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Entries in Judy Garland (8)


Call Answered: Conference Call: Jesse Luttrell & Fred Barton: "Jesse Luttrell Showstopper" at Feinstein's/54 Below

Jesse Luttrell, Photo Credit: Christopher BoudewynsFred Barton, Photo Credit: Rick StockwellI have been Facebook friends with Jesse Luttrell for several years now and he's always been on my radar as someone I have wanted to interview. I have heard many of Fred's great arrangements attending a New York Pops' concert. The fact that I now get to interview them together is icing on a very delicious cake!

Jesse & Fred are returning to Feinstein's/54 Below with Jesse Luttrell: SHOWSTOPPER, an unforgettable solo homage to the golden age of American entertainment, unleashing Jesse's shattering voice and theatrical, post-modern vaudevillian style with an evening of treasured swing, big band, and show songs. Jesse Luttrell offers an exciting departure from the traditional evening of standards. SHOWSTOPPER is a high-energy show that includes stellar custom orchestrations by acclaimed New York Pops orchestrator Fred Barton.

Jesse Luttrell: SHOWSTOPPER will play Feinstein's/54 Below (254 West 54th Street, between Broadway & 8th Avenue) on Friday, January 19 at 9:30pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Jesse visit and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

For more on Fred visit and follow him on Twitter!

For more on Feinstein's/54 Below visit and follow them on FacebookTwitterYouTube, & Instagram!

1. On January 19 you are returning to Feinstein's/54 Below with your show Jesse Luttrell: Showstopper. What excites you about this show? 

Jesse Luttrell: I've been doing SHOWSTOPPER for about three years now all over the country and I'm always excited to return to New York and 54 Below where it all began. The audiences in New York are almost always the polar opposite of what you get out of town..and they've known me here for over a decade from my humble beginnings schlepping drinks in the piano bar - so they definitely keep me on my toes!

Fred Barton: Jesse always injects new material into his SHOWSTOPPER show, and I can’t wait to unleash the new stuff – and I can’t wait for my 8-piece Broadway Band to sink their teeth into the new charts I’m whipping up. And of course we’ve got the best of Jesse's "hits," and they’re always a blast to perform.

2. Since this is our first interview together, let's go back to the beginning for a minute. How did you two come to meet?

Jesse Luttrell: I was in a musky basement bar full of drunks singing SWANEE at the top of my lungs and Fred had wandered in that night to see an old friend after making a final pilgrimage to a bar down the street that was closing. Our tastes aligned completely so we started talking about working together - which eventually meant cutting an album and then putting together my solo act several years later.

Fred Barton: My show tune piano bar days were back in the late 1990s. After that, the piano bar world collapsed into mainly rock-pop sing-along stuff. But one night, I heard that Rose’s Turn was closing – the former legendary Duplex, where international superstars such as Barbra Streisand, Joan Rivers, and Fred Barton got their start. So I fatefully went down there to pay my last respects. I happened into Marie’s Crisis next door, where I hadn’t been in years, and shortly before 4AM, I happened to see this kid singing a big solo with the most incredible voice I’d heard in years, and with that old-time showbiz THING you just don’t see much anymore. I felt like James Mason in A Star Is Born, standing in the back of a crappy club watching Esther Blodgett toss off a little tune called "The Man That Got Away" as if it were nuthin’. Fred, meet Jesse, Jesse, meet Fred. WHOA. I’m glad I went downtown that night.

Jesse Luttrell, Photo Credit: Kevin Yatarola3. What has made you want to continue to work together?

Jessee Luttrell: There are few arrangers/orchestrators around who understand my needs as a performer.  It helps that Fred and I are cut from the same showbiz cloth, but he also approaches every arrangement from the point of view of an actor. It won't come as a surprise to most when I say I'm a large personality with a big voice - and Fred is able to not only match that in his arrangements, but also he gives me the confidence I need to pull back when I need to.

