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.
Prospect Park’s 150th anniversary, and Brooklyn’s recent blossoming as a rising cultural and residential alternative to Manhattan, provides an impetus to promote and improve Prospect Park and, in particular, a part of the Park that is underutilized. The Park’s rose garden is the site of the Connective Project. That rose garden is only a stone’s throw from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s rose garden, but a world away in attendance, style, maintenance and, in fact, roses. The Park’s rose garden is currently rose-less. On the other hand it is full of flashing, yellow pinwheels.
The Connective Project was the concept of Suchi Reddy and Reddymade Architecture and Design, a design firm associated with experimentation, bold color and new materials. In this installation, visual art proffered on line (on when visiting) by any interested person is curated, culled, printed and folded into pinwheels. Some thousands of pinwheels have been mounted in the Park’s Rose Garden secreted in Park’s northeast corner. Many thousands of blanks remain to be decorated by visitors; more than initially planned.
The Prospect Park Alliance, working with Hester Street Collaborative, a non-profit organization focused on improving the physical environment in underserved NYC neighborhoods, hopes to engage the community in the planning the restoration of the Park’s northeast corner. They will be reaching out to the community in a variety of settings to help determine the future design of this space. (The first of these community efforts began in a Community Design Workshop on June 10.) The community engagement phase is supported in part by The Altman Foundation.
The installation is slated to remain in place only through July 17, 2017; you have a short time to get there. But even if you miss seeing this effort, Prospect Park itself is well worth exploring. Prospect Park itself is, like Central Park, built on a plan of Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. At 526 acres, Prospect Park is about two-thirds the size of Central Park. It, too, is a magnificent and varied park accommodating, among other sites, the Brooklyn Zoo, a charming lake and boathouse, the first urban-area Audubon Center in the nation, an ice rink, a band shell, a carousel, bike paths, dozens of athletic and recreational facilities, and the historical Lefferts House (a Dutch Colonial farmhouse built between 1777 and 1783). The Park abuts the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden – a somewhat less formal affair than the Bronx counterpart, but lovely in its own way. Its paved paths need restoration; greater efforts at garbage collection are required; better signage and maps are needed. But on the plus side, it was possible, on this gray afternoon in Brooklyn, to walk ten minutes in Adirondack-like woods and not encounter another human being. The park’s state and status have fluctuated over the years but, with the rising economic tide, efforts are being made to return it to its former glory.
The installation itself opened on July 7, a rainy day clearing toward mid-afternoon. The overcast emphasized the sunny yellow of the unadorned pinwheels. Each pinwheel is mounted on its own swaying but rigid wire stem, varying from about 30” to 60” in height. The pinwheels themselves come in a few varied diameters. As a guesstimate, perhaps 15% of the pinwheels reflect submitted art work. The rest remain a bright yellow awaiting subsequent contribution. The abundance of pinwheels had particular appeal for the few children in attendance – who, on the weekend and in the sun, will certainly be more evident.
The overall effect was charming and whimsical, especially when the wind picked up. Nonetheless, that effect might have been more powerful if the terrain had been hillier or not entirely enclosed by trees; if the space were more generous or there had been more paths among the pinwheels; if the heights were more varied and, some, taller than visitors; or if there were an overlooking prospect. (All of these variations involve cost and logistics that were not part of this particular installation – but I’m looking ahead for copycats.) If you have an interest in the Park, the Connective Project might be enough to make you accelerate your calendar, especially if you have art to contribute to one or more of the pinwheels or a child to charm. Bring a picture of your child or children on your phone or a memory stick and see it turned into a pinwheel or, better, submit it in advance on-line and find it in place on your arrival.
The Association of Volleyball Professionals, or AVP, has been around for more than three decades; it claims the mantle of the nation’s premier beach volleyball association. It is headquartered in California where volleyball players are a product of the native soil and climate.
View of the stadium from Pier 25
This weekend New York City is the site of the third tournament (of eight) on AVP’s seasonal schedule – May through September. The competition takes place in a stadium erected on Pier 26, a brief walk from the Chambers Street IRT station. It began on Friday, June 9 and continues through Sunday, June 11. The sun, the water, the scantily clad, buff bodies are enough to make the AVP feel at home in California, but the backdrop of the Freedom Tower and its neighbors belies any such conclusion. The pier is festive, populated with games (many free), food trucks, sponsors’ displays and stores. Pier 25 to the south, hosting secondary volleyball courts, also hosts cafes, miniature golf, playgrounds, and sweeping Hudson views.
