The wild party at the Imperial Theater known as Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 is not your usual samovar affair. This entertainment, referencing 70 pages of Tolstoy’s masterpiece War & Peace, has its own backstory: two downtown versions had the performers mingling among the guests, diners at a banquet. While that novelty is not repeated on Broadway, the audience is privy to the gesture. The Imperial Theater is converted to a kind of supper club, music at center, with tables all the way to the stage, although the staging is not distinctly separated from the theater’s ample front area. Ramps just about everywhere allow the company to enter and exit, and dance, offering—throwing-- boxed knishes to those strategically seated. Small bars serve vodka at intermission. A coffee table sized book describes the journey of this new musical to Broadway.
Tags: Bradley King, Dave Malloy, David Bowie, Denee Benton, Diane Paulus, Howard Kagan, Josh Canfield, Josh Groban, Lucas Steele, Mimi Lien, Paloma Young, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, Rachel Chavkin, Sam Pinkleton, Scott Stangland, Steven Suskin
Sting and J. Ralph composed the song, “The Empty Chair” for the documentary Jim: The James Foley Story. As you see the clip of Sting performing that song at Bataclan, the historic Paris theater, for its opening one year after ISIS terrorists gunned down 89 people there, you cannot help but register that in “The Empty Chair—Live from the Bataclan,” his empathy is so overwhelming, Sting puts himself in the place of the man who was so brutally murdered by ISIS terrorists in 2014, singing, “Keep my place in the empty chair/ Somehow I’ll be There”/ “Vive la Bataclan!”
James Foley, was a photojournalist committed to bringing news from war zones. He was taken captive as he was documenting civilian casualties of war, specifically the Syrian refugees. You may remember him best from a widely seen photo of Jim kneeling beside “Jihadi John,” the man who would behead him. The film was made by his childhood friend, Brian Oakes, and features Foley’s family, friends, fellow journalists in the field, and fellow captives, speaking about the life, integrity of this man, and his final days.
Just before the Grammy’s, I had a chance to speak to Sting, on tour with his new album, 57th and 9th, and J. Ralph about their work on “The Empty Chair,” now nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar.
A musical of outsized passions as only Andrew Lloyd Webber could compose, Sunset Boulevard trades in hyperbole. “The greatest star of all,” in the words of Max, her homme d’affaires, Norma Desmond is camp drama queen extraordinaire. With Glenn Close in the role, reprising her Tony-winning performance of 22 years ago at the Palace Theater, Norma is petit as she is large. Need dominates her manipulations so acutely, only the powerhouse chops of the actress who put the word fatal in Fatal Attraction could pull off this tour de force of fragility and grand delusion.
Calling his Cafe Carlyle show, “Does This Song Make Me Look Fat?” Isaac Mizrahi signals surreal leaps of fancy from music, to looks, to insecurities. Who could ask for more from an evening? Multitalented, the fashion designer/ entertainer croons cabaret standards backed by a great band, his act sprinkled with self-mocking quips recalling Joan Rivers at her most cheeky! Really, what’s not to love?
Tags: Isaac Mizrahi, Ben Waltzer, Benny Benack III, Bernie Taupin, Cafe Carlyle, Cole Porter, Eartha Kitt, Elton John, Jack Segal, Joan Rivers, Joe Strasser, Kander and Ebb, Marvin Fisher, Mary Tyler Moore, Neal Miner, Stefan Schatz
Not sure whether or not Jill Kargman would riff on the Led Zepplin classic “Stairway to Heaven,” I had to admit, the comedienne, creator of Bravo’s Odd Mom Out, and author of Sprinkle Glitter on my Grave brought something different to the Café Carlyle. The set list, for example, featured only eight songs. Kargman is gifted at stand up, weaving songs and stories together into a funny, entertaining evening, spoken from the perspective of an East Side mom at odds with the prevailing ethos. Tales of a Southern nanny named Sue, a Bulgarian make up artist, and a trip to Disneyworld gave new meaning to Jon Bon Jovi/ Richie Sambora’s “Wanted Dead or Alive,” the Alice Cooper, Desmond Child, John McCurry hit “Poison,” and Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, Tommy Lee’s “Girls, Girls, Girls.”
Now in his twelfth year performing at the Café Carlyle, Steve Tyrell exulted in the packed house and sold out nights for the holidays. No wonder he seemed so comfortable and set the mood with “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” and “You’d be so Nice to Come Home To.” David Mann on flute brought the comfy mood home, and Tyrell introduced him and “the best band in the world,” including Quinn Johnson on piano, David Finck on bass, Bob Mann on guitar, Kevin Winard on drums and Jon Allen on keyboards, A dozen years is impressive, and the occasion for Tyrell to reminisce about his very first time at the Carlyle, with George Steinbrenner in the house.
Judy Collins ended her set at the Café Carlyle yesterday with Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne,” a bittersweet homage to the Canadian novelist, composer, and performer—as it turned out. Of course “Suzanne,” from her 1966 album In My Life, is a standard part of her repertoire; it was only after her opening night that guests learned of Leonard Cohen’s death at 82, and looking back, this encore had special resonance.
Fans who loved Ana Gasteyer’s Saturday Night Live teacher trip with Will Farrell will find her cabaret show at the Café Carlyle a reminder, it’s just acting, or maybe just acting out. In the intimacy of this premiere supper club, located, as Gasteyer redubbed the neighborhood SoDal, that is South of Dalton, invoking the city’s most famous prep school, you know this funny woman, --remarking “It’s very fancy up here,” --is going to violate something sacred. That may be a response to her mother’s judging she’s developed into a “handsome woman,” whatever that means, and so she explains her act: “I’ll be working out my issues with you.”
Broadway diva is one name for Christine Ebersole, and at her sublime performance in the intimacy of the Café Carlyle, call her “working mom.” Her medley of “Inchworm,” “Autumn Leaves,” “(Have I Stayed) Too Long at the Fair” suggests a big-hearted view of love that could embrace children. She has three, adopted, and now finds herself an empty nester. Five years since her last run at the Carlyle, she’s looking for renewal, including in the mirror in the mash up of “Look at that Face/ What Did You Do to Your Face” which adds extra meaning to the Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern classic, “The Way You Look Tonight.”