Tag Archives: Joe’s Pub

Stew and Heidi celebrate Baldwin in the shadow of Bowie

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One of the numerous humorous videos projected during “Notes of a Native Song” at Joe’s Pub labels a silent clip of James Baldwin smoking a cigarette with: “Don’t blame any of this on me. These are Stew’s words not mine.”

How does any rock musician play a show — especially in New York City — on the day the world learned that David Bowie died?

With heart and soul.

Heidi Rodewald and Stew at Joe's Pub on Jan. 11, 2016. (Photo © 2016, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Heidi Rodewald and Stew at Joe’s Pub on Jan. 11, 2016. (Photo © 2016, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Stew and Heidi Rodewald played their “Notes of a Native Song” show at for a mixed crowd of friends, fans, and arts presenters (it was an APAP showcase gig) Joe’s Pub on Monday night as if it was the most important show they’d ever done.

It wasn’t until after taking the final bow that the pair returned to the cramped stage to sing a reverent rendition of Bowie’s “Be My Wife.” The song — never explained by Bowie but often perceived as Bowie’s  musical effort to save his marriage to Angela Bowie — was a beautiful and touching tribute to the chameleonic icon by a pair of artists who once were a couple themselves.

Stew (© 2016, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Stew (© 2016, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

It has been just seven months since they premiered their James Baldwin-centric show at Harlem Stage as part of the 90th anniversary of the late literary icon’s birth.

It’s the same show I saw in Harlem, but it felt very different. I can’t — and wouldn’t even if I had kept detailed notes — do a song-by-song comparison of the two productions. But the show I saw Monday night felt like it had evolved and grown. Some of the songs seemed tweaked and rewritten.

Was there a new song or two in the mix?  Maybe. But it could simply be my memory playing tricks on me. If it matters, I’m sure Stew will explain.

I’m fairly sure that my sense that the show felt much tighter and even more energized than it was in Harlem is not based on a faulty memory. Freed from the confines of Theater-with-a-capital-T in Harlem, Stew, Heidi (wearing clericals), and their seasoned crew of Mike McGinnis (in a tux and a rather large yarmulke) on winds, Marty Beller (in a bright orange plaid shirt) on drums, and Art Terry (in a choir robe open to his breastbone) on keyboards really rocked.

"The Good Swimmer," with music by Heidi Rodewald, libretto/lyrics by Donna Di Novelli, music co-direction by Marc Doten and Rodewald, direction by Kevin Newbury, is part of the 2016 Prototype festival through Jan. 17.

“The Good Swimmer,” with music by Heidi Rodewald, libretto/lyrics by Donna Di Novelli, music co-direction by Marc Doten and Rodewald, direction by Kevin Newbury, is part of the 2016 Prototype festival through Jan. 17.

Stew made a point to mention from time to time that they were doing a New York version of the show — pointing out the parts that weren’t really in the show that they were peddling to the APAP crowd. But with a show like this — warm, personal, and loosely structured — there’s room for variations to accommodate location and other temporal factors. I expect it’ll be slightly different everywhere it’s performed.

Who knows when this show will reappear in New York?

But if you have a craving for more of this team’s creative output, check out Heidi’s show “The Good Swimmer,” which runs through Jan. 17 as part of the Prototype Festival at HERE arts center, 145 Sixth Avenue. Order tickets online by tapping or clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suzanne Vega keeps Carson McCullers alive

Suzanne Vega onstate as novelist Carson McCullers.

Suzanne Vega onstage as novelist Carson McCullers.

New York singer-songwriter Vega has ‘rewritten’ her intimate one-woman portrait of the novelist and is recording the songs

Good news: New York singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega’s one-woman musical play about Southern writer Carson McCullers is getting a second life.

I’ve rewritten the entire play. Recording the songs today,” she told me Wednesday in response to a Facebook inquire about the show. The album is expected to come out in the Spring. 

That’s just the latest fantastic news about Vegas efforts to push her talent into the world of theater — efforts that I feared she might have abandoned.

Vega showed the world a new face in 2011 with her one-woman play “Carson McCullers Talks About Love.” She wrote and starred in the play, which featured music co-written with pop artist and “Spring Awakening” composer Duncan Sheik.

Someone who knows Vega well told me she was urged to do an out-of-town tryout before staging it in New York. But she apparently ignored the advice and launched it at the small, well-worn Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre in downtown Manhattan.

As predicted, didn’t get the results or critical response she had hoped for.

Charles Isherwood of The New York Times described the show as a “funky ramble through the life of that Southern writer,” but assessed it as a “messy” project.