Fred Barton: We’ve got an exact set of sensibilities, philosophies, and musical tastes in common. This kind of magic collaboration has happened to me maybe three times in my forty years in the biz (I started at 18! I’m still under 60!) – in fact, I even wrote a musical called The Two Svengalis which describes exactly what happens when two people not only complement each other, but bring better than the best out in each other. You can’t bottle, sell, or steal that. In Jesse, I found a partner in crime, a "consort battleship," as Shaw wrote in Pygmalion, who would, could, and will go the distance, not shy away from the possibilities and the challenges of wrestling with one’s own potential and talent. Jesse has one thing that many super-talented people could always use more of – intelligence. He’s the smartest artist I’ve ever worked with, and the street-smarts he’s applied to his performances and his career has made all the difference, for him and for me.

4. What is the most challenging part of your collaboration?

Jesse Luttrell: Having to schlep all the way from Brooklyn to the UWS for our rehearsals. Everything else is buttah.

Fred Barton: It’s all too easy to rest on the laurels, fall into comfort zones and patterns. Every single show, Jesse extends the boundaries and we put ourselves to a higher test. Every arrangement I write HAS to be better than any I’ve done before – I’m compulsive. It can be nerve-wracking, but otherwise, you’re a one-trick pony and people have memorized you before you even open your mouth or given the downbeat. A known quantity, or "brand," to use that dreadful word, can lead to predictability and a typical career, and neither is what Jesse and I have in mind.

Fred Barton with Steven Reineke & The New York Pops5. Now, let's get back to this show. Press notes state that SHOWSTOPPER is "an exciting departure from from the traditional evening of standards." What is the exciting departure you talk about?

Jesse Luttrell: I think when people hear that I sing "standards" they automatically have a picture in their head that I'm going to come out in a conservative suit and curate a polite evening of cabaret, which seems to have become the "industry standard" (whatever that means). I think of myself as more of an entertainer than a docent of the "Great American Songbook." Let's do some terrific songs, get the audience on their feet, and blow the roof off the joint while we're at it. Why not?

Fred Barton: Much as I love what’s now known as "The Great American Songbook," it has taken on connotations of reeling off stuff from the Golden Era, not always with a point of view. Frequently that means it’s either what I call Attack Of The Graverobbers, i.e. Gladys Bubkes Performs An Evening Of Sarah Vaughan or whomever (as if Sarah wrote the songs) – hiding one’s abilities (and limitations) inside the work of a bigger name than anyone could hope to be oneself – or performing the most pretzel-ized, twisted, new-fangled arrangements to try and freshen it up – to which I say, write your own song and leave Gershwin be. In Jesse’s show, as in my symphonic Pops work, I make it my mission to completely inhabit these songs, whether familiar or un-, with our own sensibility, but as if the songwriters are sitting at the piano with me. It’s much harder to honor the original creators of the songs, reflect expertise with their original contexts and values, yet infuse the work with your own sensibility and point of view, than it is to just riff, or copycat.

6. What is the biggest departure you took from your career path because you wanted to try something else?

Jesse Luttrell: I started professionally in musicals when I was 16 but as I saw the landscape of Broadway changing my interests shifted intensely to solo/concert performance. I wanted to do my own shows and make my own choices. I remember I had a really great year once playing all my dream roles back to back, but had a huge emotional crash after the last role. I didn't want to go back to chorus work and I didn't know what I wanted to do next so I started going to the piano bars to forget about things for awhile. It took getting a little lost to find out what I really wanted to do.

Fred Barton: All I ever wanted to do was musical theatre on Broadway, but I peaked too soon, accomplishing that in my mid-20s, before that was common. I jumped from a bunch of Broadway to composing a bunch of TV music in my 30s, which was a wild leap in creative energy. Then, after returning to my cabaret and piano bar roots, fate decreed that I should spend the next 14 years writing huge symphonic arrangements for the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall and around the country – and now show-making with a one-of-a-kind talent in Jesse Luttrell. I just keep answering the phone and doing what it tells me.

Jesse Luttrell performing at Feinstein's/54 Below7. If you had to describe each other with one song being featured in the show, what song would each of you use to describe the other?

Jesse Luttrell: HAH! Penniless Bums! from the Jule Styne musical SUGAR: "see how two melody masters suffer a string of disasters just to become two penniless bums..."

