OFF THE BOARDS: Chuck Cooper, Lindsay Mendez, Lara Teeter and More Highlight the City's Cabaret Stages

By Steven Suskin
03 Jul 2014

Chuck Cooper
Chuck Cooper

In a monthly roundup of cabaret and nightlife, some of Broadway's biggest names opt for more intimate affairs.

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The Public Theater continues its 2014 Shakespeare in the Park season with King Lear — and what promises to be an exciting Lear, with John Lithgow playing the title role. The cast will include Annette Bening, Jessica Collins, and Jessica Hecht as the three daughters. Daniel Sullivan, who over the last three seasons has directed the Shakespeare in the Park productions of All's Well That Ends Well, The Merchant of Venice (starring Al Pacino and Lily Rabe), and As You Like It (starring Rabe and Oliver Platt), returns to the Delacorte, July 22–Aug. 17.

City Center continues its second season of Encores! Off-Center with two July treats. On the first, there was a one-night-only performance of Randy Newman's Faust: The Concert. This 1995 musical has songs by Newman, and has previously been produced at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego and the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. Newman himself played the devil, under the direction of Thomas Kail (In the Heights). Then comes the long-running 1982 revue, Pump Boys and Dinettes. Conceived, written and initially performed by John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel and Jim Wann, the new cast will include Jordan Dean, Hunter Foster, Mamie Parris, Randy Redd, Katie Thompson, and Lorenzo Wolff. Lear deBessonet (On the Levee) directs, with Jeanine Tesori and Chris Fenwick serving — respectively — as the Off-Center artistic director and musical director. Pump Boys will be in for five performances, July 16–19. Ticket holders are also invited to pre-performance Lobby Projects related to the show. The July 16 program will feature the above-mentioned original cast member/authors.



For an evening of July jazz, head over to Birdland for John Pizzarelli and the Swing Seven. The renowned guitarist, vocalist, and all around scamp is a New York fixture; he turns up, in different venues, three or four times each season. His Birdland engagements usually seem more relaxed and less structured, just a bunch of tiptop jazz guys making music. Pizzarelli will be at the legendary spot on West 44th for nine shows, July 22–26.

54 Below heads its schedule with a true Independence Day celebration — not on the Fourth of July, but with twi-night double-headers on the third and fifth. The 54 Sings series, comprised of programs dedicated to scores from favorite musicals, gives us Sherman Edwards's grand 1776. Here's a way to share the fireworks as John Adams, Ben Franklin and a violin-playing young Tom Jefferson rally the Continental Congress to vote "yes" for independence. (Spoiler alert: In the end, they manage to convince the "cool conservative men" to sign the Declaration and get it over with.)

54 Sings Hello, Dolly!, too, July 13. Also on the 54 Below schedule is Tony-winner Chuck Cooper (The Life and Finian's Rainbow), July 1 and 8; Lindsay Mendez (Dogfight and Wicked) and Derek Klena (Dogfight and The Bridges of Madison County), for four performances, July 7–14; and song-and-dance man Lara Teeter — who was so memorable in the Broadway revival of On Your Toes 31 years ago — making his New York cabaret debut July 15.