Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Salon Wrap-Up for August 25, 2013: “Anniversaries – 8 Years of Salon & 95 Years of Leonard Bernstein!”

What do you get someone on their 8th Anniversary? Something Bronze, according to Google, signifying "beauty and durability – and pottery – indicative of nature and simplicity."  Well, this past Sunday there were beautiful songs, durable voices, natural talent, simple emotion, and pottery...OK, Google lost me on that one.  But the theme of the evening was "Anniversaries – 8 Years of Salon and 95 Years of Leonard Bernstein!" and so much joy, tears, laughter and celebratory music resounded from the Etcetera, Etcetera stage, so much so that this blog is going to be a LONG one, folks (grab your popcorn)!  Music by Leonard Bernstein were featured, and the Co-Hosts of the evening were a fine, fine line of Etceterettes: Sarah Rice, Maureen Taylor, Melissa Mulder, Sierra Rein, Candice Oden, Erin Cronican, Marnie Klar, Janice Hall and our "Etcet-dude-ette," Adam Shapiro! It was so much fun to hear the Etceterettes sing and then introduce people to the stage, and for some reason our fashion minds were synced to the sea colors of blue, green, and white!  Our colors even matched Sarah's collection of bracelets, which were handed like a torch from one Etceterette to the next.

First Half

Our illustrious Host, the man who started it all, Mark Janas, began the evening by placing his hands next to those of  Matthew Martin Ward as they both played the "Overture" to Leonard Bernstein's Candide, a fun a rousing way to get us in the mood.  After Tanya Moberly introduced the theme and Etceterettes, our first co-host Candice Oden stood with Adam Shapiro, Erin Cronican and Salon virgin Brian Charles Rooney to sing "The New World" from Jason Robert Brown's Songs For a New World - their voices blended incredibly, instantly giving me goosebumps!  Our first songwriter of the evening (and regular for four years!) was Richie Eisenberg, who lovingly sang a bouncy original song dedicated to The Salon, "This Is The Place."  Another Salon Regular and resident composer, Nicholas Levin, then stood and simply spoke about The Salon and how he's been a part of it since the beginning 8 years ago.  (Nicholas can next be seen in Bobbie Horowitz's Unity Show on September 21st).  He reminisced about the multitudes of MAC Award winners, marriage proposals, "hotel noise complaints" from the Algonquin Hotel, celebrity sightings (John Laroquette, the late Julie Harris, Celeste Holmes, Rita Gardner) and finally came upon the immense respect that Mark Janas has for music and the performers he hosts.  He had with him some items from one of Bernstein's Estate Auctions from the past and as a gift he handed Mark the lucite plaque given to Leonard Bernstein as part of his 1980 Kennedy Center Honors award!  Candice was quite flummoxed by this but not enough to miss introducing Salon newbie Court Graves to the stage, who sang Kurt Weill's haunting "Speak Low"; Curt is producing Avignon Theater's production of "Jamming: The American Songbook" on November 3rd.

Our next Co-Host/singer was Marnie Klar, who has had an explosion this past year of performance growth and production!  She sang Kander and Ebb's "Maybe This Time," which I remember as one of the first songs she sang at The Salon, way back when!  She was tender and sweetly halting, then soared over the notes brilliantly.  Elaine St. George - who will perform her Steve Goodman show October 30th and three dates in November (1, 7 and 14) at Don't Tell Mama, sang the sweet and thankful love song "Lucky To Be Me," a song that was directed to her new FIANCE (who was in the audience)!    And I don't think he'll mind if I reveal this, but Richie Eisenberg had to wipe away a few tears as she sang.  We all whooped and hollered for Elaine's happiness! Next on the list to make us happy was 2013 MAC Nominee Bob Diamond, who sang John Wallowitch's "I Will Always Love You Back," a tender ballad of the ups and downs (but mostly ups) of love. Bob will perform a trio show in December (more info to come) and is working on a new cabaret show for February 2014!  Our Salon-regular-who-never-misses-a-Sunday, Barb Malley (it's called "addiction" she says), sang the gorgeous "The Anniversary Song," wearing a 25 year-old dress she once wore to a live Bernstein performance!  Barb is doing some work for Rob Lester's cabaret project, coming soon.

