Will's New York Nite Life

Will's New York Nite Life

Wynton Marsalis & The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: The Fantastic Mr. Jelly Lord

Wynton Marsalis & The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: The Fantastic Mr. Jelly Lord

Posted Sep 1, 2017

Special guests include two of the most outstanding younger piano virtuosos of the contemporary era, Aaron Diehl and Sullivan Fortner, and two even younger piano prodigies who are still ensconced at Juilliard, Micah Thomas and Joel Wenhardt.

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Melissa Errico & Richard Troxell in KISS ME, KATE!

Melissa Errico & Richard Troxell in KISS ME, KATE!

Posted Aug 15, 2017

In 1948, Kiss Me Kate was welcomed as a return to form for the genius that was Cole Porter. The great songwriter had not enjoyed a major hit on Broadway for nearly a decade, and, on top of which, he now had to contend with the spanking-new form of book-driven integrated musical theater pioneered by Rodgers & Hammerstein. Inspired by Shakespeare’s sexiest comedy, The Taming of the Shrew, and an brilliant book by Broadway veterans Samuel and Bella Spewack, Porter came up with his most durable and most frequently-revived show, winning the first-ever Tony award in the process. Porter’s words and music ingeniously tell two stories at once, a backstage tale of egocentric actors and divas interacting with gangsters and gamblers as they attempt to stage an all-singing, all-dancing version of Shakespeare’s classic comedy of 1592. This al fresco concert production takes the Bard’s notion of a “troop of strolling players” very literally, offering just the essentials, starting with a magnificent pair of leads, Melissa Errico and Metropolitan Opera baritone Richard Troxell, who were so effective in the Encores! production of Do I Hear a Waltz, heading a cast of 14. Even if you don’t live in Long Island, it would be well worth riding the Hamptons Jitney to the ends of the earth down Highway 27 to hear Ms. Errico’s lilting soprano on “So In Love” and Mr. Troxell tell us of the “The Life that Late I Led.” Wunderbar!

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Michael Feinstein, SHOWSTOPPERS

Michael Feinstein, SHOWSTOPPERS

Posted Aug 15, 2017

In his summer offering at the club that bears his name, Michael Feinstein has built his own solo show around the notion of Broadway showstoppers. In doing so, however, he proves that it doesn’t necessarily take a loud and brassy eleven o’clock production number with 5,000 dancers to stop a show - often the desired effect can be achieved with a song that’s intimate and personal, like “Losing My Mind” (from Sondheim’s Follies), which he delivers in an especially moving solo reading, accompanied only by his own piano. (Otherwise, the ace rhythm section of Tedd Firth, musical director and piano, Phil Palumbo, bass, and Mark McLean, drums, is on hand.) Sometimes a show can also be stopped with a comedy number that’s almost an olympic feat of tongue twisting and timing, as Mr. Feinstein shows with Ira Gershwin’s “Tchaikovsky” and all five choruses of Cole Porter’s “Can Can.” But in general, the most moving showstoppers are the most intensely emotional moments, as on Billy Goldenberg’s “Fifty Percent,” and, in a very different way on Mr. Feinstein’s very touching solo tribute to the late Barbara Cook on “Goodnight My Someone.” There are enough showstoppers in this 70-minute show to last an entire season on Broadway.

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A. J. Lambert at 54 Below

A. J. Lambert at 54 Below

Posted Aug 12, 2017

What most people know about Angela Jennifer (aka “A. J.”) Lambert is her royal lineage: her parents were pop icon Nancy Sinatra and celebrated choreographer Hugh Lambert, and her grandfather was the legendary Frank Sinatra. What you might not know is that this esteemed representative of the Third Generation of the Sinatra Dynasty is an accomplished singer-songwriter and a veteran performer as well. For her Feinstein’s debut, Ms. Lambert will take us through all sixteen songs in what just might be Sinatra Senior’s most significant work, the 1955 In the Wee Small Hours, which is also a mighty contender for the greatest jazz-pop-standards album ever made by anyone. As shown in a recent youTube video of Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” (click here), Ms. Lambert has her own take on the material while also incorporating her grandfather’s classic interpretation. Worth seeing, says I.

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Cole Porter on the East Side

Cole Porter on the East Side

Posted Aug 5, 2017

Cole Porter on the East Side

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Jerry's Girls - Musicals in Mufti - The York Theater

Jerry's Girls - Musicals in Mufti - The York Theater

Posted Aug 1, 2017

In Hello, Dolly, which has taken New York by storm all over again 50 years after the original production, leading man Horace Vandergelder is described as “half a millionaire.” Songwriter and Broadway guru Jerry Herman has made considerably more than half a million dollars from his many hits. But in spite of his overwhelming commercial success, he’s never gotten quite the intellectual acclaim he deserves - which can only be because his shows are fun and upbeat musical comedies, rather than dark brooding musical dramas like those of his contemporary, Stephen Sondheim. But, don’t mistake comedy for dispensable frivolity - Mr. Herman’s words and music are just as substantial as those of anyone who has ever written for the modern musical theater, from Rodgers & Hammerstein on sideways. Jerry Herman is perhaps best known as a composer of material for name-above-the-title Broadway divas, so it makes sense that the best known retrospective of his work should be geared for three first rate female performers: Stephanie D’Abruzzo, Stephanie Umoh, and our favorite singer-comedienne-impressionist, Christine Pedi. First produced in 1981 (and now expanded to include songs from later shows), this two act revue features the highlights from over the whole course of his remarkable, six-decade career, including the expected blockbusters, Dolly, Mame, La Cage Aux Folles and such lesser-known but eminently worthy works such as Milk and Honey, Dear World, Mack and Mabel, and The Grand Tour. If there’s any one production that can best substantiate Mr. Herman’s claim, in one of his lyrics, that “there’s no tune like a show tune in 2/4,” this is it.

