Category: Category 1

Concerts for City Greens 

“CABARET LIFE NYC: Concerts for City Greens April Benefit Show Was Cool Kickoff for 6th Season Launching on May 29”

Posted Sunday, May 26, 2013 by Stephen Hanks on

Although I recently produced a “Variety Show” at the Iridium Jazz Club as a vehicle to showcase some exciting new young talent, I’m not a big fan of this particular cabaret conceit as an art form. Unless the host is particularly warm, funny, and charismatic (think Dana Lorge and her new monthly vehicle at the Metropolitan Room) or the show is a way to champion a good cause (like Joseph Macchia’s Cabaret Cares events), for the most part cabaret variety shows are clunky affairs which can be too long, too rambling, give too much time to average talent or not enough of a showcase to outstanding talent.

I experienced one of the rare exceptions last month (April 23) in the form of the The Concerts for City Greens’ First Annual Gala & 2012 Songwriting Contest Finale, a variety show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre that served as a fund raiser for the launch of a new non-profit called Music and Art for Green which will incorporate Concerts for City Greens within its umbrella. Produced by the organization’s President and veteran cabaret performer Raissa Katona Bennett, the benefit show–which featured performers from the Series’ first five years–also seemed to be the kickoff for the 2013 Concerts for City Greens free concerts which are staged in the lovely outdoor confines of the South Park of Tudor City Greens on East 42nd and 1st Ave. According to Bennett, the mission of Music and Art for Green (and the Concerts by extension) “Is to expose culturally and socio-economically diverse audiences of all ages to free, professional live music and art events in city settings, while linking with other community groups and organizations to promote the ‘greening’ of cities in various ways including, but not limited to: fiscal support, educational outreach, fostering environmental awareness, action and volunteerism.”

The series’ 6th Season opener hosted by Bennett on May 29 at 6:30 pm (Rain date: Thursday, May 30 at 6:30 pm.) is called “I Feel So Much Spring,” and will feature multiple MAC, Bistro & Nightlife Award Winner Baby Jane Dexter, Singer/Pianist Eric Yves Garcia, Forbidden Broadway Alumni & Recording Artist James Donegan, Opera Singer Julie Diniz, Opera and Symphonic Singer Jimi James, Singer-Songwriter, Pianist & Recording Artist Karen Karsh and Metro Star Winner & Recording Artist Marissa Mulder. And coming back are series regulars, MAC & Bistro Award Winner Terese Genecco as sidekick & drummer, MAC & Bistro Award Winner Sean Harkness on guitar, MAC Award Winning Composer, Pianist & Musical Director, Bill Zeffiro. Carnegie Hall Violinist Nicholas Perry has been added to the band and additional musical direction will be provided by pianists David Caldwell and Mark Janas with Matt Scharfglass on bass.

The April 23 fund-raiser at the Beechman was an ideal way to get a feel for the terrific talent and congenial and carefree ambiance that pervades the actual outdoor City Greens concerts. With Zeffiro starting on piano and with Genecco, Scharfglass, and Perry serving as the band, Bennett’s right hand gal, Music for Art and Green Board Member, Salon Co-Producer, and cabaret performer Tanya Moberly got the festivities off to an energetic start (after the crowd had imbibed many drinks during the pre-show cocktail hour) with her powerful rendition of Carole King’s “Beautiful.” With Salon Producer Mark Janas at the piano, singer Julie Reyburn than introduced one of the three 2012 City Greens Songwriting Finalists, Charles Bloom’s “The Lake,” and once again showed that if you write a new song and you want someone to render it, Reyburn is the go-to girl who can make it an immediate standard.


Concerts for City Greens 

There were a number of other highlights that turned this into one of the more solid variety shows. Reyburn stayed on stage to join the rest of the stunning vocal group Marquee Five on the gospel-flavored “Muddy Water.” Then with Kenneth Gartman at the keyboard, Scott Coulter was mesmerizing on Ann Hampton Callaway’s “Where Does Love Go,” and Rosemary Loar engendered Beechman “bravas” with her uproarious take on Amanda McBroom’s “The Bitch is Out.” With Barry Levitt at the piano, Eric Michael Gillett travelled back in time and as if he was a senior prom matinee idol and totally wowed the crowd with an awesome version of Harry Noble’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me,” and T. Oliver Reid followed with his extremely fun “Doing the Crazy Walk,” from his recent show Drop Me Off in Harlem. Shaynee Rainbolt was superb and succulent on Lionel Hampton and Sunny Burke’s “Midnight Sun,” before Janas and Perry stunned the audience with a beautiful performance on “Meditation” from the opera Thais by French composer Jules Massenet. If that wasn’t enough high-brow culture for one cabaret variety show, the ante was upped when soprano songbirds Sarah Rice and Maureen Taylor combined for a lovely “Flower Duet” from the opera Lakme.Songwriter Larry Kershner took the prize for the best original contest song and the glorious K.T. Sullivan did the honors on “Winter In Manhattan.” The twin brother comedy team Adam and Todd Stone provided some cute bits in their turn mid-show, before Jenna Esposito made the audience wave candles on her adorable “Where The Boys Are.” Willy Falk, who was a Tony Award nominee for his role of Chris in the musical Miss Saigon, was captivating on that show’s “Why God,” Bennett performed a song that has become one of her standards, “Bye, Bye Ingenue,” MAC Board President, Director and performer Lennie Watts was funny and cool on “Early in the Morning Blues,” and special guest, songwriter David Friedman (in photo above with Bennett) knocked out his classic “A Special Christmas Wish (I Wanna Be Rich, Famous and Powerful),” and still does it better than anyone who covers it in cabaret shows. With Friedman on piano, Kenneth Gartman brought the thoroughly enjoyable evening home vocally with a lovely rendition of “There Is Life” from the Disney classic, Bambi, and then the whole cast joined together for Friedman’s inspirational, “We Can Be Kind.”

After the May 29 City Greens opening, future 2013 Concert Dates are June 26 (rain date June 27), August 7 (rain date August 8) & September 11 (rain date September 12). All at 6:30 pm. For more information visit