Todd Murray’s voice: delicious as warm bread

Oct 18

Todd Murray’s voice: delicious as warm bread

Not many people can claim success in the fields of musical theater, bread baking and crooning. Todd Murray can.

Growing up in a small Pennsylvania farming community, Murray had two loves. One was music. The other was food. In the pre-Internet, pre-cable TV days, Murray figured it would be impossible to break into the entertainment industry and maybe not as difficult to break into the food biz. Up until his senior year of high school, he had his sites set on chef school.

But then in college, he started gravitating toward performing and started getting jobs in Opryland USA, Tokyo Disneyland and summer stock in his home state.

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Jason Graae: the funniest best singer you’re likely to see

Mar 30

Jason Graae: the funniest best singer you’re likely to see

Collective memory will soon forget that there used to be entertainers in the grandest sense – performers who could be hilarious, could interact with audience members in wonderful (non-cheesy) ways and, when the mood was right, sing the hell out of great songs.

Sammy Davis Jr. could do that. So could Bobby Darin. And Judy Garland, and the list goes on. The entertainment world has changed a lot – of course there are still wonderful performers out there.

But I have to say, I miss the all-around entertainer, the guys and gals who could hold a Vegas stage without the need for twirling acrobats and pyrotechnics.

Broadway veteran Jason Graae is one of those old-school entertainers. You are guaranteed several things when you see him perform: you will fall under the spell of his dynamic tenor/baritone voice, and you will laugh your ass off.

We don’t see enough of this Los Angeles-based performer here in the Bay Area, but happily he’ll be at the Rrazz Room for two nights, April 3 and 4, with a brand-new show.

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Swept up in the Noir world of Amanda McBroom

Mar 15

Swept up in the <i>Noir</i> world of Amanda McBroom

Amanda McBroom is one of those performers who make you understand why cabaret was invented. And why it still endures.

She’s warm, gracious, funny and optimistic. But she’s a sturdy realist and not without edge. This is the woman, after all, who wrote “The Rose.”

When she sings, whether it’s her own work or something by the likes of Jacques Brel, McBroom commands – and rewards – rapt attention. And she just seems to get better with age.

We’ll have a chance to see McBroom this weekend when she brings Song Noir, a show she debuted last fall at New York’s Metropolitan Room, to the Rrazz Room. It’s only three performances, so book now.

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Bergen goes from Jersey boy to bawdy balladeer

Feb 03

Bergen goes from <i>Jersey</i> boy to bawdy balladeer

Erich Bergen became a man in San Francisco. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but when the performer was cast as Bob Gaudio in the touring production of Jersey Boys, he was all of 20 years old. The tour ended up sitting down at the Curran Theatre for nine months in 2007, and Bergen, a native of New York City, celebrated his 21st birthday in the City by the Bay.

He’ll be back in San Francisco for an all-too-brief one-night stand at the Rrazz Room in the Hotel Nikko on Monday, Feb. 7. His show is affectionately subtitled: “An evening of music, inappropriate laughs and awkward pauses.”

“That city holds a lot of crazy memories,” Bergen says on the phone from Los Angeles, his home since late 2009. “When I was cast, I had never really done New York as an adult actor. I quit college – or ‘left the company’ as I like to say – and was sent out on the road into that crazy Jersey Boys land. Suddenly it was this world you dream of with fans outside the stage door. Then while I was here I was in a relationship and all these first-time grown-up things were happening.”

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Sam Harris aims for Jolson & ‘Reclamation’

Jun 18

Sam Harris aims for Jolson & ‘Reclamation’

First, two issues that need addressing: - Why isn't Sam Harris performing his new gay marriage anthem "My Reclamation" at San Francisco's Gay Pride celebration? It's a beautiful, moving ode to love and equal rights -- part defiant manifesto, part gorgeous ballad. So far, Harris is not slated to appear on any Gay Pride stage, and that seems, to say the least, like a missed opportunity. - Why isn't "Glee"mastermind Ryan Murphy begging Sam Harris to play one of Rachel's (Lea Michelle) two dads? It's such a brilliant no brainer. Can you just imagine the Harris/Michelle power duets? A show queen's mind fairly boggles. We're thinking about Sam Harris because the big-voiced, Tony-nominated performer is headed back to San Francisco's Rrazz Room, where he triumphed in a last-minute, late-night about a year ago. It just so happens that Harris' gig coincides with all the Gay Pride revelry, which can hardly be accidental. In addition to his new song, Harris' life is practically a paean to the fully integrated, 21st century gay life. He and his husband, Danny, are busy raising their 2-year-old son, Cooper, who after a recent trip to the theater (the child's first) to see Sesame Street Live, told his dads, "Cooper up there, sing, dance with Cookie Monster." You could hardly expect less from the spawn of Harris.

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Cabaret classic: A valentine to Paula West

Feb 03

Paula West is going to do things to you in the dark, and you’re going to like it. Now that she can actually be considered a veteran of the San Francisco cabaret scene, West is letting loose in her new show at the Rrazz Room in the Hotel Nikko, and man does it feel good. Backed by the George Mesterhazy Quartet, a jaunty West takes the stage and in short order...

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