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. A Tilted Kilt at a water park themed hotel? Who planned that one? I guess the Dad's need something to do while the kids are on the water slides.

  2. Don't come down on the fair for offering drinks. This is a craft and certainly one that belongs in agriculture due to ingredients. And for those worrying about how much you can drink. I'm sure it's more to do with liability than anything else. They don't want people suing for being over served. If you want a buzz, do a little pre-drinking before you go.

  3. I don't drink but go into this "controlled area" so my friend can drink. They have their 3 drink limit and then I give my friend my 3 drink limit. How is the fair going to control this very likely situation????

  4. I feel the conditions of the alcohol sales are a bit heavy handed, but you need to realize this is the first year in quite some time that beer & wine will be sold at the fair. They're starting off slowly to get a gauge on how it will perform this year - I would assume if everything goes fine that they relax some of the limits in the next year or couple of years. That said, I think requiring the consumption of alcohol to only occur in the beer tent is a bit much. That is going to be an awkward situation for those with minors - "Honey, I'm getting a beer... Ok, sure go ahead... Alright see you in just a min- half an hour."

  5. This might be an effort on the part of the State Fair Board to manage the risk until they get a better feel for it. However, the blanket notion that alcohol should not be served at "family oriented" events is perhaps an oversimplification. and not too realistic. For 15 years, I was a volunteer at the Indianapolis Air Show, which was as family oriented an event as it gets. We sold beer donated by Monarch Beverage Company and served by licensed and trained employees of United Package Liquors who were unpaid volunteers. And where did that money go? To central Indiana children's charities, including Riley Hospital for Children! It's all about managing the risk.