Still overcoming its best-kept secret status in Central Indiana, Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael continues to bring world-class talent to these parts. Bringing a bit of Manhattan to Carmel, the club featured “Jim Caruso’s Cast Party with Billy Stritch on Piano” Friday, the first show of a two-day run.
Since 2002, the affable duo of Caruso and Stritch have been hosting “Cast Party,” a popular open mic at “Birdland,” the venerable jazz club in New York City. The event, held every Monday night, mixes the famous with hopefuls, as well as those who just like to sing in an environment in which camaraderie and moral support is encouraged. Occasionally, Caruso and Stritch take the show on the road, and last weekend was Central Indiana’s chance to experience what is now a New York tradition.
Since I interviewed Caruso and Stritch here prior to their Feinstein’s appearance, I knew that they sought out local talent through their contacts in each market prior to their shows. So, naturally, as a reviewer who is acutely aware of the pool of local performers, there was no one more eager than I to see who had signed up to participate.
As it turned out, I was familiar with a few, but happily the show revealed several other singers I had not seen perform before. Well-known local performers who participated included Don Farrell, Melissa Schott, and Brent Marty. Other singers who performed were Amanda McCarty, Valerie Trumbull, Amy Rafa, and a singer named David who did not provide his last name. Also performing was lip-sync artist Stacia Adair.
Standing out was accomplished vocalist McCarty, a recording studio singer who sang a moving rendition of “I Wish You Love”; Schott, a vivacious, seasoned triple-threat performer who sang “Them There Eyes”; and Actors Theatre of Indiana co-founder and co-artistic director Don Farrel who effortlessly crooned “Fly Me to the Moon.” Also showing potential as a recording artist was the singer Michael Johns who sang his recently released single titled “Heart on My Sleeve.” Further appealing were Marty, music and educational director of Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre, and Rafa, who sang a duet of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” Bejeweled Adair, looking stunning in a sleek long red gown, channeled Whitney Houston lip synching to “Didn’t We Almost Have It All.”
Caruso and Stritch, who also performed both solo and together showed an easy rapport as they bantered with each other and with the audience. Stritch showed off his quintessential NYC sensibilities when he sang and played the wistful “Since You Left New York.” He and Caruso delighted a charmed audience when they spontaneously did a duet of commercials written by Barry Manilow, which included those created for KFC, State Farm Insurance, Strident Toothpaste, and Band-Aid. They shared that they had just performed the medley a few weeks ago at a Carnegie Hall tribute to Manilow, making their performance a surprise added treat. Fittingly, they closed the show with “When I Get My Name in Lights” from “Boy from Oz.”
As mentioned previously, I for one am grateful as both a critic and entertainment fan that Feinstein’s makes it possible for me to see the top names in show business right in my own backyard. My only hope for the venue is that its brand becomes more widely known, not to mention appreciated for what it is contributing to the performing arts landscape of not only the area but the entire state and region as well.
For tickets and information about upcoming shows at Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael visit feinsteinshc.com.