Now in its 15th season, Lincoln Center’s acclaimed series American Songbook will expand its scope and offer two series that celebrate the best in American singing and songwriting. “American Songbook in The Allen Room” will run from January 30 through March 2, 2013 and will present 15 nights of music from Broadway old and new, rhythm & blues, country, pop, gospel, blues, rock, jazz, and folk. Then from March 29 through April 20 a new chapter in the Songbook story will begin with “American Songbook in the Penthouse,” a series of weekend-only performances by performers and composers presented in the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse, an intimate yet elegant venue that brings artists closer to the audience in a cabaret-style setting. With a seating capacity of just 225, the Kaplan Penthouse allows acoustic performers such as songwriter/cellist/singer Ben Sollee to be heard the way they intend – near to the audience and without elaborate amplification. The size of the space also allows a performer like Meow Meow to interact with her audience to make them an integral part of her performance, something difficult to do in a larger, more formal venue. Complimentary glasses of wine and bottled water will be served to audience members, who will be seated at cocktail tables. The Kaplan Penthouse was the site for American Songbook shows before the series moved to The Allen Room in 2005, and it shares with The Allen Room stunning city views.
For “American Songbook in The Allen Room” shows, Broadway stars Lea Salonga, Karen Akers, and Kristin Chenoweth will dazzle with music from Broadway as well as standards from both established and newer composers from the world of musical theater. In keeping with American Songbook’s tradition of honoring great composers and lyricists, those being celebrated this season in The Allen Room are John Kander and Fred Ebb (Cabaret, Chicago) and Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, the creators of the ground-breaking musical, Next to Normal. Another songwriter and performer on the schedule is Valerie Simpson, who, with her late husband and lyricist Nickolas Ashford, created era-defining rhythm & blues for Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Ray Charles, and Whitney Houston, as well as for their own stage shows. The legendary Mavis Staples, whose gospel-trained, blues-belting voice is a favorite of millions, will shake The Allen Room rafters later in the season. Over her long career, Staples has often performed songs of a political nature, and hers has been a continuing voice for civil rights. She shares being a “voice of protest” with another Songbook performer, Tom Morello, aka The Nightwatchman. Harlem native Morello is the guitarist of the influential rock band Rage Against the Machine, but his work as The Nightwatchman is as a singer/songwriter with strong political views and ardent activism.
Country music will be well represented in the series by one of its most gifted interpreters, Kathy Mattea. And while his music has elements of country in its sound, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, the pseudonym of singer/songwriter Will Oldham, also will bring rock and folk elements to a performance of his songs. Further into the folk genre is a relatively new group from North Carolina, Lost in the Trees, a septet that performs “chamber folk,” taking many of its cues from chamber music practices of classical music.
The Allen Room series will also feature two popular singer/songwriters: Brooklyn-based Ingrid Michaelson and Norwegian-bred Sondre Lerche. Rising star jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant is in the series, and, in a repeat of her stunning show first presented in American Songbook 2010, opera great Stephanie Blythe performing the songs of Kate Smith.
“American Songbook in the Penthouse,” will embrace adventuresome performers and celebrate composers and lyricists, both newer and veteran. Kerrigan & Lowdermilk, a creative team sparking critical acclaim for their musicals The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown, Henry and Mudge, and others, will perform an evening of their music. The critically-lauded composer Ricky Ian Gordon, known for his vocal music that spans art song, opera, and musical theater, will present Green Sneakers, a theatrical song cycle about love lost.
A rising star in the musical theater world, Lindsay Mendez, will be joined by pianist and composer Marco Paguia. Mendez starred as Rose in the play Dogfight, and Paguia was a finalist for the Cole Porter Fellowship, among other career highlights. They will combine their talents for an evening of jazz.
Carving out a career niche perhaps all his own, singer/songwriter/cellist Ben Sollee will bring his smoky vocals and jazz and folk-flavored songs to the Kaplan, as will Cristin Milioti, whose expressive voice earned her a 2012 Tony nomination for her work in Once. Adding to this mix of music will be “kamikaze cabaret” artist Meow Meow, a diva in every sense of the word.