Tag Archives: Critics on the Aisle

Broadway and Cabaret Stars Shine at Yale’s 10th Annual Cabaret Concerts

By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Critics On The Aisle ™

Legendary Cabaret Star Julie Wilson and Erv Raible, Executive Director of Yale Cabaret Conference share a laugh at intermission in 2011.

Where in the universe can you ever see so many Broadway and cabaret stars than in five remarkable performances, along with the most promising stars of the tomorrow, at the Iseman Theater in New Haven this summer.

For the 10th consecutive year, New York impresario Erv Raible is bringing his International Cabaret Conference and public concerts to Yale University, July 28th through August 4th.

He has selected gifted students from around the world, through intense auditions, to be coached by an award-winning faculty and renowned consultants. Auditions have been held in Atlanta, Amsterdam, Boston, Chicago, Jerusalem, London UK, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New Orleans, New York, Seattle, Toronto, and Washington DC.

The educational part of this prestigious event is a collaborative process of critical refining and honing of their entertainment skills and talents. It’s an intensive nine-day program in the art of cabaret performance and trains professionals for the stage. It includes classes and lectures covering cabaret performance technique: acting for singers, lyric interpretation, focus and concentration, act structure, act writing, material research, and comedic development.

The Great American Songbook is featured in its entirety, from its origins in the late 19th century through the classic pop standards of the 1930s and ’40s to today’s contemporary cabaret, musical theater, jazz, country and pop music.

In an exclusive phone interview with Erv Raible, at his home in Manhattan, we learned that many of last year’s ‘star’ faculty members will be returning this time around, including Tony-winner Faith Prince. He said, “Some will be teaching and presenting their own well-honed intimate shows, while others will be exclusively training young show-biz hopefuls in the art of great cabaret performance.”

In his infectious enthusiasm Erv added, “One of the many outstanding performances is Sunday the 29th, when the participating cabaret stars each take a turn on stage. On Saturday August 4 the students will present their finale, ‘Stars Of Tomorrow,’ giving them the opportunity to shine collectively and individually.”

Legendary cabaret star Julie Wilson, who is also on the faculty, said “the students are so gifted and enthusiastic. I don’t actually teach them. I just tell them the story of my career, and what to expect when they enter the real world of show business.

Ms. Wilson, throughout her long star career, was one of the most popular headliners in cabaret, Broadway, London’s West End and a best-selling recording artist in the 40s and 50s. At 86, she’s still a glamorous and charismatic personality as a master teacher at Yale. The cabaret audiences will often see her quietly take her seat in the audience, but her star-quality aura captures everyone’s eye.

Tony Award winner Faith Prince will be sharing the stage with Sharon McNight at the 2012 Yale Cabaret Conference Concerts.

Although the public will miss seeing the performing talents of such luminaries as faculty members Julie Wilson, Carol Hall and Tex Arnold, who will be spending all their valuable time with the students, audiences will be treated to shows by Faith Prince, Sally Mayes, Amanda McBroom, Sharon McNight and Jeff Harnar with accompaniment by piano virtuosos Alex Rybeck and Ian Herman.

Faith Prince has been dazzling Broadway audiences since she swept the major theatre awards winning the Tony, Drama Desk (DD) and Outer Critics Circle Awards (OCC) for her performance as Miss Adelaide in the critically-acclaimed revival of Guys and Dolls. In 2008, she was nominated for Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for A Catered Affair. Other Broadway credits include The Little Mermaid, Bells Are Ringing (Tony, DD, OCC nominations), Nick & Nora (OCC Award), Jerome Robbins’ Broadway (Tony, DD nominations), Little Me, The Dead, Noises Off. We can personally attest that her show-stopping cabaret shows never fail to earn thundering applause and cheers.

Sharon McNight was a Tony Award-nominee for Best Leading Actress In A Musical, and was the recipient of the coveted Theatre World A ward for Outstanding Broadway Debut in “Starmites,” which was presented to her by Carol Channing. We’ve been avid fans for more than thirty years, ever since she brought down the house singing and playing every major character in her wildly funny version of “The Wizard of Oz” in twenty-two-and-a-half minutes!

Sally Mayes’s most recent critical acclaim comes from Broadway’s Urban Cowboy (Drama Desk Nomination). Sally has appeared on Broadway in She Loves Me (1993) Tony, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk nominations), Welcome To The Club (Theater World Award, Outer Critics Circle nomination), and the national tour of Dirty Blonde. Off-Broadway she has appeared in Pete ‘N’ Keely (2001 Drama Desk nomination), Closer Than Ever (Outer Critics Circle nomination).

