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Entries in Singer (160)

Wednesday
Mar222017

Call Redialed: Facetime Interview: Bobby Cronin: Concerts, Theme Songs, & Winning New York

Call Me Adam and Bobby Cronin at The Algonquin Hotel's "New Yorker Suite"From inside The Algonquin Hotel's New Yorker Suite, what an absolute joy it was to catch-up with Bobby Cronin, award winning composer/lyricist (and creator/singer of the "Call Me Adam Theme Song")! It's been a few years since Bobby & I have sat down for an interview so needless to say, we had lots to talk about: from his upcoming concerts to creating the "Call Me Adam Theme Song" to Winning New York, we reveal it all!

Bobby has two upcoming concerts. One is Sunday 3/26 at 7pm at The W Hotel in Times Square, NYC (47th & Broadway) called #Love Is Love as part of the W's Broadway at The W series. Featuring Bobby's music, #Love Is Love will welcome Anne Brummel (Wicked), Bryan Terrell Clark (Hamilton & Motown), Lauren Elder (Hair & Side Show), Lora Lee Gayer (Holiday Inn & Follies), LaQuet Sharnell (Memphis & Lion King), Adam Kaplan (Kinky Boots & Newsies), Kyle Scatliffe (The Color Purple & Les Miserables), Marty Thomas (Grammy Nominee), Michael Williams (Charllie & The Chocolate Factory & On The Town), and Cortney Wolfson (Kinky Boots & The Addams Family). Click here for tickets!

Bobby's second concert, Bobby Cronin & Friends will be April 19 at 8pm at The Yotel's Green Room in NYC (42nd & 10th Ave). This will be a benefit for the Humane Society and feature a host of Bobby's New York friends and International talents. Click here for tickets!

For more on Bobby be sure to visit http://bobbycronin.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube!

"Call Me Adam's" Facetime video interview with Bobby Cronin:

Tuesday
Mar142017

Call Answered: Steve Willis: The Legend of Yma Sumac at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

Steve WillisI love music videos. I love documentaries. I love live performance. I love learning about people. When you get asked to interview someone that encompasses all of these and then you find out they have worked with some of the biggest names in entertainment, you jump at the opportunity presented before you.

That's where Steve Willis comes in. He has made videos for Mary J. Blige, Patti Labelle, Maxi Priest, Dawn Robinson, Miranda, and many others (including RuPaul's Drag Race stars Jinkx Monsoon and Sharon Needles). Now, he is premiering his "live documentary" cabaret show The Legend of Yma Sumac starring drag performer Scarlet Envy. Featuring many of Yma's greatest hits and never-before-seen footage of Yma, shot by Steve, The Legend of Yma Sumac will play The Laurie Beechman Theatre in NYC (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue in the basement of the West Bank Cafe) from March 15-29Click here for tickets!

For more on Steve be sure to visit http://thestevewillis.com and Instagram!

1. This March you are premiering The Legend of Yma Sumac, starring Scarlet Envy. The show is described as a "live documentary" cabaret about the late star, whom you were friends with. How did you first come to meet Yma? What was it about her that made you want to be friends? What do you miss most about her? When I first heard Yma’s music I became obsessed and couldn’t stop talking about her. From the very beginning I treated her as news that must be spread. I had the feeling that more people needed to know about her. I was so shocked to find out she existed. So one of the people that heard me talking said she was making gowns for Yma and I begged her to introduce me. She took me to dinner with Yma and I asked if I could make a documentary about her life. She was totally interested but she also wanted help with her career and I eventually learned she wanted help with her life. She was quite isolated. Over the years the relationship developed from director of her documentary, to also include manager for live shows to personal assistant. We would spend long hours in her apartment listening to her new music and hearing stories of the past and the people that did her wrong.

I think what I miss about her is being around such amazing talent and her wise worldly ways. She was always full of good advice and she cared for people and animals. She had a magical quality with animals that was like nothing I've ever seen. Wild animals, birds for example, would come to her and she was acting like it was the most natural thing when it was extremely rare. I believe the power of her mind was very great, she credited her singing ability to her mind and believing she could do it. She taught me more about integrity, artistic integrity than anyone I've ever met.

Scarlet Envy as Yma SumacThe real Yma Sumac2. What made now the right time to mount this show? That's an interesting question because there are three people that were involved with Yma at the end of her life trying to do projects with her. All three of us, without communicating with each other, returned to our projects again at the same time, around seven years after she died. The seven year itch? I've read the human body completely replaces all its cells after seven years and therefore you are a totally new person. Maybe we all had to heal a little before getting back to work on our projects? The other two people are Damon Devine, who was Yma’s caregiver and friend. He is working on a book that I really want to see come to life and I want to help promote. The other is Thomas Lauderdale of the band Pink Martini. I introduced him to Yma to record a song and she gave him a great start.

