The Two of Clubs
Unless we miss our guess, the Laurie Beechman Theatre, downstairs at the West Bank Café on West 42nd Street, is going to be a very busy – and very popular – place for the foreseeable future. That's because the innovative and well-connected booking manager, Phil Bond, who brought big names and new respectability to The Duplex over these last four years, has now hung his shingle out at the Beechman.
The Beechman is not, by a long shot, a new cabaret room, but it has not been consistently (or even thoughtfully) programmed for as long as we can remember. Finally, someone with knowledge and know-how has been given the room to book as he sees fit. And Phil Bond got right on it. He put his stamp on the room with his very first show, inaugurating his new regime with a one-night-only opening act that consisted of three of his regular performers from The Duplex: Lisa Asher, Julie Gold and John Wallowitch. All three were winning, each in their own way ...
Lisa Asher gave the audience a generous sneak preview of her upcoming show called Stranded in the Moonlight, devoted entirely to the music of quirky Chicago songwriter Michael Peter Smith. Those shows will take place every Sunday in August at 7 pm. By the way, several years ago Asher put on a show that featured several songs by this songwriter. We suggested to her then that an entire evening of his songs might serve as a show - so you can be sure we're going to be there at her opening.
Julie Gold is most famous for writing the Bette Midler hit record "From a Distance." Humble, funny, charming – and wonderfully unique - Gold is one of the most delightful personalities in cabaret. She has written several songs that are performed often in cabaret, but her adlibbed patter is so entertaining that we'd almost always rather hear her talk than sing. Touchingly loyal to Phil Bond, we'll remember the gesture of her promised allegiance to him in front of the entire audience long after we've forgotten the songs she performed that night.
Singer/songwriter John Wallowitch closed the show with a combination of hilarious comedy numbers and touching ballads, most memorably his most famous song, "This Moment." We'll look forward to seeing many more familiar faces from The Duplex showing up at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. We'll also expect Phil Bond to continue to expand his reputation for bringing famous musical theater stars into cabaret as well as continuing to create original and exciting new programming.
Later that same night ... .
One of Phil Bond's most successful creations at The Duplex was a late night open mike show called Mostly Sondheim that was hosted by Brandon Cutrell. Starting at 11 pm, it ran until 4 am and always drew a big crowd. Ripping himself off, Bond has created a brand new post-theater show on Friday nights called The After Party - and this, too, is hosted by Brandon Cutrell. It took place later that same night the club opened under Bond's auspices and the room was totally jammed! Cutrell had a ringer that night, as well: Shoshana Bean got up to sing a couple of songs early on to pump up the excitement.
The After Party appeals to a young musical theater audience. It is more informal and less polished than Jim Caruso's Cast Party which takes place every Monday night. At the Beechman, you are more likely to hear contemporary pop musical theater rather than the classic stuff. Brandon Cutrell sets the tone; he's a rambunctious bad boy who gets away with murder (hysterically) and keeps the evening going with his teasing digs and occasional solos – the boy can sing! There is always a great deal of energy in the room and a real feeling of a party.
The one significant way The After Party will differ from its antecedent at The Duplex: it won't continue on as late into the wee hours. The restaurant upstairs will be closed and people presumably won't wander in off a dark street into a closed eatery in the hope of finding music in the basement. At least not yet.
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