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Posts Tagged ‘“Broadway at Birdland”’

Photo credit: Bill Westmoreland

I first interviewed Jim Caruso in 2009 when “Adaumbelle’s Quest” was just starting and Jim just finished starring in Liza Minnelli’s “Liza At The Palace.” Two years later, it’s a real honor to be able to interview Jim again and dedicating this interview to Cast Party on the heels of Jim Caruso’s Cast Party Benefit at Town Hall on Thursday, February 17 at 8pm, benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Produced by Scott Siegel, this very special edition of Jim Caruso’s Cast Party will be featuring a host of talent! Joining Jim Caruso, will be Liza Minnelli, Chita Rivera, Billy Stritch, Lucie Arnaz, Larry Gatlin, Marilyn Maye, YouTube sensation “Miranda Sings,” Tony nominee Christopher Sieber, two-time Tony nominee Sally Mayes, jazz singer Hilary Kole, R&B tenor William Blake, jazz violinist Aaron Weinstein, Natalie Douglas, Klea Blackhurst, acrobat and comedian Rudi Macaggi and the Dueling Fiddlers.

Photo credit: Bill Westmoreland

Jim Caruso recently made his Broadway debut alongside Liza Minnelli in the Tony Award-winning smash hit Liza’s At The Palace!, singing, dancing and celebrating the music and arrangements of the late, great Kay Thompson and the Williams Brothers. For his nightclub work, Caruso has won six MAC and two BackStage Bistro Awards for his sold-out New York shows at Birdland, the Algonquin Hotel, and Arci’s Place; and has also performed in runs at the Gardenia and Cinegrill in Los Angeles, The Vic Theater in Chicago, Libby’s in Atlanta, the Colony Palm Beach Hotel and the Connaught Room in London. He sang with the New York Pops in an all-star tribute to Kander & Ebb at Carnegie Hall, and returned to “The Hall” in a tribute to Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, hosted by Michael Feinstein. On the small screen, Jim was seen co-starring with Kathie Lee Gifford on Showtime Television in “Personal Assistant,” and co-starred on the Nostalgia Network variety sit-com, “Café DuArt” for two seasons. Jim and his vocal trio, Wiseguys, were invited to sing at President Clinton’s First State Dinner at the White House, and celebrated Bing Crosby in concert at Carnegie Hall with Rosemary Clooney. He guest-hosted “Broadway On Broadway 2000” in Times Square for a crowd of 100,000 theater fans, hosted the 2000 MAC Awards at Town Hall in Manhattan and has co-hosted the Drama Desk Awards webcasts for four years. For the past eight years, he has hosted a Monday night showbiz bash called “Jim Caruso’s Cast Party,” which was honored with a New York Nightlife Award, as was his Broadway at Birdland concert series. His new cd, “The Swing Set,” was released on January 11, 2011.

1. What made you originally start “Jim Caruso’s Cast Party” and how did you originally come up with the concept for it? I was doing PR for a nightclub that didn’t have much going on, busying myself writing press releases about drink specials. To entertain myself, I threw a Christmas party in the club for my pals. Everyone sang around the piano, and stayed till 3am. The next day, the manager, Lionel Casseroux, asked if I’d do it every Monday. I said no. A few clubs and eight years later, we’re still packing ‘em in and meeting some of the most brilliant, shocking talent in the world!

2. How do you come up with the line-up of talent for each week’s “Cast Party?” Cast Party is an open mic! I don’t come up with the talent at this point…they just show up! Every single week, I have about 30 folks wanting to perform for a packed house! I’m so lucky to be able to do it at Birdland, which is right in the theater district, and certainly one of the premiere music rooms in the world!

3. What made you decide to bring “Cast Party” out to Los Angeles? The Hollywood Cast Party has been a complete gift to Billy and me. I’d heard that The Magic Castle was planning to open one of their rooms for musical entertainment, so I called Matt Patton, who does the booking. He immediately signed onto the idea, and we were off and running! Now, we make the schlep out west every other month!

4. Do you plan on expanding “Cast Party” to any other cities? Yes! It looks like we’ll be taking Cast Party to Chicago and Las Vegas – and there’s a bit of talk about London. Can you imagine? We’re like the Ice Capades! The Jim Capades? I love a capade!

5. Who’s the most interesting person you’ve had perform at “Cast Party” in NY & LA? Who is the one person you were most surprised by showing up at “Cast Party?” Who is the one person who hasn’t done “Cast Party” that you would like to? Well – there’s interesting, and there’s ‘interesting!’ Betty Comden made one of her last public appearances at Cast Party, and sang “One Hundred Easy Ways To Lose A Man,” from Wonderful Town, which she wrote with Adolph Green and Leonard Bernstein. Carol Channing spoke of her commitment to arts education, then did the “Ephraim, let me go” monologue from Hello Dolly, and launched into “Before The Parade Passes By.” Last week, Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura on “Star Trek”)discussed her friend and mentor, Martin Luther King, on the night of his birthday – then sang a stunning “Summertime.” There have also been memorable performances of a different kind – the man who yodeled Elvis tunes comes to mind, as does the woman who sang an original song about pollution. They were showstoppers in every sense of the word. I’m desperate to have my two heros – Carol Burnett and Dick Van Dyke – join us. I just know they’d have a swell time, and I’d be in heaven to finally be able to entertain them!