Marissa Mulder, her red hair complemented by an emerald green dress, was our next Etceterette co-host; she with Bill Zeffiro at the piano, sang Jimmy Van Heusen's touching "Somewhere Along The Way."  She just finished reintroducing her Jimmy Van Heusen show at the Metropolitan Room, and as someone who saw it, I can say it's not to be missed next time around!  Bill Zeffiro then stood at the microphone with Mark Janas playing to robustly sing the Bernstein/Comden/Green song "Pass That Football" from Wonderful Town; Bill's play The Backseat of the Lincoln had a reading on Monday night at Urban Stages.  Next up was Susan Horowitz, aka Dr. Sue, singing her new composition, "Celebrate Your Life."  The Doctor is the author of "Queens of Comedy" and will also perform at the Unity Church Cabaret on September 21st.  Yet another Regular-Lyricist, one who has been so supportive of The Salon over the years, Michael Colby, sang a story-telling ballad entitled "Frank Kiley," with words by Colby and music by Peter Millrose. 

The final co-host for the first half, "yours truly" Sierra Rein, then got up on stage with my husband's Google Glass on my face, this time archiving from my point of view what it's like to sing at The Salon.  I sang "They Just Keep Moving The Line" from TV's Smash, which is also featured in Marquee Five's show "Broadway By The Letter: Act One."  No one put a napkin over their head to protest being put on camera, you can see what I saw on YouTube here; you can also check out my husband's adventures with Glass on his blog. It was then my complete pleasure to welcome friend, Marquee Five mezzo-soprano, MAC and Julie Wilson Award winner, and all-around awesome Mom, Julie Reyburn to the stage.  Julie is performing this Thursday at 54 Below for the "Tales of Joni" show.  She hilariously sang Leonard Bernstein's "What a Movie!" from Trouble in Tahiti, and surprised the audience with grass skirted backup singers Adam Shapiro, Bill Zeffiro, and moi, Sierra Rein !  It was a hoot.  And a hoot followed Julie as David Ballard (waiter and singer-dancer-composer-lyricist extraordinaire) sang the first song he ever brought to The Salon...his "A Song About Your Baby."  Judging from Julie Reyburn's adorable kids, David assures the song was definitely not about either of them.  David is in the Advanced BMI Workshop and will debut his Cabaret show "Having It All" (directed by Tanya Moberly) next month! I was then thrilled to introduce at the piano Regular-Composer Steve Schachlin, who remembers the initiation of The Salon in the old French winebar ("the main difference between then and now is we were a lot more drunk back then"); he performed his stirring work "The Great Big Hall." Steve did an exciting thing this past week: he recorded a "live studio" CD entitled Tales from the Bonus Round, literally sitting down in one take to record the entire thing, and will release this "raw and without fixes" recording of it soon. He'll debut the CD at the Metropolitan Room on October 27th. 

Adam, Bill, Sierra and Julie sing the finale of "What A Movie!"
(Photo: Pete Nicholls)
Classical Corner

