Podcast with Singer/Songwriter RACHAEL SAGE

Podcast With Rachael Sage from Michael Roberts on Vimeo.

Indie singer/songwriter/producer Rachael Sage is honored to have caught the eye of one of music’s legendary artists, Judy Collins. Collins has hand-picked Sage to perform at New York’s renowned Café Carlyle, on September 22nd. The 10:45pm show by Sage will be a stand-alone concert following Collins’ residency performance, which will take place earlier that evening.

Rachael Sage at Café Carlyle
35 East 76th Street
Saturday, September 22nd — 10:45pm — $30
For tickets and information on pricing: 212-744-1600

For Sage, a long-time New Yorker and a singer-songwriter of growing acclaim, her burgeoning relationship with an artist of Collins’ stature is a dream come true. In addition to the high-profile Carlyle invitation, Collins has recently presented Sage on a series of U.S. tour dates, and an itinerary of upcoming joint appearances follows below.

Judy Collins has shown a long-standing love for singer-songwriters. She was one of the first to bring the works of Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Webb and others to the forefront of pop music, and she continues support legit up-and-coming artists such as Rachael Sage. Collins praised:

“Rachael Sage is a marvelous young artist – and I am a fan! “Haunted By You” has a beauty that shines through her lyrics and melodies– poignant, tender and tough. These are stories from the heart that will lift you up and carry you to places you had never dreamed.” Judy Collins

As for what to expect at her Café Carlyle debut, Sage is likely to embrace the room’s legacy of elegance, and place her focus on the power of her songwriting. She is known for an engaging theatricality all her own, and, while not a Broadway/Cabaret artist, Sage is no stranger to the impact of the genre and has great respect for the Carlyle’s history of notable performers.

Sage’s two Edinburgh Fringe Festival one-woman shows, her Joe’s Pub appearances (including the holiday-themed “Tchatchkes & Latkes”), her acting background (she studied at The Actors Studio and The New York Shakespeare Lab at The Public Theater), all combine to create a singer-songwriter with a compelling stage presence. She has been covered by THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE HUFFINGTON POST, TIME OUT NY, AMERICAN SONGWRITER, M MUSIC & MUSICIANS MAGAZINE, ALL MUSIC, iTUNES EDITORIAL, GAY CITY NEWS, and more. Visit her Press Page to read key coverage:http://rachaelsage.com/press-kit/press-clips

More about Rachael Sage:
A soulful vocalist and innovative keyboardist, singer/songwriter and producer Rachael Sage has become one of the busiest touring artists in independent music, performing 150+ dates a year throughout the US, UK, Europe and Asia.

She has earned a loyal following for her infectious melodies, poetic lyrics, and often-outrageous, colorful stage banter. Sage has shared stages with Sarah McLachlan, Colin Hay, Marshall Crenshaw, Marc Cohn, The Animals and Ani DiFranco.

MPress Records released “Haunted By You” in May 2012. With special guest appearances by Dar Williams, Mike Visceglia (Suzanne Vega), David Immergluck (Counting Crows), Doug Yowell (Duncan Sheik) and more, it was produced by Sage and mixed by Kevin Killen (U2, Elvis Costello).

