Monday nights can be fun evenings for those dropping into Birdland to experience Jim Caruso’s Cast Party. It is a regular attraction and you stand to see excellent cabaret performances, some by stars who drop by to sing a number or two, and others by lesser known talents. The place was at capacity on a recent Monday (Feb. 21, 2011) when I sampled the attractions and the atmosphere.
Affable Jim Caruso, the host, introduces the entertainers in his easy-going manner and with his good humor. Caruso, a performer in his own right, is thoroughly at home in his milieu and accounts for a good deal of the cheerful mood. The surprise highlight on this particular night was Marilyn Maye, the great singer who is still going strong in her 80s, as she showed by wowing the crowd with her jazz interpretations of “Wouldn’t It be Loverly?” and “On the Street Where You Live” from “My Fair Lady.”
Larry Gatlin also came by and performed with Hilary Kole, teaming on “When It’s Over.” The young Ruby Lochnar, daughter of Victoria Shaw, who also subsequently performed, was a big hit belting out “Good Morning Baltimore” from “Hairspray.” Jamie deRoy brought vocal comedy to the mix twitting the proliferation of Duane Reade in Manhattan.
Jane Monheit smoothly interpreted “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.” Pianist-singer Billy Stritch, who led a solid contingent of musicians, also performed. There were numerous others during the course of the evening.
Anything is likely to happen on these occasions. The tab is reasonable, and the food is good too. The room is quite large, but the atmosphere is made cozy and informal by host Caruso and the performers treat the situation without fanfare. The Cast Party by now has become an institution on the cabaret scene--a well deserved one. At Birdland, 315 West 44th Street, Phone: 212-581-3080 or www.birdlandjaazz.com