Players Fopma and Reeves cooling off during a time-out
Between moments of active play, music blares from ubiquitous loudspeakers. Admission to the tournament is both free and general – although paid tickets can gain you access to privileged areas and services. If you are ardent fans of the game; or to experience another aspect of the New York summer; if you want to see a burgeoning neighborhood unlike most in Manhattan or just to appreciate the sinewy athleticism, this is a place to be part of a novel New York event. The tournament semi-finals and finals will be played today starting at 10 a.m. The finals will be broadcast on NBC TV at 4:30 p.m. This is the third season New York has hosted a segment of the AVP tour and – you know – once it gains traction it will become ticketed and over-crowded; see it now if it has appeal. Bring a hat and sunscreen.
Volleyball is a game many of us played in our youths, but few of us have played the game on display here. This is two “man” volleyball – played on sand. That only two people can move rapidly enough to cover the acreage is astonishing. (The court is 9 x 9 meters on each side of the net.) To do that on sand is mind boggling. The players are generally tall, trim, lithe and almost universally ensconced behind large, opaque sunglasses. This tournament starts as a double elimination but becomes a simple elimination tournament half way through; the double elimination means that a losing team can earn its way back into competition for the win. That adds some spice. The draw here includes a number of Olympians, some medalists. Eighty five teams registered for this tournament; only four of each gender made it to the final draw. So you can expect the level of play to be high. For those in the know, notables on the roster include Ryan Doherty, Nick Lucena, Elsa Baquerizo McMillan, Kelly Claes, April Ross, Ricardo Santos, Reid Priddy, Jake Gibb, Xi Zhang and Sara Pavan (among others).
Players DiCello and Stockman signing souvenirs for the crowd
The sports pages may offer an analysis of play, prospects for specific teams, informed comments on strategy, player stats, etc. Although many in the crowd that proliferated in the stands on Saturday might also be able to do that, I cannot. But I can appreciate athleticism, passionately contested points, the sun and the breeze off the river and the excitement of competition – for prize money that still suggests the game is played for the joy of the competition.
This is sport at a professional level that is close enough for you to touch – in a setting that few can touch. The piers themselves may be a revelation given how lower Manhattan has developed in recent years. The surrounding neighborhood looks more like Seattle or San Francisco than the gritty city I first encountered when arriving in New York – albeit a tad taller – with charming cafes and spectacular vistas. The entire experience can be exhilarating. Carpe Diem. But do bring that hat and sunscreen.
Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley, husband and wife, appeared at Feinstein’s/54 Below on Memorial Day evening, and will again each evening through June 1, celebrating (slightly in advance) their 20th anniversary. Mazzie has won the Outer Critics Circle Award and been nominated for the Tony, Olivier and Drama Desk Awards; sort of the Susan Lucci of musical theater – everyone is certain that she is deserving, but no one is sure about the timing. Danieley is a lauded (and decorated) Broadway tenor noted by, among others, Harold Prince for his acting and Ben Brantley for his voice. The pair met in an off-Broadway production of Trojan Women: A Love Story in 1996. Although each is a stellar performer individually, when they perform together it is a lovely thing to hear and to see. Cabaret and Broadway typically rely on slightly different musical skills. Cabaret, taking songs out of context, calls for musicality and emotion to deliver the goods. Theater requires channeling the character; musicality is subordinate. Mazzie and Danieley deliver both without strain. These are polished professionals who can be counted on to include something special with each performance.
The anniversary theme had Mazzie and Danieley performing songs from their performance careers – so the numbers themselves did not adhere to any organizing principle other than casting success. They opened with a duet medley from their Trojan Women production – significant to their marriage but less so musically. Nonetheless it was an effective welcome to a warmly supportive full house.
Mazzie followed this with a heartfelt “Hello Young Lovers” (Rogers & Hammerstein) from her recent portrayal of Anna Leonowens (The King and I) conveying a musical and emotional range that made one wish to have seen the entire performance. Danieley followed this with two numbers from South Pacific (again, Rogers & Hammerstein), “Younger than Springtime” (in a traditional but very effective rendition) and “You Have to be Carefully Taught.” Both performers project a warm and confident sound with the subtlety to overlay an appropriate emotional impact and the intelligence and experience to know the weight of the lyrics.