3. Why is Scarlet Envy the perfect drag queen to portray Yma? What aspects of Yma do you see in Scarlet? Spencer Rothman, the editor of this project has gone so far and beyond helping make this show come to life, introduced me to her. He saw I was really struggling to cast the project. I went through so many options. The problem was...if I was making a show that says "Yma has the greatest voice in the world ever," then how do I cast a live singer? No-one can sing these songs. (if you are reading this and you think this is incorrect….please introduce me to the singer that you think can do this).

Also, if I was in the audience for this show, I would want to hear Yma’s voice. So, the only choice seemed to be to do a lip sync show. I did consider real women along with drag performers but when it came to lip syncing, I think Drag performers have a little more practice…haha. I was already following Scarlet Envy on Instagram, so I was a fan of her beauty. She has an old Hollywood glamor to her look. She’s a beautiful woman and not a girl. I wanted the person playing Yma to be an older version of Yma. When I saw Scarlet paint herself to look like Yma, the resemblance was shocking and exciting. She had to do it. Yma’s career suffered somewhat from being considered "campy" or "kitsch" so I carefully considered whether casting a drag performer was the right thing to do but in the end I decided that the gender of the artist on stage is the last thing anyone needed to worry about. There is no nudity in the show except the male dancers show a lot of side ass.

Scarlet Envy as Yma SumacThe real Yma Sumac4. Some of Yma's greatest hits were "Malambo No. 1," "Mozart's Queen of the Night," and "Claire de Lune." In rehearsing this show what memories come up for you as hear these songs being performed? Because it is pretty rare to hear Yma’s music out in the world, I look forward to hearing my favorite songs by her on a nice loud system in a public place. I never heard Yma sing any of these songs live but when I would drive her around I would play these songs and she would drum on my dash board and sing along. One of my biggest regrets is not filming these moments. The way she would sing on top of the existing song was incredible. She would do this with any song by the way, not just hers. It was always in perfect harmony. I don’t know musical terms that well but she would also counter the melody in a very interesting way. She was also a great percussionist. Who knew the dashboard of a car could add so much great rhythm to a song?

5. The Legend of Yma Sumac incorporates unseen footage of Yma that was shot by you. How did you decide what footage to pick? What was it like to watch this footage now as opposed to when you first shot it? When I first picked up this project five years after her death, I needed to digitize some pretty archaic video formats (the project started in the 80’s). When I first started watching the footage, I literally broke out in hives on my face. The experience of watching the footage was a overwhelming. I put it away again until now. This year, I also won a grant from the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts for my feature documentary about Yma so I’ve been working on that as well. Chip Duckett knew I was doing this and asked me if I wanted to do a live show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, I wanted the live show to be a tribute to her so I picked footage that was happy and she looked great in.

Scarlet Envy as Yma SumacThe real Yma Sumac6. What do you hope audiences learn about Yma from attending the show? I want them to learn that she was a serious artist and had the greatest voice ever recorded. According to some experts I've interviewed, there are two other women who could sing the same scale as Yma and we know this from the music that was written for their voices but this was before the technology to record them existed.

7. What was the hardest/most emotional part of the show to write? What was the most fun part? The hardest part of the show was the end. Every time we would get to that part I would get emotional. It was a little embarrassing but luckily Spencer the editor is a friend. The "fun" part?…..did I say I had fun? Actually the whole experience has been fun.

Patti LaBelle8. In addition to Yma, you have made videos for numerous high profile artists such as Mary J. Blige, Patti Labelle, Maxi Priest, Dawn Robinson, Miranda, and RuPaul's Drag Race stars Jinkx Monsoon and Sharon Needles, amongst others. Is there a really crazy story that stands out from one of these shoots where you were like, "I can't believe that just happened?" Meeting Patti LaBelle was crazy and amazing and educational. She was the first big name person I ever directed. The record company guy took me to her hotel room and as we waited in the living room of her suite I was very nervous. From the bedroom she called out "Is that Steve Willis? I love your work!" I said "yes." She answered "Oh my, I look terrible and I don’t want to come out of my bedroom, I'm on my period." We all laughed and my nerves went away. She came out and we had a great meeting. I realized after what a pro move this was. She has probably met and intimidated many people and that's not the best place to start working with someone. Complimenting me and bringing herself to a human level was a great way to start working together.

Rebecca Romijn9. You also directed the documentary Wet Dreams with Rebecca Romijn about your attempt to approach Wet Design, the creators of the Bellagio fountain, to choreograph a fountain show of your own. What did you learn from this experience? Are there any secrets about the Bellagio fountain or fountain show that you can share with us that we, the public, might not know? That was an amazing experience. I was the first civilian to swim in the Bellagio Fountain. The film is about what we learned and the secrets of the fountain. It is on Youtube. So, if you want to know the answer to this question you need to watch the film ๐Ÿ˜Š

10. What is something Yma taught you that you can share with us? She taught me not to compromise on your artistic vision no matter what. Once you have a clear vision, everyone can go to hell before you compromise on any small detail. I’ve never seen anyone hold to this more strongly and I've worked with many of the top people in the Film, TV and Fashion Industry.

