Barbara and Scott
The Two of Clubs

Sing It and They Will Come

There were two opening acts at The Encore last week, Julie Reyburn and Lumiri Tubo, and either one of them would have been enough to blow the doors off the place. Impressively, the club opened its show room with what we like to call homegrown talent, two entertainers who have come up through the ranks of cabaret, honing their skills and building their audiences from the work they've done in the clubs. Both Reyburn and Tubo have become guarantees of excellence and they brought new acts, reviewed below, to The Encore in a schedule that continues through March and into April ...

Julie Reyburn Gives Birth to The Encore

Julie Reyburn, six months pregnant, could not help but provide a theme to her Friday, 7 pm opening night slot: giving birth to a new room. Her act was constructed, perhaps a little too heavily, as a passing of the torch show. It began with tributes to the late Cy Coleman and Fred Ebb and ended with the great Maltby & Shire contemporary classic, "The Story Goes On" from the musical Baby. We don't object to "The Story Goes On" because that was so obviously personal and Reyburn performed it so passionately. The early tribute material, however, did not feel truly integrated into the show. It was also over-produced with a gaggle of young, student backup singers (also intended to suggest a passing of the torch), but the opening was more studied than joyful.

Feeling, perhaps, that she had a responsibility to do more as the club's opening act, Reyburn tried too hard at the start. It wasn't very long, though, before she emerged with a more playful and downright cute series of tunes like "The Oh So Pregnant Blues" (Mark Janas/Julie Reyburn) and "Stuck on You" (Dick Gallagher/Mark Waldrop). There was a bracing vitality to her version of "Taking a Chance on Love" (Latouche/Fetter/Duke) and she beautifully embraced Tracy Stark's illuminating new song "Camera."

Reyburn was in great voice and her patter was always easy, bright, and natural. With Mark Janas as her musical director, she opened the room with dignity, class, and openhearted sincerity. And she continues at The Encore every Friday night at 7 pm thru April 15.

Lumiri Tubo: Opening Act, Part II

The second opening night show last Friday night belonged to the explosive Lumiri Tubo. Her act, called Shout Hallelujah! didn't have a theme but simply consisted of an hour's worth of songs Tubo wanted to sing -- and that's good enough for us. With Alex Rybeck at the piano, the second show of the night had a strong musical theater bent that included such standards as "Bill" (Kern/Hammerstein), "A Trip to the Library" (Bock/Harnick), and "Solomon" (Cole Porter).

Her patter was cute, often tying contemporary news, like Martha Stewart's recent release from jail with a song choice like "It's a Lovely Day to be Out of Jail" (Cy Coleman/Ira Gasman). Moving gracefully from playful, uptempo tunes like "Pearly Sue" (Gerry Mulligan) to delicate ballads like "Measure the Valleys" (Woldin/Brittan), Tubo was always in control and the very picture of an immensely likeable diva.

Lumiri Tubo doesn't perform often in New York so this show affords a wonderful opportunity to see the vibrant entertainer. She's at The Encore every Friday night at 9:30 pm thru April 8.

Tom D'Angora Puts on a Show

We can't think of any other cabaret performer other than Tom D'Angora who so accurately understands the full meaning of the words "show business." He puts on a show and he brings in the business. Right now, he is playing Upstairs at Studio 54, a room that holds 130 people, making it one of the largest cabaret rooms in the city. The night we were there, it was full! And we hardly recognized a soul. This is grassroots audience development. His provocatively titled act, Divas I've Done, doesn't hurt when it comes to audience appeal. And he plays the crowd like they're all in on the joke, which is that he's just a fan like they are, but he's got the microphone.

Smartly directed by Michael Duling, the show is purposefully and knowingly cheesy. It's part of the shtick. D'Angora has three girl singers who introduce the show and act as his foils as he describes in song and patter his personal attachments to such divas as Liza Minnelli, Jane Wyman, Fran Drescher, Ellen Greene, and others. D'Angora sings songs like "Ring them Bells" in honor of Liza and "Suddenly, Seymour" for Greene (in a duet with backup singer Noel Cody), but the performances are less about voice than they are about attitude.