Mark Janas' Classical Corner, one of my favorite regular features of The Salon, finished up the first set.  He concentrated on the concept of the "Anniversary" as a written form of dedication, one that Bernstein would write for such peers as "Serge Koussevitzky, Paul Bowles, William Schuman, Stephen Sondheim, [and] Aaron Copland...Felicia Montealegre, Johnny Mehegan, David Diamond, and Helen Coates."  The goal in an Anniversary is to capture the harmonic language of the person one is was writing for.  Mark began by first playing the one Lennie wrote for Stephen Sondheim, an almost-lullaby that beautifully combined these two great composers' signature "tastes".  He then went into an Anniversary written by Lennie to his former piano teacher and once personal secretary, the demanding and pragmatic Helen Coates.  The music was as exacting, demanding, yet at times gentle as Helen was reportedly herself.  Mark regaled us with a bit of Lennie's past and the story of how Bernstein was discovered; New York Philharmonic's conductor Bruno Walter took seriously ill on November 14, 1943, and as a 25 year old Jewish Assistant Conductor, Bernstein had no choice but to step in and conduct for a National broadcast with 7 hours' notice.  Lennie said he wore a brown suit, questioned taking two pills to both calm his nerves and up his energy (he chose neither and flung them into the wings), and didn't have any memory of anything that happened up until he heard the thunderous applause that would signal his status as an overnight sensation (and tomorrow's front page news) in the music world.  Mark finished off the Classical Corner by playing his own Anniversary, written for his friend and past partner Glenn who (along with a broken down car) became the reason Mark chose to stay in New York at the beginning of his career. The song was held together by a Bernstein-esque repeated D above, which pulsed like a heartbeat thru the number.  The fact that Glenn passed away, and that Mark had played it for him on his deathbed, made the song poignant and emotionally complex.  As Lennie said when he himself first heard Mark perform it, "I didn't expect all that."

Mark also took a moment to tell us that Sunday would have also been Paul J. Vasquez's birthday as well, so we toasted to him (he was Mark's co-writer and Salon member for years).

Second Half

Co-Host and co-Blogette Erin Cronican grabbed the mic and, along with Candice Oden and myself,  Sierra Rein, sang "The Webber Love Trio" ("Love Changes Everything"/"Unexpected Song"/"I Don't Know How To Love Him"), and boy did we enjoy singing the harmonies together at the end!  A reminder that Erin is busy with her theater company, The Seeing Place Theater, and is the founder of The Actors' Enterprise, a great business coaching source for actors.  Producer and spitfire Tanya Moberly then joined Erin to sing "A Boy Like That/I Have a Love" with an abundance of heart and a few tears to share. In addition to directing David Ballard's debut cabaret show, Tanya is going to sing at the September 11th Concert for City Greens and will debut her New York Songwriter show in November. Charlotte Patton, along with Barry Levitt at the piano, sang Steven Lutvak's "Unexpected Complications," a wry take on the trials of a second date.  This was from her new show and she will be playing Al Jolson's Mom in a recreation of "The Al Jolson Story" (produced by Stephen Hanks) on October 12th at The Sheet Music Society.  Erin then graciously introduced singer-songwriter and regular Salon member Sunny Leigh to the stage to sing with Barry on "My Heart Starts Singing."  Sunny will be at the Metropolitan Room on September 15th, 4pm (right before Salon!) to re-release her CD of standards and originals.

Our statuesque and woman-of-numbers, Etceterette co-host #6, was Maureen Taylor, who sang Maury Yeston's beautiful "I Had a Dream About You."  It was lovely to hear her relate how she was invited to The Salon by Marnie, and how welcome she felt in a place that she could "fit in," being able to sing opera, musical theater, and everything in between.  She asked Barry play for two more singers; the first was Lou Iacovino, fresh from his Chorus Boy experience singing in "Aida."  He set the stage with a few smoke-filled words and then sang "One More For My Baby."  Sharon Hunter also sang with Barry, performing an amazing rendition of "Copacabana" in an arrangement that Barry Manilow might not have expected.  It was Kurt Weill and Kander & Ebb-esque, and it worked! Sharon just finished two dates at Don't Tell Mama's and will be at the Metropolitan Room on October 15th at 7pm.  Mark Janas then returned to the piano to play for Stephanie Zagoren, who has sung in Cabaret and at The Salon for years! She sang the beautiful "Let's Face the Music and Dance."

