Call Answered: Rick Skye: "Bazazz! A Sequined Variety" at Don't Tell Mama
Rick Skye, Photo Credit: Trevor SwingleLiza Minnelli is one of the most impersonated icons of our time. Everyone who pays homage to her brings their own flair & talent with it. When I was introduced to Rick Skye, one of the world's most well known Liza impersonators, I just had to "Ring Them Bells" and find out more.
Rick, who's show Judy and Liza Together Again just finished a seven year run at Don't Tell Mama this past June, is already returning to the venue with a new monthly variety show called Bazazz! A Sequined Variety. In addition to Rick, November's show will feature Steven Brinberg as Barbra Streisand and entertainer Sidney Myer. Cabaret favorite Ricky Ritzel is the evening’s Musical Director.
Bazazz! A Sequened Varietywill play Don't Tell Mama (343 West 46th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue) on Saturday, November 25 at 8pm. Click here for tickets!
Designed by Andy Drachtenberg1. Besides Liza Minnelli, who or what inspired you to become a performer? I think you are born a performer and the performers who came before you set the bar for the type of artist you want to grow into. I was initially inspired by all the MGM Musicals, I Love Lucy, Judy, Cher, Bette Midler, all the brilliant Broadway shows that had stars that glittered and belted it out. I love a song and dance Diva that holds the audience for two hours with the force of her unique, individual personality. Shows used to revolve around those and it was my ambition to be able to do that. There isn't a school for that. "You either have it, or you've had it" to quote Mama Rose. The important thing is to get up anywhere and everywhere and perform for the experience. You need a lot of tricks in your bag to be able to keep that audience from fidgeting - especially NOW. So, I absorbed everything from the last generation of performers, but, all that set aside - Judy Garland has been my lifelong inspiration and muse in all things. The "World's Greatest Entertainer."
2. You recently started a monthly variety show at Don't Tell Mama called Bazazz! A Sequined Variety. When did you get the idea to start this show? I didn't! I had been performing in a show entitled Judy and Liza Together Again that ran most Saturday nights at Don't Tell Mama for almost seven years! It just kept running and running and then it finally ended last June. The managers at Don't Tell Mama contacted me in September and said that it just "hadn't been the same" on Saturday nights without a big show in the back room and would I consider doing a Variety show, as Liza, once a month that could turn into a long running thing. I was skeptical at first because there were other things I wanted to pursue at the time, but sometimes you "walk through the door that is open," ya know? So, I said, "Yes!" and kept my fingers crossed.
Rick Skye as Liza Minnelli3. What do you like about this format as opposed to putting together a one man show? I am really enjoying working with choreographer Kyle Rostan and the dancers. We do a really razzle dazzle opening number called "Bazazz," which is a song written by Liza's Godmother Kay Thompson with four part Jazz harmonies and it's just PURE JOY from start to finish. Opening night it really set the audience up for a good time. I also get to do Kander and Ebbs "Arthur in the Afternoon" from The Act, a show that Liza won the Tony Award for. I want to put in more numbers with me and the boys as time goes on. They are all talented and full of "Bazazz!" (which is a word Kay Thompson coined for the film Funny Face - it's a blending of "Bazaar" and "Pizazz," but you knew that, 'natch).
4. This month's show (November 25) features Barbra Streisand impersonator Steven Brinberg and entertainer Sidney Myer. What are you looking forward to most about having them on the show? For Steven and I it will be a sweet reunion. We have performed together many times, most notably in London for four spectacular, sold out nights at the Leicester Square Theater and at the Dublin Theater Festival. We both want to sing "Face to Face" from War Paint in "Bazazz!" and I'm going to move heaven and earth to try and make that happen. Sidney Myer is always a unique present whenever he graces a stage, so I am hoping he will add a little spice to the mix. He is a legend in Cabaret circles, so that's a lot of legends on one stage!
Rick Skye as Liza Minnelli5. Also on this variety show, you will be performing as Liza Minnelli, which you have been heralded for. What was it about Liza that made you want to impersonate her? Well, the way it began had nothing to do with "wanting" to impersonate her. I wrote a song for a "Liza" character to sing in a revue that I wrote called MaCabaret - A Tabloid Fable. All the actors played five parts, so they were either onstage performing or changing their clothes. Nobody was available in the middle of the show to sing this one song. So, I plopped on a wig, made a red slash of a mouth, threw on a sequined schmatte and did the song and it brought down the house. When the show closed, I kept singing that song in a comedy night and week after week people told me that I should do more. So, finally I wrote a show called A Slice O' Minnelli and did a whole evening. Since she has always been my spirit animal it was a thrill to finally be able to exercise that electric style of performing fully.