Showman that he is, D'Angora never takes the audience for granted - we get to pick our favorite Diva at the end of the show. But even more impressively, D'Angora provides a real contemporary musical theater diva at the end of each act. The night we were there, Marla Schaffel, Tony Nominee from Jane Eyre, sang a couple of songs, including a duet with the host.

Tom D'Angora: Divas I've Done runs every Sunday night at 7:30 pm at Upstairs at Studio 54.

Show ... And Tell

Gina Caruso knows how to put a show together. You can count on an intelligent, incisive hour with this award-winning entertainer. Her shows are less about her and more about her material. She has a new act (not yet seen by these critics) that can be seen on an irregular schedule at Don't Tell Mama - next on Sunday, March 20 at 5:30 pm.

The legendary musical comedy entertainer, Helen Baldassare has more shows coming up at The Encore, including March 20 & 24, at 7 pm. She is one of the most consistently funny performers you will ever find in a New York nightclub. We're talkin' special.

The much-admired Thomas Honeck is starring in a benefit performance at The Duplex on March 28 at 7 pm. We are pleased to report that the modest $12 cover will go to charity and there will be no drink minimum.

The multi-award-winning Jeanne MacDonald, who received a rave review from Stephen Holden in the NY Times last year, brings a new show to Helen's Hideaway Room that begins on April 1 at 9:30 pm, with shows that follow on April 2 at 7 pm, April 8 at 9:30 pm, April 9 at 7 pm, April 15 at 7 pm and April 16 at 7 pm.

Sarah Mucho is bringing her acclaimed show Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars to The Encore from its initial run in the Under the Covers series at Mama Rose's. It can be seen on March 22 at 7 pm & 10 pm.

The incredible Varla Jean Merman will be at Joe's Pub on Friday, March 25 and 26 at 9:30 pm with her show Girl With a Pearl Necklace: An Act of Love. We haven't seen the show but we've seen Varla Jean many times and have never been disappointed. Funny, bawdy, outrageous - and enormously talented. You can't go wrong with this one.

Jamie deRoy & Friends is moving to The Encore and will have its premiere performance there on March 31 at 7:30 pm. This is one of cabaret's most important - if not the most important - variety show. Always packed with talent, deRoy regularly introduces up-and-coming talent to a broader audience. She has offered up such folks as Peter Cincotti, Modern Man, and many others.

We're thrilled to recommend Joranem a rock 'n' roll cellist - you read that right - who we saw several years ago at our favorite music festival in Quebec City. She's coming to Joe's Pub on April 4th with her special guest Nell Bryden (about whom we know nothing). Jorane is beautiful, talented, original, and thrilling. This should be quite a show. We're only sorry that it's taking place at the same time as The Broadway Musicals of 1945 at Town Hall or we'd be there, too.

The great Annie Golden will be back at Joe's Pub on Sunday, April 10 at 7:30 pm with her show Velvet Prison. A Broadway veteran who is also a pop/rock artist, Golden is both adorable and commanding at the same time. And she has a beautiful, throaty voice. She's a rock singer who can interpret a lyric. You'll never go wrong catching Annie Golden in performance.

Ongoing Shows

Seth Rudetsky's Chatterbox is one of cabaret's most enduring - and unique - enterprises. It's also a weekly benefit. Basically, it's a live musical theater-oriented talk show in which Rudetsky interviews famous Broadway personalities for an hour every Thursday from 6 to 7 pm at Don't Tell Mama. Always entertaining - even outlandish (Rudetsky's trademark) - it's always informative, as well. Call in advance before coming, however, because the shows are occasionally cancelled because of Rudetsky's busy schedule.

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.

-- Barbara and Scott Siegel

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