Fred Barton: "Live Till I Die." Now don’t get me wrong – neither of us has a death wish, or any expectation of rolling over with our legs in the air anytime soon (at least dead.) But that song is the kingmaker of Jesse’s first set, and it captures how we feel about performing: no half-way, no sorta, no kinda, no crushingly restrained holding back in search of suffocating chimerical faux-sophistication (only a faux-sophisticate like me could use the phrase "suffocating chimerical faux-sophistication"). Judy Garland used to say, "I’m going to go out there and give ‘em Two Hours Of POW." We like POW. "Before your number’s up, fill your cup, live till you die." Jesse conveys that song’s message big-time.

8. With the concert being called SHOWSTOPPER what do you feel is the biggest "showstopper" of your own career thus far?

Jesse Luttrell: The biggest "Showstopper" of my career so far has been taking the leap by quitting my job and pouring all my money and effort into developing my solo act. I've always had the best results by painting myself into a corner -  it's really the only way to make things happen in showbusiness.

Fred Barton: Having the New York Pops at Carnegie play a huge arrangement I created, and playing the piano for it center stage. The place absolutely came apart, and conductor Steven Reineke called me out to stand center stage for many bows. I thought, "Wow, Judy Garland stands center stage at Carnegie. Me? Who am I, anyway, am I my resumé?" (Answer: YES!) And the other was my one-man show Miss Gulch Returns, which started as my personal club act in 1983, and is still selling CDs and being produced in theatres around the country these 35 years later.

Fred Barton, Photo Credit: Kevin Yatarola9. After the show is over, what is the first thought that goes through your head?

Jesse Luttrell: I know this is weird, and maybe a little too meta, but I'm totally deaf to applause...Like- I hear it but I can never tell if it was a golf clap or if they really liked it - so after the show my first thought is "did they clap" and my friends are always like "shut up, you're stupid.." Then we run to the bar.

Fred Barton: "Do I need a coat to go smoke?"

10. I have a new segment to my interviews called "I Can See Clearly Now," where I try to clear up misconceptions about people. What do you feel is the biggest misconception out there about yourselves that you just want clear up? 

Jesse Luttrell: Hopefully this isn't too petty....but....I'm compared a lot to Judy and Liza, I think because I have a hearty spin in my voice - but I don't do it to try to sound like anyone - it's my natural voice. There are videos of me as a little kid singing at the top of my lungs with almost the same voice I have now (except in a different octave of course lol). Judy always said "be the first rate version of yourself not the second rate version of someone else." I like me..imma do me. Anyone who says I do otherwise doesn't know me or my work and should stay home and download my album from itunes or my website  (end of shameless plug).

Fred Barton: I don’t flatter myself that anyone gives me enough thought to have misconceptions, but since my earliest years, I know I can strike people as elite and condescending. It’s actually self-imposed perfectionism, and I know it’s not always fun to be around, but it’s no fun for me either – but if you’re not going to be as close to perfect and brilliant and fabulous as anyone could possibly be in this life, and communicate and inspire insights to and within people to the best of yours or anyone else’s abilities, what are you doing on the stage?

Jesse Luttrell, Photo Credit: Christopher BoudewynsMore on Jesse:

Jesse Luttrell has quickly become one of the most in-demand young concert artists in New York and around the country. He starred in the critically acclaimed musical revue BAWDY, which ran in New York City for an unprecedented 6 years. Jesse regularly headlines with award-winning Broadway stars in "American Showstoppers," the acclaimed concert series at New York’s Schimmel Center and on tour. His critically acclaimed debut album is featured on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby, and is being streamed daily to countless fans around the world. Before pursuing a solo career, Jesse began as a ballet dancer and trained on full scholarship with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and The Rock School/Pennsylvania Ballet. He then made the switch to musical theatre, and toured the country starring in a variety of roles including the "Pharaoh" in Joseph And The Technicolor Dream Coat, the "Emcee" in Cabaret, "Frank-n-Furter" in The Rocky Horror Show, and multiple roles in Cats, Peter Pan, 42nd Street, Meet Me in St Louis, Oklahoma, Annie Get Your Gun, West Side Story, Evita, and Carousel.

