A Patrick Hat-Trick, Plus One

The Guy in Black is BACK: Authentically Jersey country singer/songwriter Michael Patrick invades The Saint in downtown Asbury on October 22, for the first of FOUR wildly different events celebrating his new release ANOTHER SONG YOU NEVER HEARD.

First time we ever heard tell of the man called Michael Patrick, the Morganville-bred country singer-songwriter was NOT putting forth a set of his characteristically warm ‘n witty, trad ‘n true originals with his band The Suburban Hillbillies. He was NOT fronting his acclaimed Johnny Cash tribute project Michael Patrick’s Ring of Fire Band, a heartfelt endeavor that’s taken him up and down the eastern half of these United States, and brought him a stamp of approval (along with the odd opening gig) from the likes of Carlene Carter and Rosanne Cash. Hell, he wasn’t even anywhere near chaw-spittin distance of a guitar or microphone.

The particular hat that Mr. Patrick was wearing that night — and by hat, we mean imaginary; not the no-cattle kind sported by the Nashville flavor/savior of the month — was as tireless impresario behind the Suburban Roots Concert Series, a very loose and very occasional vehicle by which Patrick has taken it upon himself to import some of the most exciting young talents in alt-country and Americana, to some of the most unlikely Jersey Shore venues ever to host a HeeHaw hootenanny.

When way-cool next-gen rebel Justin Townes Earle played The Claddagh Irish bar in Highlands, Michael Patrick was the guy behind the scenes. When awesome new traditionalist Pokey LaFarge — one of the greatest entertainers we’ve ever seen — took the stage of a bowling alley lounge in Bradley Beach, you could bet Patrick had a hand in that. And when no less a progeny than John Carter Cash came to Tim McLoone’s swanky Supper Club on the Asbury boards, Mike Patrick was already on the scene — tending to details; checking out sound and sightlines from every conceivable angle; removing the blue M&Ms from the dressing room and just generally remaining a body in motion not unlike your grandma hosting the family at the holidays (“Ma! Siddown and eat, you’re makin’ everyone nervous!”).

This Saturday night, October the DoubleDeuce, it’s all about the Patrick — and the Hat Trick, by which we mean the release of his THIRD independently issued album of songs, a set by the name of Another Song You Never Heard. The most assured session yet from MP, the album finds this refreshingly old-school professor lending the full faith and credit of his classic voice (think of the plainspeak elegance of Hank Snow, Sonny James, Porter Wagoner and Tom T Hall) to a fun bunch of compositions that address such universal topics as growing old, moving on, staying put, and the eternal plight of the barband entertainer.

The venue for the CD release event is arguably an unlikely one — downtown Asbury’s rockin’ roadhouse railroad car The Saint — until you consider that the venerable alternative rock club has also offered up snug harbor for Americana, acousticana and bammalamma acts of every conceivable star and stripe. It’s the inaugural stop on a multi-date, “MP4” CD release schedule that will also see Patrick take his new songs to a Bayshore coffeehouse, a bluegrass-infused church, and that welcoming temple of pinewoods traditionalism, Waretown’s fabled Albert Music Hall.

UpperWETside rang up this Jersey-fresh font of homespun wisdom and one-man musical movement in the midst of a typically frantic week. So make your selection, insert some southern juke coin and watch the record play.

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Blood in Bloom, at Asbury’s Carousel

Chelsea Zeno, Aliya Bowles and Stephany Mora make like intergalactic Angels during rehearsals for LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, the ReVision Theatre Company production going up Thursday, October 7.

ReVision Theatre Company is on a roll.

After an inauspicious start to a supremely soggy Summer 2011 season of entertainments at Asbury Park’s Carousel House (their candylicious Xanadu was one of the few shows that could boast an indoor rain-out on Opening Night), the professional troupe garnered the greatest reviews of its brief history via a totally fuckin’ electrifying Spring Awakening — with that well known Tony winner followed by a genuine surprise: an almost completely unknown Breakup Notebook that cheerfully won over a lot of audiences who didn’t think they were in the market for a so-called “Lesbian Musical.”