6. When you first started “Cast Party,” did you ever think it would turn into what it has become? I’m in shock and awe that Cast Party has become the entity that it has! I’m thrilled and proud and dazzled by the fun we’re allowed to have every week!

7. What has been the best and most difficult part about “Cast Party?” The best part of it all has been the friendships that have been forged, due to Cast Party. What did I do before? It’s a wonderful meeting-place for theater and music buffs and the people who love them! I’m not sure there IS a bad part, other than having to hear “Orange Colored Sky” a skrajillion times.

8. You’ve been doing “Cast Party” for almost 8 years, what made now the time to do a special benefit show for it? How did you decide which performers would participate? Scott Siegel, who produces a fabulous series of events at Town Hall, called me and asked if we’d like to do a Very Special Cast Party as a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take our event to a huge stage, raise money for one of my all-time favorite organizations, and have some fun with my friends! It’s a big theater, and I knew we’d have to score some big names to sell tickets, so I just started calling my most fancy friends – and was thrilled that they said ‘yes!’

9. Liza Minnelli and Billy Stritch are two performers that will be performing at your Feb. 17 “Cast Party” benefit. How did you first come to work with them and what has been the best part of working together throughout your career and what have you learned from them? Billy Stritch and I have been best friends for about 30 years, which is shocking, considering we’re both in our late twenties. We met when we were both singing in clubs and living in Texas. We moved to New York around the same time, and have been hanging out, singing and making each other laugh ever since! One night, he met Liza while he was playing piano at a wonderful place called “Bobo’s.” He invited her to his show the next night, and stationed me next to her table, so that I could hear what she thought. That was the beginning of a friendship that changed both of our lives! He started arranging, playing and conducting for Liza, she asked me to open for her, assist her on Minnelli On Minnelli, and finally dance and sing in Liza’s At The Palace! What have I learned from Liza Minnelli? Are you kidding? We don’t have that kind of time! She’s a genius at what she does. Her work ethic is amazing – she will rehearse for eight hours non-stop. Her urge to please her audience is beyond compare. And her musical knowledge is something that might surprise a lot of people. If a clarinet is playing the wrong note in a chord, she hears it. Not surprisingly, she has a huge over-view of how showbiz works, and I love that.

10. What are you most excited for about the Feb. 17 “Cast Party” benefit? I’m most excited to get all of those brilliantly talented people into one room and tell them how much I love them for making this dream come true. We’re going to blow the roof off of Town Hall!

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On November 29, 2010 at 7pm, Jim Caruso’sBroadway at Birdland” will be presenting an evening of amazing talent: “The Roads I’m Taking: the music and lyrics of Bobby Cronin!” Joining Bobby on stage will be fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participants Tituss Burgess, Autumn Hurlbert, Kate Pazakis, Andrew Kober, Erik Sisco, and upcoming participant Jenn Furman along with Gerard Canonico, Allison Case, Katrina Rose Diderickson, Carrie Manolakos, Ceili O’Connor, Dee Roscioli, Andrew Samonsky, David Gordon, Geoffrey Kidwell, Ashley Dawn Mortenson, and PJ Verica.

If you’ve never attended a Bobby Cronin concert, now would be a good time! His music will move you, his words will inspire you, and the talent (both his and those performing) will leaving you wanting more!

So come on down to Birdland on Monday, November 29 at 7pm for an unforgettable evening of music, song, and talent! Click here for tickets!

After Bobby’s concert, double treat yourself and stay for Jim Caruso’s Cast Party–Broadway’s open mic, for you never who might just step up and sing!

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On Monday, November 1, I went to see Gavin Creel at Birdland and gave him a button for participating in my blog last year! He put it on and now it made it onto Broadwayworld’s photo coverage! I’m SOOOOOO EXCITED!!!!!

Thank you Gavin Creel for wearing my button for all your pictures! Thank you Jim Caruso for allowing me to attend last night’s show! Thank you Keith for waiting with me after the show & taking my picture! Most of all, Thank You to my friend Gail for making me my buttons! I’m so grateful to you all!!!

Here are the pictures singled out….All photos by Monica Simoes, except the one of me & Gavin.


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On Monday, November 1, I attended the first of three concerts from Two-Time Tony Nominee and fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participant Gavin Creel‘s brand new show “Back To New York” at Birdland as part of Jim Caruso’s Broadway at Birdland Series.

Performing both new material, fan favorites and some fun surprises, Gavin is back home and NY couldn’t be happier. From the moment Gavin took the stage, he had the crowd captivated. Focusing primarily on songs from his new EP “Quiet” (which was released this past June), Gavin also performed a bunch of new material not on the album. Gavin’s new material shows his continued growth as a singer, songwriter (along with his amazing writing partner Robbie Roth), and performer. The new songs featured, but not on “Quiet” were “Doing It,” “Beautifully Wrong,” and “Favorite Chapter”  while some of the songs performed off of “Quiet” were “Love Fell Down,”  “Green To Grey,” “Lonesome,” and “Hot Ohio.”