Joe Dziemianowicz, the longtime New York Daily News theater critic who was unceremoniously dumped by the tabloid earlier this year, was a bit kinder, but didin’t offer glowing praise:

Vega traces McCullers’ life with great warmth, but at times the play’s matter-of-factness chafes. Vega isn’t fully comfortable acting a role, which is also an issue.

I saw the spare production and was delighted by Vega’s transformation into McCullers — who was only 50 years old (a couple of years younger than Vega was during the Rattlestick run) when she died in 1967 in Nyack, where had lived off and on for 30 years.

The story was fascinating and the music was full of life and told the story of the writer quite well.

Vega’s not the only artist inspired at least in part by McCullers at the  time. Gabriel Kahane’s well-received musical “February House,”  staged in 2012 at The Public Theater, was based an the book of the same name that featured McCullers and a cast of early 20th century arts icons — from Gypsy Rose Lee to W.H.Auden — who lived in a house in Brooklyn Heights for a short, intense time in the 1940s.

But Vega’s show seemed to vanish when the run ended.

While it dropped off the radar, I certainly didn’t forget about it.

I rarely respond to calls for audience requests at concerts, but even have to admit I called out for “anything from the Carson McCullers show” when Vega asked for requests at The Bell House a few years later.

She laughed and politely declined. I figured she just wanted to forget about it.

But it seems I was wrong.

Vega is performing some of the songs from the show  in concert Jan. 15 at Joe’s Pub on Jan. 15.

She rewrote the title, too, while reworking the play. It’s now called “Unjoined: An Evening With Carson McCullers” — a title that appears to be influenced by the final moments of the writer’s 1946 novel, “The Member of the Wedding,” which describes 13-year-old motherless character Frankie Addams feeling like “an unjoined person who hung around in doorways, and she was afraid.”

For a little more from Vega about the show, check out this interview with Richmond Magazine.

“Unjoined: An Evening With Carson McCullers” is on track to return to the stage in 2016. I, for one, can hardly wait to see what Vega’s done with it.

 

 

 

Mother Falcon will fly into your heart, head and ears

Mother Falcon onstage at Brooklyn's Littlefield on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (Photos © 2014, Steven P, Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Mother Falcon onstage at Brooklyn’s Littlefield on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (© 2014, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Violinist Todd Reynolds to be guest on the orchestral pop band’s ‘Symphonic Sundays With Mother Falcon’ program at Joe’s Pub this Sunday

I’ll admit that I’m a little late to the party where Mother Falcon is concerned.

But I knew I’d fall in the love the minute I started checking out the orchestral pop band’s music on the recommendation of a friend — somebody who’s more often asking me for bands to check out.

Mother Falcon (Nick Gregg on mandolin) onstage at Brooklyn's Littlefield on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (Photos © 2014, Steven P, Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Mother Falcon (Nick Gregg on mandolin) onstage at Brooklyn’s Littlefield on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (© 2014, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

It didn’t take long for the upbeat, passionate sound to reel me right in.

But I learned at Littlefield in North Slope, Brooklyn, last night that their recordings pale in comparison to their live performances. There were 12 members of Mother Falcon (the band, always big, varies in number as I understand it) on Littlefield’s generous stage. Every one of the players obviously put heart and soul into the set. Continue reading

Tammy Faye Starlite’s ‘Broken English’ speaks volumes

Tammy Faye Starlite channels Marianne Faithfull at Joe's Pub. (Photo © 2014 Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Tammy Faye Starlite channels Marianne Faithfull at Joe’s Pub on May 13, 2014. (Photo © 2014 Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Who is Tammy Faye Starlite, really?

I’m  sure I don’t know — aside from the fact that she’s also known as Tammy Lang.

While I’ve seen her out and about and out of character in public, I’ve never really interacted her when she’s not playing a role.

She’s a talented singer — and a very good judge of musical talent, based on the people she gets to play in her various bands, especially drummers, who’ve included Pete Thomas, Ron Metz, and Dennis Diken  — who seems to have chosen a very challenging career path. Continue reading

Colman Domingo puts ‘Soul’ back into the Vineyard Theatre (updated with discount code to see ‘Wild With Happy’ for just $25)

Colman Domingo

Tickets on sale now for this one-time event

If you haven’t seen Colman Domingo‘s wonderful “A Boy and His Soul,” which was such a treat at the Vineyard Theatre a few years back, you’ll get another chance to check it out in January.

Tickets are on sale now for a one-night-only reading of Colman’s one-man (but multi-character) show.