Steve WillisMore on Steve:

Steve Willis is a filmmaker, photographer, and music video director. As a music video director, he has made videos for numerous artists, including Mary J. Blige, Patti Labelle, Maxi Priest, Dawn Robinson, Miranda, and many others (including RuPaul's Drag Race stars Jinkx Monsoon and Sharon Needles). He directed the documentary Wet Dreams with Rebecca Romijn, and is currently working on a documentary about Yma Sumac, who he befriended in 1987.

Friday
Mar032017

Call Redialed: Mrs. Smith: While My Guitar Gently Shrieks at (le) Poisson Rouge

Mrs. Smith and The RageI first came to know Mrs. Smith when her Off-Broadway show BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR! decended upon New York City. It was that show that made me fall in love with Mrs. Smith. I'm so excited that we have now had the chance to reunite to talk about her new concert, starring in a GUCCI Eyewear ad, and being crowned the winner of "Shred for Your Life."

Mrs. Smith & her band The Rage will be presenting their show While My Guitar Shrieks at (le) Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker Street) on Tuesday, March 7 at 7pm. While My Guitar Gently Shrieks will sonically delve into the traumatic life events that have made Mrs. Smith the guitar virtuoso she is today. From her Little House on the Prairie-style childhood to her kidnapping at the hands of a Norwegian Death Metal band, Mrs. Smith will leave no stone unturned and no note unplayed. Featuring the music of ABBA, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Taylor Swift, Van Halen, Sia, and Metallica, among others. Click here for tickets!

For more on Mrs. Smith be sure to visit http://www.worldofsmith.com and follow her on Facebook, Instgram, and YouTube!

1. It's so great to catch up! Last time we spoke, you were premiering your Off-Broadway show BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR! Now, you have switched gears, formed a band, and started doing concerts. What made you want to go this route? When it comes to the guitar, no other instrument gives such clear voice to the Grief and Rage. I never planned on becoming a guitar goddess! Last summer in Provincetown I started performing with my guitar on the sidewalk and it changed my life. The initial impulse behind this "sidewalk guitar show" was survival. I'd lost my entire fortune because of Brexit—my accountant couldn't explain why that was exactly but I was destitute. I found myself living in a mule shed behind the house of a local comedian named Ryan Landry. (A new low). The rent was due on this mule shed and so I took to the street! I was shocked at how the people gathered, huge crowds of them, clogging the streets and blocking traffic to see me "shred" on my guitar. I thought, "we might have something here..."

2. You recently were crowned the winner of "Shred for Your Life" at Webster Hall. What did it mean to you to win this contest? How did this help validate your path of music? The winning of this contest was coming off of my "sidewalk guitar shred" concerts in Provincetown so my "chops" were sharp. Even so, I was terrified. I almost left before the concert even began! There were so many tremendous players in a variety of styles and tones and all so much younger than me. I did make use of Geritol XL for some added energy and the judges determined that was not a performance-enhancing drug (it's b-vitamins). I battled it out over three excruciating rounds and just when I felt like my fingers were going to fall off I emerged the "Queen of Shred." It was definitely validating and helped me have the confidence to start this band and put this new show together. Around the same time a video of me playing in the East Village went viral on Guitar World and got 1.2 million views and then guitar companies started sending me equipment to review and I eventually wound up in this ad for GUCCI.

3. How did it come about for you to be featured in the GUCCI eyewear ad? I was playing guitar in Tomkins Square Park in the East Village this Fall and was spotted by fashion "it girl" Petra Collins. We were inspired by one another. She asked if I would be willing to wander into a GUCCI dreamscape with her and of course I said yes. I was whisked away to Budapest, Hungary, dressed up in gorgeous GUCCI clothes and sunglasses it was ultra-glamorous. You can look at stills from the shoot and read about Petra's inspiration here and here and here.

Mrs. Smith4. What do you like about performing in a band as opposed to a theatrical show? I love both, but for me right now, the band brings something raw and immediate to the live experience that feels relevant. People are raw right now, they're an exposed nerve because of what's happening in the world. (I've always felt like an exposed nerve so I'm used to it.) Along with my stage productions, I have done appearances at stand-up comedy venues where I perform impromptu stories, tone poems, and guitar solos. These appearances were stripped down and unfiltered and thrilling to me. I wanted to take that experience and elevate it a bit and that's what this new show is about, for now anyway. At first I was insecure about not having lots of costume changes and props and puppets. But when the show premiered to a sold-out crowd at Joe's Pub several audience members said they enjoyed the focused simplicity of the piece. I will also say, theatrical productions are a thrill to do but they are expensive and logistically complex. I like being able to book this show almost anywhere very easily and doing it in rock clubs and cabaret spaces means I can keep ticket prices accessible. And finally, it's just really really fun being a rock star!