Upcoming Rachael Sage tour dates include:
Date Venue City, ST Special
Sep 8th Shalin Liu Performance Center Rockport, MA with Judy Collins
Sept 9th Shalin Liu Performance Center Rockport, MA with Judy Collins
Sept 14th The Stephen Talkhouse Amagansett, NY with Jann Klose
Sept 22nd The Carlyle New York, NY at the invitation of Judy Collins
Sept 23rd Live In Your Living Room NYC Festival Brooklyn, NY
Oct 4th The State Theatre Ithaca, NY with Judy Collins
Oct 5th Phleps Mansion Museum Binghamton, NY
Oct 6th Fargo Theater Fargo, ND with Judy Collins
Oct 7th Babcock Theater Billings, MT with Judy Collins
Oct 12th Belle Mehus Auditorium Bismark, ND with Judy Collins
Oct 17th Rockwood Music Hall New York, NY MPressFest CMJ 2012
Oct 19th Tupelo Music Hall Londonderry, NH with Al Stewart
Oct 21st Infinity Music Hall Norfolk, CT with Al Stewart
Oct 24th Club Passim Cambridge, MA with Al Stewart
Oct 27th Island Arts Centre Lisburn, N-IRL with Judy Collins
Oct 28th The Lyric Theatre Belfast, N-IRL with Judy Collins
Oct 29th Down Arts Centre Downpatrick, N-IRL with Judy Collins
Oct 31st City Winery New York, NY with Al Stewart
Nov 3 The Birchmere Alexandria, VA with Al Stewart
Nov 7th The Castle Hotel Manchester, UK
Nov 8th The Elgin London, UK
Nov 9th The High Barn Great Bardfield, UK
Nov 10th The Railway Venue Bolton, UK with Never Forever
Nov 12th Kitchen Garden Café Birmingham, UK
Nov 20th CC Muziekcafe Amsterdam, NL
Nov 25th Club Barinton Cologne, DE
Dec 2 Mocha Maya’s Shelburne Falls, MA
Dec 3 Town Hall Theater Middlebury, VT with Judy Collins
Dec 4 Radio Bean Burlington, VT
Dec 5 The Flying Monkey Plymouth, NH with Judy Collins
Dec 10 The Wood Theatre Glen Falls, NY with Judy Collins
Dec 15 The Museum at Bethel Woods Bethel, NY with Judy Collins

Milwaukee Rep Stages A Definitive “ASSASSINS”

Cast of Assassins in Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2012/13 Quadracci Powerhouse production of Assassins. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

What drives a person to commit the most heinous of acts? Sometimes it is vengeance; sometimes it is jealousy; sometimes it is for other nefarious reasons. In Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s 1991 musical Assassins, the scope of the matter of murder is expounded exponentially as we delve into the minds of some of the world’s most famous killers (or almost killers). From President Lincoln to President Reagan, the hit and misses of the shooting of a President has made the ordinary infamous.

Assassins explores this infamy in a carnival-like setting. Sondheim and Weidman attempt to humanize the inhumane, with the end result being a brilliant discovery of the psychological mindset of a life gone astray. Whether it is John Wilkes Booth who saw his beloved country making a drastic readjustment under the leadership of Lincoln; or John Hinkley whose infatuation for actress Jodi Foster led to the near assassination of Ronald Reagan (and severe wounding of Jim Brady), the common rationale of the “act” is that of love. It can be love for our country or love for another person; but bottom line, it is how our brain deciphers and interprets love that can lead a person to leave all reason aside.

Adam Monley as John Wilkes Booth
Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Since its inception, Assassins has always been a conflicted work and has gone through many rewrites and licensing ventures. What most theaters now stage (if they have the talent to stage it) is the 2004 Broadway incarnation which featured Neil Patrick Harris (The Balladeer/Lee Harvey Oswald) and Michael Cerveris (who won the Tony award for his portrayal as Booth). The production, as with most later Sondheim works, did well with critics but failed to connect with a mainstream audience, leaving it a rarely done theater piece.

Then along came Artistic Director Mark Clements and the Milwaukee Rep who has redefined this show resulting in the best staging of this work to date. Mr. Clements, who first saw Donmar Warehouse production, has restored the intimacy which was innate in the original concept. It is in this intimacy that we are allowed to feel compassion for the most hated of human beings who have ever breathed a breath on this Earth. Weidman’s book is also given new life through Clements’ intricate role study with his actors.

“Assassins” Trailer from Milwaukee Repertory Theater on Vimeo.

Adam Monley is an erstwhile John Wilkes Booth, who gives rhyme and reason for killing… oops…assassinating President Lincoln. As he faces his last moments, Booth wants the world to know the “why” behind his actions. His reasons for doing what he did could just as easily be heard in today’s Tea Party rallies. The same with Lee E. Ernst sensational interpretation of Samuel Byck, who attempted to take out President Nixon. His expose on the political culture of the early 1970’s is word for word the cry of a dysfunctional government we hear in the Occupy movements today.