You probably know him from “Passing Strange,” on Broadway or at the Public Theater. And maybe even from “The Scottsboro Boys” at the Vineyard or, briefly, on Broadway.

And I certainly hope you’re seeing the play he wrote and stars in at the Public Theater through Nov. 18, “Wild With Happy.”

UPDATE: See “Wild With Happy for just $25. Use the code STORM by calling (212) 967-7555 (daily noon-8pm), or visiting the Public Theater Box Office at 425 Lafayette Street (Sun & Mon 1-6pm; Tue-Sat 1-7:30pm) or by clicking here.

“A Boy and His Soul” tells a slice of Colman’s life story using his record collection (yes, remember records?) to lead the audience through. It will help bring “Wild” into sharper focus.

Colman’s a major talent, brimming with life, love and emotion.

James Earl Jones told Colman that “Wild” was “miraculous.” I couldn’t agree more. And “A Boy and His Soul” is just as miraculous. If you loved “Wild,” then “Boy” will flesh out Colman’s story for you. Yes, it’s theater. Yes, it’s fiction. But the underpinnings of both shows are first-rate, true-blue Colman.

“A Boy and His Soul,” a reading and pre-show toast. 7 p.m., Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. Vineyard Theatre, 108 E. 15th Street (Union Square East/Irving Place) in Manhattan. Call (212) 353-0303 or click here for tickets. $75.

Daniel Breaker and special guests played Joe’s Pub

Daniel Breaker and his crew at Joe's Pub. (Photos 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

Broadway star spices up his elegant cabaret set with help from fab up-and-comer Jo Lampert and Broadway vet Morgan James

The inimitable Daniel Breaker at Joe's Pub.

We’re hoping Daniel Breaker is going to be a regular on the Joe’s Pub stage. His performance there Sunday night, April 22 — his second cabaret show there — showcase the winning singer/actor even better than the first. He seemed more comfortable in his role as a front man, and less like an actor putting on a show.

Jo Lampert kills it at Joe's Pub, with drummer Christian Cassan in the background.

With the help of a dozen or so musical compatriots — including drummer Christian Cassan and music director/guitarist Jon Spurney from his time in the hit musical “Passing Strange” — Breaker put on a great show.

He sang original and classic cabaret numbers, and even dipped into rock with Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” charming the crowd all evening.

Breaker’s special guest vocalists once again gave him a run for his money. In Breaker’s last show at Joe’s, guest Condola Rashad  threatened to steal the spotlight altogether with her amazing power and charming stage persona.

Breaker clearly didn’t feel threatened. He chose equally intense guests for this show. Jo Lampert, who not long ago was a production assistant at Joe’s Pub and who was involved in the Public Theater’s incarnation of “Passing Strange,” blew the doors off with her rendition of Beyonce‘s “Halo,” and also filled in superbly on backing vocals.

Morgan James, currently in the cast of "Godspell" on Broadway, at Joe's Pub.

Morgan James, who’s in the ensemble with “Godspell” on Broadway, also did a great job.

Kelvin Dinkins Jr. and William Jackson Harper (a must-see in our book after his amazing work “The Total Bent” at the Public Theater) helped out on backing vocals.

This Strange Freak’s name is fog

The Englert Theatre, one of the University of Iowa's performing arts venues in Iowa City. (Photo courtesy Jacob Yarrow, Unversity of Iowa)

Weather scuttles Stew & The Negro Problem’s Iowa Omnibus show — for now

What does Mother Nature have against Iowa City, Ia.?

Stew at Joe's Pub on Jan. 23, 2012. (Photo © 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

In 2008, the Iowa River overran its banks and devastated the city, destroying much property in the city, including the notable Max Abramovitz-designed Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus.

The flood-ravaged Hancher Auditorium, designed by Max Abramovitz, the architect of Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.

The latest natural disaster didn’t cause physical damage that we know of, but the psychic damage is certainly huge. A “freak fog” closed the local airport and kept Stew and Heidi Rodewald and their band, The Negro Problem, from making it to Iowa City in time for their Feb. 2 gig.

As we reported the other day, Stew & The Negro Problem were to present Iowa Omnibus as the centerpiece of a Feb. 2 show at the Englert Theatre, a civic auditorium that is housing some of UI’s performing arts productions. It was commissioned by UI’s Hancher Auditorium, the campus performing arts presenter, inspired by Stew and Heidi’s 2010 Brooklyn Omnibus shows, as well as their hit musical, Passing Strange.

Continue reading