Will's New York Nite Life

Will's New York Nite Life

Paula West @ Jazz at Lincoln Center

Paula West @ Jazz at Lincoln Center

Posted Dec 2, 2017

The San Francisco-based singer, who, alas, hasn’t played Jazz at Lincoln Center since 2013, herewith makes a triumphant return in New York. Miss West, who headlined at the Oak Room of the Algonquin for much of the previous decade, was at the time celebrated for bringing a touch of jazz to what was then New York’s most venerated cabaret room; now, she’s doing the opposite, bringing the lyric-driven spirit and humor of the best cabaret artists to the most visible jazz club in the country. Ms. West’s strengths are still the same, only stronger, not least of which is the ability to switch gears between such traditional jazz-and-cabaret fare as Rodgers and Hart (“Lover”) and more contemporary songsters, like John Lennon (“Gimme Some Truth”), while stopping at such iconclasts as Oscar Brown Jr. (“The Snake,” “Hum-Drum Blues”) along the way. A formidable swinger as well as a storyteller, she still delivers the most compelling interpretation of “Like a Rolling Stone” that I’ve ever heard, as well as of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “The Waters of March” - which, in her hands, is so soulful and personal that it could be titled “The Ethel Waters of March.”

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Steve Tyrell at Cafe Carlyle (2016)

Steve Tyrell at Cafe Carlyle (2016)

Updated Nov 30, 2017

By: Will Friedwald

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Peter & Will Anderson at the Appel Room (JALC): The Fabulous Dorsey Brothers

Peter & Will Anderson at the Appel Room (JALC): The Fabulous Dorsey Brothers

Updated Nov 30, 2017

How very fitting that the major brother act in contemporary swing music, the saxophone-playing Anderson Twins (Peter and Will) should celebrate the greatest brotherly team in the history of the big band era, the fabulous trombonist Tommy Dorsey and clarinetist-saxophonist Jimmy Dorsey. Like the Dorseys, the Andersons possess a unique combination of off-the-charts technical skills - all four brothers, both historic and current, are genuine, classical-level virtuosi - coupled with an equally immeasurable ability to swing and to entertain an audience. And, like the Dorseys before them, the Andersons know well the value of putting together a great band: in addition to the brothers themselves on all the reed instruments, there will be trumpeter Bruce Harris, pianist Jeb Patton, bassist Clovis Nicolas, drummer Aaron Kimmel, and two guest stars of Dorsey-esque proportions, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and vocalist Brianna Thomas. Expect to hear such Dorsey classics as “Marie,” “Song of India,” “So Rare,” and “Tangerine,” while I, for one, will refuse to leave the Appel Room until I hear Mr. Gordon and Ms. Thomas sing together on such classic boy-girl duets as “Yes Indeed” and “Green Eyes.”

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John Pizzarelli & Jessica Molaskey  - The Little Things You Do Together

John Pizzarelli & Jessica Molaskey - The Little Things You Do Together

Posted Nov 8, 2017

Irving Berlin's THIS IS THE ARMY

Irving Berlin's THIS IS THE ARMY

Posted Nov 8, 2017

In 1942, Irving Berlin broke new ground with a remarkable revue of new songs (and comedy sketches) starring an all-military, all-male cast and featuring some of the legendary composer’s absolute greatest songs, like "This Is The Army, Mr. Jones," "I'm Getting Tired So I Can Sleep," "I Left My Heart at the Stage Door Canteen," "That's What the Well Dressed Man in Harlem Will Wear," and "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning." The production not only played Broadway, but then toured the country, was made into a stunning technicolor movie musical in Hollywood, and then was staged for the benefit of service audiences of both the European and Pacific fronts - for the first time, the theater of war became a theater for musical comedy. The show broke new ground in all kinds of ways, featuring an ensemble of freely-mixed African-American and Caucasian cast members (way before the Armed Forces were integrated), and even had cross-dressing soldiers, way before "don't ask, don't tell." Irving Berlin, who toured with the show even in some of the most dangerous places in the world, considered This is the Army one of the crowning achievements of his amazing career, and this 75th anniversary staging (the first time it’s been produced since WW2) will show us why.