Sarah Litzsinger as Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme with Caroline O’Connor as Sara Jane Moore.
Photo by Michael Brosilow.

As the play progresses, the audience is taken on a journey that is unlike any other theater experience you will encounter. Humor makes way for terror and terror makes way for tears as the absurd becomes reality when the gun is fired and a life is lost (or almost lost).

Mr. Clements has assembled a cast that rivals, then surpasses the 2004 Broadway production. Amongst those that elevate Milwaukee Rep’s incarnation is Chicago favorite Caroline O’Connor, who brought down the house in Gary Griffin’s “Follies” and does the same with her turn as Sara Jane Moore, the woman who almost took down President Ford. Ms. O’Connor is Ado Annie on meth and gives Assassins needed levity without sacrificing the veracity of the character she inhabits. As Lee Harvey Oswald and the Balladeer, Chris Peluso gives the most brilliant of performances. As the Balladeer, Mr. Peluso parallels the everyman character, breaking the fourth wall and allowing the audience into the psyche of the assassin. More than that, the Balladeer manipulates the audience akin to the character of Che in Evita, giving a pseudo-rational for the acts of the depraved. When Mr. Peluso inhabits Lee Harvey Oswald, we witness a metamorphosis of evil. Peluso’s angst is palpable and his onstage relationship with Mr. Monley’s Booth is fascinating to watch as we see the devil manipulate the weak.

Everything about Milwaukee Rep’s production is first rate. Todd Edward Ivins has designed a stunningly beautiful and functional landscape that rotates from a carnival setting to a very real cinema were we witness the most gruesome of assassinations projected to the nth degree. The set is expertly lit by Jeff Nellis which gives amazingly nuanced hues that add gravitas to the scenes. Alex Tecoma’s costumes are authentic and blend beautifully with the set surroundings. Moreover, Dan Kazemi’s musical direction is masterful and makes Sondheim’s very difficult score fly effortlessly through the actors and the orchestra. For those who are musically inclined, just take a gander at “The Ballad of Czolgosz” and “The Gun Song” and you will see the timing challenges of this complex score.

Lee E. Ernst as Samuel Byck, Emily Berman and Jonathan Gillard Daly as the Proprietor.
Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Mr. Clements’ production also brings to the forefront more current issues of fame, gun control and mental illness which proves that not much has changed over the last several hundred years. Why? Because the human condition remains the same. It is just more amplified now with modern day medical research and social networking. The bottom line is people do what they do to be noticed. Within that need to be noticed is a need to be loved. For that reason alone, we can relate, not to the act necessarily, but to the reason. That is why these assassins go the extra step that differentiates us from them.

Downtown Milwaukee has gone through quite an infrastructure transformation in the last five years. There are phenomenal new restaurants and a vibrant theater scene which rivals that of our great city. I dare say Milwaukee Rep steps it up a notch, even for those theaters in Chicago and New York. Mr. Clements has brought the British insight of specific character development to a Mid-west repertory company that does mostly American work and the result is some of the best theatre you will see in any country.

Milwaukee Rep’s production of Assassins plays through October 7, 2012 at the Quadracci Powerhouse, 108 East Wells Street, Milwaukee, WI. For tickets please call 414.224.9490 or visit www.MilwaukeeRep.com

Everything Is Beautiful In Porchlight’s ‘A Class Act’

[Edward Kleban’s metaphor on creating a musical]   

A major musical is this: someone gets hit by a Mack truck and he’s carried into an emergency room. Five or six crazy, egotistical geniuses who have never met are called in to put him together. Now these brilliant weirdos must get along if the patient is to survive. If any organ goes, the patient dies. If the patient survives, that’s a hit musical. Read more

Rachael Sage Hand-Picked by Judy Collins for High-Profile NYC Concert at Café Carlyle on 9/22

 Indie singer/songwriter/producer Rachael Sage is honored to have caught the eye of one of music’s legendary artists, Judy Collins. Collins has hand-picked Sage to perform at New York’s renowned Café Carlyle, on September 22nd. The 10:45pm show by Sage will be a stand-alone concert following Collins’ residency performance, which will take place earlier that evening.   Read more