5. For fans of your theatrical endeavors, what will surprise them about seeing you perform in concert? It's unfiltered Smith. I don't leave the stage, I don't change costumes, I don't relent from the top of the show until the finale. I go on a complete journey from my traumatic childhood in upstate New York to my life in high society to my kidnapping at the hands of a Norwegian Death Metal band and emergence as a guitar goddess. All of these realities are reflected through sound, music, storytelling and, of course, dumb show. The audience uses their imagination to draw the pictures. One song takes place in complete darkness with just the band playing and haunting voices from my past intruding on the loudspeaker! At first, I hired a video designer (who lives in Bushwick) to make elaborate video projections out of these voices but then realized how much more powerful to let the audience dream what the faces of these tormentors look like! That Bushwick videographer spent 10,000 hours working on those projections but we never used them--of course I still paid him! The surprise and delight is re-living these trauma's and triumph's with me. Isn't that what all entertainment is all about?

Mrs. Smith in an ad for GUCCI6. What was the hardest part about learning guitar? How do you feel learning to play guitar helped you grow as an artist? My father had taught me a few chords on a folk guitar when I was a little girl. Everyone could see I showed great promise but his alcoholic dissolution got in the way of my lessons. Then in the '90s I was kidnapped and held for ransom by a Norwegian Death Metal band. This was barely covered in the press because Patty Hearst completely stole my moment. I was kept in a closet for 90 days and there was a guitar in there. I had to learn to play it to survive. I ended up taking over the band and we won the Eurovision contest. I played the guitar when I appeared on America's Got Talent many years ago and it has been featured in my stage shows but I've never given myself so fully to the instrument until now and it's catapulted me into a new adventure.

7. You will be playing songs from quite a range of musical influences: ABBA, Led Zeppelin, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Taylor Swift, Sia, and Metallica. How did these artists inspire your musical taste? What is the common thread of all these artists that make them fit into your concert? I have a passion for all of these songs because they reflect some element of my story. I've become known as a "shred guitar goddess" and the show definitely includes that but the guitar is such a diverse instrument! You can have an acoustic song that is so soulful and tender and then an electric guitar solo that soars like a valkyrie! And this band is so talented and skilled they can play literally anything so we zig-zag from rock and roll to country to pop to disco to jazz. It's like turning the knob on an old radio through all the styles of music.

Mrs. Smith8. Let's take this contest in a different direction. What is something you want to shred from your life? I insist on less fear. I know that seems radical, everyone is fearful of everything right now, especially in our little artistic corners of the world. But I want to create art and a life for myself without fear as the engine! That might mean finally taking the plunge and creating a Senior-Match.com profile and trying an internet coffee date. (I'd sworn off human love but is that just fear ruling me?) It might mean finding a way to finally tour Japan with my one-woman shred guitar opera. Of course, I don't want to strip out the terror, I need that, I think we all do. But fear and terror are two totally different energies as everybody knows.

9. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Can I work to make it .0001% better? 1% seems like setting the bar really high. (I'm so exhausted from self-improvement.) Your readers should look into The Miracle Morning, I just started it myself and I'm committing to try it for 30 days and see if it works.

Mrs. SmithMore on Mrs. Smith:

Mrs. Smith is an electric guitar virtuoso, philanthropist, and cat lover who has captured the public imagination with her unbridled creative expression in the face of a life filled with grief and rage. With an improbable life-tale that includes a lonesome childhood of privilege, 14 marriages, and show biz stardom and obscurity, Mrs. Smith is a 20th Century creature who has burst through to the internet age to become a sensation.

Mrs. Smith is the 2016 winner of the "Shred for Your Life" contest held at Webster Hall and was a featured performer at the Guitar Gods Festival in Miami opening up for guitar legends Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai. A video of her shredding on the streets of the East Village was shared by Guitar World Magazine and garnered 1.2 million views. Her unique blend of musical performance comedy has been featured on NBC's America's Got Talent, PBS Television as well as Joe's Pub, American Repertory Theater and Berkeley Repertory Theater. She has also been seen at Feinstein's/54 Below, First Avenue, Webster Hall, Ars Nova, The Laurie Beechman Theater, Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, The Bell House, Union Hall, and the legendary Bushwig Festival, among many others.

Mrs. Smith's Broadway Cat-tacular! wow'ed audiences Off-Broadway and was hailed by the New York Post as "Purrfect!" Mrs. Smith's performance described as "Off its meds" by the Boston Globe, "Luminous" by Gay City News and "Oddly poignant..." by the New York Times

Wednesday
Mar012017

Call Redialed: Karen Mason: It's About Time CD + Birdland Concert

Karen Mason, Photo Credit: Bill WestmorelandIt's About Time Karen Mason & I did a new interview. It's been two years, almost to the day, since our last interview together. At that time we spoke about Karen's month-long residency at Don't Tell Mama doing her show Mason at Mama's. In that interview we went back in time with Karen. Now, we are looking to the future while staying in the present, and using the past to show how Karen became the woman and singer she is!

Karen's newest CD, It's About Time is a mixture of timeless standards ("I Can’t Give You Anything But Love," "Just in Time"), theatre classics ("Everything’s Coming Up Roses," "Somewhere/The Impossible Dream"), and a few original tunes ("It's About Time"), along with a homage to Judy Garland ("The Man That Got Away," "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart" and the iconic "Over the Rainbow"). Click to purchase Karen's album on iTunes and Amazon!

