Monday, August 27, 2012

The Salon Wrap Up for August 26, 2012 - "Happy Birthday, Mr. Bernstein"

Tonight's Salon was about celebrating.  There were many things to celebrate, but the main celebration that brought us together this evening was the anniversary of what would have been Leonard Bernstein's 94th birthday.  As most of you who attend Salon know, Mark Janas worked with Bernstein for many years and has some amazing first hand knowledge of the man and his work. Every year, Mark shares some of his  experiences with us.

Mark told us the story of how he first met Bernstein.  While he was at Tanglewood, Mark was invited to attend a house party where Bernstein was in attendance.  Over the course of the evening, Bernstein began several word games - at which he was pretty much unbeatable.  When he began a game of Botticelli  and seemed un-stumpable, Mark became determined to stump him.  Mark nearly stumped Bernstein, which impressed Bernstein enough to prompt him to invite Mark to his rehearsal the next day.

As people began filtering in to the Salon, Mark Janas and Matthew Martin Ward played through most of the music from West Side Story, Salon member punctuating the America section with many "Ay, ay, ay's!"

Mark Janas and Matthew Martin Ward four handed piano. Photo by Sierra Rein

The evening officially began with Mark and Matthew playing a four handed piano arrangement of the Candide overture.  I've heard this piece many times, and it always thrills me.

Our co-host for the evening was the always lovely - and the Salon's original Blogette - Sierra Rein.  She started off by singing Bernstein's My Twelve Tone Melody - a less than soothing lullaby.

Charles Lindberg joined Mark at the piano for a four handed piano arrangement of Glitter and be Gay.  Mark and Charles played off each other beautifully, giving a symphonic sound and comedic visuals.  Charles is currently performing a show with Rain Pryor at the Actors Temple Theatre on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays.

Richie Eisenberg sang us a political parody of Officer Krupke entitled The Impeachment Song about the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky trial. While it is somewhat out of date, it still sounds fresh and had us all laughing out loud.  Richie is currently working on booking some new show dates.  Watch this space for information!

 Parker Scott began his performance of Candide's It Must be So sans microphone from the back of the audience, making his way up to the stage.  Parker will be co-hosting the Salon on September 23rd, and can be seen October 7th in his own show, entitled No Expectations, at the Metropolitan Room.

MAC nominee Joey Infante, accompanied by Barry Levitt on piano, sang a lovely bit of Maria that led into Tonight.  Joey is currently prepping a new show.

Charlotte Patton, also accompanied by Barry Levitt, was out first singer of the evening to break from the Bernstein songbook to sing from Alan Menken's songbook.  Her selection was a comedic piece about the conflicts in a relationship called Ah, Men!  It was definitely a departure from Menken's Disney fare, and we all loved it!  Charlotte will be performing her cabaret show, Looking for Love in the 21st Century at the Duplex on September 19th.

Barry Levitt finished up his accompaniment duties with Sunny Leigh who sang us a jazzy Then I'll be Tired of You.  Sunny and Barry are currently working on putting a show together and working on a date with the Metropolitan Room.

In her second Salon appearance, Irene Aguilar sang a lovely On My Own, complete with lead in.  Irene will be returning to her native Spain, but has hopes of returning to New York in the near future and joining us for more Salons.

Joann Sicoli sang a passionate Goin' Out of My Head.  Joann is currently working on putting a show together.

Marnie Klar has one of the most wonderful abilities to put across a song lyric, which she demonstrated to great effect on It's a Quiet Thing from Flora, the Red Menace.

Barry Levitt returned to the keys to accompany Lou Iacovino on Witchcraft.

Gary Crawford graced us with his smooth baritone for If I Ever Say I'm Over You.

Arianna (c'est moi!) returned to the theme with the only Bernstein piece she knows, Glitter and be Gay - because, really, no one is looking for an Irish Maria.  Arianna is pretty certain that the first time she performed Glitter and be Gay in public was at the Algonquin Salon for Bernstein's birthday celebration in 2009.  Arianna is currently auditioning and looking for new projects.  You can find her Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays belting out show tunes, the occasional opera aria, and serving breakfast and lunch at Ellen's Stardust Diner.

It was a good night for Candide as Janice Hall, this evening's Etcetterette, gave a brilliant interpretation of I Am Easily Assimilated with back up vocals from Mark Janas and Matthew Martin Ward.  Janice will be leaving us for a short period to star in James Joyce's The Dead at the Quotidian In Washington DC, and will be returning as the co-host for our Halloween Salon.