Showbiz Chicago Favorite Tovah Feldshuh Among Cast of Concert Reading of “Damascus Square”, Thursday, Sept. 6th @ 5:30 at the United Nations


One of my favorite people in the world, Tovah Feldshuh, who wowed us in Chicago as Kathering Hepburn in Tea at Five at the Northlight Theatre  (click here for my review and interview) is among the concert cast of a new musical based on the life of famed  spy Eli Cohen.  A concert of the new musical “Damascus Square” will be performed at the United Nations on Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 5:30 pm

“Damascus Square” is inspired by the story of Eli Cohen, the famous Israeli spy who worked for the Mossad in Syria in the 1950s and 1960s. It asks to whom we owe our loyalty – our country, our family, or ourselves?

Tovah Feldshuh, Brad Oscar, Etai BenShlomo, Adam Overett, Laura Shoop and Robert Stearns will be performing at the United Nations.

The Old Vic Tunnels in London, England has also announced it will be the first presenting venue of “Damascus Square” during its Autumn 2012 calendar. The Old Vic Tunnels is the sister theater company to The Old Vic Theatre, whose Artistic Director is philanthropist Kevin Spacey.

Shai Baitel has conceived “Damascus Square” and co-written the book, lyrics and music  together with Oran Eldor and Sarah Hirsch. The concert at the United Nations will be directed by Austin Regan and will feature videos by Video Art Director Guy Romem.


Hidden beneath Waterloo Station in London, lies 30,000 square feet of unused railway vaults – a labyrinth of mystical tunnels. Fast becoming London’s leading underground Arts venue, The Old Vic Tunnels has seen indie phenomenon Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros create 5 nights of the Wild West on Mars; the legendary New York Dolls perform; Secret Cinema transform the space into an Algerian market town; a 5 day festival of comedy and improvisation; a season with the decadent Boom Boom  Club, a summer term from the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain; Universal’s Yellow Lounge and a Michelin Star pop-up restaurant. Veuve Clicquot recently sponsored the build of a brand new piano bar which opened outside The Screening Room in March and Bloomberg continue to provide support as The Old Vic Tunnels Volunteers Partner. www.oldvictunnels.com


Showbiz Chicago Encore Podcast: Michael J. Roberts Interviews Lou DeGrado

In tribute to a dear friend who passed away on February 13, we’re rebroadcasting a podcast interview with Lou DeGrado conducted in February of 2006 as he was about to receive his star on the Palm Springs Walk Of Fame.

In the world of show business, there are some people that fall under the radar of stardom but still made a lifetime career of entertaining people. Lou DeGrado was one of those people. Even though the public at large may not recognize his name, chances are that in one medium or another, you have seen and enjoyed his performances.

Born and raised in Chicago, Lou’s career began as a professional ice skater with his mentor Sonja Henie. Lou criss-crossed the country doing figure eights on his ice skates. As a regular performer on Broadwayat the RoxyTheatre, he would perform five shows a day on weekdays, six shows a day on Saturdays, and then on Sunday rehearse routines for the new shows.

In the 1970s, Lou gained commercial recognition when he teamed up with Martha Raye as a spokesperson for ‘Polident’. In the late 1980s and early 90’s, Lou appeared on numerous soap operas, in films and in television series including making several appearances on ‘Fraiser.’ Then in 2004, Lou joined the cast of the long running Palm Springs Follies which showed off his triple threat talent of singing, dancing and acting.

Unbeknownst to most was that Lou was also one of the foremost ballroom dancers in the country. In his interview, you can hear Lou discuss his stint with the Army in World War II, where he became the choreographer for the Army’s variety troupe show.

Lou was always the consummate professional. Moreover, Lou was a gentleman and a good friend. I am grateful to have been able to document in his own words, his incredible stamina in the entertainment business. Lou DeGrado demonstrated to us all that even though you may not have celebrity status, you can still be a success in an industry where humility is a rare thing.

Lou DeGrado passed away in Palm Springs, California on February 13, 2008 at the age of 77.



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