VOYAGE LA, October 8, 2021
LINK TO ARTICLE: http://voyagela.com/interview/conversations-with-lisa-donahey/
Conversations with Lisa Donahey
Today we’d like to introduce you to Lisa Donahey.
Hi Lisa, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been singing. As a young teen, I was in a performance troupe called ‘Mickey Rooney’s Talent Towners.’ Mickey himself mentored us and performed with the group on occasion. That experience taught me so much about performing, be it on stage and off. Spending up to several days a week together rehearsing, studying music, in dance and acting classes, that group was like my second family and I was hooked on performing.
After I graduated from high school, I auditioned and was selected to become a member of an elite music program at Citrus College in Glendora, California. The group was called the ‘Citrus College Singers.’ It was a music program, much like that of a conservatory, where students were cross-trained in all things music and performance from music theory, dance and acting classes, and singing a variety of musical styles from classical literature to pop music, musical theatre to choral music. We toured the world performing and it was a formative experience for me, one that would shape me as a performer and solidify my decision to pursue a career in music.
After completing the Citrus Singers program, I applied to and earned a scholarship continuing my music education at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. Going to Berklee was a pivotal and enlightening time for me. There, I was immersed in music 24/7 and part of a global community of talented, supportive young musicians. We all had talent, passion, a desire to hone our craft and expand on our personal musical goals. It was also the place where I would meet many of the music composers, songwriters, engineers and other music professionals that I continue to work with today.
After my studies at Berklee, I came back home to Los Angeles. I had big dreams of making music as my primary career and source of income. I also knew that it would take time to develop relationships in the music industry and prove my value and talent. I had to build trust and respect, so I would be called back for the next gig. It didn’t happen overnight. Like many creative types, I had to get a day job. That day job turned into 25 amazing years working at The Walt Disney Company in marketing. Having a regular paycheck payed the bills and alleviated a lot of stress about money. Working in the field of marketing at Disney taught me skills to apply to my own musical career and pursuits. I have always said that “I work a day job to fund my creative ventures.” It may not be not for everyone, but it worked for me. I’m a dreamer, but I’m practical and a realist, too.
My music career has been a slow and steady one. I’ve found great pleasure in exploring many different areas of the music industry and business. There are lots of different ways to sing and perform and make money at it. To this day, I try to anticipate where the areas of change and growth are happening in our industry, so I can adapt and be ready for anything. I have been lucky to perform in a variety of ways like industrials, stage shows and theatrical tours. I’ve also been able to work for several different songwriters, composers and vocal contractors by singing on demos and recording sessions for various film and television projects. I enjoy the variety of gigs and find it important to stay open to new opportunities and grow as an artist.
I am grateful I am able to utilize many of the other professional skills I’ve learned in my day job to support my musical ventures. All of those tools came in handy when I self-produced three albums. I continue to rely on these skills today when I produce shows and concerts also.
I have to say that when I began to treat my singing career as a business, a lot of things changed. I started my own production company called In Tempo Productions. The goal was to be able to take on creative projects and leverage the benefits of being a business owner. As the owner of a production company, I find myself being more focused on innovative and creative ways to develop projects, build and maintain key business relationships and generate work for myself and other musicians. It has also given me the opportunity to think about how I could be of value to the music community. I do this by hiring other musicians for events that I produce, by helping other musicians figure out their path and by making introductions that help connect people in the music industry. I’ve always felt that there’s enough for everyone and choose not to dwell in scarcity. I am grateful to the people who took a chance on me early in my career and want to pay it forward to other people who have that drive and talent.
We live in a world that is impulsive and we want things to happen now. I believe in patience, trust and putting in the work. I find that if I go to a gig prepared, maintain a positive attitude, over deliver on what the client wants and am kind and respectful to everyone I meet along the way, that it pays dividends down the road. Every once in a while, I get a call for a gig from someone who I had worked with years ago who remembers my talent and work ethic and hires me for those reasons alone.
As I look back on experiences in the music business, I want people to know that there are so many different ways to express and share your talent. I think that when a person is open-minded and adaptable, that it can open them up to other opportunities and new relationships they never expected.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Nothing you really want should be easy. Having to work for something and being proud of attaining it is the best feeling. Finally reaching a goal is something to be celebrated, but it’s also important to know when it’s time to change course. Many times in my life, I’ve reassessed my goals and made those changes. Certainly, during the pandemic many of us asked ourselves the question “what’s next?” Our community was one of the hardest hit, and it broke my heart to see artists suffer and not be able to express their talents and make a living. Thankfully, we all came together and rose to the challenge and found ways to sing, act and perform in new ways without a live audience.