Mark devoted Classical Corner to the music of West Side Story, extrapolating on Bernstein's use of tritones and dissonance throughout the score.  He then gave a detailed explanation of the Twelve Tone Technique, or Tone Row.   He also gave us more stories about Bernstein.

The beginning of the second half of tonight's Salon was bitter sweet. Our evening's co-host, Sierra Rein, had a big announcement.  After struggling to make things work in New York - as we all do - Sierra has landed one of the biggest opportunities of her career.  Starting September 19th, Sierra will be leaving us to start rehearsals in Toronto for Disney Cruiselines.  She will be appearing as Cinderella's Fairy Godmother and Ursula, the Sea Witch on the main stage of the Disney Magic.  She will be gone until June 1st of 2013.

 Let me step out of my role as a somewhat impartial observer and chronicler of the evenings events to talk a bit more personally about Sierra:

I was introduced to Sierra in late 2008 by a mutual friend.  Over the years, Sierra has become one of my closest friends, confidants, and someone who helps keep me sane in this crazy profession we have chosen.  She has been an inspiration and a sounding board.  She has taken care of my cats when I have gone on vacation, listened to me vent without judgment when an audition didn't go well for me, and offered advice and support to help me put things in perspective and continue moving my own journey forward.

Sierra introduced me to the Salon when it was still at the Algonquin Hotel and brought me in as both and Etcetterette (then we were Gonquettes) and Blogette.  Sierra has always been very supportive of the talent coming through the Salon and active in promoting and helping the Salon to grow.  I have seen Sierra grow as a performer, watched her hone her skills on the business side of things, and can't think of anyone who deserves such a fantastic opportunity as much.  I know there is a lot of affection for Sierra among the rest of the Salon members, and while we are sad to see her leave us for such an extended period of time, I know we all wish her the very best and expect updates via her website and new letter.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled Salon Report....

Sierra began the second half of the evening with her audition cuts for Disney Cruiselines - Bibbidi Boppity Boo and Poor Unfortunate Souls. It was easy to see why she was cast.  Her Fairy Godmother was warm and energetic, while Ursula was nice and vampy.  She followed that up with a very emotional We'll be Together Again.  She ended her set with What a Movie! from Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti, a song she had been given to learn awhile back by Parker Scott for an audition.  It was beautifully comical with the personal twist of reflecting on her and her husband's shared love of watching - and mocking - bad movies.

Sierra remained onstage to duet with Tanya Moberly on A Boy Like That/I Have a Love from West Side Story.  Tanya's show, Tanya Lorraine Moberly Sings Barbra Joan Streisand will play at Don't Tell Mama's on September 28th, October 18th, November 14th, and December 4t at 7pm.

Susan Hodgdon, accompanied by Barry Levitt sang a very vampy Sooner or Later that nearly ended with Barry Levitt knocked off his piano bench!  Susan's show, On the Bumpy Road to Love will be at Don't Tell Mama's on September 8th.

Joining us all the way from Connecticut was Joel Harrington accompanying himself on a lovely ballad.  Joel will be appearing at the Metropolitan Room on September 9th with his show We're Gonna Light Up the Sky.

Joel remained at the piano to accompany his voice student, Carolyn Hricik for the lovely ballad But Where Can We Go From here.  Carolyn made her Metropolitan Room debut this past May.

Robin Westle sang Sondheim's comedically suggestive Can That Boy Foxtrot.  Robin will be appearing at the Laurie Beechman Theatre on September 9th in her show Why Are You Telling Me?

MAC Award nominee Joan Jaffe sang us a medley of New York songs by Bernstein and Sondheim arranged by Jerry Scott.

Eric Michael Gillett - whose previous appearance at Salon involved a motor boating of Sierra Rein - related a racy anecdote about Bernstein's attempt to speak with a particular Tony after a performance of West Side Story.  Said Tony was otherwise embarrassingly engaged and the discussion never took place.  The anecdote gave a comical twist and slightly different meaning to Eric's smoothly sung A Little Bit in Love.  Turns out, it was also Eric's birthday, so we sang him Happy Birthday and watched him blow out the candle on his cupcake.

Sierra closed out the evening with the fun uptempo I Can Cook Too from Bernstein's On the Town.

All in all, it was a wonderful celebration of Bernstein, music, and wonderful people!

Remember!  There is NO Salon next week, September 2nd due to the Labor Day holiday.  Everyone have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend!  Salon returns on September 9th with the hilarious Dana Lorge as our co-host.  The theme is still TBA, but songs on or off theme are always welcome.

-Arianna Armon
Blogette for The Salon
Please email me.

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