Here in October — that way-past-summer month when the Zombies walk and the costume parties ka-ching in the city that’s become the regional capital of Halloween — the ReVisionaries take one final spin on the Carousel, with a new production of the 1982 sci-fi songfest Little Shop of Horrors.

Really? Little Shop? The same show that your nephew co-starred in at his high school? Like, why not just skip straight to Nunsense, with a couple of readings of Love Letters thrown in for good measure?

Now hold on there DeWitt — the ReVision folks didn’t mean to insult your theater-snob sensibilities. It’s just that the whole extended Halloweekend season in Asbury cries out for something that fits within its creature-feature context — and with The Rocky Horror Show having already been successfully staged in 2010, there aren’t a whole lot of well-crafted monster musicals out there to choose from.

On the other hand, Little Shop is a popular show because Little Shop is a good show — one that’s based on a legendary 1960 Roger Corman drive-in groovie (in which a skinny kid from Bradley Beach named Jack Nicholson got a plum early role); that was satisfyingly remade as a screen musical in 1986; that boasted music by Alan Menken with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman. Yeah, the Howard Ashman who gave heart and dimension to Disney’s Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast). One does not speak ill of the sainted Ashman.

On the third hand (did we mention it’s Halloween?), director Mary Kate Burke has out-and-out revealed that this a Little Shop like you’ve never seen before — one that’s chock full of surprises, even in light of a plot that revolves around a bloodthirsty man-eating plant from outer space. More on that in a moment.

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A ‘Breakup,’ and a ReVision ReBound

Supporting cast: Beth Malone is “carried” by her fellow players during rehearsals for THE BREAKUP NOTEBOOK, the ReVision Theatre Company production going up Thursday, September 8.

Darkness. Floods. Extreme heat and cold. By now, we’d have wagered that the folks at ReVision Theatre Company had experienced every Biblical plague short of the Rain of Frogs, in their quest to make Asbury Park’s Carousel House a viable place for musical entertainments. But imagine our surprise, when on a post-Irene stroll to the boardwalk we found the pavement out front of that quirky rococo roundhouse festooned with — not frogs, but fish.

We’re no ichthyologist — although we play one on TV — but we’d venture a guess that these finny fauna, their razor-tooth carcasses picked clean by scavenging seabirds, were very far from home (ditto the Costco-size bottle of Cocoa Butter, seemingly deposited here from somewhere east of 1971).

That fish-out-of-water imagery actually works pretty well when contemplating the third and latest offering of the ReVision summer season at the Carousel — the East Coast premiere of The Breakup Notebook: The Lesbian Musical. A relatively little known (but highly acclaimed) item about a recently dumped thirtysomething — and her uneasy re-immersion into the churning waters of the LA lesbian dating scene — the 2005 show by Lori Scarlett, David Manning and Patricia Cotter (adapted from Cotter’s own nonmusical play of the same name) lands with a Don Martin SPLADAP sound effect on the doorstep of the Carousel from far-off California, bringing with it a Tony-lauded, Hollywood-legendary producer and director in the bargain.

A top executive of The Walt Disney Company for more than a decade (his own documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty is a fine chronicle of the Disney brand’s toon revival during his tenure as president of Feature Animation) and a world champion bridge player, Peter Schneider also oversaw the wildly successful House of Mouse transition to Broadway player, via such stage sensations as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. Post-Disney, the independent theatrical producer has been involved with New York and London hits like Sister Act and the Elton John-Tim Rice Aida — as well as a little show called The Breakup Notebook, for which he oversaw a well-received staging in San Diego.

So let’s review: the man who helped broker the game-changing deal between Disney and Pixar; who shepherded such latterday classics as Beauty, The Little Mermaid and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? to the screen; who was present at the creation of the modern Broadway era…is very happy to be working in Asbury Park, taking a spin on the ever-quirky Carousel with the intrepid ReVisionaries of the city’s resident professional troupe.