Amanda McBroom has been called “The greatest cabaret performer of her generation, an urban poet who writes like an angel and has a voice to match.” Her name first came to the attention of the music public when Bette Midler’s version of Amanda’s song “The Rose” hit number one all over the world in 1979. But it was Amanda’s performance of this song on the Golden Globes (she won), Grammys (she didn’t) and The Tonight Show that launched her career as a singer, as well as songwriter. Her songs have been recorded by Bette Midler, Leanne Rimes, Barry Manilow, Judy Collins, Anne Murray, Harry Belafonte, Stephanie Mills, The Manhattan Transfer, Donny Osmond, the Chipmunks, and the baby dinosaurs in the movie, “Land Before Time.”

The very funny Sharon McNight takes a moment out from keeping her audience in stitches at the 2011 Yale Cabaret Conference.

Jeff Harnar is a two-time winner of the Manhattan Association of Cabaret Award (MAC) as Best Male Vocalist and three times been honored with the BackStage Bistro Award (Newcomer, Male Vocalist, Best Show). His performing career began as a television commercial jingle-singer at the ripe old-age of 10. Jeff’s early career also includes performing at Opryland USA. His fine baritone voice and love of Broadway musicals has led to a successful cabaret career in Manhattan, and around the country and overseas.

Alex Rybeck is a virtuoso pianist, composer and arranger renowned for his work in theater, cabaret and recordings. Alex’s Broadway credits include: Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, Tommy Tune’s Grand Hotel and the hit revival of Damn Yankees. Highly praised by Burt Bacharach, Alex conducted the New York workshop and San Diego premiere of What The World Needs Now. Alex’s concert and cabaret credits include working with: Tommy Tune, Faith Prince, Liz and Ann Hampton Callaway, Lee Roy Reams, Metropolitan Opera star Roberta Peters, Rita Gardner of Fantasticks fame, the legendary Kitty Carlisle Hart, and Marnie Nixon, the ”voice of the Hollywood stars.”

The Iseman Theater at Yale has 200 seats. It’s advisable to purchase tickets now because the public concerts are among the most popular theatrical events of the year. And the audience gets to mix and mingle with the stars in the lobby following each performance. For more information, go to www.thecabaretconferenceatyale.com


If you go…


10th Anniversary International Cabaret

Conference and public performances at Yale


July 28 – Jeff Hamar & Sally Mayes

July 29 – All-star facility concert

Aug. 2 – Faith Prince & Sharon McNight

Aug. 3 – Amanda McBroom & Linn Maxwell

Aug. 4 – Cabaret Stars of Tomorrow


The Iseman Theater 1156 Chapel Street, New Haven, Conn.


$35. general admission $25. seniors

$15. students

By phone:


Octagon Celebrates South African Wines at U.S. Reunion Dinner

By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Critics On The Aisle, Out and Travelin’


(l-r) Waterford Group CEO Len Wolman chats with Mystic Marriott's Octagon Chef Paul Krawic and South African vintner Ken Forrester at the Mystic Marriot's Octagon Restaurant Wine Dinner Event on June 13

It’s not often that you get the opportunity to enjoy a six-course dinner as we did at the Mystic Marriot on June 13. Created by Executive Chef Paul Krawic the superb fare was accompanied by Chenin Blanc wines introduced by one of South Africa’s best vintners, Ken Forrester.


Host and General Manager Farouk Rajab joined Waterford Hotel Group Chairman and CEO Len Wolman in welcoming Ken Forrester of Ken Forrester Wines to the area.  Len and Ken went to school together in South Africa, and this renewal of their friendship was the first visit to Mystic Country by Mr. Forrester and his wife Teresa.


A proud supporter of Connecticut farms, top-ranked Chef Paul, who resides in Gales Ferry, featured locally farmed ingredients in his new spring/summer menu.  Selections from the wine dinner included local apples and Cato Farms ‘womanchego’ cheese fondue, Stonington seared scallops with mushroom risotto, grilled swordfish with toasted Israeli cous cous, chicken statler with jicama slaw and potato skins, and a desert sampler plate. The six courses were all beautifully prepared and plated, and served perfectly by the charming and attentive wait staff.


Each course was accompanied by one of Ken’s organically certified wines, and the name of the dinner “Chenin Celebration” featured a Petit Chenin Blanc, Reserve Chenin Blanc, and FMC Forrester Meinhert Chenin that each paired with a course.  Red wines included a Pinotage (Pinot Noir/Meritage) and Renegade (Grenache and Sirah), with the luxurious dessert wine “T” Noble Late Harvest concluding the luscious selection. The buzz at this convivial pairing dinner seemed like nothing but raves for each of the wines.

Sara Ryan, Wine Distributor for South African Wines, poses withLen Wolman, Chariman and CEO of the Waterford Hotel Group


Ken explained that “We are located near the ocean, and the cool breezes and sunshine contribute to the brightness of the wine.  Our grapes are farmed and harvested by hand, and the soil is tilled by hand as well.”  The Wine and Spirit Board of South Africa has certified Ken Forrester Wines as a vineyard offering sustainability and integrity. Ken continued by proudly stating: “We use no pesticides or herbicides.” www.kenforresterwines.com.  The land on which Ken Forrester Wines now stands has been a vineyard since 1689.