A few numbers down the road, Mazzie and Danieley performed the obligatory Sondheim medley – without which musical theater lovers cannot digest a meal (and the food was indeedappetizing). The medley was wonderful in all respects not the least of which is the brilliance of the lyrics and music. But Mazzie and Danieley did justice to both as actors and singers. The medley included a lovely rendition of “Happiness” (Passion), “Good Thing Going” and “Not a Day Goes By” (Merrily We Roll Along), an especially moving “Too Many Mornings” (Follies), and “Move On” (Sunday in the Park with George). They, and the audience, enjoyed particularly the varied and lush arrangements delivered by sidemen Joseph Thalken as music director, Peter Donovan on brass and Rich Rosensweig on percussion.
Emotional songs from the less well known The Visit and Curtains (both Kander & Ebb) and Fiorello (Bock & Harnick) brought back fond memories. Danieley had discussed the writing of “I Miss the Music” (Curtains) with John Kander who had, by that time, lost his long-time creative partner, Fred Ebb. Kander commented that he had in mind, when writing, not his own loss of Ebb but of how Mazzie and Danieley would address their mutual loss; the song was essentially written for them.
Mazzie shattered the somewhat nostalgic calm by discussing her diagnosis of ovarian cancer and subsequent remission, noting how her own thoughts were echoed by the lyrics of Kander and Ebb in “And The World Goes Round” from the show of the same name. A loving rendition of “Back to Before” from Ragtime (Aherns & Flaherty) got a well deserved electric response from the audience.
Mazzie and Danieley graciously thanked the staff of Feinstein’s/54 Below, especially the “mixologist”who had created a cocktail for the anniversary event – in a fair approximation of teal – the color now adopted to signify the battle against ovarian cancer, and the lighting guru who managed to bathe the room in a similarly exotic hue to lend atmosphere to the final number “Opposite You” (Aherns & Flaherty). A warm encore of “Our Love is Here to Stay” (Gershwin & Gershwin) closed the evening to a standing ovation. The audience could not have been more appreciative or enthusiastic with the evening, and they showed sound judgment.
Feinstein’s/54 Below offers a welcoming atmosphere, a gracious and efficient staff, a stylish performance space with a raised stage and nicely even amplification. Mazzie and Danieley are performing at Feinstein’s/54 Below (254 West 54th Street) from May 29 to June 1, 2017.
When relating the narrative of another’s story, you typically hear: “it’s about a road trip,” or “it’s about a zoo,” “ a war,” “a murder.” But almost all good plays and stories are, at heart, about relationships and epiphanies; the greater context is for premise and drama. Bigger Than You, Bigger Than Me has, as context, a Washington, D.C. alert to our contemporary history of school shootings, gun violence, physical crime, terrorism and rage. Nonetheless it is about the relationship among the three characters as they are increasingly stressed by one member’s growing premonitions of disaster.
The cast includes Celia Pilkington as Beth, a D.C. public school teacher, Ryan Kim as Tucker, Beth’s husband, a man with an unspecified national security job, and Kelly McCready as Adele, a new teacher in the district working alongside Beth. Beth and Adele strike up a confessional friendship – Adele is new to town and needs a friend; Beth is married to Tucker whose work life (and personal life) are walled off even from Beth by confidentiality obligations and his regular withdrawal into video shooter games.
Adele (Kelly McCready, on right), explains her vision to Beth (Celia Pilkington)
Adele lives in a fifth floor apartment near the capitol and is newly exposed, – through her huge windows, to big city shocks – crashes, demonstrations, helicopters, sirens – to which she develops a plausible but unhealthy aversion. She fixates on an auto accident that she had watched evolve inevitably from her aerie – but could not stop. She obsesses, by implication, about her inability to intercede to stop the carnage. Subsequently she observes a mob of masked men who, in her mind, pose a massive but unspecified threat to the city. She summons the police only to see the mob melt away. Her paranoia builds, and her certainty of the impending disaster prompts her to take remedial actions that build to a surprising climax and a spiral into tumult that is left to our imaginations.