We were in the home stretch as Etceterette/MAC-Bistro Award-winner Janice Hall began co-hosting, this time singing with Matthew Martin Ward at the piano on Bernstein's cut number from Peter Pan entitled "Dream With Me." It was a wonderful lullaby filled with a mixture of hope and sadness.  Stephen Elkins then sang a Bernstein/Schwartz song that I had never heard of: a "hymn" of sorts mixed with Bernstein's unmistakable style entitled "A Simple Song" (from Mass).  Kevin McMullan, who is remembering his partner Jim Fradrich's passing 4 years ago, sang his favorite song of Jim's, "'Til A Moment Ago."  Kevin is working on a book, is selling his house, and is having a yard sale on the 14th and 15th of September, so he's keeping busy!  Joan Jaffe, also ever the busy bee, sang the hilarious "When Banana Skins are Falling" by Frazzinin, DeFrank, and Mills.  Coming off her 2012 MAC Award for Best Musical Comedy Performer, Joan is looking forward to her new show, "Food," on October 31st - wear a costume and don't come hungry!

The sparkling Co-Host bracelets came home on the wrist of Etceterette Sarah Rice, who used them brilliantly in the Bernstein/Latouche classic "Glitter and Be Gay" from Candide.  Sarah remembers coming to The Salon when it was at the Algonquin Oak Room, and instantly appreciated it as "a garden to where you can go and be safe and possibly fail with love and it's Okay!"  She remembers being in Venice with Leroy Reames and Jerome Robbins for Leonard Bernstein's birthday celebration - what that must have been like!  You can see Sarah next at the September 15th Sondheim Unplugged at 54 Below.  She then invited Stephen Hanks to step up; he sang Nat King Coles' "Nature Boy" as featured in the movie Moulin Rouge.  He will bring back his debut show "Beyond American Pie: The Don McLean Songbook" on October 1st at The Triad, and again is producing the "Al Jolson Story" at The Sheet Music Society on October 12th.  We then heard again from newcomer Brian Charles Rooney, this time truly showing his tenor chops by singing gorgeously on "Maria" from West Side Story - he related having sung the role of Tony in a production in Italy, and marveling how even within a song (at a really well-done note or moment), the audience would erupt in expressions of appreciation and applause.  He has also excelled in the Broadway production of The Threepenny Opera as Lucy Brown!  Brian then passed the role of Tony to an actual Tony, Salon regular Tony Imgrund, who sang with Erin Cronican on a beautiful duet "One Hand, One Heart" from West Side Story.

The proud Etceter-male, Adam Shapiro, was the next co-host and he was eager to ask Sarah if he could wear the bracelets too, which he did.  Adam took his love of being an Etceterette to the mic as he heartfully sang his own lyrics to Mel Brook's "I Want to be A Producer" from The Producers, this time making it "I Want to Be An Etceterette." My personal favorite line was how he enjoys getting "my free lasagna / Just to work for Mark and Tanya!" It was joyous.  Matthew Martin Ward, who will play at Zach Wobensmith's show "Stiff Upper Lip" at Don't Tell Mama September 12th and 14th, sang Cole Porter's classic Americana song "Don't Monkey With Broadway," a toast and a plea to all the New York Mayoral candidates duking it out.  Last, but certainly not least, was the spunky Ann Dawson, singing "Little Did I Dream" - her new show will debut in January!  To close the show, Mark Janas took a moment to thank everyone, and then led us all in a sing-along of "Somewhere" from West Side Story (there were a few lumps in the throats, that's for sure) and a big "Happy Birthday Lennie" at the end!



NEXT SALON is Sunday September 8th! The theme will be "Life Is a Bitch," and our sweet-as-pie and tough as leather Co-Host will be Mary Foster Conklin!  Famous for her Renegade Cabaret and her deft Jazz interpretations of the American Songbook, Mary is a grand and witty performer with a voice that is "smoky with a tart twist of lemon."

So have a great Labor Day Weekend and come to The Salon on the 8th with your songs about life, the universe, the bitchy people in our lives, your favorite female dog, or any music you wish!

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

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