6. What is the hardest part about impersonating her? The inside is easier for me because I am an actor and the way she is is basically the way I am. It was the outside that I always have a struggle with. I try week after week to make my face, which is almost the exact opposite of hers, to look like her. I want to do the character justice. The clothes all have to be custom made. Her look is so iconic that you have to get the details right, especially in a show where the audience is looking at you for an hour and a half. There has to be a moment in every evening where the audience buys into it and their belief takes over and they begin to think you REALLY look like her, or REALLY sound like her, when, in fact, there is a little magic involved. So I try to perfect as much of the "outside" as I can ahead of time. That is hard.
Rick Skye as Liza Minnelli7. Has Liza Minnelli herself ever see your impersonation of her? If so, what was her reaction? If not, would you want that to happen? Liza hasn't ever seen me and if she were to see me I would hope she would know that the deep love I have for her is what informs every detail of my performance. Even when I make little jokes at the expense of her public persona, because, after all, that is the only thing one really knows about, they are done on the sly and with great affection. I try to capture and bring to the audience what is great about her. She has given me so many nights of thrilling entertainment that I hope, in my own way and with my OWN talent, I can approximate that type of evening for my audiences.
8. Liza is very famous for her rendition of "New York, New York." So, what are some of your favorite things to do in NYC? I always say, "Aren't I lucky to live in my favorite city?" I love to wander the streets with a cup of coffee on an early Sunday morning and wave to Radio City Music Hall, go to a street fair, eat in Little Italy, watch a Joan Crawford movie at the Film Forum, have lunch with Charles Busch and dish the dirt, go to Happy Hour at The Monster and sing all the old songs, take a twirl on the dance floor, go to an Off-Broadway Show, stroll through Central Park and, well, you get the idea...
9. What have you learned about Liza Minnelli from impersonating her that the average person wouldn't know? That she must be made out of iron. To be a star of that magnitude, the amount of discipline and energy that goes into those gargantuan performances really takes an enormous amount of energy. The timing of your day, when to eat, when to begin make up, the whole day revolves around show after show and then travel and then greeting people after and getting enough rest and the stress of keeping everyone together and rehearsals etc. It takes a very special kind of person who would rather perform than do anything else to try and hold such an enterprise together.
10. If you could sing a duet with Liza Minnelli, on one of her songs, which one would you choose? I think it would have to be "A Quiet Thing." First of all, we wouldn't both have to scream over each other and secondly it holds a lot of meaning to people whenever they hear it. And we could harmonize, so there's that. That would be a dream come true. And a very "quiet thing"...
Rick SkyeMore on Rick:
Rick Skye is a multi-award winning performer who has enjoyed international success. Training with the Joffrey Ballet and the famed Stella Adler, Rick toured the US with Ann Reinking and Sandy Duncan in The American Dance Machine Show and in the Kennedy Center Production of Miss Liberty. He acted with Dorothy Louden in a role written especially for him by Paul Zindel in Danny and Della. He did a stint on All My Children and appeared in the film The Cater Waiter starring David Drake. His friendship with Neil Sedaka led to his writing and starring in The Flip Side of Neil Sedaka which earned him a nomination as "Best Newcomer" by The Manhattan Association of Cabarets. His revue, MaCabaret - a tabloid fable ran for nine months in New York and in 2008 he created a new revue entitled The War of the Mama Roses - the Ultimate Audition for GYPSY starring some of the world's foremost impersonators and which enjoyed a successful run in New York. He joined forces with the legendary "Madame" of "Wayland Flowers and Madame" fame and toured the U.S. with Its Madame with an E! which he wrote and starred in. The duo played Resorts International in Atlantic City, the Suncoast Casino in Las Vegas, The RRAZZ Room in San Francisco as well as Feinstein's at the Regency in New York City. He was a contributing writer and performer of Bawdy! - Off Broadway's Biggest Little Vaudeville and most recently won acclaim for creating and directing Sacred Monster a hyperemotional evening of song, drama and comedy starring Billy Lykken.