I credit actors who can project emotions and perceptions they have almost certainly never experienced –almost certainly aided in this instance by the strong direction of Adam Thorburn. This is a young cast by most lights and each member creates a credible and sometimes disturbing personification – although the 90 minute running time is challengingly brief to make the transitions entirely natural. Adele externalizes her anxiety from the first, and cultivates it as time passes –smoking, de-pilling her sweater, fidgeting with her cuffs and fingers; she does convey the panic that accompanies the terror of an inexplicable and even admittedly implausible foreboding.
Beth (Celia Pilkington) and Tucker (Ryan Kim)
Tucker is a more two dimensional character than Beth or Adele but that is likely a directorial choice arising from his emotional remoteness; he embodies the disassociation we have come to expect from the dramatic persona of self-important government functionaries – especially in our current political climate. Beth effectively vacillates between her increasingly abrading friendship for Adele and her frustratingly remote relationship with Tucker.
Director Thorburn moves this story along in a taut 90 minutes without muddying any of the details while drawing from each actor recitations emotionally true to the story line. Author Kathryn Coughlin’s exposition is natural without being predictable, and the cast makes the most of the dialogue – viscerally conveying their stresses and the sincerity of the resulting strains. Nonetheless I still felt a bit less than satisfied with the foundational motivation laid for Adele’s visions, angst and certainty of doom. This is a minor weakness in the script that might be addressed if desired – and does not detract a whit from the theatricality or electricity of the evening. My greater concern is over the play’s final minutes which, despite a legitimate and plausible surprise, did not reveal to me a moral, a motivation or a resolution. That reflects a school of writing that embraces the ineffability of life, and one cannot argue with that – but I left a little bit hungry.
Tucker (Ryan Kim) and Adele (Kelly McCready)
Coughlin’s plays include More Than Before; Slip; They Say There’s a War Going On; Sounds of Alarm; and All We Have; her work has been produced by Field Trip Theater, Rorschach Theatre, Inkwell Theatre, 1MPF, DC-Page-to-Stage, St. Bonaventure University, The Disreputables and Meat and Bone Theatre Company. Her career path has included dramaturge, literary manager and teacher – in association with a variety of small theater companies.
The Studio Theater space is a modest square, on a flat floor, with a single stage entrance – no wings, no proscenium, no curtain; the chairs are on risers. The lighting is hung from perhaps 7 pipes. All the stagecraft must be managed with the utmost directness. You-Shin Chen divides the stage into Beth’s and Tucker’s apartment on the one side and Adele’s on the other by a simple placement of furniture and the device of transitioning between them by moving upstage behind an opaque partition. It works. Gilbert Pearto contributes to that division with lighting, and to the verisimilitude of Tucker’s video game playing with the flickering of the video on his face. That also works. Andy Evan Cohen, sound designer, provides appropriately strident and ominous sounds at times of tension, along with sirens and breaking glass to set up Adele’s state of tension. The entire experience is craftsman-like and engaging without intruding on the drama.
Photo Credit: Madeleine Boudreaux Top photo: Celia Pilkington as Beth and Kelly McCready as Adele
Studio 28 staged “Bigger Than You, Bigger Than Me” by Kathryn Coughlin, directed by Adam Thorburn, at Studio Theater on Manhattan’s Theater Row – for a brief run: May 10-13, 2017.
Once again (for the 39th time) the ArtExpo has descended on New York City (at Pier 94 at the western foot of Manhattan’s 54th Street.) This is the biggest such gathering of juried artists in the U.S. – artists congregating from around the globe to promote their work to trade buyers—gallery owners and managers, art dealers, interior designers, architects, corporations and art & framing retailers. Again, the pleasure for me was to be able to talk to the artists. The art becomes more meaningful to me, and often more sensible.
Tzachi Nevo traveled from Israel for this, his first New York ArtExpo. He came out of an industrial design background and prepares his work in that mindset; his art is his business. He is widely represented on the Web (LinkedIn, FB, Etsy, Pinterest, etc.) Until two years ago, Nevo worked in marketing – having previously spent only the briefest time practicing his design craft. He is a genial fellow with none of the obvious eccentricities or pretensions of the cliché artist. The works Nevo displayed at the Expo are bold in color and design, reminiscent of Greek theater masks or African tribal art; primitive in their simplicity and readily accessible. They show a definite sense of whimsy. He has produced distinctly different series – masks of animals, large emojis, many of which were not displayed at the Expo but may be found on-line at Urban Masquerade.
