Tuesday, September 11, 2012

#26 Monday Night Theater Notes From a FanGirl

Word of warning, the following will be old news to NewYorkers, and you should go back to doing whatever it was you were doing before you were so rudely interrupted. That's all.

While I lived in California, I would suffer the most pathetic pangs of jealousy, when I read of the events that went on Monday nights in NYC. Why, you ask? That's when the hard working theater people, step out of their regular lives and play. Perhaps play isn't the right word...sing for the joy of singing, is closer to the truth. They find gigs in the many tiny clubs and cabarets peppered around this city and jam, sometimes with friends for fun, sometimes alone to push a CD or a fund raising project, sometimes to get noticed by producers and casting gurus, but always, these things are on Monday nights...their day off.
One of the reasons I wanted to be a real resident of NYC was so that I could go to these marvelous Mondays. Small clubs like Rockwood in The East Village, Le Poison Rouge just off Washington Square, The Duplex in The West Village, The Metropolitan Room in Chelsea, also, the biggies like Birdland in Hell's Kitchen and Feinstein's on Park Avenue...they all are booked on Monday nights.
The newest venue for such delights is 54 Below. The old site of the infamous "downstairs" area of Studio 54, the hang out and playing field in the late 70's, of the In Crowd, led by Liza(with a Z), Andy Warhol, Halston, Diane von Furstenberg and the Glitterati of all culture in New York. But I digress. Now, the basement where they would all go and do unmentionable acts and nasty drugs has been turned into a stunning nightclub/cabaret. Broadway elite are headlined every night, but Mondays remain special. Last Monday proved to be the zenith of this fangirl's imagination..
Two of the Divas (you know I always use the word Diva with respect and reverence), who are at the top of my list are Julia Murney and Eden Espinosa. Please don't ask me to give you a detailed ranking of my Divas...it would tire out your eyes; there are many, and I love them, and they know it because I follow them whenever they open up their mouths to sing (or act). So, back to my point, Julia and Eden were performing on the same evening, and I was in fangirl heaven.
Julia has been on my radar for many years. She was in Lennon, is my favorite Eva Peron, has been a GreenGirlWitch, but her most glorious part was in a special show called The Wild Party. It should have gone to Broadway, because her role and performance was guaranteed to win her a Tony, but alas....
Still, she remains a beloved member of the theater community. We are all just waiting for her to get that next staring role. She sings all over the country, is in shows here and there, is very busy and how lucky was I to be in NYC when she announced that she was to do a new solo act.
So at 7:30, looking elegant and surrounded by a star studded group of musicians, her enormous & loyal fanbase and family cheering on in the audience, she sang heavenly songs and told her best stories. Oh, I forgot to say that she is wickedly funny. You learn a lot when Julia tells stories, like how she and Sara Bareilles both tried out for this summer's Into The Woods, or that Barry Manilow got a box of lyrics from Johnny Mercer's estate and wrote some damn good songs from them, or how Paul McCartney has a ribald view of a certain singer's itchy boobs. I will not go further.
My favorite of the songs she sang that night was Autumn Leaves. It is about love and loss and is so full of sadness. She is a great actress of music. She ended the evening with a sassy version of Bobbie Gentry/Riba's, Fancy. Why not go out with a song about a successful whore? We were all on our feet. Add the High 5 and "Happy Belated Birthday" I got from her, as she exited the stage, and I would say that was a wonderful evening......but it was only half over. Eden was on at 9:30.
So, my friend Taryn left me to sit alone at the beautifully located table close to the stage, and what do you know, but the Matre'd had a very nice gentleman join me for Part 2 of Diva Monday. Turns out he, Mark Nadler, is in an event at Carnegie Hall that Eden is doing in October to raise $$ for an Educational organization called Art-Start, and he himself is musical royalty (here's proof I don't lie, I only embellish: http://art-start.org/1014-defying-gravity-mark-nadlers-art-start-benefit/ ). So we have a great conversation, and I match him name for name in that game theater people play, and then I become aware of the change in the room. Julia's audience was elegant and serious. Eden's gathering was decidedly more mid twenties and sassy (translation, it was filled with hip theater people, many of which you even see on TV). The room was electric and ready to play. Just a different vibe and they wanted their girl...and in she strode, wearing red and full of fun.
The evening was to be a homage to Eva Cassidy. She died at 33 from GodDamn skin cancer, but left some music that seasoned singers try for 60 years to generate. Her genre was a blend of jazz, blues, folk gospel and country. She was huge in England and Europe. Serious music people know her. Look at her website: http://evacassidy.org/eva/
Anyway, back to my blog....Eden has loved Eva's music since her Dad introduced her to the LPs, and she is well suited to the genre, but she did mix in other songs in her set. She did a version of Fever that was combustible and had the audience fanning themselves with their napkins, I kid you not! Her rendition of  EC's Fields of Gold and I know You By Heart had me in tears...sitting in a nightclub at a table with a celebrity and I am bawling. Things really fell apart when she ended the set, sitting on her knees and with as much soul as I have ever heard, sang the Cassidy version of Over The Rainbow. NOTHING like Judy sang...all feeling and sad and you just wanted to rip your heart out. I must say, Eden did Eva proud. I heard that version of OTR once before when Kendra and Teal sang it in SF. I didn't know where it came from, now I do. I feel lucky to have heard it twice. You can find it here: Eva's http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccCnL8hArW8  Kendra & Teal's http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoLjju8zn8c 
Eden was full of fun. Sassed her friend Celisse Henderson, who is way high up on my Diva List, and she knows it. Also, she had some notes to young singers about the medicinal value of Maker's Mark on the rocks. She did a wonderful show that we all were sorry to see come to an end, but afterwards, I did enjoy talking to some of the celebs in the audience. Well, celebs to me, actors and singers I have grown to love from the SF and the NYC Stage Doors I loiter around. It's a mutual admiration society.
Well, that's Monday Night Theater Notes from where I stand. Long winded, to be sure, but full of love.
I will miss this part of NYC. It can't be replaced by road shows of popular musicals. It's really where it all happens in this wonderful city. 18 more days.....sob.

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