Barbara and Scott
The Two of Clubs

A gruesome twosome: Judy & Bea, but The Encore is a piano bar very much worth discovering in the theater district

Who? And What?

There is an apparently successful cabaret act at The Hideaway Room at Helen's that baffles us. While we fully accept that everyone has different tastes, and that one person's pasta is another person's poison, it still amazes us that the Judy & Bea show has a following. While we give Peter Mac as Judy Garland and John Schaefer as Bea Arthur full credit for drawing an audience, we can't imagine why that happens. Peter Mac bears a closer resemblance to Parker Posey than to Judy - both visually and vocally. John Schaefer's Bea Arthur is a little closer to the mark but where's the comedy?

The irony here is that Kate Botella, who has also done a Judy Garland show at the Hideaway Room at Helen's is a dead ringer for the young Judy; she's uncanny, especially when she's singing! So what's this act doing here? We sat through Judy & Bea simply agog at their ramshackle excuse for an act. Rather than create bits, John Schaefer would simply use Bea Arthur's. Most celebrity impersonators bring attitude, comic exaggeration, satire - something - to their craft. Schaefer is content to simply be a poor carbon copy. And Peter Mac, well, we have no idea what he thinks he's doing. It's vaguely Garlandesque, with the emphasis on vaguely.

Nonetheless, we repeat that there is an audience for this. Hey, maybe it's us. But we don't think so ... We're loathe to mention it, but the next Judy & Bea show at Helen's is Friday, April 8 at 9:30 pm.

The Encore! A Piano Bar About to be Discovered

In our continuing coverage of piano bars, we take you next to the Tuesday night crew at The Encore, the newest and biggest of the piano bars in the circuit. Located in the theater district, on West 47th Street between Broadway & Eighth Avenue, The Encore is across the street from The Biltmore Theatre. Talk about location ...

Robby Stamper
Robby Stamper
The usual pianist on Tuesdays is Robby Stamper, who tends to play more pop and rock than show tunes. But these days pop and rock also count as show tunes. That's why the singing staff was singing a lot songs by Billy Joel, and no one was movin' out. Many, however, were moving in to hear such high caliber talents as belter par excellence Anne Steele, the deep and sexy voiced star of Avenue X Colette Hawley, the bluesy and vibrant Kimlee Hicks, and the every popular and effervescent Michael Dionne.

Michael Dionne
Michael Dionne
We've been to the Encore on a variety of evenings - more on that in another column - but the club seems to regularly attract other musicians who sit in and wail with the pianist. We've seen sax players, drummers, and others jam at The Encore and oftentimes provide pretty classy backup playing behind anyone who happens to be singing - either the staff or open mic guest performers.

The piano bar is still in the process of finding its audience. The weekends, we hear, are pretty packed, but it won't be long before the word gets out about the stunning singers who perform on Tuesdays (and other weeknights). And this is a piano bar that serves food, as well as music and drink. When this place catches on - and it will - there will be a line outside the door every night.

Show ... And Tell

Suggested shows throughout April from two clubs. More clubs will be added in our next column ...

At Joe's Pub
Annie Golden's Velvet Prison
Pop singer and musical theater star Annie Golden is a unique talent. She continues to develop new musical ideas in this series of concerts, of which this is the fourth. No matter what, Annie Golden will never bore you. And chances are she'll make you a fan for life.
Sunday, April 10 at 7:30 pm

Janis Ian
What can we say? An icon. She has a voice like no one else. If you grew up listening to Ian, you won't want to miss this. Can't believe it's not sold out yet!
Tuesday, April 19 at 7:30 pm

Howard Fishman: Look At All This
He's got a new band and an evolving sound. But then Howard Fishman is never the same each time you see him. A true original, his mix of blues, country, bluegrass, and Lord knows what else, makes his music distinctly his own.
Friday, April 22 at 9:30 pm

The Encore (a show room in addition to their piano bar)
Amy Wolk: A Wolk in Progress A singer with promise, she made an award-winning debut last year and is someone to catch on her way up.
Sunday, April 10 at 7 pm

Teri Lynn Paul
A passionate singer we have liked very much in the past. She has great taste and works with Bobby Peaco at the piano, which is a recommendation all by itself.
April 17 at 7 pm
April 19 at 7 pm
April 20 at 7 pm
April 25 at 7 pm
April 27 at 7 pm

The Kakarett Kollektif presents: Karen Kohler & Greta: Berlin - Paris Express
We've heard great things about this show. And we know both performers from their solo work. Our expectations run high for a very special night of European music. April 22 at 9:30 pm
April 29 at 9:30 pm

Jamie deRoy & Friends
An important fixture in the cabaret world comes to The Encore. This variety show consistently offers a generous evening of talented people. It's really a great way to sample talent. Hosted with panache by deRoy, it's always a tip top night of entertainment.
April 28 at 7:30 pm

-- Barbara and Scott Siegel

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