Christian Torcal and Carol Routenaer
I spoke briefly, and haltingly (due to our mutual lack of bilingualism), with a charming young Spanish couple from Valencia – Carol Routenaer and Christian Torcal. Routenaer is a self-taught photographer with a romantic sensibility and an eye for the idealized beauty of young girls set off with bits of nature in ravishing colors. She occasionally dipped into surrealism – perhaps accidentally, but the works could be enjoyed simply for their lush and deep tonalities. This was also her first Expo. See Carol’s website.
I chatted at some length with Ed Pascoe of the Pascoe Galleries; Pascoe maintains a gallery in North Miami, but his Expo display was an expansive collection of captivating ceramic works by a collective of South African Zulu artists (Ardmore Studio) – with wonderful color, detail, energy and humor – simultaneously sophisticated and accessible, masterful and occasionally silly. You could not resist smiling at the work.
In 2009 Pasco first visited Ardmore in Kwazulu-Natal and met the founder and organizer of the collective, Fée Halsted. Pascoe now regularly visits the collective in South Africa, and Halstead reciprocates; they can be seen at the center of the (uncredited) photo of the collective. See the website for Pascoe Gallery.
I also had an engaging conversation with Kevin Grass and wife, both artists, but only Kevin’s work was displayed. He teaches academic art, she art history; they met while studying northern renaissance art at the University of Georgia. Grass hales from Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, a modest French colonial town an hour south of St Louis – founded in 1735, and the oldest town in the state. (It gets a mention in the journals of Lewis & Clark.) The Grasses live and work in the Tampa Bay area. His relatively rustic background belies the stylistic classicism, and the philosophical and satiric sensibility of his paintings. (One iconic image is of a young couple, casually attired, in intimate embrace – each perusing his/her phone behind the back – and outside the peripheral vision – of the other. Another is a riff on Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding portrait – but this time around commemorating the legalization of gay marriage.) Grass paints on birch plywood and finishes his works with a varnish that enhances the depth and luster of the paint and suggests a more aged lineage. See the website for Kevin Grass.
I spoke with Kate Taylor, a vivacious Torontonian, who also works on birch ply – but in a less representational manner. She starts with a bold color wash and then attacks her “canvas” with a palette knife of many colors to build pointillist abstracts, and finishes the work with an epoxy resin, lightly torched to educe air bubbles, rendering the final product glossy and bright, and seemingly lacquered. The strike of the palette knife leaves bits of color with a hard lead and a softer, almost frayed trailing edge – as if having been ripped from the edge of a paper. See Kate Taylor Studio.
Peter Layton Glass Works
Glowing glass creations of the English master glass artist Peter Layton were also particularly striking. See more on his website.
The Expo brings together art and artists from around the globe, working in many media – some exceptional, some less so – but all receptive to conversation. If you are an artist, or enjoy the study, philosophy, technique or business of art, or if you are in the market for art, you should find wandering the aisles here a fascinating few hours. It is open today (4/22) and tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday. Each day includes various special events, talks and presentations – all of which can be found on the Art Expo New York website.
Thos Shipley presented a tribute to Nat King Cole Saturday evening, March 25, at the Metropolitan Room to a sold out audience, both vocal and warmly enveloping. Shipley’s is a relaxed and open personality, unpretentious and accessible. Whether that was cultivated by, or enabling of, his varied background, I cannot know. But it works. (Shipley was raised by a teacher mom and army dad; spent his youth in Japan; studied electrical engineering, followed by acting and singing; performs locally and internationally and is now Ward Councilman in Roselle Park, New Jersey.) You want to like this man, and he makes it easy. He is, despite his current political role, a cabaret professional who has precisely prepared all aspects of the performance – befitting his broad experience on Broadway, regional theater and local and international cabaret and recording. And, again, it works. The show feels spontaneous and relaxed – perhaps because of the careful preparation.
