If it's Monday night, there must be a benefit! New York City's Broadway performers, known for donating their time for worthy causes can often be found giving up their night off (the traditional "dark on Monday") to do so. This month, at The Hideaway Room at Helen's, you can be entertained and know your entire cover charge is going to help in the fight against AIDS. The cozy cabaret on Eighth Avenue near West 18th Street has been hosting a series of Monday shows with great talent and are about to have their grand finale. Some performers who have been part of the series will be returning on November 28 for a gala show and elegant three-course dinner banquet. One cocktail is included in the package deal.
The performance is quite a package as well, and performers are still being added. At the moment they include singers Darius de Haas, Carolyn Montgomery, Jeanne MacDonald, Paige Price, Spelling Bee's Lisa Howard, Woman in White's Courtney Glass, and cast members from The Producers, Naked Boys Singing, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and other shows.
Meanwhile, this Monday, November 14 there are two shows: At 7 pm, members of the cast of Wicked will do their magic. Following this, at 9:30 pm, you can join Naked Boys Singing and enjoy Helen's dinner menu. Yes, the Boys will dress for dinner and will cover a variety of songs. Your cover charge of $25 goes to the AIDS charities and the minimum can be applied to drinks if you want to toast the efforts instead of munching.
Current cast members from Broadway shows from The Lion King to Rent (and their volunteering orchestra members) and night club performers have been taking turns at the Hideaway microphones for many a Monday, as the lights go down and the curtain comes up (yes, Helen's is the rare case of a cabaret stage that actually has a curtain). Those lights and mics and billowy curtain are supervised by technical director Shane Mathews who, with partner Colm Reilly, lovingly talked with me recently about this series at the club they own and run.
I've been able to attend a few of the events so far, and each has been especially enjoyable and they're quite different from each other. It was interesting to see singers from current shows on the Great White Way relaxing with some material they usually don't get to try. I heard everything from Beatles songs to "The Masochism Tango." No, you won't just hear them rehash what they do every other night. "We like to have to have Broadway people doing non-traditional material," Colm and Shane tell me as we sit and talk after one such performance.
"And there's friendly competition between the casts," referring to the auctions for donated items. Would Chitty Chitty Bang Bang raise more money than The Producers when it comes to a bidding war? It is fun to see the audience, including cast members, competing for some great prizes, including theater tickets, T-shirts, celebrity-autographed items and more in huge baskets. The entertainment is jam-packed, too. An all-Noel Coward evening offered cabaret pros KT Sullivan, Mark Nadler, Jeff Harnar and Karen Kohler, with comedy and love songs taking turns. "We want to bridge the gap between cabaret and theater," adds Colm. "We like to mix things that end up being a surprisingly good combination - like chocolate and peanut butter." The same philosophy applies to their usual running of the club, where they like to have "eclectic" entertainment. "We had a French-themed show and matched the food to that. We have a talent contest where the prize is an engagement here - and we do everything." The talent roster ranges from the newest cabaret discoveries to the grand dame of cabaret, Julie Wilson who returns next month.
This particular series has been very tasty entertainment, with a warm feeling in the room coming from knowing the money is going to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. "It was Joseph's idea," says Shane, referring to Joseph Macchia who volunteers his time to put together the evenings. He's been a tireless worker for AIDS charities for seven years, and his Joseph John Productions has now raised $17,500 in this recent effort.
"The money we raise goes directly to the people affected," Joseph tells me, not for research or administration. "All the performers donate their time and Shane and Colm donate the space." He is very happy with the generous support and response from audiences and performers. Everyone involved looks forward to big finish on November 28 when the gourmet meal, a drink, and evening of music will be offered for a $75 fee. Dinner will be served at 7:00 pm with the performance at 8:00 pm. Reservations and details by phone at 212- 206-0609. Helen's website is www.helensnyc.com.