Len Wolman announced that the wines are now included in the wine list at the Octagon Restaurant in the Mystic Marriott. www.octagonsteakhouse.com


As the gala evening ended with dessert and coffee, Sara Ryan, representing Ken’s U.S. distributer, told us that the wines served at the Chenin Celebration will be available locally at the Cask N’ Keg in Mystic – two of them for less than $12 per bottle!

Len and Ken really know how to host a dinner party, with the best food, wines, service and clubby ambience at the AAA 4-Diamond Octagon at the Mystic Marriott Hotel and Spa.  We highly recommend it!

The Resident Goes Traveling: Beautiful Bermuda

story and photos by Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Out and Travelin’, Critics On The Aisle ™

It’s a breeze of a drive along the interstate highways to Port Liberty, New Jersey from Southeastern Connecticut and its northeast corridor neighbors for a seven-day Bermuda cruise on the luxury Celebrity Summit.

The Celebrity Summit on King's Wharf as seen from the Royal Naval Dockyard.

This recently Solsticized Celebrity ship leaves every Sunday afternoon and returns the following Sunday morning. It’s just what the doctor should have ordered – four relaxing and fun days at sea and three carefree days and two happening nights at King’s Wharf in Bermuda’s historic Royal Naval Dockyard.

The Summit is also your 5-star hotel for the visit and it’s a few steps to the dockside Visitor Information Center (VIC). Here you’ll be given a truly user-friendly Bermuda Handy Reference Map, and a chance to purchase a 1, 2, or 3 day transportation pass ($28.) for unlimited travel on Public Bermuda Transport buses and ferries! Believe us, it’s not only a bargain but it’s refreshing to do nothing but look out the window at the terrific sights, instead of keeping a vigilant watch on the narrow winding roads and the NASCAR-fast traffic.

Yes, there are the ubiquitous scooters and Segways, but it’s more fun (and safer) to get to the city of Hamilton and the glorious town of St. George via ferry, or out to the pink sand beaches, especially Horseshoe Bay, by equally pink public bus # 7, so you can concentrate of the semi-tropical beauty of the islands that make up Bermuda.

For a change of pace, you can wait in front of the Summit’s entrance awning for the complimentary little white and blue choo-choo train which will take you to the ferry and bus stops in the Royal Naval Dockyard. Or take a colorful five minute walk along the dock if you miss the half-hourly shuttle.

Once at the charming ferry/bus stop, the Gazebo Gift Shop/VIC building also sells transportation passes as well as Bermuda souvenirs – fine hand-crafted and the usual garden-variety. Look for guides in orange tee shirts if you have questions – two lovely Bermudian Tourism ladies, Sandra in the VIC building, and Tiffany Sanchez at the ferry dock, helped us sort out our timetables, maps, and put us on the right ferries and buses to our daily destinations. All the guides are well-trained, knowledgeable and utterly friendly, as we found most Bermudians to be.

Over the past several years the Dockyard has been restored to its 19th-century splendor and has been expanded so that it can now be considered one of Bermuda’s attractions. Site of the National Museum of Bermuda, this huge fortification, called The Keep, consists of ramparts and cannon, a three story exhibition in the Commissioner’s House, the Queen’s Exhibition Hall, and barracks. The Keep also houses the center for dolphin display and training – Dolphin Quest Bermuda. A hefty fee applies to those who want to ‘swim with the dolphins’ but easier-on-the-wallet is a five minute session of hand-feeding and touching the mammals. Check it out at www.bmm.bm .

Bermudian Perfumer and fragrance designer Sheila Gomez at her shoppe in the Bermuda Craft Market.

The Bermuda Craft Market, in the Dockyard’s Cooperage Building is celebrating its 25th year of showcasing local craftspeople, guided by Manager Audrey Brackstone, who doubles as cashier, historian and is a witty raconteur. She founded this 21st-century treasure trove of beautiful pieces that is the only artisans’ cooperative in Bermuda. Here you can find a dazzling variety of ceramics, condiments and rum cakes, Christmas ornaments, decorative painting, decoupage, dolls, gems, glass, local cedar items and exquisite locally hand-crafted jewelry. Artisan Lyn Morrell makes the molds for her sophisticated silver pieces and she also crafts colorful textiles and paper mache bowls. Another silversmith makes delightfully original rings and necklaces filled with Bermuda’s famous pink sand. Perfumer Sheila Gomez hand-blends her fragrances for both women and men using only the finest oils in the world. Her Dark Knight scent for men is deservedly a best-seller. If you have questions, these Bermudian artisans love to chat about their work and creations.