Shipley was backed by Tom Guarna on guitar, David Finck on double bass, and Mark Soskin on Piano. These very able musicians had too brief opportunities to solo, but made the most of each one. Each is individually impressive, but they were there in the service of Shipley, and Cole, and delivered a smooth, and, as needed, swinging or syncopated sound, providing solid but unobtrusive support.
The show opens with a brief video of Cole; Shipley enters and blends into a Cole lyric to join the two performers, so we are immediately engaged, and alert to the connection. The band starts and we are launched into a medley of Straighten Up and Fly Right (Cole, Mills), I Love You For Sentimental Reasons (Watson, Best) and Route 66 (Chuck Berry, a timely reminder of his recent passing).
Shipley intermittently tells us a bit about Cole (nee Nathaniel Adams Coles), instructed by his mother in classical piano but, to his father’s chagrin, finding his heart in jazz. (I have supplemented the Cole history here.) Cole struck out on his own at 15 and gained renown for his piano playing. He was christened “Nat King Cole” by a band mate and initially prodded to sing, reluctantly, by an insistent, tipsy patron. He sang, then, a song that became one of his signature numbers; so did Shipley: Sweet Lorraine (Burwell, Parish) – with a brief but captivating Soskin solo.
Cole was so widely recorded that Shipley had a broad repertoire from which to choose material strongly associated with Cole’s name. Each number will resonate with many as being the Cole song they best remember. With the medley of Nature Boy (attributed to Cole), Mona Lisa (Evans, Livingston) and The Christmas Song (Wells, Torme), I heard Cole in Shipley, and relaxed into the evening.
The show is a tribute – not a recreation, but Shipley has, in addition to his own sonorous sound, much of the warmth and (for this performance, at least) some of the musical mannerisms of Cole, so that Cole is often spontaneously recalled to memory. This is helped in part by the (minimal) costume changes and the instrumental backing, both stylistically reminiscent of Cole.
Shipley related an aspect of the racism of the time that kept Cole in his place and at least privately somewhat bitter: Cole was simultaneously lionized for his talent and vilified as a black man attempting to popularize “black” music. He was personally harassed from both sides of the issue, but he strove to open the national entertainment industry to blacks. He enjoyed a truncated single season hosting a variety TV show on NBC, which footed the bill until it was agreed that, for fear of southern backlash, no national sponsor would be forthcoming. Despite support of black and white headliners (Nelson Riddle, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme, Pearl Bailey, Mahailia Jackson, Sammy Davis, Jr., Tony Bennett, Harry Belafonte – among others, working for minimum scale), the show could not be sustained. Cole was physically attacked and intimidated. Without stressing the connection, Shipley sings the plaintive Smile (Chaplin, Turner and Parsons).
With the advent of Rock and Roll, Cole bridled, but Shipley relates that he did expand his jazz approach to include pop and country music; Shipley dons a new jacket and hat to evoke the ‘Cole cool’ to perform Send for Me (Jones) with some nice solo licks by Guarna, and Wild is Love (Rasch, Wayne). A silky rendition of It’s a Beautiful Evening (Rasch, Wayne) again brought back Cole for me.
As a performer, Shipley reflects those characteristics we might expect him to have picked up from his parents – discipline, a work ethic, respect for himself and his audience. He is clearly working on stage: not straining but delivering; not enraptured by fully engaged. He is confident, comfortable, musical and enjoying the process. You will too.
After additional Cole standards, Shipley began to wind down the evening with the obligatory Unforgettable (Gordon). The audience was not ready to end the evening. A video of Cole was projected on the back of the stage and Shipley again echoed Cole in voice and movement – bringing the performance full circle to the initial montage. Shipley thanked the staff, the musicians, the audience, his manager and husband, and slid into the “final” number of L-O-V-E (Kaempfert, Gabler). At this point, the audience was singing along unbidden and would barely let Shipley off the stage. An encore of Paper Moon (Arlen, E. Y. Harburg and Rose) closed the performance. This is an enjoyable show for boomers who listened to Nat King Cole when growing up and for new comers to the American Songbook – who never had the pleasure.
Shipley will be performing on May 18, 2017 at Maureen’s Jazz Cellar in Nyack at 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.; current booking information can be found at www.ThosShipley.com. He plans to return to the Metropolitan Room in the summer.