No Gavin concert would be complete without a few surprises…for starters, Gavin brought fellow “Hair” cast members Caissie Levy and Steel Burkhardt up on stage to sing a song they all wrote together called “Flower Children” which is a song from their view of what’s going on in the world and what’s to become of the “Flower Children.” Another delight of the evening was when Gavin spotlighted his friendship Celia Keenan-Bolger (“Olive” from “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”) and performed a song he wrote for her for her wedding called “You.”  It was a beautiful song about finding the one you love.

Gavin ended the night on quite a high with a new song called “Get Up” about standing up for what you believe in whether that be in a personal relationship with someone or in society. Gavin is many things: an actor, a singer, a songwriter, a performer, and most of all, a genuine, kind, and hard-working individual who values life and the people he has in it!

With only two more chances on November 8 and 15 to see Gavin performing his show “Back To New York” at Birdland, I highly suggest you call 212-581-3080 to see if there are any tickets left!

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Be sure to catch Two Time Tony Nominee and fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participant Gavin Creel in his brand new show “Back To New York” at Birdland on Monday, November 1, 8, and 15 at 7pm as part of Jim Caruso’s Broadway at Birdland Series!

Gavin will be performing new material from his new EP “Quiet” which is an intimate collection of six original acoustic session songs as well as some favorites!

If you’ve never seen this dynamic performer on stage, now would be a good time to come see why he’s so great!

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“On Fire” is exactly what Megan Reinking and fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participant Kate Pazakis were this past Monday night at Birdland! As part of Jim Caruso’s “Broadway in Birdland” (another fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participant), Kate and Megan performed their show “On Fire: Kate Pazakis and Megan Reinking.”

Together and separately, they sung and belted their hearts out with a mixture of music! From Alanis Morissette’s “So Unsexy” to Extreme’s “More Than Words,” these two powerhouse vocalists really strutted their stuff! My favorite moment of the evening came when these two geniuses interwove Alanis Morissette’s “Your House” and Brooke Fox’s “Breathe The Same Air.” These two songs have similar themes and worked perfectly together, just like Kate and Megan.

With a sound so fierce and so powerful, Kate and Megan are two performers destined for continued greatness and success! Here’s hoping this show becomes a recording…hint, hint.

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To be able to make someone laugh can be a challenge, but to make someone laugh for an hour consistently is a talent few have. One performer who has the wit & skill to do that is four time Mac Award winner & fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” partricipant Julie Halston. On Sunday, April 11, 2010, I got to see Julie’s new one woman show “The Cocktail Hour/A Reality Show” at Birdland, one of NYC’s most famous cabaret spaces. Julie’s show was presented by Jim Caruso’s Broadway at Birdland series. From comedy to song, Julie can do it all. She can take the most simplistic task, like reading an email about cookie sharing, a phenomenon sweeping the nation where people exchange cookie recipes, and turn it into the funniest thing you’ve heard by using her gift of inflection & storytelling.  Her punchline is that the people hosting these parties are probably the ones that shouldn’t be eating all these cookies, in fact they should probably become bulimic. At times Julie can be a little dark with her humor, but it’s all in good fun. One classic Julie Halston shtick is when she talks about how she was anorexic while living in Hollywood. She says there is nothing funny about anorexia, but if you don’t die from it then it’s not such a bad thing & you are incredibly thin. Julie also did a hilarious bit about kids and that if you can’t afford a babysitter, you probably can’t afford to have kids.

After Julie entertained the audience for a while, she brought up a very special guest, two-time Tony Award nominee & fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participant Alison Fraser who delighted the audience with a hilarious song about how she’s never been cast in “Law & Order”, but has been on “Law & Order: SVU.” Alison then treated the audience to a very touching moment when she sang “The Green Heart,” a song written by her late husband Rusty Magee from the show of the same name written by Magee and Charles Busch. There is an effort to bring this show back to life, so let’s hope it happens. If that treat wasn’t enough, Alison & Julie then graced the audience with a duet of “Gotta Have a Gimmick” from “Gypsy” which both have starred in, Julie in the 2003 revival with Bernadette Peters & Alison in the 2008 revival with Patti LuPone.

One other touching moment came towards the end of Julie’s show when Julie talked about her dad who passed away last year on Christmas Eve and she reinacted how her mom would read the hospital dinner menu to her dad, selecting what his dinner choice would be. When Julie came to visit him and asked how dinner was, her dad would say “Great! I payed the nurse $30 to go to Applebees and get me a burger, ice cream, and soda. I love this place.” Julie delivered this bit with emotion, sincerity, and that style of delivery only Julie can give.

Most comedians can make someone laugh, but it takes a special kind to keep that going.  Julie Halston knows how to keep the laughs coming with skill, style, and most of all humor! Next time Julie Halston has a show, I would highly recommend going to see it!

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