The new Sunday night series kicks off with Faith Prince and Jason Graae on August 26, and continues into the fall with Brent Barrett (September 9) and Dee Hoty (September23). The appearances are presented by Club Helsinki Hudson in association with Showstoppers New York. Club Helsinki Hudson is in Hudson, NY, an easy trip from Northwest Connecticut and the Southern Berkshires, and a doable jaunt from Albany, Southern Vermont and Berkshire North.
Cabaret Lovers RejoiceIt’s starting to look like Joe’s Pub and 54 Under are getting some upstate competition! Add in the eclectic cabaret events at Mr. Finn’s Pub in Pittsfield at Barrington Stage and the drought of sophisticated big city entertainment has finally ended.
There is a fanatical core of cabaret lovers – young and old – spread out over the region’s mountains and valleys, and the question is if the media will help this new Helsinki On Broadway Sunday series get the word out to its potential audience.
We asked producers Tom Wells and Lee Tannen about their venture, and their faith in this region. Tannen, who is a recent transplant to Hudson started out like many of us, coming to the area for a daytrip, and deciding to stay on. “And,” he says, “to be presenting Broadway’s Best talent in this new cabaret series HELSINKI ON BROADWAY is just the icing on the cake.” But he also recognized that establishing a new Broadway music series is going to take some hard work: “We have the talent, now all we need is to spread the Broadway gospel in these parts to get people into the seats on Sunday evenings.”
Pulling it all TogetherTannen tells his story this way: “As I said in an earlier email, my partner Tom and I moved up to this “unknown” region (unknown to us that is) to kind of get away from it all. For the past 20 years we’ve had and still have an event production and entertainment company–Showstoppers New York, with clients almost exclusively in NYC. But with the internet…you can do work from just about anywhere these days, so “A weekend in the Country” for us turned into our 3/4 time residence.
“We were amazed at how many terrific people–gay and straight – we met in a relatively short period of time–we’re here about 16 months. Many who just are here in the Hudson Valley on weekends but some who live here full time. Lots of dinner parties, croquet on the lawn (could not do THAT on East 63rd Street!) plus some really fine restaurants–especially Club Helsinki.
“The one thing we really missed was NYC caliber entertainment–and for us that meant Broadway and cabaret–something we did very often in Manhattan. In talking with new friends up here, they expressed the same sentiment. And then when we met Marc and Deb, the owners of Club Helsinki over dinner one night in their restaurant, we discovered their fabulous 175 seat night club adjacent to it. One thing led to another–and the next thing we knew we suggested they bring up Broadway entertainers to the Hudson Valley. They weren’t sure how to do it…but we were.”
Lee Tannen continues the story. “The “stars” aligned ver quickly after that meeting in early summer. From years of directing benefits and corporate gigs using Broadway talent, so many have become great friends. I called on them first–Jason Graae, Faith Prince, Brent Barret, Dee Hoty, whose new show for HELSINKI ON BROADWAY I am directing as well. They all jumped at the chance to bring their acts up here–either for a “below the radar” out of town tryout, before bringing into NYC or as an “Encore” presentation from a show they have already done in Manhattan. We’re keeping the cover charge fairly low at $35 for reserved seating at tables–$20 at a bar stool in the back of the room. Marc and Den are very smart in NOT charging a food and drink minimum which makes cabaret in NYC these days almost as expensive as the price of a hit Broadway show. Which is a shame because that was never the intent of cabaret. It should always be affordable.”
Ann Hampton Callaway, Liz Callaway, Charles Busch and Mary Testa too?
Then Tannen brought up some exciting possibilities. “So, close friends said yes, and then the word spread and we have booked some folks for later on in the fall–Ann Hampton Callaway, Liz Callaway, Charles Busch, Mary Testa, great artists whose work I admire but not (yet) friends with.
“In the makeshift unscientific “research” i did in my immediate area (Saugerties and Catskill) the response to these names strutting their stuff was overwhelmingly positive. CLUB HELSINKI of course has an impeccable reputation earned first in Great Barrington for 15 years as I am sure you know much more about then me. And now in Hudson, their story continues, in association with Showstoppers New York.”
Lee continues: “I think we will be very successful in the quality of our presentations. It will also be a bit of a challenge at first to spread the word about the importance of The American Songbook in preserving and honoring the great composers of this and last century. Cliched as it may sound, for me, it’s a quest to keep their songs alive…the “they don’t write them like that anymore” songs by artists whose careers are almost entirely based on performing those melodies. Like I said a dream come true.”
The Wrap Up
Lee Tanner invites you to say hello: “We’d love to meet more of our neighbors, too. Like them, we simply adore top talent, great songs, and the intimate experience a Sunday night of great entertainment combined with great cuisine. And you know that alone is a real rarity in Manhattan night spots.”
“The Prince and the Showboy”
Music Director: Alex Rybeck
The “Helsinki On Broadway Sunday Broadway Cabaret Series” begins 7 PM Aug. 26 with Tony Award winner Faith Prince (Guys and Dolls) and Jason Graae (The Grand Tour) in The Prince and the Showboy. Prince and Graae will sing their most requested Broadway tunes. It also features a tribute to Broadway composer Jerry Herman (Hello, Dolly!; Mame).
Music Director: Christopher Denny
Directed by: Barry Kleinbort
“One of Broadway’s favorite leading men, Brent Barrett has delighted audiences of the Great White Way and London’s West End in Grand Hotel, Chicago, Candide, Kiss Me Kate and Annie Get You Gun, among others. For Night Songs, think everything from “The Music of the Night” to “Rhythm of the Night” to “You and the Night and Music.”
Music Director: John McDaniel
Directed by: Lee Tannen
“Dee Hoty has distinguished herself as one of Broadway’s favorite leading ladies. She has earned Tony Award nominations for her starring roles in The Will Rogers Follies, The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public and Footloose. Dee takes an often funny, sometimes poignant and occasionally downright irreverent look at her life and loves, on and off stage. Dee explores what it’s like to live alone…and like it!”
Those all-important Reservations
Dinner reservations can be made at 5 PM or 8:30 PM in The Restaurant, adjacent to The Club (which also serves food). For reservations, call (518) 828-4800. Club Helsinki is at 405 Columbia Street in Hudson, NY. Visit helsinkihudson.com.