singing "Some People" from Gypsy. Next, Etceterette Arianna sang a song from her little-known country past, "You Lie." Completing the first act, second Etceterette Jan Brennan roped Chris Weikel into a duet of "People Will Say We're in Love" from Oklahoma.

After the intermission, the Talk of the Town cast sang two ToTT pieces, "The Circle Goes Round and Round" and "Velvet Rope", smoothly sung by Adam McDonald. Joining Adam, Kristin and Chris then sang my favorite of the ToTT comedy songs "Work is a Four Letter Word" as Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and Robert Sherwood. Next came the Classical Corner with Mark Janas. Instead of playing "classical" music per se, in this evening's Corner he asked ToTT castmembers Chris, Adam and Jeffrey Biering to sing different version of the lovely standard Broadway song "On the Street Where You Live" from My Fair Lady. Chris sang it in a wonderful standard Broadway style, Adam swung and jazzed his way through it, and then Jeff – in a brilliant fixing of minor notes – sang it Kurt Weill-style, making it a creepy and hilarious stalker song. Then Jeff took on a different style with his original song, which I believed to be called "Shut Up and Dance." Then Kristin fully became Dorothy Parker with the tragic and biting song "Robert, It Should Have Been You" from ToTT.

Producer Tanya Moberly then sang "West End Avenue" from her upcoming show "Theater Songs" at Don't Tell Mama – May 19th at 9:15, with Mark Janas at the piano and Ritt Henn on bass. After Tanya, composer-lyricists Jennie Litt (who sang) and David Alpher (who played piano) kvetched their way hilariously through Irving Berlin's "Sadie Salome, Go Home". They will be appearing at Don't Tell Mama for a show of their original work on July 19th, 26th, and 31st! Then the lovely Julie Reyburn, martini in hand and satin dress upon skin, beautifully sang from one of her first cabaret shows – Jason Robert Brown's "The Stars and the Moon." She will be at Feinstein's on July 16th and 17th (a Friday and Saturday duo) with Mark Janas and a brand new show!

Bringing a British accent and some still-ripe bitterness of Wall Street, Janice Ashby sang her own parody lyrics with "There's No Business Like CEO Business." After her, Alicia Littman tongue-lashed her way through the mind-boggling jazz song "Twisted." Madelaine Warren brought her father's favorite song, "The Sound of Music," to the stage, and then a surprise special guest Johnny Rogers grabbed the piano and mic to sing "The Birth of the Blues." Johnny is performing at the Algonquin Hotel for two more weeks, but has been seen working in the past with Liza Minelli, performing throughout the world and on Broadway, and has won MAC, Bistro and Nightlife Awards.

Valerie Lemon, after briefly singing "You Are My Sunshine," brought "If I Sing" from Closer Than Ever by Maltby & Shire. Then, Scott Earley (who Stage Managed ToTT) showed that certain talents sometimes can be found backstage as he sang "Stars" from Les Miserables. Bringing her high soprano operatic roles of the past into the light, Maureen Taylor wowed us all with an aria from The Barber of Seville, "Una Voce Poco Fa," displaying some beautiful trills, firey rolled "r's" and "don't-F-with-me" attitude mixed in. Then our favorite Etcetera Etc employee, David Ballard sang "Tell My Father" from Civil War, the piece he auditioned for College with (and by the looks of him, that was only about 3 months ago!). After David, Dani Rhodes turned the 2nd floor of the Etcetera Etcetera Restaurant into a tent revival, pulling from her roots in Gospel with "Death is Gonna Lay His Cold Icy Hands on Me." In addition to announcing her involvement in a performance of a collection of short plays, "6 Pack + 1," Dani also announced her involvement in a partnership as a new fiancé! Salon wishes them both the best!

Matthew Ward grabbed his rightful place at the piano, reminisced about his years inhaling smoke at Marie's Crisis, and then played around with a few "pretty ballads in C" before finalizing his claim on the song "Steal Away." Then Steve Schachlin led a rousing call and response to his original work "Lazarus Come Out." Steve's song cycle "New World Waking: Songs on the Road to Peace" will be a star performance at the 2010 benefit for the Brecht Forum on June 20th. To complete the fully stocked evening, Talk of the Town's Jeffrey Biering and Stephen Wilde sang the whimsical "Two Heads (are Better than One)" from ToTT.

So many people, myself included, are intrigued by the content of Talk of The Town – I wasn't in New York yet when the first two runs of the show were taking place, but there were a number of people asking "when is this show going to be up and running again." I'm sure that when ToTT is brought back to audiences, it will live up to its own namesake and be…the Talk of the Town!

NEXT WEEK, May 23, The Salon welcomes with excited arms the theme of "Sondheim," with special co-Host and Bistro/MAC/Nightlife Award-winner Daryl Glenn, and Special Guest performer-legend-Emmy-and-three-time-Tony-nominee (Tony award-winner, Best Actor, Sweeney Todd) Len Cariou!!! This evening will probably be packed, so to receive a good seat arrive early and bring several Sondheim selections if you want to sing on-theme.

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