For a couple of years Stephen Hanks has been producing a series of New York Cabaret’s Greatest Hits; October 7 featured his 14th installment. (Two more of this series will be presented this year at the Metropolitan Room, and eight more are slated for next year.) “Greatest Hits” are not typically for ardent fans – since they will have heard the songs and perhaps the show before – but these are not typical artists or shows. Often the revivals are some months or years gone and, as such, they bring the artist to the fore after a period of further reflection on the material. The result may be better than the original and, at the very least, one can expect the shows will be solid and professional.
Susan Winter had achieved some success as a cabaret performer in the 70’s but took an extended leave to raise a family. She returned to the stage in 2008 after a 30 year hiatus and was promptly gleaning nominations and awards, including the 2009 Bistro Award as outstanding vocalist for her show Love Rolls On (originally launched at the Met Room). And it is Love Rolls On that was reprised on October 7, complete with her original band of Rick Jensen on piano and Tom Hubbard on bass – all of them now more established, mature and mellow.
A review of Winter’s original Love Rolls On included a reference to her “cheerful mezzo.” Whatever the history, now her voice is more of a velvety alto – with a soothing viscosity. Her musicality, vocal placement, articulation and humor (and her joy in performing the show) are all very evident. Winter dispels any cold thoughts her name might conjure with an emotional hug for everyone in the room; yet it is not overly sentimental.
Rick Jensen and Tom Hubbard
Oftentimes a performer is so comfortable in his or her skin, on the stage with the material, that the audience can relax into the show like a comfortable chair. There is no frisson of risk, no sign of nerves. There is a trade off there. The electricity is less, but the ease is greater. Winter has that ease. Even when a key was flubbed, there was a humorous reference and a smooth segue into perfect harmony. And Winter is at an age when one might anticipate some diminution of vocal control; I heard no sign of that. Artists that perform regularly may keep that control for decades more (e.g., Anthony Benedetto); I can hope that Winter will do so. The original material remains fresh, and Winter kept it that way throughout the evening.
Jensen and Hubbard, well known regulars on the cabaret circuit, provided more than background. The accompaniment was musically rich, neither bashful nor overbearing, and a fully significant component of the show – adding as rich a sound as a piano, bass and voice can generate.
The show sprang from Winter’s reflections on the death of her mother and her consequential discovery of a cache of love letters between her parents – the mother she had known and the apparently loquacious father she had only known, to that point, as a man of few words. The show is expressly about relationships (but isn’t all decent literature?); particularly loving relationships, and how they mature in time. Winter’s narrative connected the pieces.
Winter opened with “Moondance” (Van Morrison) in a smooth and mellow arrangement which, upon her introduction by the Met Room, picked up a driving syncopation and a growing dynamic. She moved on to “You’ll See” (Carroll/Coates) in a similar style – after which I wanted a cigarette (if one could still be found.) Winter talked about her home in Florida (under threat from Hurricane Matthew), a small cabin in Pennsylvania and a modest apartment in Manhattan as an intro to “Anyplace I hang My Hat is Home” (Arlen/Mercer). Winter spoke of relationship advice given one of her sons, to “be lucky”, before performing the beautiful “It Amazes Me” (Leigh/Coleman). She next sang “An Older Man is Like an Elegant Wine” (Lee Wing), a very funny song she reported having previously sung at a JCC for the Gesund-ers (men over 60 and capable of enjoying the occasional “lunch”):
. . . And so that’s why the man
with whom I’d like to combine
will be an older man who’s like an elegant wine.
And when I meet him
I’ll enchant him
Hug him, kiss him
Then I’ll decant him
at which every man in the place, she reported, slicked back a cow lick and sat a little taller. Winter can still be a bit of a coquette.
Winter then related the story of having discovered her parents’ letters. Her mother, Lil, the third of nine children, ran off to marry her dad in New Orleans, a few weeks after he had been drafted. They had six weeks together before he shipped out – marking the start of the correspondence. She followed that with “I Can’t be New” (Werner/Paul), a smart and somewhat wistful song about what we can offer as we age, and what we can’t. Winter assured us the she, at least, had never been unfaithful; but, she explained, her memory isn’t what it was.