Karen will celebrate the release of It's About Time with a return to Birdland Jazz NYC (315 West 44th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue) on Monday, March 6 at 7pm! Click here for tickets!

For more on Karen be sure to visit http://karenmason.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. I'm so excited we are doing this new interview, especially since it’s about something you do BEST...and that's sing and make beautiful music. You are about to release your latest album It’s About Time. What made now the right time to release this album? Thanks, Adam! You have been so good to me…and I do love making music! Well, it is about time to release this new CD because it has been nine years since my last CD. I said to Paul (my husband and producer, Paul Rolnick) that we need to take advantage of the time we have….and keep making music! Music speaks to my soul. And honestly, I love recording!

2. The title song on the album, "It’s About Time,"  written by your husband, Paul Rolnick, as an honor to the passing of marriage equality and then as a celebration of your friend’s marriage. What are some things in your life you feel "It’s About Time" for? Standing up for what I truly believe is more important than ever! I am a middle child…and not much of a trouble maker, always the pacifier. And then I get older…and suddenly I am becoming more fearless! I feel that we must stand up for our brothers and sisters who need our support and well, it is about time I spoke up! The song, "It’s About Time," distills the subject of marriage equality down to its truth…which is love! We cannot deny love…not now, not ever!

Karen Mason and her husband Paul Rolnick3. One song you sing on It’s About Time is "Just In Time," with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Betty Comden/Adolph Green. What is something that happened "Just in Time" to you, either in your personal life or career? I met my husband, Paul, a year after I found out I was losing my best friend and music director, Brian Lasser to AIDS. Brian died two years later, and those years were really difficult….on Brian and on all of us and Paul stayed with me through it. We just celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary (and have been together 26 years). Ah…the universe!

4. You also sing "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from Gypsy. When did "Everything Come Up Roses" for you? The first night I went on in Sunset Boulevard, I was scared to death!! Also, very, very excited to be going onstage with this herculean role!! I made it through the show without missing a beat or line or entrance! With the help of that extraordinary cast, I think everything did come up roses for me that night!

5. You also perform "The Impossible Dream." What is one dream you had you thought would never come true? What is one dream you are still hoping comes true? Hmmm, dreams are so private! I can tell you the one that did come true….but I can’t tell you the one that I am still hoping for. Cuz I am a little superstitious about that! One dream I had that I wondered if would ever come true would be singing at Carnegie Hall. And it came true when I was asked to sing with The New York Pops! I have a picture of me on that stage with Skitch Henderson…and a HUGE grin on my face! Of course, wearing a beaded gown for the show! I sang "This Nearly Was Mine." It was so much fun! And so special to sing in a hall that heard the voices of so many talents I admired.

Karen Mason as "Ma" in "Chasing Rainbows"6. You were recently in the Broadway-bound musical Chasing Rainbows and you are including a few selections to honor Judy Garland. How did Judy Garland influence you/your music style? What rainbows are you chasing these days? I was thrilled to include a few Garland songs on the CD! A few years ago I got a chance to do a symphony concert of Garland music…and it was perfect joy for me! All those amazing arrangements…God, I loved every minute!! I am a Garland fan. Judy Garland sang and told stories that speak to my heart. Something about the timbre of her voice, and her ability to sound like she was speaking just to my soul……perfect! And if you are going to steal…steal from the very very best, right? What rainbows am I still chasing? I am not sure if they are all rainbows…but I still have a lot to say and sing! And many more stories to tell!

7. One of the Judy Garland songs you included on this album was "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart." What are a few happy moments in your life when you heart went Zing!? When Paul told me he loved me. On the phone, cuz we are both shy…and my heart was about to explode!! So I told him too..and I think his heart went "Zing" too. You would have to ask him….but I think it would be safe to say that it probably did.

Karen Mason in Broadway's "Wonderland"8. You also record "Finding Wonderland" from the Broadway show Wonderland, a song about finding ourselves and finding our truths? What is something you recently found out about yourself and what is one truth you have not revealed about yourself in a previous interview? I recently found out I am stronger than I have always thought. One truth that I have not revealed is that I hate being called "Dear" by someone I don’t know. If it is someone I know and love, it is good. But someone who doesn’t know me at all? Goes right up my back!

9. Finally, you close the album with a very special song, Gershwin's "Our Love Is Here to Stay," but it's using the track your first musical director/friend Brian Lasser recorded. Sadly Brian passed away in 1992, but how great that you get to "sing" with him again. What was this experience like for you? What do you miss most about Brian? Oh Adam, this was such a beautiful gift Paul gave me! To be able to sing with Brian again? Amazing! And because I knew it was going to be so amazing, I kept putting it off for years. Paul asked me about it about 10 years ago….and I kept deflecting. As I got older, I got more fearless (always a struggle for me!)…and finally said YES! And it was amazing and natural and…..home.