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Mark Nadler (and others) at 
The Beach Cafe

Mark Nadler (and others) at The Beach Cafe

Posted Jul 23, 2017

The opening of a new performance space in Manhattan is always big news, but there are many reasons to be excited that the Beach Cafe, on the corner of Second Avenue and 70th Street, is now announcing a full schedule of “cabaret-style” performances. First, the Cafe is perfectly located: apart from the highly upscale Cafe Carlyle (and Bemelman’s), there’s no comparable space on the Upper East Side, and is situated just a few feet away from the new Second Avenue subway station. Second, the cafe is not expensive: rather, they are offering talent on the level of the Old Algonquin at prices more comparable to the old Danny’s Skylight Room, and are promising that the cover will never be more than $20. Most importantly, the room is being booked by veteran entertainer Mark Nadler, who will also also be the opening headliner on Thursday, July 27. What’s more, the first three big shows (Mr. Nadler, July 27th to 29th; Jeff Harnar, August 3rd to 5th; T. Oliver Reid, August 10th to 12th) will all be focused on the incomparable words and music of Cole Porter, thus showing the Cafe’s commitment to the absolute top drawer of what is not for nothing called The Great American Songbook. That’s at least five reasons to check out the Beach Cafe, and I can’t of a single one not to.

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The New Musical

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The New Musical

Posted Jul 18, 2017

Most of us know this story from the 1971 movie musical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but the creators of this new Broadway production have gone back to the original title of Roald Dahl’s 1964 book to convey that this is more than a stage adaptation of that classic film. Instead, Messrs Greig, Shaiman, and Wittman have expanded (adding many new and worthwhile songs), updated (in a way that Dahl, a supreme curmudgeon, would have approved of), and in many ways even improved upon the familiar version. For example, in the movie, the score’s best-known song, “The Candy Man,” is given to a throwaway character; now on Broadway, it’s rightfully become the big opening number, and a proper introduction to Christian Borle as Willy Wonka himself. Virtually everything that’s good about the Gene Wilder movie - including virtually all the unforgettable songs by Leslie Bricusse and the late Anthony Newley - has been retained, and considerable has been added. Veruca Salt (the character name that inspired a well known prog-rock band in the 1990s) is now a Putin-era Russian princess-ballerina, quite literally a prima donna, and Mike Teavee is an internet-addicted social network maven. This is quite possibly the best work yet from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who have already Hairspray, Catch Me If You Can, and the under-appreciated Fame Becomes Me to their credit. The new songs stand side by side with the ones we’ve all grown up with. Best of all, the tone of Dahl’s original work, equal parts sardonic and sentimental, has been retained - perhaps even more so in the new songs than in the 1971 ones. Charlie: “Is Mr. Wonka joking, or is he serious?” Grandpa Joe: “ I don’t know. He might be both.” Of all the new shows on Broadway this season, this is the one that might be most worthy of repeated attendance.

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Meow Meow, with Lance Horne on piano

Meow Meow, with Lance Horne on piano

Posted Jul 18, 2017

For those who haven’t yet had the pleasure, “Meow Meow” is the performance persona of Melissa Madden Gray, an Australian singer and actress who, as Meow Meow, is one of the primary figures in what New Yorkers call “Alt Cabaret” but what most of the rest of the English-speaking world calls just plain “cabaret.” The Meow Meow character is an internationally-celebrated sacred monster of a diva, yet a highly dysfunctional one, who alights the stage wearing a raggedy tutu, a single frayed opera glove, and holding not one but two half-smoked cigarettes - and, oh yes, largely covered in police tape. (“International boundaries are not as easy to to cross as they used to be,” she informs us.) Along the way, she bickers comically with her musical director (the formidable Lance Horne - when he he puts his Emmy award on the piano, she mumbles under her breath, “daytime”), is constantly getting the wrong lighting from the tech crew, and makes all sorts of bizarre demands from the audience - like positioning young men on stage (“the sacred space”) with disco balls and flashlights. All this interaction shtick with the crowd is not only funny in and of itself, but helps make her songs (like the very touching “One For Sorrow”) seem all the more poignant. For all the outrageousness of her character - she often seems like a postnuclear Sally Bowles - her singing is extremely subtle, more intimate than oversized, and her material is mostly high class cabaret fare, like Brecht and Weill. “Pirate Jenny,” which must be a kind of a national anthem in Joe’s Pub, is downright bone chilling, especially in German.

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