Scott Siegel presents: The Best of Jim Caruso’s Cast Party 2012
By Sandi Durell … Photography: Barry Gordin
My dilemma is – does Scott Siegel ever sleep? After all, he produces and creates a season of events at The Town Hall in New York City that includes Broadway By the Year, Broadway Unplugged, The Nightlife Awards, a late night Ballyhoo of Broadway stars, ever changing weekly at Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency, and now the 2d season of “The Best of Jim Caruso’s Cast Party” for the benefit of The Actors Fund. Of course, in addition to all this, Siegel can be seen nightly with his lovely and talented wife, Barbara (who heads the Drama Desk Nominating Committee and writes and reviews as well), out seeing and reviewing theatre and cabaret all over town. So, once again, I ask: when does he (and she) sleep?
It’s obvious they survive on nothing more than occasional cat naps as evidenced by the 3 hour extravaganza hosted by the inimitable Jim Caruso on February 23rd. If you’ve been to Birdland Jazz Club on a late Monday evening, then you’re familiar with the format of some of the most talented performers from Broadway theatre, as well as cabaret, who wander in to get up and sing a tune. Why everyone from Liza to Christine Ebersole and Lucie Arnaz have been a part of Cast Party (which, by the way, now makes its way into many venues across the country).
Think Birdland, but in the vast beautiful Town Hall, kind of like being in Jim’s living room, but larger and very casually presented as Jim chats with pianist extraordinaire Billy Stritch introducing a plethora of talent. It’s almost reminiscent of the Ed Sullivan show, filled with variety acts that can take your breath away and make you laugh, ohh and ahh and sometimes also make you go ugh!
So what have we got? After a rousing opening by Caruso and Stritch, ‘When Duke Was King,” they whisper and chat, chat about this n’ that . . . it’s a Jim-capade! (his words) and it’s on to Grammy winner Janis Siegel (Manhattan Transfer) and “Coronet Man” adding some explicitly fabulous vocal sound effects with Stritch joining in. If you’ve been to Central Park, then you’re familiar with the Guitar Man of Central Park who writes his own songs, David Ippolito, who sang an especially mirth-filled tune “A Different Cowboy’s Lament” (a cowboy who hates country songs is like a gay man who doesn’t like Cher).
Act I highlights included the presiding Queen of Cabaret, the marvelous Marilyn Maye with one of her own arrangements that blended “Lazy Afternoon” and “Country Boy.” This is the way to do it folks! Lucie Arnaz is responsible for finding and producing the unusual talents of not-your-everyday juggler/comic
Marcus Monroe who can throw those machetes around at top speed and nary a drop of blood is shed. (his or ours) – one terrific act; Liz Mikel (recently in “Lysistrata Jones”) is a raunchy broad and we love her sassy “If I Can’t Sell It, I’ll Keep Sittin’ On It;”
Julia Murney gave a frenetic rendition of “Murder, He Says,” and Linda Lavin pranced around in shiny sequin pants to a bossa version of “It Might As Well Be Spring” while the “love child of Don Rickles and Archie Bunker” otherwise known as the Queen of Mean, Lisa Lampanelli, did what she does – insult, lavishly spewing four-letter words.
John Bucchino had Holly Near sing one of his originals “If I Ever Say I’m Over You.
Act II saw the amazing talents of Aaron Weinstein as his violin spoke volumes with “Just One of Those Things.” Erich Bergen was a subtle laugh-a-minute doing “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” and Broadway baby Stephanie J. Block, with Paul Loesel on piano, sang “Invention” at a speed faster than a silver bullet. Remembering and spitting out all those words – amazing! She’s headed back to star in Anything Goes.
Now we come to another variety act, Rudi Macaggi, an acrobat/magician/comedian, appearing first in a fat suit as Pavorotti singing to a tape and doing somersaults, and then swallowing a long, long blown up balloon. I don’t think Ed Sullivan ever had this kind of act on his show.
The jazz talents of Jane Monheit’s liquid vocals were heartfelt on “Some Other Time” and it was great to hear Terri Klausner (Sophisticated Ladies) doing “Hit Me With a Hot Note” segueing an introduction to Andrew J. Nemr & Cats Paying Dues in a tribute to Gregory Hines. This is tap dancing to the nth degree. The extraordinary talents of songwriter Frank Wildhorn next prevailed at the piano with Laura Osnes (Bonnie & Clyde) singing “Someone Like You.” BTW: Jekyll & Hyde is slated for a Broadway revival. The evening came to a close with the grand vocals of Brazilian Paulo Szot (South Pacific) and “This Nearly Was Mine.”
Together with top notch musicians Tom Hubbard on bass and Daniel Glass on Drums, and directed by Rick Hinkson, congratulations are in order for Scott Siegel and Jim Caruso!