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MasterVoices Presents: OF THEE I SING

MasterVoices Presents: OF THEE I SING

Updated Nov 7, 2017

Quick: what factor most makes the 1931 Of Thee I Sing into one of the great works of the American theater? If you said the score by George & Ira Gershwin, almost unbelievably, you’d be wrong. (By Gershwin standards, this particular batch of songs is far from one of their greatest. In fact, where most Gershwin shows have at least a dozen classic songs, a mere three tunes here became standards: the title number, “Love is Sweeping the Country,” and “Who Cares?”) In a way that’s still surprising, this is virtually the only classic musical of its era that became immortal by virtue of its book. The line “Satire is what closes on Saturday night” became one of the legendary George S. Kaufman’s most famous encomiums, but he broke his own rule with this brilliant work of political and musical satire, which played many, many Saturday nights and matinees during the Great Depression, and since. It's the book which makes this one of the few book musicals of the pre-Oklahoma! era that’s regularly revived, although for some mysterious reason, New Yorkers always seem to bring it back during moments of Republican ascendency - shortly before the election of Eisenhower in 1952, then during the Bush II administration in 2006, and now in the days of POTUS #45. (No conspiracy there, of course.) But no matter what your politics are, this is a blissfully funny and tuneful show with the power to unite us all, red and blue alike. It’s satire seems more on target than ever, almost 90 years after it was first written - even though the idea that the fate of a nation can hang on something as trivial as corn muffins somehow doesn’t seem quite as preposterous as it once did.

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M. Butterfly @ The Cort Theater

M. Butterfly @ The Cort Theater

Updated Nov 5, 2017

Surprisingly, this is the first non-musical (and only the fifth Broadway show overall) to be directed by Julie Taymor (who won a Tony Award for The Lion King in 1997), and she has brought her enormous visual - and even musical - imagination to bear on what has become an iconic American play. Considered disturbing when it first premiered in 1988, M. Butterfly hasn’t lost any of its power to shock, in fact, it may be even more upsetting now. The idea of a relationship between two men is, of course, completely acceptable in the 21st Century, but in this current mindset of political correctness, where practically everybody is afraid to say practically anything, M. Butterfly remains a bold and daring statement. It is a dark, disturbing drama, and its message is heightened by a considerable sense of humor and a generous use of music. Indeed, it’s Ms. Taymor’s staging of the musical sequences - and the contrast, say between Italian opera, traditional Chinese opera, and Communist era Chinese ballet - that does much to illuminate the story points about the clash of cultures, as well as of familiar gender roles. From what I remembered of the original 1988 production and the furor it caused at the time, I was anticipating squirming in my seat (and not in a good way) during several key scenes (no spoilers here). Those moments are as uncomfortable as ever, yet the scenes depicting the Chinese Cultural Revolution are even more horrifying than they were back in 1988, at the tail end of the Cold War. The impact of the story is also enhanced by stunning performances by both of the leading men, Clive Owen and Jin Ha, but this may be one of the first productions I’ve ever seen of anything where the director is much more the star attraction than the actors or even the narrative itself.

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Musicals Tonight presents Bells Are Ringing

Musicals Tonight presents Bells Are Ringing

Updated Oct 30, 2017

Bells Are Ringing, one of the all-time classic musical comedies (by Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Jules Styne), was most recently revived in a beautiful concert production by City Center Encores in 2010. (And, about a decade before that, in a full scale Broadway revival starring Faith Prince in 2001.) Yet I’m looking forward to this more intimate staging at Musicals tonight possibly even more, for one good reason. The Encores! version starred Kelli O’Hara, a marvelous leading lady with a miraculous soprano, but not a notable comedienne. Contrastingly, the central role in the current production - Ella Peterson, a telephone operator who gets entangled in the personal lives of her clients - is essayed by a relative newcomer with the unlikely name of Oakley Boycott. Ms. Boycott is a genuine eccentric and a true theatrical character: she’s worked as a model, but unlike most of her sisters in the trade, she has anything but a typical face, in fact, it’s the kind of punim that you can’t forget. She can also sing, dance, and act, but it’s her unique ability to be both funny and pretty - not to mention highly sympathetic - that stands her in good stead as a potentially worthy heiress to the legacy of Judy Holliday, who created the role 60 years ago. In an age when most younger Broadway hopefuls are willfully interchangeable, Ms. Boycott is one-of-a-kind.

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