NiteLife Pick of the Week: Friday’s Spotlight on You–Open Mic/West 53 St.

By ROB LESTER****Open Mic #2 for the monthly Spotlight on You (this means YOU, attendees!) has Meg Flather, the most recent MAC Female Vocalist winner with Tracy Stark as your pianist. The location is 53 Above on the street-level floor of Broadway Comedy Club– 318 West 53 Street (west of Eighth Avenue).  Natasha Castillo hosts, as usual ….(planned co-host John Koprowski is on health leave).  Admission is $5 to watch, $10 if you sign up to sing, plus the $15 food/drink minimum either way.  Tracy Stark, who seems to get better and deeper in her work as the years pass, and Meg Flather are two-thirds of the Unexpected Trio performing at Don’t Tell Mama the very next night —coincidence?  (Rosemary Loar is the remaining musketeeress.)  I was at their premiere open mic date at the end of June and they got off to a great start!  The atmosphere was friendly, casual, and relaxed, no pressure, very supportive and the crowd was attentive and supportive throughout.  Like virtually any open mic, there was a variety of styles and talents ranging from the insecure but game hobbyist to the solid professional.  Bubbly and welcoming hostess Natasha was a cheerleader of an M.C.  While she missed her sidelined sidekick John, the doings were videotaped for him to see.  (Getting a videotape of your own performance is for a nominal fee is an option each time).

For those of us who are familiar cabaret faces and frequent performers/attendees of the Manhattan club/open mic scenes, there were—well, familiar cabaret faces and frequent performers/attendees of the Manhattan club/open mic scenes!  They included some comedy numbers:  MAC Emcee winner Bobbie Horowitz of the It’s Just a Number series with her original lyrics about her Fourth of July patriotism shown via shopping –“Doin’ It for America” (music by David Friedman); Barbara Malley was there at her loony best, dressed in her nun’s habit (well, everyone had a career before or on the side while pursuing cabaret), singing about the need to “Repent!” and stop those “dirty doings going on” (Cy Coleman/Betty Comden & Adolph Green).  Jason Ellis, who did the honors on lights and sound as he often does at Don’t Tell Mama, was out of this world, at his cosmic comic best, lamenting the sad fact that “Pluto’s Not a Planet Any More,” written by Ruth Weber and Dan Furman, who just so happened to be the evening’s excellent and ready-for-anything pianist.  (What lucky singers!)

The Elegant Ivory Duo, a unique act, did two numbers.  Jeremy Sussman, whose debut I recently saw –he’d been  armed with some appealingly quirky novelty songs — was a “new familiar” presence.  And Kati Neiheisel, an especially engaging singer working on a debut show directed by Deb Berman, won some new admirers.  And there were some who were new (or new-ish) to me, too.  The room shimmered with a special when the featured singer took to the bright red curtain above 53 Above’s stage: With Tim DiPasqua’s “You” and other burnished gems, Lisa Viggiano sang with heart and sensitivity, as she did in her own show Three’s a Charm, in sassy Sussman’s show (as a guest), and the group show with her fellow MAC-nominated lady vocalists, Together, including the woman who follow her as featured artist on Friday, The Fabulous Flather (whose own latest solo show last week, a CD release, was very strong indeed). As the evening drew to a close, people didn’t seem quite ready to go, but were warmed by Natasha’s all-embracing version of the dedication of the 47-year-old “A Song for You,” written by Leon Russell, which still sounds vital.  So does she.  With her grace and guests, her Friday Spotlight on You should be spot on, too.

Go join the Castillio cast and be open to being at an open mic.