“I’ve Still Got My Health” (Cole Porter) was upbeat, smart and sassy. With reference once again to her parents’ post elopement correspondence, Winter sang “After Hours” (Parrish/Bruce/Feyne) about longing for an absent lover; and, for the father she only got to know through his letters after her mother’s death, “Isn’t It a Pity” (Gershwin/Gershwin), a poignant reminder of late-discovered opportunity.
Winter performed a more haimish number “I Love the Way You’re Breaking My Heart” (Drake/Alter) with Jeff Stoner, a member of Winter’s wide cabaret family (accompanying on the ukulele).
Winter and Jensen performed a lovely duet/medley of “Old Friend” (Cryer, Ford) and “In Passing Years” (Jensen) – which I would not have thought could be dovetailed, but was. The oddly paired voices were nicely and surprisingly warm toward each other. Additional songs, ending with” Our Love Rolls On” (Frishberg), nicely filled out the evening.
The audience was warm, responsive and enthusiastic. I have no basis to expect this show to be reprised again but you might well benefit by keeping an eye on the Metropolitan Room calendar for later performances by Winter and subsequent editions of the Greatest Hits series.
On a lovely early autumn Saturday (9/17) The Metropolitan Room hosted its first Pet Cabaret. It may now take a modest bowwow. I have never had much patience for clubbing baby seals; indeed I saw none today at the Met Room. But when it comes to shooting urban animals, photographs that is, I’m your man.
Lee Day, “I’ve Gotta Crow”
Lee Day, sporting Milk Bone earrings and a “Lady and the Tramp” shirt, sang a mixed bag of animal-related numbers and shared bits of her life. She opened with a clean verse of “Let’s Talk Dirty to the Animals” (Michael O Donoghue) made famous, ahem . . . , by Gilda Radner. She sang a bit from “Biscuits are a Dog’s Best Friend” – without apologies to Styne and Robin (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes). Then “I’ve Gotta Crow” (Charlap, Leigh), “Talk to the Animals” (Darin), etc.; you get the idea.
Day’s love of animals has gained her entrée to numerous experiences and celebrities – both before and after achieving some renown. Early in her career she discovered she was a kind of “cat whisperer” when rescuing the feline of an opera singer from a precarious perch. The singer was so grateful that she “gave” Day access to an idol of hers, Doris Day (no relation). Doris Day called Lee Day at an appointed hour and they immediately hit it off over their common cause – talking at length. Doris encouraged Lee to pursue her dream – and she did. They have spoken often since that day.
Lee Day and Metropolitan Room Patrons
Lee grooms, and entertains, pets; indeed, she provides grooming house-calls. She has serviced, so to speak, pets of Frank Sinatra, Lauren Bacall, Joan Rivers and Mary Tyler Moore. She has appeared on television with Regis Philbin, Sally Jesse Raphael and, in England, with Terry Wogan. She was seen on the Terry Wogan show by the Queen and Princess Di who then asked to meet her; Day sang for the princes when they were smaller than she. Day is a proponent of pound puppies and does not subscribe to remote animal care; all animal care should be transparent to owners. All of her grooming comes with pet entertainment, but not all entertainment comes with grooming. For example, Lee does entertain at pet weddings and bark-mitzvahsTM.
Day explained in the course of her show that she suffers from Noonan’s syndrome, a condition affecting her learning capacity as well as her physical state (including, particularly the heart). Still, most of us could benefit from whatever has affected Day’s heart; she is guileless and effusive, and she clearly loves animals. She has built for herself a unique career and a remarkable life and, in the process, gained apparent contentment.
Lee Day and Anna Lively sing “He’s a Tramp”
Lee Day was the name on the show marquee, but she was nicely supported by friend Anna Lively, a regular cabaret performer, who joined Day on stage for a lovely and amusing rendition of “He’s a Tramp” (lyrics by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke, music by Oliver Wallace with an assist from Peggy Lee, baying by Lee Day). Both were loosely accompanied on the Piano by Jeff Franzel, an uber-able musician who has played with Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme and Les Brown, among others, and now writes songs for the likes of The Temptations, Placido Domingo and Josh Groban, as eclectic a group of performers as one can cram into three personnae.
Following the show, doggy treats were made available (by the Met Room) to all comers. In New York (unless it’s Trump) you blink and you miss it. It was sweet, if a tad sentimental, and it may not come again.