Under My Skin Provides A Healthy Dose of Laughter

I don’t think there is a person alive that hasn’t heard the phrase, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”  As for myself, I prefer “Laughter is the best medicine.”  Laughter may not have the ability to cure all ailments, but it definitely heals the soul.  And a prescription filled with laughs is what the members of the audience at The Little Shubert Theatre will receive when they view Under My Skin. 

6.200106Taking cues from Switch, Big and Freaky Friday, Under My Skin adds a whole new chapter to the old body exchange tale. So here’s the story… Mr.  Harrison Badish III is the CEO of Amalgamated Healthcare, the nation’s leading healthcare provider.  He’s a cold, shrewd business man who cares more about making money for the company than making a difference or knowing his employees, one of whom is Melody Dent.  Melody is a single mom from Staten Island who works part-time at Amalgamated with her best friend Nanette.  Both she and Nanette had a problem being seen by Badish until one fateful day when a cup of coffee sets off a chain of events that leads to Melody and Harrison coming face to face with an angel.  The angel, compassionate to their pleas, decides to bring them back to life, but there is a catch, their souls are placed into the wrong bodies.   And while the pair waits for the angel to switch them back, they discover what life is really like for each other and learn more about the trials and tribulations of the opposite sex. By the time Melody and Harrison are themselves again, they realize they can’t live without each other.

6.200111Cheeky and chock full of humor, Under My Skin lodges itself directly into the marrow of the audience’s funny bone.  Husband and wife writing team Robert Sternin and Prudence Fraser harmoniously weave comedy and social commentary with this production.  The good ole “make ‘em laugh” approach is a tried and true method of slipping in points of view that require introspection.   Along with adding new layers to the age old battle of the sexes debate, they also weigh in on the state of healthcare, or lack thereof, in our nation and how it affects the everyday, working American.

6.200112The neon lights of Broadway do burn bright. But sometimes they shine even brighter Off-Broadway. Under My Skin is one of the most dynamic shows I’ve seen in a while.  If you find yourself on 42nd Street, take a walk down to The Little Shubert Theatre for an thoroughly enjoyable 90-minute laugh-fest.

Photos: Joan Marcus

Under My Skin Ticket Giveaway

That’s right FAMERS, it’s contest time!

F.A.M.E NYC is giving away a pair of tickets for Under My Skin, the new comedy in previews at The Little Shubert Theatre.  This production takes the battle of the sexes to new heights.  And one of you FAMERS could be the lucky winner if you can answer this question…

What iconic blue-eyed singer from Hoboken N.J. recorded a rendition of “I’ve Got You under My Skin?”

 The winner will be announced on Good Friday at 5 p.m.

Happy spring and good luck!

Under My Skin Is On Stage at The Little Shubert Theatre

They say, and John Gray Ph.D. wrote, men are from Mars and women are from Venus.  But how do we know that for sure unless we are willing to take a visit to each other’s planet, or to borrow another famous idiom, “walk a mile in someone shoes” or stilettos.

Husband and wife writing team Robert Sternin and Prudence Fraser add another chapter to this ongoing debate with Under My Skin.  Sternin and Fraser are no strangers to the subject of the male/female relationship conundrum with shows like “Three’s Company” and “Who’s The Boss?” under their belts; Under My Skin takes that enigma and turns it into an out-of-body experience.

The prescription for this new comedy involves a CEO of America’s leading healthcare provider, a single mom from Staten Island and one big outrageous twist of fate.  Under My Skin is directed by Kristen Sanderson and stars Kerry Butler and Matt Walton.  Under My Skin began previews at The Little Shubert Theatre, located at 422 West 42nd Street, on April 5 and is scheduled to open on May 15. FAMERS be on the lookout for a ticket giveaway coming soon!

To learn more about the play click, www.undermyskintheplay.com.  Or click below to meet the cast!


Photo and video courtesy of Serino Coyne

Lady Day Illuminates The Little Shubert Theatre

I always knew that Broadway was haunted. Apparitions of playwrights, producers, actors and famous characters skulk around theaters and are as eternal as the neon lights that electrify the Great White Way.  Each season we are revisited with the ghosts of productions past, but this fall two New York City theaters are being visited by the spirits of iconic vocalists past.  On Broadway, Janis Joplin and her musical influences rock The Lyceum Theatre from floor to roof, and Off-Broadway the music of one of her influences is receiving its day.   Lady Day, the musical about Billie Holiday, provides its audience with a stunning visual and aural lesson in tragedy and triumph.

hc-billie-holiday-20131023Anyone who has seen or read Lady Sings the Blues knows the calamitous story of Billie Holiday’s life.  Overflowing with agonizing memories, abusive men and addiction, the pain Holiday experienced habitually showed in various aspects of her life – most often in her music.  Her sound carried listeners through the valleys of the blues transforming agony into musical ecstasy.  You don’t just hear Billie Holliday…you feel Billie Holiday, and that essence is fabulously represented in this production.