Fred Barton, Photo Credit: Rick StockwellMore on Fred:

Fred Barton just completed a 563-performance run as pianist, musical director, arranger, and actor in the hit off-Broadway show Spamilton, also music-supervising the recent Chicago and Los Angeles productions. His orchestrations are played regularly by the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall and major symphonies around the country. On Broadway and national tour, Fred conducted Anthony Quinn in Zorba, Hal Prince’s production of Cabaret, Cy Coleman’s City of Angels and Robert Goulet in Camelot. Fred debuted as the original arranger/pianist for Forbidden Broadway, and created the book, music and lyrics for his 1983 one-man show Miss Gulch Returns! (Back Stage Bistro Award), still produced by theaters nationwide. TV credits (composer and/or arranger): HBO’s Cathouse: The Musical, Olivia, Wonder Pets!, Eureeka’s Castle, and The Magic School Bus (Emmy Award.) Fred has produced and arranged numerous CDs, including Jesse Luttrell’s debut album. The "American Showstoppers" concert series with the Fred Barton Orchestra, top Broadway performers, and the best Golden Age Broadway songs, just completed its fifth year.


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 Variety will 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.


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 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).


Call Redialed: Seth Sikes Sings Liza Minnelli at Feinstein's/54 Below

Seth Sikes, Photo Credit: Mitch ZacharyLast April was the first time I got to interview Seth Sikes when he was making his triumphant return to Feinstein's/54 Below with his show Seth Sikes Sings Judy Garland. Well, almost a year later, Seth answered my call again! This time, we are talking about his new show, Seth Sikes Sings Liza Minnelli which will be at Feinstein's/54 Below on Liza's actual 70th Birthday! I love Liza Minnelli. She is an icon. I was lucky enough to see her on Broadway in Liza at the Palace and let me tell you, she was phenomenal! It's a performance that continues to stay with me. So, it's quite exciting to get to interview Seth about this tribute show to one of the greatest living legends! 

Seth Sikes Sings Liza Minnelli will be at Feinstein's/54 Below on Saturday, March 12 at 9:30pm! Click here for tickets!

For more on Seth, follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

For more on Feinstein's/54 Below visit and follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

1. On March 12, you are returning to Feinstein's/54 Below with a brand new show, Seth Sikes Sings Liza Minnelli, in celebration of Liza's 70th birthday. You have already performed several shows celebrating Judy Garland. When did you decide you wanted to create a show paying tribute to Liza? It seems like a natural progression, doesn’t it? Actually, I wasn’t intending to do another tribute to a female legend. After how the Judy concert was received, that idea seemed daunting. But when I realized that Liza’s 70th was approaching it just made sense. And like the first show, which was a love letter (because I love her), so will this one be, because, well, I also happen to really love Liza. Who doesn’t? She’s so great.

2. What was the moment in Liza's career, that made you fall in love with her? In my Judy show I talked about watching Summer Stock over and over on VHS as a kid. I did the same thing with Liza’s Radio City Music Hall concert while I was growing up in Texas. I’d never seen anything even remotely like that before: a live concert with a big band, and those songs and that kind of entertainer. And then, I remember the first thing I ever ordered online was somebody’s blurry copy of a copy of a VHS of Liza with a Z, which basically knocked me to the floor when I first watched it.

Seth Sikes performing at Feinstein's/54 Below3. How did you decide which songs you wanted to include in this show? We’re not done yet. It’s a process. And not a short one. I started by listing the obvious ones that I’ve been dying to sing since I was a kid. And then started listening to every Liza album I could find, and seeing what resonated. I always lean toward the live performances. There’s a vast catalogue there, and I don’t want the show to be a cliché CABARET medley, so I’ve found some more obscure songs I’m excited to try, and some 60’s pop songs, which is not a genre I gravitate toward. I like standards! Anyway, we’ll probably be adding and cutting songs right up to show-time.

4. What song do you wish you could have included, but had to leave on the cutting room floor? I’m not sure that singing "New York, New York" works for this show. It’s almost too-Liza in the same way that "Over the Rainbow" was too-Judy to sing in the previous show. Certain songs you don’t touch. "New York, New York" is fun to hear, but I hope people don’t expect it.