If you’re an enthusiastic shopper, the Clocktower Shopping Mall (24 shops), Dockyard Glassworks, Bermuda Rum Cake Company and Bermuda Clayworks will keep you happily engaged all day, and they’re all just five minutes from your ship. The exchange rate is one Bermuda dollar per one US dollar, but change is always given in Bermuda currency.

We cued up under a shade tree for the ferry to the City of Hamilton, a wonderful 25-minute sightseeing cruise to picturesque Front Street. Restaurants, bars, and shopping, shopping, shopping abound on Front, Queen and Reid Streets. We leisurely wandered through the renowned Irish Linen Shop with it exceptional bedding, place mats and napkins, plus gifts and crafts; the English Sports Shop (fine clothing and accessories), Goslings Wine and Spirits ($13 bottles of Bermudian Rum) and Lusso, a stylish (Prada, et al.) boutique.

Inside the Lusso shop is a staircase on the left which is ‘secret entrance’ to the popular English department store, Marks and Spencer (aka Marks and Sparks)! Its classic colonial-style main entrance is actually on the parallel Reid Street in the heart of Hamilton.

Approaching a jolly-looking gentleman, wearing a store ID, in the tantalizing food, wine and spirits department, we asked if we could take a photo of something that stopped us dead in our tracks – sealed single-serve plastic-stemmed glasses of red and white wine. The gentleman said “I think you’ll have to clear that with the manager, sir.” Asking where we could find the head of the firm, he replied, in his wonderfully dry, witty British English “You’re looking at him!”

Manager Paul David Dean turned out to be a wealth of information regarding the current state of tourism in Bermuda (steadily recovering and growing), what to see in Hamilton (the City Hall and Arts Center, the Historical Society Museum, the historic Perot Post Office), and where to have a quick snack (the nearby unstuffy Café Continental). He got back to the business at hand and told us the take-away wines are popular “for picnics or the beach!” A passer-by chimed in, “Or breakfast.” We exclaimed in unison, “You drink wine for breakfast?” To which he casually, as you please, said “it depends on who spent the night with me.” Apparently, that’s what balmy Bermudian nights can do for you!

Unique architecture and colorful buildings in downtown Hamilton Bermuda.

Beside colorful locals to chat up, the palette of pastel buildings in Hamilton are well-maintained, and the streets are clean and feel safe. Wandering up to Church and Court Streets we entered the Bermuda Department of Tourism where we were warmly greeted by the reception staff who gave us a more comprehensive map of Hamilton. There we were told not to miss using bus number 7 for an up-close view of the Bermuda’s villages, flowering landscape and its fabled pink (many shades from pale to bright) beaches.

On the following day we once again made our way from the ship to the transportation area of the Royal Naval Dockyard where we boarded the recommended bus toward Hamilton. Number 7 wends its way through Somerset Village, Sandys Parish and Southampton Parish before turning right onto South (beach) Road. As it was suggested, we sat on the right side of the bus to get a good look at Horseshoe Bay Beach and the many other beaches along the Altantic Ocean.

The settlements traversed by the bus are well-kept and attractive, with the houses that are all of different designs and bright colors. The white limestone roofs are terraced to catch precious rainwater. In about an hour our bus dropped us off – again on Front Street in Hamilton. It was a highly enjoyable bus ride which is the main mode of transportation for local residents, and a chance for visitors to rub elbows with the sweet and friendly locals. (Bermuda limits ownership of autos to one per household, and there are only scooter and Segway rentals on the island.)

Many of our fellow cruisers took the 45 minute ‘orange route’ ferry from the Dockyard to the Town of St. George. This yachting center on St. George’s Harbour is home to The Bermuda Perfumery (Lili Fragrances), Somers Garden, King’s Square, the Bermuda National Trust Museum, and the World Heritage Center. If you haven’t been shopped out by the time you arrive in St. George, then visit the shops on the Duke of York and Water Streets, follow the signs to the hidden shops and arts and crafts studios, or have a drink at Griffin’s Bistro, high above the harbour at the St. George’s Club, to spend the rest of your Bermudian currency!

On the third day of the Summit’s dockside stay at King’s Wharf, we knew we had to be back on board by 4 p.m. for the return trip to Port Liberty, so we spend those precious few hours scouting around the fortress part of the Royal Naval Dockyard. As we climbed to visit the impressive 1824 commissioner’s mansion, now a fascinating museum, we saw a flock of tame goats roaming the grounds as they nibbled on the thick green grass. Their casual grazing seemed to put Bermuda into perspective – an unhurried, friendly and balmy destination far removed from the hustle and bustle of the work-a-day world.

A Bermuda visit aboard the Celebrity Summit is, to quote tourist sources, and we agree, “a world away, not so very far away……” This delightful country, made up of about 130 islands, is worth more than one visit. We will certainly be putting Bermuda on our “can’t-wait-to-get-back-to” list.