RSS

Tag Archives: Jim Caruso

Jim Caruso’s Cast Party

images

Did you ever pine for Ed Sullivan? Maybe ‘pining’ for the real Ed is a stretch, but what about the beatific Ed of Bye Bye Birdie? Either Ed Sullivan that promised and delivered a really big show of stellar entertainment can create a longing and wishful thinking. His was a show that practically guaranteed that if you could make it there you would make it everywhere. Well if you could do without the spinning plates, dogs prancing on hind legs and monkeys on bicycles; if you don’t mind your Ed now dashing, debonair, brimming with charm and humor, then have I got the Ed Sullivan Redux Show for you!

Jim Caruso has been throwing his Cast Party at Birdland for 10 years. Each Monday night those folks in the business of show flock to West 44th Street to take to the stage and audience. The standards, show tunes, and jazz flow seamlessly in no small part because of Mr. Caruso’s producing, M.C.ing and song. The stellar band (Ted Firth on piano, Steve Doyle on bass and Daniel Glass on drums) provides a wonderful constant and backbone to the evening. They opened last night with a gorgeous jazzy homage that set the mood and the stage for Mr. Caruso’s medley of We’re In The Money/Pennies From Heaven. The audience was then treated to over a dozen performers and songs that included; If I Were A Bell, Everybody Says Don’t, Just In Time, and It’s Alright With Me. Stylings ranged from crooning to belting and all were flawless. However when William Blake took to the stage and delivered At Last the air in the room changed. There is wonderful and even excellent performing, and then there’s magic. There really is no other word for it. Mr. Blake delivered this song, which you’ve heard before but never like this, with the power of a rocker and the soul of a jazz singer. He brought a tender strength to the song I never imagined possible. He admitted to “showing off” for audience members Liza Minnelli and Michael Feinstein, and if that what comes from ‘showing off’ have at it Mr. Blake. (Speaking of wanting or not wanting to show off, The Drowsy Chaperone’s music/lyrist Lisa Lambert was in the house.)

We often grouse over the dearth of great entertainment. We wax poetic about the heyday of the variety show and bemoan the proliferation of game shows and contests passing as entertainment. How wonderful to know that as we once turned to CBS every Sunday night, we now can turn to Birdland every Monday night; where we’ll be treated to an ever-changing roster of phenomenal talent and the constant of the consummate showman Jim Caruso.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 2, 2013 in Theatre

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Swinging Birdland Christmas

Christmas is the most romantic holiday of all. American cinema and songbook are overflowing with splendid homage to the holiday. To my mind, the British have the food, drinks and decor holiday market cornered. But one need skip across the pond to bask in the Christmas show business splendor.

As soon as December rolls around, I find myself yearning for Bing to encourage me to have a drink more, because baby it’s cold outside. I catch a glimpse in the mirror and imagine what I would look like in a sequined snood, winding up a mechanical monkey and believing that next year all our troubles will be far away. During the first snowfall, I try running in the street and (quietly) wishing the building and loan a Merry Christmas. The mind reels with the richness of imagery. However, often the heart aches at the lack of real live people embracing and celebrating these traditions.

Imagine the complete and utter joy of discovering that such a thing truly exists and it involves champagne! A Swinging Birdland Christmas is a technicolor dream come true. Christmas standards, jazzy interpretations and re-imagined medleys are performed by Klea Blackhurst, Jim Caruso and Billy Stritch (and the Birdland jazz quartet.) Ms. Blackhurst, a new edition to the show, is utterly charming and of splendid voice. She has a surprise stupendous musical talent up her sleeve, which I will not divulge here. Mr. Caruso is a born showman, and in a decent world would be hosting his own televised variety show. His smooth voice is a natural for the repertoire. Billy Stritch sings like he plays the piano, with rich interpretation. His phrasing is reminiscent of Mel Torme and Frank Sinatra. Together these three make a delightful trio.

The show is a nice mix of solos, duets and trios. A standout solo is that of Mr. Stritch’s “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” (Frank Loesser.) I dare anyone not to swoon. Any one of the evening’s songs would put even the most Grinchy into a better mood. But for the hardest heart and coldest soul, there was the tribute to the Osmond’s Christmas Show. Jim Caruso’s Jimmy Osmond will linger in my mind. ( A note to television producers: There is a serious demand for Christmas variety shows!) If all this wasn’t enough to make one feel jolly, a special guest was in the audience last night. For the encore, Christine Ebersole took the stage and performed White Christmas. And when she asked everyone to join in, the barn door swung open (in my mind) and it was in fact snowing. I stood in my red satin, white fur trimmed gown, clutching Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen’s hands and thinking; “Oh what a lucky gal am I.”

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 25, 2011 in Holiday, Theatre

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shot Out Of A Cannon

The first person who dropped an olive into a martini or mixed chocolate with peanut butter?  They got nothing on Jim Caruso, who dreamed up the musical partnering of Aaron Weinstein and Christine Ebersole.  Birdland was packet to the rafters last night for this musically stunning, and very funny, cabaret of standards and bebop.

The premise of the show is Mr. Weinstein’s assertion that the violin is the instrument closest to the human voice.  The evening was ostensibly an array of duets featuring Mr. Weinstein’s violin (and electric mandolin!) and Ms. Ebersole’s voice.  The melding was such that on three separate occasions, I searched for Ms. Ebersole’s back-up singers.  Suffice it to say, Mr. Weinstein was right.

Perhaps upon first glance, one might be inclined to see more differences than similarities in this pairing.  Ms. Ebersol (Grey Gardens, 42nd Street) is a Tony award winning Broadway, film and television actress. She has some very impressive experience under her fashionable belt.   Mr. Weinstein (b.1985) is somewhat new to the scene.  Often compared to Groucho Marx, his stage presence and banter belie his age. The genius in this pairing is both musical and personal.  Never have any two people had such fun performing together!  They are both some of the best in their musical class and possess a delightful dry wit.  But oh, it’s their music.

Each time I have seen Mr. Weinstein perform, I am bowled over.  Perhaps jazz violin has been played like this before, but not in my recollection.   Ms. Ebersole is in ridiculously splendid voice.  She growled, purred, soared and even did a little Borscht Belt ditty.  Looking gorgeous and at ease, she confessed that after only two days of rehearsal, she felt shot out of a cannon.  Nothing about this show felt rushed or thrown together.  The evening was a lovely balance of (very funny) repartee and a gorgeous collection of incredibly interpreted music.  A great deal of care was taken to steer clear of any hint of a star solo act.  Ms. Ebersole seemed tickled to share the stage and spotlight and it payed off wonderfully.

As much as their beautiful music is still playing in my mind, its the beauty of the collaboration itself which will stay with me.  How wonderfully creative to pair these two, and what spectacular results!  Producing a creative show which artistically takes a chance will always get a standing ovation from me.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Theatre

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,897 other followers