5. In putting this show together, what is something you found out about Liza that we might not know? That her vocal range is superhuman and nearly impossible to match! Seriously, on some of her songs, if you pick the key around a solid final note, good luck singing the first few bars. You’ll be grunting them out. It’s really a huge voice, and an enormous range. I’ve also learned that she made her career happen on her own, with very little help from her parents. She left home at fifteen to make it in NYC, and was determined to be a working actor—not a star. If she had just wanted to be a star she could have stayed in Hollywood and tried to make it in the movies first. But she didn’t. She went straight to the theater and had a Tony Award on her mantle just a few years later. She was relentless.

6. If Liza were to attend this show, on her 70th birthday, what would you give her as a birthday gift (besides this tribute show)? I wouldn’t want to bother her so I’ll give her the gift of privacy. She’s been famous since the day she was born so I can’t imagine she gets much of it.

Seth Sikes, Photo Credit: Mitch Zachary7. If you could do a Liza/Judy duet, which song would you want to sing? I think "Together Wherever We Go." It’s from my favorite musical, and sung by my two favorite ladies, and it’s sweet as hell.

8. One my favorite songs that Liza Minnelli sings is "Ring Them Bells." If you were to "Ring Them Bells," what would you be ringing them in celebration of? Hopefully that Liza finally receives the Kennedy Center Honor. Most people think she already has it only because it seems ludicrous to think they’ve never honored her. The award celebrates an individual’s contributions to the performing arts. Liza is the performing arts! At this point they should give her the award along with a note of apology for neglecting her for so long.

9. I also love "Say Liza (Liza with a Z)." What is something in your life that people constantly mispronounce? I can’t tell you now, but there’ll be a small homage paid to "Say Liza (Liza with a Z)" in the concert, and I’ll be revealing it then. But the fact that we’re doing that song should give you a hint!

10. My other favorite Liza song is "New York, New York."  If you were to "Start spreading the news..." what news would you tell people? That I’m doing a show on March 12th celebrating the music of Liza Minnelli, the world’s greatest living entertainer, and that everybody should come taste the wine, come hear the band, and celebrate her 70th birthday!

Seth Sikes, Photo Credit: Mitch ZacharyMore on Seth:

Seth Sikes’s directing credits include BUNKED! (Outstanding Musical at the New York Fringe Festival) and The 7th Annual Broadway Beauty Pageant. He was the Assistant Director of The Nance (Broadway), Tribes (Off-Broadway), Pageant (Off-Broadway), and Sondheim: The Birthday Concert (at Lincoln Center). As a performer he appeared in Fame on 42ND Street (Off-Broadway). He made his Feinstein’s/54 Below debut with his acclaimed show Seth Sikes Sings Judy Garland.


Call Answered: Lorna Luft: "Triumph" at Feinstein's/54 Below

Lorna LuftMost people know Lorna Luft as a singer, actress, author, and of course, the daughter of Judy Garland, but after interviewing her this past weekend, what I found was a courageous woman whose determination, love, humor, and strength got her through the most difficult time of her life. Now, through the American songbook, Lorna is taking this experience and bringing it to Feinstein's/54 Below in her new show Triumph which will play January 6th at 7pm and January 8th at 7pm and 9:30pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Lorna follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

For more on Feinstein's/54 Below visit and follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

1. First off, Congratulations on being cancer free! Can we talk about your bravery & strength through all this? You were diagnosed with breast cancer 3 yrs ago and then 18 months later it returned. How did you find the strength to fight this vigorous fight again? The first time I was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was pretty much an unknown, but this time I knew what I was facing. I knew what I had to go through. I thought to myself, "Screw You cancer, you are not going to win." This time around, it wasn’t so much strength as it was anger that it had come back. I think anger is a driving force. I didn’t use my anger in a negative way, I used it in a positive way. But you can have an attitude of being angry and let it defeat you or you can be angry and say, "Okay, now I’m going to go out and do something." I thought, "No, this isn’t happening again, cancer is not going to get me." All my doctors told me my attitude was 90% of my healing.