He won’t be going it alone, of course. Beth Malone stars here as Helen, recently pink-slipped from what she thought was a cozy and committed relationship — who, with the encouragement of her gay guyfriend Bob and her butch buds Joanie and Monica, dives into an alien world of internet dating services, rebounders, twelve-steppers, dominatrixes and other 21st century signifiers. She’s joined in the nine-woman, one-man cast by Briana Davis, Jenn Furman, Melissa Hammans, Christine Lakin, Ariel Tyler Page, Caitlin Lee Reid, Jamison Stern, Natalie Wachen, and Nadine Zahr — most of whom appear in multiple roles.

While we would have loved to talk cartoons and Hollywood and big-time Broadway (and maybe even bridge) with this modern master of art and entertainment — personally, we think both Disney’s screen and stage brands have gone to the dogs since his departure — upperWETside played it strictly by the Notebook in our conversation with Peter Schneider. Flip the pixelated page to continue.

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XANADU Lives Again, in Asbury Park

Alyse Alan Louis and Ralph Meitzler head the cast, when XANADU skates into the stately pleasuredome of Asbury Park’s Carousel House as the season opener for ReVision Theatre.

As a youngster growing up in the Midwest during the late 20th century, David Leidholdt sensed that he was…different from the rest.

Forced to hide who he really was in the halls of high school; adrift and alone in an age before social networks, David dreamed of an escape to a place far away from the acrid smoke of burning hate; a “stately pleasuredome” illuminated with a thousand points of revolving, reflected light — a Xanadu.

Yes, David Leidholdt was a “Disco Boy in Detroit Rock City.” But here in 2011, as one of the producing partners of ReVision Theatre Company, Disco Boy has become the Disco Man — and Disco Man has decreed that Xanadu the musical herald the coming of a new season of entertainments on the herringboned hardwoods of the Asbury Park boardwalk, with the Carousel House the pleasuredome of choice.

No doubt you’re familiar, at least vaguely, with Xanadu the 1980 film — a notorious box-office Butterball in which Olivia Newton-John essayed the part of Kira, a mythological Muse (daughter of Greek deity Zeus) who comes down to Carter-administration Earth to help a young artist achieve his life’s dream — opening a roller disco.

Suffice to say that the film pretty much arrested any movie momentum the Aussie songbird had generated with Grease — in addition to chasing the director back to the realm of political documentaries, putting the final nail in the celluloid coffin of Gene Kelly, and strangling the leading man’s career cold in the cradle. What the film did have going for it was a bonafide hit score of candylicious pop songs (by Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra fame) — as well as a small but exponentially snowballing base of fans for whom Xanadu was the stuff of inspiration.

Those songs and that fanbase laid the foundation for the 2007 stage musical, a campy confection that added a bad-Muse subplot and fortified the soundtrack with songs made previously famous by ELO (“Evil Woman,” “Strange Magic”) and ON-J (“Have You Never Been Mellow”). Beginning Thursday, July 7, the show makes its New Jersey premiere inside the rococo roundhouse of the Carousel, with the quad skates hitting the stage of a building that once did duty as an indoor skate park and punk rock hall.

Of course, in Asbury Park the name Xanadu carries echoes of the long-defunct circuit dance club Club Xanadu that occupied the corner of Second and Kingsley for most of the 1980s — and for folks all over NJ, the once-proud name of Kubla Khan‘s summer palace has come back to bite us in the form of that on again/ off again Mall-of-America monstrosity at the side of the Turnpike.

Leidholdt directs an Equity cast that includes Ralph Meitzler (Broadway’s Rock of Ages), Lindsay Nicole Chambers (B’way’s Legally Blond and Hairspray) Alyse Alan Louis (Mamma Mia!), Thay Floyd, Bernard Dotson (Finian’s Rainbow, Ragtime) and Billy Lewis (Spring Awakening national tour). The director found some moments to talk with us during that first, slip-and-slide week of rehearsals; flip the pixelated page for more.

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