What's Up For Today?

Professionally Designed Banner Ads - $40


Jim Caruso’s Cast Party
Monday June 20, 2005

Written by Frank J Avella
Photographed by Lina Haskel

“We’re a phee-nom!”
“We’re like the Altar Boyz.”
“Or maybe we’re your Dreamgirls!”

This bit of witty banter between Jim Caruso and Billy Stritch kicked off another dazzling Monday night at Birdland. No, it’s not a cabaret show or an off-Broadway musical. Nor is it stand-up comedy. And yet it’s all three... and so much more!

On any given Monday night at 10:00 p.m., the Birdland audience is filled with musical theatre veterans and fans, tourists - international and otherwise - as well as a potpourri of every walk of life. They eat. They drink. They applaud. They mingle. They take to the stage and sing.  And everyone has a fabulous time. So what exactly is it?

Jim Caruso

It’s Jim Caruso’s Cast Party! Right. Okay. And that would be...?

Fitting Cast Party into an easily definable genre listing is difficult at best. And that’s part of what makes this weekly event so spectacular. Depending on the Monday, you may be privy to Liza Minnelli taking to the stage and belting out an accapella Arlen classic or lucky enough to enjoy one of the many prominent Broadway composers testing out a fresh tune from a spankin’ new show. Another night may feature a cabaret superstar belting out a timeless ditty and that same night you may experience a random Red state visitor showing his/her vocal mettle. Once in a great while there’s a warbling clunker in the bunch, but that even adds to the fun.

Cast Party was born two and a half years ago when mega-multi-tasker Jim Caruso was press-repping a certain Manhattan night club and decided to toss an impromptu Christmas party. A slew of his talented friends attended and partied and sang until 2:00 a.m. The club asked him if he would mind doing it every week. And lo and behold... a major New York attraction was born. JCCP has since moved venues a few times (one of my personal favorites was a place called The Pink Room where everything was, well, pink!) until it found a permanent and perfect home at Birdland.

CBS calls it “extreme open mike night,” which describes the relaxed, shmoozy yet pregnant-with-talent atmosphere Jim has created. The scene is electric. The crowd eclectic. And there’s a wonderful blend of Southern-fried-food smells pervading the air.

Last Monday, June 21st was no different as far as the talent on display - beginning with Jim and the legendary Billy Stritch on piano. These two dapper gents have worked together many times and the ease with which they duet - both musically and comically, is a joy to experience. Rounding out the “Cast Party Symphony Orchestra” is the amazing Steve Doyle on bass.

Caruso crooned his own rendition of “Down with Love” with such evocative style he proved he is a master entertainer as well as host. From that point on, the party began. And the list of wonderful singers included: the energetic, crowd-pleasing octogenarian, Bob Dolphin, who did a tap dance for his fans; Cindy Lee (The Blonde Songbook) performing a Betty Hutton gem from the film The Perils of Pauline; Joan Crow brilliantly reworking “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead”; the always-astonishing Julie Garnier, who managed to bring the house down with a Larry O’Keefe (Bat Boy) tune; Hilary Kole, doing a fantastic jazzified rendition of “Cheek to Cheek”; David Goldman (guitar/vocals) & Alan Darcy (sax) tearing the place up with an awesome Spanish set, and so many more...

Tyler Maynard, Andy Karl, David Josefsberg, Ryan Duncan & Scott Porter

The piece de resistance of the evening (and the reason a gaggle of teenage girls were seated in the front row, salivating with anticipation) was the appearance of the cast of Altar Boyz (Tyler Maynard, Andy Karl, David Josefsberg, Ryan Duncan and Scott Porter). And the Boyz did not disappoint, singing the rousing, “I Believe” from the runaway hit musical. Later in the evening, Boyz member Scott Porter continued to entertain the crowd with his unbelievable verbal percussion.

To close the evening, Jim Caruso returned to the stage to sing one of his signature songs, a balladized version of “If I Only Had a Brain.” So mesmerizing was his performance that for four minutes he made the audience forget he was the same Jim Caruso who was hosting the evening - the self-deprecating comic genius who put this all together for so many people to come and enjoy. In those four minutes, he was simply another incredibly talented artist singing his heart out for the audience.

Jim with Altar Boy Scott Porter

© New York Cool 2004-2014