Lorna Luft "New Beginnings"2. What have you learned about yourself through having breast cancer that you didn’t know before? I think you find out how far you can go, what your body can take, what your mind can take, and what your emotional state can take. It’s pretty amazing. The human body is extraordinary and going through something like this really does test your how much your body can take. I mean, I had a 7-hour surgery. I had part of 7 ribs removed, part of my chest wall and sternum removed and had a total mastectomy. I had two tumors the size of golf balls taken out and had the lateral muscle in my back stretched all the way to my front. That’s a lot! And 16 weeks later I was on stage singing! But this whole experience taught me to live everyday to the fullest without really knowing what will happen tomorrow.

3. How did it feel to be back on the stage? It was scary. It was exhilarating. It was a huge wave of grateful to the people who got me there. I had extraordinary doctors, physical therapists and vocal coaches. We all worked together, but I did it. They were there and on my team, but I ran the race. I could have been like a race horse and come up lame or I could have crossed the finish line and I crossed the finish line.

Lorna Luft4. This January you are returning to Feinstein's/54 Below after a triumphant debut. What are looking you forward to about this return? This was my goal to get back up on a stage after going through a pretty life altering surgery that was just 17 weeks ago. The show is called Triumph because I triumphed over breast cancer. I’m just grateful that I am able to get back on a stage and do what I do after going through a pretty rough couple of months. This is my Thank You to incredible surgeons, physical therapists, and a team of cancer doctors who got me through all of this.

Feinstein's/54 Below is truly one of the greatest clubs in NYC because of the history and I KNOW about that history. Ohhhh yes! I mean I was lucky enough to go through the whole Studio 54 years and I had a great time. I’m not going to say I didn’t. I had a GREAT time. Trust me, that basement didn’t look like what it does now. It’s always a joy to play there. And coming to New York is a joy. When people say, "Oh, but it’s January," I say, "How fantastic that I made it to January to go to New York."

5. For someone who has never seen you before, why should they buy a ticket to this show? It's going to be a night of entertainment. Through a whole genre of music, it's a show that will touch upon my heritage, myself, and what you can relate to in your daily life. This is a show about honesty. I don’t shy away from what I’ve gone through. I address it with humor and being as honest to the audience as I can be and I’ve picked material that shows humor, resilience, and grateful.

Lorna Luft6. What do you like most about performing in concert? I love the relationship between an audience and myself. I love looking at them. I love watching them sing along when they know the songs. I love watching them have a good time or sometimes shed a tear. I love that relationship. I really do.

7. Did you always want to be a singer/actress or did you ever consider another career? I think because of where I came from I didn’t do anything unusual, I just went into the family business. I mean, if somebody were from a family of lawyers, somebody is going to be a lawyer, if somebody is from a family of doctors, somebody is going to be a doctor. I think if I became a neurosurgeon, that would have been really unusual. I don’t think I did anything out of the ordinary.

8. In 2007, you released Songs My Mother Taught Me, which was the first time you sang your mother’s songs. In that show, you mention that you hadn’t sung your mother’s songs previously because of fear. What gave you the courage at that time to finally sing her songs? I think just being the age I was. People wanted me to do it for a long, long time, but I wasn’t ready. I was too scared because it is overwhelming. In my 20s, I was just trying to make my way in the sand. In my 30s, I was having my children and raising them. In my 40s, I thought to myself, "What am I going to tell them?" In my 50s, the fear then went away because I was still in the business. I was still being asked to perform. I was still being asked to sing and I thought to myself, "Wow, I have a base. I’m ready to do this. I’m ready to take on this immense library of music and unbelievable library of movies and television shows and specials and radio performances and I want to make sure that I pick up the torch and keep going with it." I want to say "This was mine and I want to share this with you."

9. How did it feel to let go of the fight you had previously had with yourself of not wanting to sing your mother's songs? I think that fight ended because I wrote my book first. When I wrote my book and told MY story (not anyone else’s) then made the mini-series (which received fantastic accolades), it was then, that I felt like it was okay to take on the musical library and that’s when I did Songs My Mother Taught Me.

10. What is one thing your mother taught you that you’ve carried with you through today? I carry so much of her with me. I would imagine the driving force that she not only left me with, but is instilled in my being, is to have a sense of humor about everything. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Find some humor in yourself or in a situation that may be really challenging and devastating. You might not see the humor in that moment, but an hour later or sometime later, try to find something funny about it. That will help get you through it.

