NYC3: Hoosier-hosted cabaret

June 4, 2009
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Third in a series of reports from my recent NYC trek.

I swear I wasn't looking for an Indiana connection when I set out to find out where Broadway show folk hang out -- and perform -- after the curtains come down.

But when I learned about After Party at the West Bank Cafe's Laurie Beechman Theatre, I was happy to find, at the center of the madness, Indiana's own Brandon Cutrell.

An open mic where Broadway talent sings what they want to sing, the After Party it featured a talent level almost disturbingly high. Alysha Umphress, soon to appear in the new Green Day musical "American Idiot" was an early-in-the-evening highlight.  Nick Adams from the Broadway casts of "A Chorus Line" and "Guys and Dolls" anchored a short set with "On the Street Where You Live." Susan Mosher, from the B'way "Hairspray," brought the house down with a hilariously improvised number, based on her most recent audition, comedian Kevin Meaney was pulled up from the crowd to give away some prizes (his tablemates included actress Kathy Najimy) and it went on like that for a wonderful anything-can-happen evening.

I stayed until about 2 a.m. (and would have happily hung out longer if friends didn't need to get back to Brooklyn and Long Island). Host and ringleader Brandon Cutrell says he keeps things going until people stop buying drinks, which can mean four in the morning.

Cutrell has deep roots in Indiana. Born and raised here (with parents still in Greenwood), he appeared in Young Artist productions at Indianapolis Civic Theatre, studied opera at IU Bloomington -- although he kept getting cast in the theater department's musicals -- and he sometimes comes back to work at Brown County Playhouse (He starred in the musical "Suds" last summer).

He probably gets sick of the work puckish, but the adjective describes both his look and his spirit. Not afraid to (playfully) insult his guests or push them to do something they might otherwise not (such as getting the aforementioned Nick Adams --who also works as an underwear model -- to take off his shirt), Cutrell says he tries to hold the rauchiness until after midnight. On my visit, he wasn't terribly successfull at that -- not that anyone in the enthusiastic audience seemed to care. And it helps that Cutrell himself is a wonderful singer, setting the bar high early in the evening with a rendition of "That's When I Miss You." In all, a fabulous host.

Before the show on Friday, Cutrell noted that a number of Indiana-rooted folks are on B'Way now, including fellow IU student Nicole Parker starring in "Wicked" and Carey Anderson doing the same at "Avenue Q". Whenever he has a visit from IU alumni, he'll make sure that the school fight song is part of the mix. And one of the show's few rules is that anyone who sings a Sandy Patti song earns four free shot.

The After Party has been running for three years with no end in sight. Talent scouts and casting directors are regulat attendees. And newcomers are welcome, whether to watch or to perform (although first-timers may find themselves with a late, late slot). There's no cover and no minimum, which help make this, in my mind, the best entertainment bargain in the city.

Your thoughts?
  • Can't wait to go to NYC for Brandon's After Party! He was a charming (on-stage, devilish off-stage) Courier in a local production of 1776 we did many years ago.
  • In the production of 1776 that Karen mentions, our beloved Michael Klass was playing John Adams (Michael passed away in 1997). Michael received a really good review, but Brandon had three paragraphs written about him. Michael's nose was out of joint just a bit.

    As I mentioned to you a couple of weeks ago, I have been to the After Party. Ray Feldman often accompanies on the piano and is also from Indiana. He is a fabulous pianist. The night we were there, we were celebrating a friend's birthday. Although Su Ours was also with us, she did not sing that evening. But my daughter, Jennifer, who lives in Chicago did get up and sing When You're Good To Mama from Chicago.

    Odd side note: If you went to the restrooms, what did you think of the way the water faucets flowed?
  • Janet,
    Didn't make it to the rest room. Sorry I missed it.
  • Just caught up on the blog, Lou. The night I went to After Party, Brandon wasn't there! Can't wait to get back and see/meet him. It was still fun - and, of course, I got up and sang Pour Me A Man from MISS GULCH RETURNS. Turns out there are (or were) lots of fellow Ball State alum working there and in the restaurant upstairs!

    On another note, wasn't Liz Calloway fantastic! BABY was the first show I ever music directed (at BSU) and hearing her sing The Story Goes On was almost too much!

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  1. I never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

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  4. I'm sure Indiana is paradise for the wealthy and affluent, but what about the rest of us? Over the last 40 years, conservatives and the business elite have run this country (and state)into the ground. The pendulum will swing back as more moderate voters get tired of Reaganomics and regressive social policies. Add to that the wave of minority voters coming up in the next 10 to 15 years and things will get better. unfortunately we have to suffer through 10 more years of gerrymandered districts and dispropionate representation.

  5. Funny people telling poor people how bad the other rich people are wanting to cut benefits/school etc and that they should vote for those rich people that just did it. Just saying..............