Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Bob Fosse

The New York Pops – Life Is a Cabaret: The Songs of Kander and Ebb


John Kander (1927-) and Fred Ebb (1928-2004) were introduced in 1962 and collaborated on their first  Broadway musical, Flora the Red Menace (introducing Liza Minnelli) in 1965. Career highlights include the iconic may-run-forever Cabaret, successively revived Chicago- (both made into films), Lauren Bacall’s transition from film to theater in Woman of the Year, and the formidable Scottsboro Boys. The multifaceted team also wrote “New York, New York”, arguably our city anthem- the theme to Martin Scorsese’s 1977 film of the same name.

Certain music from Kander’s oeuvre is so evocative of memorable theater,  it makes the hairs on one’s arm stand at attention. The Pop’s opening, Suite from Chicago does just that. Some of the audience bob in their seats or tap their feet, others mouth lyrics. More than an era or city, Kander and Ebb (here with Bob Fosse) captured an ethos of gleefully celebrated corruption uncomfortably familiar today. I suspect Cabaret continues to pack them in for the same reason. The shows are not just innovative and entertaining, they’re resonant.


John Kander in the balcony. To his right, director Susan Stroman

Tonight’s Guest Vocalists are both young Broadway veterans.

Cassie Leavy has a smooth, confident voice that can unfurl with moderation or belt, though she seems audibly more at home with the latter. She has stage presence. Results, however, are mixed: “Mein Herr” and “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret, lack pathos and bite. “Roxy” (Chicago) and “Everybody’s Girl” (Steel Pier) are missing their innately wicked play. One wonders whether the youthful performer understands the songs’ context.

More contemporary, ‘Ring Them Bells” (Liza with a Z) and “Colored Lights” (The Rink) fare better. Leavy embodies pluck and exasperation attributable to the first song’s protagonist. With the second, we feel hope and ambition as her voice lilts and loops with sweet, trailing vibrato.

Tony Yazbeck rushes through the terrific “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup” (70 Girls, 70) -due to speedy arrangement that robs the number authenticity and delivers a couple of songs as Billy Flynn from Chicago, a role to which he’s imminently returning, with no discernible charisma.


Tony Yazbeck, Steven Reineke, Cassie Levy

Act II, however, sees a complete transformation. Yazbeck’s delicate “Sometimes a Day Goes By” (Woman of the Year) with only piano accompaniment, is eminently tender and touching. “You, You, You” (The Visit) follows suit with palpable yearning. Both of these showcase the performer’s emotional tenor. Yazbeck then offers this evening’s zenith, “City Lights” (The Act) during which, having infectious fun, he grows fully animated, even engaging in loosey goosey, complex tap dance.

In addition to a sassy overture, The New York Pops Orchestra excels with “Hot Honey Rag” (Chicago) which grins, twirls, and flips its hat in textured musical layers and a powerful, lush rendition of “The Minstrel March” (The Scottsboro Boys).

Music Director/Conductor Steven Reineke keeps us abreast of each song’s origin with a bit of amiable patter. At his suggestion, we sing “Happy Birthday” to John Kander, spot-lit in the balcony. Far from retired, the honoree’s Kid Victory (written with Greg Pierce) is playing at New York’s Vineyard Theatre. He’s now at work on The Beast of The Jungle, based on a novella by Henry James.

John Kander celebrates his 90th Birthday on March 18. We honor both his partnership and continuing high craft.

Photos by Richard Termine
Opening: Tony Yazbeck, Cassie Levy

NEXT for The New York Pops:
You’ve Got a Friend: A Celebration of Singers and Songwriters- April 21, 2017

Carnegie Hall presents
The New York Pops
Steven Reineke-Music Director and Conductor
Guest Artists: Cassie Levy, Tony Yazbeck
Life Is a Cabaret: The Songs of Kander and Ebb                    

Call Fosse At The Minskoff – Funny, Charming, and True!


Gypsy Mimi Quillin rushed through the stage door at The Shubert Theater late for her performance in a benefit for American Dance Machine. Having come from an audition for the revival of Sweet Charity, the last person she expected to almost literally run into was Gwen Verdon. Though the two had never met, Verdon seemed to know about the young dancer. “There’s a step in the show you’re going to hate,” she commented without introduction. Leaning back further than Quillin thought possible, she demonstrated a position in Charity’s “The Rich Man’s Frug.” (The flexible thespian demonstrates this and other choreography enhancing the piece.)

Next day, Verdon showed up in Quillin’s dressing room with a slip of torn paper bearing a phone number for Bob Fosse. As if that weren’t enough, she instructed the aspirant exactly what to wear for her private try-out, i.e. how to please. Mimi Quillin does a terrific impression of Verdon peppering the show with illuminating wit. The great dancer (Fosse’s ex-wife) may have been unaware of her own humor, our author may be paraphrasing – regardless, deadpan delivery and spot on timing keeps one laughing.


Not only was she hired to perform, Quillin was asked to help Verdon and Fosse recreate original numbers (first time) and acted as Dance Captain (first time), garnering intimacy few have had over the course of three plus years with the show – on the west coast, Broadway and touring. She was in Washington, D.C. with the company when Fosse died. “Don’t treat them like steps,” Verdon instructed, “they’re like words in a script.” (Wait till you hear her thoughtful advice about getting a boob job.)

“Nothing in my performance past compares to dancing Bob Fosse choreography for Bob Fosse. It’s like pleasuring yourself,” Quillin tells us. (No, he didn’t make a pass at her.) Multidimensional portraits of both the Master and his Muse extend beyond the usual perspective. At one point, surrounded by acolytes, Fosse lead one of his bar games. “Draw your dream house and I’ll tell you what kind of person you are,” he challenged. In front of me, two leggy women nod knowingly to one another. This is the scoop.


Quillin shares both her own trial-by-fire experience and perceptive, bird’s eye view of the wry, loving, proprietary manner in which the couple still thought of one another. (When Fosse changes into his dance pants on stage, Verdon quietly reminds herself, “I gotta get him some new Jockeys.”)

Quillin’s piece is beautifully written on a personal, not anecdotal arc.  The actress/author makes us feel sympathetically present at the time. Did I mention, you’ll laugh?

Direction by J.T. Waite is terrific; well paced and filled with visual variety, despite no scenery to speak of and not a single prop.

Highly recommended.

Bitten By A Zebra Photography

United Solo presents
Call Fosse At The Minskoff
Written and Performed by Mimi Quillin
Directed by J.T. Waite
Theatre Row    

410 West 42nd St.

In its 7th season, United Solo is the world’s largest solo theater festival. Performers from 18 countries, 23 states, and six continents will present their unique works between September 15 and November 20, 2016.

Tickets: Telecharge (www.telecharge.com or 212-239-6200) and at the Theatre Row Box Office (410 West 42nd Street, NYC).

For the full calendar of performances, please visit www.unitedsolo.org/us/ufest