Me: That is terrific advice. You know Joan Rivers always said you have to find the funny in everything.

Lorna: You do. She did find the funny in everything. She was a remarkable, remarkable woman and was very kind and generous to me. Boy do I miss her! 


Lorna Luft with Linda Lavin on NBC's "Sean Saves The World"11. You have done so much already between film, television, stage work, concerts, authoring a book. What haven’t you done yet that you would like to? I don’t think about what I haven’t achieved. I think about what am I going to achieve today. That is what having breast cancer taught me. I think if you think about what you haven’t achieved, sometimes you can come up really disappointed because it may not happen, so why not focus on what you can achieve today. That’s how I live my life.

12. What is something you and your best friend like to do? I am very, very lucky to have a core group of people that I talk to pretty much every day, every other day, and not only in this country, but also in the UK. The one thing I like to do is really listen to what they are doing and what’s going on with them and the joy and the laughter we spend whether it be on the phone or when we seeing one another. It’s important to always keep that line of communication open.

I also have a group of very close friends that I don’t feel I need to talk to everyday. I can go, for maybe weeks at a time not talking to them, and they don’t make me feel bad about that. Those are really good friends. They are the friends that I can go, "I’m sorry I haven’t been around…" and they go, "That’s okay, what’s going on now." I’m very lucky to have them.

Lorna Luft and her granddaughter13. On "Call Me Adam," I have a section called "One Percent Better" where through my own fitness work, I am trying to encourage others to improve their life by 1% everyday. What is something in your life you would like to improve by 1% everyday? It’s been such a journey for me to go through the breast cancer, so I improve my life by 1% everyday by taking care of myself and making sure I am doing the right things to take care of my health.

14. Since it’s the holiday season. What are some of your favorite holiday traditions you kept from your childhood and what new traditions did you create with your family? It's really about being good to one another and not about what you get, but what you can give back. That is what I was taught growing up and that’s what I taught my children and now I get to teach my granddaughter to do something to give back. Yes, it’s at this time of year, but to me, Christmas should be every day, not just one day or time of year where we should be kinder towards one another.

Judy Garland and Lorna Luft 15. Also around this time of year, we remember people who are no longer with us. What do miss most about your mom? I live with "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" being played in every single outlet I go into. I'm grateful for that because I hear her voice and that brings her home to me. There are not a lot of people who can say they’ve had a Christmas classic written for their family, but I can. Wherever I am, I have that. So, I never think to myself "Isn’t this sad?" I think, "How lucky I am to have this song." Her voice is always with me this time of year. It’s nice. It’s lovely.

16. If your mom were alive today, what show would you want to go see with her and what movie would you bring her to? If I could get a ticket, I would love to go see Hamilton. Me and a lot of other people (laughs). But when I come into New York in January, I would love, love, to go see Hamilton.

Like millions of other people, I would take her to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I want to see what that ride is going to be like.

Lorna LuftMore on Lorna:

Born to legendary entertainer Judy Garland and producer Sid Luft, Lorna Luft made her performing debut singing on The Judy Garland Show. Since then, she has had dozens of starring and guest-starring roles on film and television, ranging from Grease 2 and Where the Boys Are ’84 to the series Murder, She Wrote and Sean Saves the World. Lorna was co-executive producer of Life with Judy Garland, the five-time Emmy Award-winning miniseries based on her best-selling memoir, Me and My Shadows.

For the past several years, Lorna has been starring in American and British productions of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. Her other theatrical credits include her Broadway debut in Promises, Promises; Off-Broadway’s Snoopy and Extremities; the national tour of They’re Playing Our Song; a British tour of Pack of Lies; and GypsyGreaseGuys and DollsMame, and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, among many others.

Lorna is also a gifted concert and cabaret artist, performing in the world’s most prestigious venues, including The Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, The London Palladium, and L’Olympia in Paris. Her highly acclaimed multi-media production, Songs My Mother Taught Me—The Judy Garland Songbook, melds one of the world’s most familiar songbooks with personal memories. It won two Ovation Awards, and a CD based on the show was released by First Night Records.