The Two of Clubs
Like the Post Office, neither rain, nor snow, nor especially dark of night could keep New York's newest piano bar/cabaret club, The Encore, from opening despite near blizzard conditions on Thursday evening. And, unlike the Post Office, The Encore looks like its going to deliver the goods. Or rather the goods - in this case, the audience - might well be delivered directly to the club. We're talking location, location, location. The Encore is located on West 47th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenues, across the street from Manhattan Theatre Club's Biltmore Theatre. Put another way, show tunes are back on Broadway every night from 9:30 pm to 4 am, seven nights per week.
As for the opening, weather-be-damned, the splendiferous piano bar was christened with a packed opening night crowd that was a veritable who's who of the cabaret world. Most everyone in the cabaret community came out in support of this new addition to our world. Singers of every stripe attended the opening night party. In a collegial gesture, so, too, did managers and bookers from other clubs around town.
The Encore, run by general manager/booker Lennie Watts, boasts the largest piano bar space in the city built around a huge, square bar It also boasts state of the art sound and lights, plus a singing wait staff to die for. An added bonus: The Encore will serve food as well as drink. In other words, once you enter, why ever leave?
And there's more! The piano bar is on street level, but downstairs The Encore will be opening a show room on March 11 where some of the best talents in town will be performing, starting with Julie Reyburn and Lumiri Tubo at 7 pm and 9:30 pm, respectively. Both will continue at The Encore with long runs scheduled through April. We ran into the very pregnant Ms. Reyburn at the opening night party. She confided that she'll be singing "The Story Goes On" from Baby in her brand new act created to open the club's show room. And the story goes on for cabaret with the addition of this new club. Check our Show ... And Tell section of this column later for future acts at The Encore and their play dates. Also visit www.theencorenyc.com for more information.
A French Kiss-Off
There's a confederation of artists that are proponents of European cabaret. They call themselves The Kabarett Kollektif. Under that umbrella they have a handful of different cabaret shows that they present around town. We were sorry to have recently missed their German show starring the remarkable Greta and the Kollektiff's impressive founder, Karen Kohler. Unfortunately, though, we did catch the group's French show at Mama Rose's with an entirely different cast called Paris Nocturne.
Looking at the song list before the show began, we were surprised and delighted that we'd be hearing a lot of French songs we hadn't heard before. While we're particularly passionate about the work of Aznavour, Brel, Piaf, etc., it's a healthy bit of turnabout to hear some fresh material. Unfortunately, most of the new songs were not all that worthy, but worse was the consistently off-putting ways in which the tunes were set up and delivered. Instead of a sophisticated take on French music, the show felt like it was designed for tourists on the economy plan. One might have thought this show came the way of Wisconsin rather than Paris, it was so cheesy.
The one saving grace in the show was the opportunity to discover Marnie Rice. In addition to playing the accordion, this attractive performer is a natural actress with a pretty voice. The female pianist/singer, Frederique, has an arresting quality but didn't otherwise register. Worst of all, however, was Jean Brassard, a handsome Quebecois who provided the double whammy of overacting and over-directing. Every thing he touched turned to French toast, with the emphasis on toast.
Show ... And Tell
The Farley Brothers: The popular duo reviewed here in our last column have been extended (yet again) at Upstairs at Rose's Turn with dates in March on two successive Fridays, the 4th and the 11th at 8 pm.
The ever-popular Poole Party, starring the award-winning Ron Poole, continues every Saturday night at 8:30 pm at Don't Tell Mama. One of the best comedy bargains in town, the funny and charming young Mr. Poole, who assembles a wide variety of comedians every week to provide a smorgasbord of humor, hosts The Poole Party. Regularly in attendance, as well, is cabaret favorite Sidney Myer who always scores with a couple of musical comedy numbers. These shows have a low cover and are loooong. You really get your money's worth.
A hit almost from the moment it began, Mostly Sondheim on Friday nights from 11 pm to 3 am at The Duplex is an open mike night where patrons are encouraged to sing just the songs of Stephen Sondheim. If you don't mind a lot of flubbed lyrics, this a fun evening where young performers get to cut their teeth on the most challenging songs in the canon.
Phillip Officer brings his critically acclaimed and award-winning cabaret show, Let Yourself Go back to Danny's Skylight Room at 2 PM on Sunday, February 27th. Singing an eclectic mix of songs, this exquisite lyric interpreter is a master of phrasing. He's got great musical taste and he makes you look smart for having chosen to see him.