Lady Day is an overwhelming emotional tribute to the legacy of Billie Holiday.  The musical takes place at a theater in London.  Billie Holiday and her band are playing the final leg of her European tour.  The first act consists of the rehearsal and the second act is the show.  Woven between 25 of Holliday’s most famous songs is the recounting of her troubled life.  Through music Billie tries to fight the demons haunting her in rehearsal, but winds up still fighting them during the show – something I suspect that happened repeatedly during her brief life.  As Billie exposes her scars, the audience bears witness to an unflinching portrait of pain, but it is how her hurt is translated into song that makes this production shine – each song helps to build the story.  Like Billie Holiday’s music, this production burrows underneath the skin and lingers in the pit of your gut.

lady_dayThe success of this musical is largely due to the performance of Grammy-winner Dee Dee Bridgewater.  She plays the role of Billie Holiday as if she is possessed and her voice is spot-on.  I have never heard anyone capture the timbre of Lady Day as she has.  Bridgewater is simply amazing; you won’t be able take your eyes off of her.  And you won’t soon forget Lady Day the musical.  All artists are tasked with the frightening aspect of revealing their souls to the scrutiny of the masses, but there is something in the way a jazz musician does it that is undeniably raw and palpable.  Billie Holiday’s voice was an instrument that could rival the bent notes and artistry of any of the jazz greats.  She was the voice of her time.  Her influence can still be heard in singers today.

A good story and good music will always yield promising results.  It is as simple as saying one plus one equals two.  At The Little Shubert Theatre, the life of Billie Holiday (which includes her music) and the brilliant showcasing of Holliday’s work (courtesy of Dee Bridgewater) make for compelling theater and two good reasons to see this show.

Photos: Carol Rosegg

Off-Broadway Gets Lucky


Deep in the heart of the Theatre District sits a production that shines just as bright as the stars in the Texas sky,  is as funny as a Hee Haw episode, with music that would rank on the top 10 of any WSM AM radio show countdown.  Country is getting its turn at bat once again, and it is swinging for the fences with Lucky Guy, a production that is all about the most important rule in music – rule 4080 – people in record industry are shady. 

Nashville is the Mecca of country music and it breeds recording stars the way Kentucky breeds champions. This is why Billy Ray Jackson, played by Kyle Dean Massey, has come to Music City.  Billy Ray won a matchbook songwriting contest, sponsored by Wright Records, and has come to Nashville to record his song and become famous.  G.C. Wright, the owner of Wright Records, has also eagerly awaited the arrival of Billy Ray.  He believes “Lucky Guy” – Billy Ray’s winning song – will save his struggling record label.  This possibility does not sit very well with G. C.’s cousin, Big Al Wright.  He is the proprietor of the most famous used car dealer franchise in Nashville and wants the property Wright Records resides on to expand his car empire.  Big Al contrives to hustle Billy Ray and G. C. out of the song and enlists the help of Miss Jeannie Jeannine, the queen of country music, to assist him with his plan.  She has not had a hit since before Johnny Cash started wearing black and “Lucky Guy” is just the tune she needs to reclaim her spot at the top.  Jeannie begins to employ all her womanly wilds, which are plenty, and star power to try to seduce naive Billy Ray, but he only has eyes for Wanda, the secretary at Wright Records. 

The bamboozle is all set take place during Big Al’s Grand Ole Opry show.  But Jeannie has a change of heart after realizing that Billy Ray is an earnest country guy that is devoted to another woman.  Even after Big Al puts the pressure on, Jeannie transforms herself from conniving villainess to heroine, saving Wright Records by allowing Billy Ray to sing his song on stage.  G.C. and Big Al come to an agreement about the property.  G.C. finally makes an honest woman out of his girlfriend, the gossiping hairdresser/wanna be country singer Chicky Lay, and Billy Ray and Wanda are ready to make it a double wedding.  Jeannie maintains her status as the queen of country music and all is right in Nashville.

Lucky Guy is being advertised as, “A big new musical at The Little Shubert Theatre,”and they ain’t telling no lies.  Playwright and director Willard Beckham has got himself a winner.  The laughs that will come from your gut will be as enormous as the wigs glued to Miss Jeannie Jeannine’s head.  The score is a great representation of country music, the melodies are earthy and the lyrics are relatable and impressive.  Before you know what hit you your head will be swaying and your toes will be tapping in your shoe.  The eye-popping sets are colorful and homey and the choreography is electrifying.  The cast is the sugar in the sweet tea of this musical, and oh how sweet it is.  The Buckaroos, played by Callan Bergmann, Xavier Cano, Wes Hart and Joshua Woodie are the buffed minstrels and dancers that give the show a healthy dose of eye candy.  Not to be outdone is Kyle Dean Massey, FAMERS can you say sexy?  Massey is a dreamboat that can sing and act.  What else do you need? Savannah Wise as Wanda Clark is as sugary as a ripe Georgia peach and could give Taylor Swift a run for her money.  Jean Colella is hysterical as Chicky Lay and Jim Newman is equally as comical as G.C. Wright, but the best lines and stomach crunching cackling came courtesy of Varla Jean Merman and Leslie Jordan.  As a legendary drag queen, Merman is already entertainment royalty.  The role of Miss Jeannie Jeannine was tailor made for her talents.  She is vivacious; the audience could not get enough of the blue jean queen of country antics.  Leslie Jordan is J.R. Ewing in bespangled cowboy boots.  His omnipresent presence and sarcasm is so outrageous it is sublime. 

I view this production as the little musical that could – since its 2009 premiere in Connecticut, it has been picking up steam.  I firmly believe it will not stop until it has reached Broadway.  Lucky Guy is playing a 12-week limited engagement; promenade on down to The Little Shubert Theatre and get yourself a good ole heaping of some country-fried fun.

Photos:  Joan Marcus