Karen Mason and her longtime friend/collaborator Brian Lasser10. This album is a mixture of timeless standards, theatre classics, and a few original tunes. What songs didn't make the cut for this CD, hence saying, it wasn't time to share these songs? We have enough cuts for a few CDs….so that is the plan! We will be releasing a new CD within a year….and then keep ‘em coming! Some of the songs on the next one may be: "He Touched Me," "Time" by Barry Kleinbort….and I would love to do a new Christmas CD (and this time IN the studio!).

11. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I would love to improve my relationship with the gym! Once I am there, I am fine, but getting there??? Seems like miles! And honestly, Adam, a way to improve my own life every day is to continue to try to find ways to be better to others.

Karen MasonMore on Karen:

Karen Mason has starred on Broadway, Off-Broadway, Television, and in the recording studio. She’s been praised for her "fierce emotion" by The New York Times, her "innate comic ability" by Playbill and her "delightful instrument" by the Daily News. Karen has been called "immensely appealing" by The Chicago Tribune, "a towering talent" by TheaterMania and "a dynamic performer" by Time Out New York. According to the Indianapolis Star, "Mason has a powerful voice and rich resonance you associate with Judy Garland or Barbra Streisand. She can sing slow and smoky or fast and punchy with an innate sense of humor. Mason is a poet of the vocal chords."

Karen is a twelve-time MAC Award winner – most recently "Show of the Year" and "Celebrity Artist" in 2016 – and has won the MAC Award for Major Female Vocalist of the Year for six consecutive years. She has also won the 2006 Nightlife Award for Major Female Vocalist and has three Bistro Awards.

Karen Mason as "Norma Desmond" in Sunset "Boulevard"Karen most recently garnered rave reviews starring as "The Queen of Hearts" in Wonderland on Broadway. She originated the role of "Tanya" on Broadway in ABBA’s Mamma Mia, and was awarded a 2002 Drama Desk nomination as Best Actress. Her other leading roles include "Norma Desmond" in Sunset Boulevard, which she performed to critical acclaim and standing ovations on Broadway and in Los Angeles for three years; "Velma von Tussel" in the final Broadway company of Hairspray; "Monotony" singer, "Mazeppa" in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway; "Rosalie" in Carnival (another Drama Desk nomination); plus featured roles in Broadway’s Torch Song Trilogy; and Play Me A Country Song.

She won the Outer Critics Circle Award for her performance in And the World Goes ‘Round, and starred Off-Broadway in her own show Karen Mason Sings Broadway, Beatles and Brian. Her television appearances include the hit dramas Ed and Law & Order: SVU while film credits include Sleeping Dogs Lie and A Chorus Line.

Karen MasonIn regional theatre, she starred in the 1st National Tour of A Christmas Story as "Miss Shields," in the world premiere of the stage production of White Christmas (playing the Rosemary Clooney role at St. Louis Muni Opera), Side by Side by Sondheim (Coconut Grove Playhouse in Florida), Gypsy (Sundance Theatre in California), the world premiere of One Tough Cookie (Apple Tree Theatre in Chicago), Heartbeats (Goodspeed Opera House) and Company (Huntington Theatre in Boston). Karen starred in the one-woman musical about Dorothy Parker You Might As Well Live.

Karen has headlined Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Feinstein's at the Regency, Rainbow & Stars, the Algonquin, Arci' Place, The Supper Club and The Ballroom in NYC; The Cinegrill and the UCLA/ASCAP Concert Series in Los Angeles; The Plush Room in San Francisco; and Davenport’s in Chicago.

Karen MasonShe has shared concert stages with Michael Feinstein, Jerry Herman, Chita Rivera, Luciano Pavarotti, Rosemary Clooney, Liza Minnelli, and John Kander & Fred Ebb, among others. Karen has given concerts in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Brazil, Scotland, Tokyo and Osaka. Her starring symphonic performances include The Long Beach Symphony Orchestra with Maestro Michael Berkowitz, the Philly Pops with Peter Nero, The New York Pops with Skitch Henderson, the Oklahoma Philharmonic with Joel Levine, the premier performance of The Chicagoland Pops, the Indianapolis Philharmonic, and the St. Louis Symphony with John McDaniel.

Her highly acclaimed recordings include her 2009 MAC Award-winning Right Here/Right Now, 2005’s The Sweetest of Nights, the MAC Award-winning When The Sun Comes Out, as well as three other CDs: Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!, recorded live at the West Bank Café; Better Days, featuring songs by her longtime composer/arranger Brian Lasser (including the 1998 Emmy Award-winning song "Hold Me"); and Not So Simply Broadway. Karen has been featured on the original cast CD of Wonderland; Jeffrey (Varese Sarabande), the studio cast recording of Wonderful Town (JAY Records), the original cast album of And The World Goes Round (RCA Victor), The Child In Me, Vol. 1 (Harbinger Records), and Lost in Boston II (Varese Sarabande).

