Call Answered: Michael McAssey: "PIANO BAR LIVE!" at The Duplex
There are very few piano bars left in NYC, which is why I’m so excited by this new venture that Scott Barbarino has come up with, PIANO BAR LIVE! at The Duplex, that will feature MAC Award winner Michael McAssey on piano.
PIANO BAR LIVE! is a new show, produced by ScoBar Entertainment, that will be coming directly to you, streaming live on Facebook. PIANO BAR LIVE! will feature Michael McAssey at the piano taking requests, along with various guest vocalists, both scheduled, surprise guests & some who are a part of the live audience in attendance at each show. This is a great chance to enjoy the piano bar experience live & unfiltered on Facebook.
The first two dates are scheduled for August 18 & 25 at 6:30pm. Tune into to Facebook Live for all the fun or be part of the live audience at The Duplex, no cover charge, just 2 drink minimum. The Duplex is located at 61 Christopher Street in NYC’s West Village. For more information visit https://www.facebook.com/PianoBarLive!
1. This August you will playing at Piano Bar Live!, an interactive, live-streaming Piano Bar experience at The Duplex, on Facebook. How did you come to be part of this show? My friend and producer, Scott Barbarino, approached me about it a few months ago. I’ve known Scott for many years as both a performer, promoter and manager. He came up with the idea and how it would all work.
2. What excites you about this kind of show? I love doing Piano Bar, and I miss it. There aren’t as many Piano Bars left in NYC, or the country for that matter. I HAVE played a few around the country and when I do, people LOVE it, and it seems audiences are starved for this kind of entertainment. We lost a lot of clubs to Karaoke, Dueling Pianos, Comedy Clubs, etc. So much LIVE MUSIC went away, but I hope it’s seeing a comeback.
3. What is making you nervous or unsure? Good question. The ONLY thing I am nervous about is….HOW IS IT GOING TO WORK?? lol Scott told me to just “show up.” I will be at the piano (first few shows at the Duplex upstairs in the cabaret room) and we hope to get a live “studio audience” (there will be no cover charge, just a 2 drink minimum) who are encouraged to participate in making requests and even getting up to sing!
In addition to all this, we will be streaming on FACEBOOK LIVE! (This is the part I know nothing about, thank goodness others do!), where people can watch and make requests on the screen or write in and yes, even TIP the piano player by Venmo if they want to!!!
4. Who will be some of your guest artists? Scott and I know a lot of extremely talented people from our years in the clubs, both Broadway and Cabaret names and current up & coming entertainers. We made wish lists and Scott started to reach out to some of them. I’m thrilled to say my friend Karen Mason has agreed to be one of our first guests and it couldn’t be more perfect, as we’ve known each other since our days in Chicago and even moved to NYC about the same time.
5. For those watching from home, how will they be able to submit a request for a song? This is probably more of a Scott question, but from what I understand, people can make requests even NOW on the PIANO BAR LIVE page just by leaving us a message. During the live streaming they can request on screen.
6. You have been part of the Piano Bar & Cabaret community for over 30 years. What is the biggest change you have seen in the industry? What challenges do you face today in this field? The biggest change I have seen, unfortunately, is the decline of live music clubs in general in New York City. And the few that we still have, for the most part, have become loud, non-listening rooms where the customers don’t seem to care that the amazing singing waitstaff are killing themselves to be heard over the noise. I’m not saying the room has to be silent, but years ago you could come into a club, talk and have fun and STILL be able to give respect to the performers. I miss that.
7. What advice do you wish you knew when you were starting out that you learned along the way? That you don’t have to know EVERY SONG! I used to schlepp around MANY MANY books just to make sure if someone asked for a song I could find it. I hated telling someone NO. But every piano bar performer has their own repertoire and we’re always adding new material (or old) and listening to our requests. If I don’t know a song, I’ll write it down and look it up for next time. That’s how you build a well rounded set.
8. In addition to being in the Piano Bar & Cabaret scene, you also conduct many of the Broadway National Tours. What do you enjoy most about tour life and conducting? I’ve been very lucky that in the last 10 years or so I’ve had opportunities to music direct and conduct a few great shows on the road. I got to see places all over the US and CANADA and not only the cities themselves, but the THEATRES!! Beautiful palaces all over the country, ornate and gaudy and just incredible. I took a LOT of photos on the road of those theatres, I should do a coffee table book!! LOL
9. You have also worked with the illustrious Patti LuPone & Barbara Cook. Any fun stories you can share? I got to work with both of them in Paris, of all places!! I was part of a group called BROADWAY TONIGHT and we were booked for a month at the Theatre du Rond Point. I played 2nd keyboard for the stage show and then went downstairs to the club in the lobby and did NEW YORK PIANO BAR.
Patti was a guest artist for a few weeks and I ended up playing piano for all her material, including MEADOWLARK, BUENOS AIRES and DON’T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA!! We had fun and when we got back to the states she asked me to do a few gigs in the Catskills with her. I played 2nd key and sang backup. LOVED IT!
Ms. Cook was there with her music director (and my friend) Wally Harper. She did her cabaret act a few nights as well. Just to watch them was a joy and the best education in performance you could ask for.
10. If you were to open your own Piano Bar & Cabaret room, what would you call it? Hmmmm….over the many years in New York, I’ve played, opened and CLOSED so many clubs….one of my favorites was a short lived club on the upper west side by AMDA called “OVERTURES”….we’d play Broadway overtures on breaks in between sets (it was also in reference to meeting a new “friend” and making overtures)….but these days, I think I’d just call my club “MAC’s."
More on Michael:
Michael McAssey has been a popular member of the New York Piano Bar & Cabaret communities for over 30 years, whether at the piano or standing center stage. In NYC he opened both Don’t Tell Mama & Eighty-Eight’s, in addition to appearing regularly at The Duplex, The Five Oaks, Studio Six (Atlantic City), Odette’s (New Hope, PA), Montparnasse, The Piano Bar (Mykonos, Greece), Gentry of Chicago, The Gardenia (L.A.) and RSVP Cruises. His piano bar entertaining earned him a Bistro Award & his stand-up cabaret act won him one of the first MAC Awards for Outstanding Male Singer & an invitation to make his Town Hall debut at the Mabel Mercer Cabaret Convention.
As an actor he made his Broadway debut in the ill-fated musical Late Nite Comic & on & Off-Broadway (A Hard Time to Be Single, Sex Tips for Modern Girls, In Gay Company) & at Lincoln Center. He co-starred as “Herbie” in Gypsy (with Tony nominee Sally Mayes), Sondheim’s Putting It Together, “Edna Turnblad” in Hairspray and as “Max Bialystock” in three different companies of Mel Brooks’ The Producers. In Chicago Michael starred in the hit comedy Shear Madness, The Man Who Came to Dinner (with Tony Winner Andre de Shields) & in Terrence McNally’s The Ritz (with Transparent star Alexandra Billings). Soap fans may remember Michael as blind pianist-singer “George Baldwin” on CBS’s Guiding Light. He appeared with Barbara Cook & Patti LuPone in Paris & toured with Ms. LuPone in her nightclub act, The Argentina Turner Revue.
An accomplished conductor & music director, Michael divides his time between onstage & off including conducting the Broadway National Tours of Avenue Q, Titanic: The Musical & 2016 summer tour of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. He spent two years as a Vocal Director for Royal Caribbean Productions & is currently on staff as a Vocal Coach for Pace University in New York City & The College Audition Conservatory in Orlando, FL.