Once again NJTV will broadcast great original programming before any other public station in the entire United States of America. With it’s second season beginning Jan. 28th, “American Songbook at NJPAC” continues every Wednesday night for the next four weeks. It promises to kick ass.
OMG! Did I really write that? Must be the heady influence this kind of music has on me. There just aren’t that many venues here in central Jersey where performers like these regularly perform. Or irregularly perform for that matter. Maureen McGovern did performed her musical memoir “Carry It On” at the Two River Theater in Red Bank for three weeks in 2012. But that’s rare.
So this series — which debuted its first season last January and earned a New York State Broadcasters Association award for Outstanding Locally Produced Television Program — this time around features Maureen McGovern, John Pizzarelli, Nellie McKay, Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana, and ends with a bang with Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.
“The American Songbook is the soundtrack of our lives,” said John Schreiber, President and CEO of NJPAC. “This new series is a remarkable mix of brilliant talent and extraordinary songs interwoven with fascinating commentary.”
So make this a weekly date and turn your living room into a cabaret. Maybe book Alan Cumming to be your MC. On second thought, maybe not. It would be too distracting.
LAURA OSNES & SANTINO FONTANA
Premieres Wednesday, Jan. 28 at 8 pm on NJTV; Saturday, March 21 at 1pm on THIRTEEN
Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana were both nominated for 2013 Tony Awards for their leading roles in “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.” This young duo breathes new life into beloved Broadway standards such as R&H classics “People Will Say We’re In Love,” “If I Loved You” and from “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” and “Something Good.” They also give dazzle while performing other Broadway gems from the Great American Songbook including “Anything You Can Do” & “You’re Just in Love” by Irving Berlin and these Stephen Sondheim jewels: “Together, Wherever We Go,” “Your Eyes are Blue” and “It Takes Two.”
Premieres Wednesday, Feb. 4 at 8 pm on NJTV; Saturday, March 28 at 1 pm on THIRTEEN
John Pizzarelli, the world-renowned jazz guitarist and singer, has established himself as one of the prime interpreters of the Great American Songbook, bringing to his work the cool jazz flavor of his guitar playing and singing. With his six-piece band, he will salute the life and work of one our great lyricists and songwriters, Johnny Mercer. Pizzarelli, one of New Jersey’s favorite sons, creates fresh interpretations of such Mercer standards as “Moon River,” “Something’s Gotta Give,” “Accentuate the Positive” and “Days of Wine and Roses,” “Autumn Roses,” “Summer Wind” and “October Goes.”
Premieres Wednesday, Feb. 11 at 8 pm on NJTV; Saturday, April 4 at 1 pm on THIRTEEN
Hailed by the New Yorker as “funny and touching, ceaselessly clever and scary talented,” Nellie McKay dazzles with interpretations of American classics such as “Wonderful Guy,” “The Gentleman is a Dope” and “Knock on Wood” that are captivating and fresh. McKay, who also plays the piano and banjo, shines during her original songs including “Bodega,” “One’s on the Way” and “Politan.”
Premieres Wednesday, Feb. 18 at 8 pm on NJTV; Saturday, April 11 at 1 pm on THIRTEEN
Maureen McGovern has been described as a “force of nature” and has been hailed as an official jazz legend. In this episode of “American Songbook at NJPAC,” McGovern takes the audience on a journey through some of the great music of the ‘60s and ‘70s. The Grammy-nominated artist first became famous for her recording of “The Morning After” from the disaster movie “The Poseidon Adventure.” Her flawless voice gives new life to the work of some of this country’s great songwriters including: “Old Friends” (Paul Simon), “The Times They are a Changing” (Bob Dylan), “Will You Still Love Me” Tomorrow” (Carole King) and Jimmy Webb’s classic compositions “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “MacArthur Park” and “The Moon is a Harsh Witness.”
MARC SHAIMAN & SCOTT WITTMAN
Premieres Wednesday, Feb. 25 at 8 pm on NJTV; Saturday, April 18 at 1 pm on THIRTEEN
In this episode, the Tony Award-winning songwriting team of “Hairspray,” Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman take center stage and talk to Ted Chapin, President and Executive Director of Rodgers & Hammerstein organization. Joining them to perform their music are Marilyn Maye, Micailah Lockhart, Alex Stone and Annie Golden, who belts out a rousing rendition of “Good Morning Baltimore” to kick off the program. The show is a joyous journey through their careers including songs Shaiman earned five Oscar nominations for: “A Wink and a Smile” (“Toy Story”), “Blame Canada” (“South Park”, “Bigger, Longer and Uncut”). Several tunes from their NBC TV program “Smash” are also performed: “(They Just Keep) Moving the Line,” “Second Hand White Baby Grand” and “I Can’t Let Go.” However, Shaiman steals the program with solo performances of “Big, Blonde, & Beautiful” (“Hairspray”) and “Simply Second Nature” (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”).