Monday
Feb062017

Call Answered: Carmen Cusack: If You Knew My Story: Live at Feinstein's/54 Below

Carmen CusackI was first introduced to the talent's of Carmen Cusack during her Tony-nominated turn in Steve Martin & Edie Brickell's Tony-nominated Broadway musical Bright Star. I was blown away by Carmen's performance and that voice! I could listen to Carmen sing all night if I had the chance to and now with the release of her debut CD (on Broadway Records), If You Knew My StoryLive at Feinstein's/54 Below, I can!

Come find out the tales behind Carmen's story in our interview below!

Carmen will be returning to Feinstein's/54 Below for four performances only March 8 at 9:30pm, and March 14, 15, 16 at 7pm! Click here for tickets!

Purchase Carmen's CD at Broadway Records, iTunes, or Amazon!

For more on Carmen be sure to visit http://www.carmencusack.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. Last year you released your debut CD as part of the Live at Feinstein's/54 Below series. As if the pressure of making your concert debut at Feinstein's/54 Below wasn't enough, you decided to record the show and make into a live album. What made you decide to make your concert debut also your CD debut? I was asked to perform four shows for Feinstein's/54 Below and along with that request they asked if they could record it as a possible live album venture. I agreed to it because I felt I had nothing to lose. They took the best bits of the show and mixed it nicely and gave me full control over the content. I love LIVE recordings. They are raw and beautifully imperfect which is far more interesting to me. I'm a bit of a perfectionist to a fault and this allowed me to let go a little and embrace the organic nature of the evening.

2. Were you nervous knowing the show was being recorded? If so, how did you keep yourself calm? I was nervous the first five minutes of the first night. I then noticed that everyone was having fun so I decided to. I didn't really even think about the recording of it. I was too much in the moment with the audience to be bothered about that.

Carmen Cusack at Feinstein's/54 BelowCarmen Cusack as "Alice Murphy" in Steve Martin & Edie Brickell's "Bright Star"3. For fans who have seen you in Bright Star and your many other theatrical productions, what do you think will delight them about this album and what will surprise them? Well, I sang some songs I hadn't sang in a while! Roles I had played in the past, like "Christine" in PHANTOM and "Fantine" in LES MIZ and of course "Elphaba"...showing a bit more strings to my vocal bow. I also gave some background regarding the writing process I witnessed working with Steve Martin and Edie Brickell as well as some stories that never made the Broadway version of BRIGHT STAR. There were some hauntingly beautiful songs that had to be cut from BIGHT STAR that I wanted to showcase as well. These anecdotes did seem to intrigue (if not shock) some folks. Ha!

4. The album cover is a picture of you as a young girl. When you look at that picture now, what goes through your mind about that time in your life? How much space I had. How big everything felt. Catching lizards and picking blackberries with Grandpa and running with my dog. Good times.

5. The title of your debut album is If You Knew My Story. We'll know your story from listening to this album, so what is something we don't know about your story? Ha! Well there's still a lot more story to tell. I plan on telling more on my next set of shows at Feinstein's/54 below this March and of course when I release my original album. Nothing but stories in those songs!

Katie Rose Clarke and Carmen Cusack at Feinstein's/54 BelowCarmen Cusack as "Elphaba" and Katie Rose Clarke as "Glinda" in the First National Tour of "Wicked"6. Another song you perform on the album is "Strong is the Heart." What has been the hardest thing your heart has had to endure that you need it's strength? Allowing someone in. To learn how to love and be loved.

7. You also perform "For Good" from Wicked with Katie Rose Clarke, which you two starred together in on the First National Tour. What was the best part about reuniting with her? What is one funny story you can tell us that happened between the two of you during your run together? She is a Texas girl and most of my schooling was in Texas so we got each other straight off the bat. She is so soulful and real. Love her. We got caught in a whiteout in Cleveland taking her puppy to emergency vet. We couldn't drive any further so we had to walk another mile in waist deep snow holding on to each other and the puppy for dear life. Sadly, the puppy didn't make it. His name was Roadie. : (  (Sorry this story wasn't funny).

Carmen Cusack and Edie Brickell opening night of Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's "Bright Star", Photo Credit: Walter McBrideCarmen Cusack8. You also duet with Edie Brickell on "Sun Is Gonna Shine" from Bright Star, for which you received a Tony nomination for. What was the best part about performing with Edie? In your bio, you say playing "Alice Murphy" was the role of your dreams. Why was this role held in such high esteem for you as compared to other roles you've played? I love Edie. Her smile and energy is so infectious and calming and then she opens her mouth and this voice comes out that is like a warm breeze. She is the best! I knew as soon as I read the script that I was to play "Alice Murphy." It was that simple. Also creating the role as a debut was another big selling point.

9. One of your patter pieces on the album is titled "Anything could happen and probably will." What is something that you hope will still happen for you? The next thing I'd like to happen as soon as possible is to get my original album out. Maybe next time we can talk about that! ๐Ÿ˜‰

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I want to be one percent every day more thankful for the love in my life.

Carmen CusackMore on Carmen:

An actress and singer whose career spans the world, Carmen Cusack made her Tony-nominated Broadway debut as "Alice Murphy" in Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s BRIGHT STAR. In addition, she has graced the stage in some of theatre’s most renowned roles, including PHANTOM OF THE OPERA’s "Christine," LES MISERABLES’ "Fantine," WICKED’s "Elphaba," SOUTH PACIFIC’s "Nellie Forbush," and SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE’s "Dot/Marie." In January 2017, Carmen starred in the world premiere of Karen Siff Exhorn’s DO THIS, a one-woman play at Gulfshore Playhouse. Possessing a versatile vocal range, she has also been featured in numerous concerts, recordings and cabarets. Her Live at Feinstein's/54 Below album entitled "If You Knew My Story" is now available, and she will return to the cabaret stage at Feinstein’s/54 Below for a series of four shows in March 2017.

Born in Denver, Colorado, Carmen’s childhood included stops throughout the Southeastern and Central United States. At a young age, she was enticed into singing by a sweet tooth. She had sung for youth chapel many times; however, her church’s pastor asked her to sing "Amazing Grace" for the adult chapel – with the promise that she could have the first choice from a box of chocolates as her reward. Intrigued by the deal, Carmen decided that chocolate was enough motivation to overcome her shyness. She approached the podium for her song, and when the pastor asked if she would like the pianist to accompany her, the five-year-old Carmen replied "No thanks… she might mess up!" Even as a child, she was already a self-declared perfectionist. Her singing debut was a success and a sign of things to come.

Carmen Cusack as "Elphaba" in the First National Tour of "Wicked"A passion for singing and acting continued to be fostered over the years and led her to the University of North Texas, where she studied in the Performing Arts. Among the genres in which she trained were opera, ballet, jazz and tap, and her early creative influences included Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Sandi Patty, Aretha Franklin, and Meryl Streep. After completing her education, Carmen accepted a job on the Queen Elizabeth II cruise ship that changed the course of her future. Jean Ann Ryan Productions offered her a contract, and she sang her way around the world. Eventually, she landed in Manchester, United Kingdom, where she attained her breakthrough opportunity – the chance to appear in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA as "Christine Daae."

Shortly thereafter, another milestone in Carmen’s career arrived in the form of her West End debut in London. Starring as "Fantine" in LES MISERABLES, she earned her first bow in Europe’s most prestigious theatre district. A diverse career continued to flourish in Europe, with opportunities ranging from Original West End Casts (THE SECRET GARDEN and PERSONALS) to innovative workshops to the futuristic, interactive SAUCY JACK & THE SPACE VIXENS. One part which Carmen particularly enjoyed playing was OVER THE RAINBOW’s "Eva Cassidy," as she had always admired Ms. Cassidy’s music.

In late 2006, a path paved in emerald green led Carmen back to the U.S., as she returned to her native country to take on one of musical theatre’s most demanding roles – WICKED’s "Elphaba." She initially joined the Chicago company as the stand-by for the role, and a year later, the show’s producers asked her to lead the U.S. National Tour as the company’s principal "Elphaba." As the "Wicked Witch of the West," Carmen paired with Katie Rose Clarke as "Glinda" to become one of the blockbuster’s beloved duos, and the Green Girl became a cherished credit in her career.

Carmen Cusack as "Nellie Forbush" in "South Pacific"Following her run as "Elphaba," Carmen once again demonstrated her artistic versatility by stepping into the role of "Ensign Nellie Forbush" to launch the Lincoln Center’s North American Tour of SOUTH PACIFIC. Besides providing her the chance to embody one of theatre’s timeless roles, SOUTH PACIFIC also presented the opportunity to work with Bartlett Sher, one of the industry’s most esteemed directors. Critical acclaim followed her around the country, and the show grew to become her one of her favorite productions.

Two challenging roles in strong regional theatres arrived next, with the Chicago Shakespeare Company providing the opportunity to play "Dot" and "Marie" in its production of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater offering the role of "Mother" in RAGTIME. Both presented unique opportunities for Carmen to add her touch to these respected parts.

Carmen Cusack and Paul Alexander Nolan in Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's "Bright Star"The opportunity to create the role of her dreams arrived in BRIGHT STAR, and Carmen was reminded of how stimulating the creative process can be. Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s folk musical offered the perfect blend of music genre, intense acting, and extensive collaboration. Originating the role of "Alice Murphy" during the show’s development in the Powerhouse Theater workshop, she subsequently brought "Alice" to life in the show’s runs at the Old Globe in San Diego and Kennedy Center in Washington DC prior to the Broadway opening. She earned critical acclaim and amassed an array of award nominations – including the Tony Awards, Outer Critics Circle Awards, Drama Desk Awards, Drama League Awards, and Theatre World Awards.

Most recently, Carmen appeared in New York City Center’s gala concert of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE and FOR THE RECORD – SCORSESE: AMERICAN CRIME REQUIEM in Los Angeles.