The resilience and innovation was inspiring, and like many, I didn’t want to throw in the towel. I, too, found new ways to make music and perform. I just knew I would not be happy if I could not do what I love. I used this challenging time as an opportunity to diversify, look at how our industry was changing and where it was headed in this new normal. I took a class and learned ProTools and used those skills to record from home for session work that came my way. I also hosted virtual events and concerts online for businesses and organizations. I even started a weekly Facebook Live show called the “Feel Good 15”. Each week I had a different musical theme and it was 15 minutes of performing three songs with storytelling woven in between. It was meant to bring some levity and fun during a challenging time. I loved being able to basically product a show every week… Being a person who thrives on routine, purpose and creating, these creative ventures really filled my soul.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
My music career has not one where I’ve taken a single path. It’s been one about saying “yes” to lots of different types of jobs in the music industry. Maybe I just like variety or I’ve found that I’ve had to adapt as the industry changes. Whether it’s on a recording session or a live gig or hosting a show, I do really love to do it all.
I’m most at home when I can perform live. I generally book a live show every three months with different show themes like my Jazzbaret show, Soul/Pop Shows, Songs in the Key of She, a show with all women singers being showcased, and my annual Holiday Show. My strategy is simple really. I set a date and then know I have to create something. Nothing like that pressure to force you to perform, create and get out there. The live gigs are so fun as I get to connect in the moment with an audience. My shows are like a conversation, honest and real and it’s like I am hosting a party at my house. The music I pick is key, also, as I want the songs to help tell the story of the show and move people in some way. A friend once said that I am a cross between Amy Poehler and Trisha Yearwood. I love that comparison and will take it!
We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
One of my favorite sayings is “luck is what happens meets preparation meets opportunity.” I remember seeing it on the desk of one of my college professors when at Berklee and have seen it in action. Luck is not passive, crossing your fingers hoping something will happen. It takes courage, vision and action. It means you have to be an active participant and put in the work for what you want. Hone your craft so you can be the best you can be. Immerse yourself and be an active member in a creative community of supportive people who share the same interests. When opportunities come your way, you’ll be ready. It can be test of patience, but I find when I am positive, open and ready to go, I see opportunities more clearly and feel empowered to go for them when they present themselves.
LINK TO ARTICLE: https://shoutoutla.com/meet-lisa-donahey-singer-actress-producer/
SHOUT OUT LA, November 24, 2020
Meet Lisa Donahey | Singer, Actress & Producer
We had the good fortune of connecting with Lisa Donahey and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lisa, what’s the most important lesson your business/career has taught you?
To me, the most important thing in the music business is, ‘Adaptability’. When I say, Adaptability I’m talking about two things. Firstly, I have to keep up with new technology and be aware of new trends in the music industry. Secondly, for me, Adaptability means being able to sing different styles of music and being able to say, ‘Yes’, to a variety of different projects that involve music. It could be a demo recording, voice overs, studio sessions, voice coaching, producing live events, etc. I try and keep an open mind and a curiosity that allows me to learn about different facets of our ever-changing music business.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Artist/Business Ever since I can remember, I’ve been singing. As a teen, I was in a performance troupe called, ‘Mickey Rooney’s Talent Towners.’ Mickey, himself, actually performed with the group on occasion. He sang and performed with us and served as a mentor to us. To be on stage and sing, with Mickey Rooney, was an amazing experience. Even in my teens, I knew that I was blessed to be able to learn from a legend. Those experiences, in that group, taught me the key tenets of performing, I still use many of those skills and lessons, I learned back then, today as an adult. After I graduated from high school, I auditioned and was selected to become a member of, an elite music program at Citrus College in Glendora, California. The group was called the, ‘Citrus Singers’. It was a music program, much like that of a conservatory, where students were trained in music theory, dancing, acting and the singing of various musical styles, from classical literature to pop music. We toured the world performing and singing and it was a formative experience. It was there, that I made the decision to pursue a career in music. After completing the three-year, Citrus Singers program, I applied to and earned a scholarship to go to school at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. Going to Berklee would be an unforgettable experience. There, I was immersed in music, 24/7. I was very fortunate to be part of a community of talented, supportive, student musicians. We all had the same things in common. It was a beautiful intentional community. We were there to learn, hone our craft and collaborate on projects. I was out of my comfort zone often and challenged myself to absorb as much as I could from my teachers and fellow students. My goal was to simply, always give it my best shot. It was also the place where I would meet many of the music professionals that I work with today. Even after graduating and going our separate ways, we always supported each other and partnered on projects whenever we could. To say that I am grateful for these relationships and friendships, is an understatement. After Berklee in Boston, I came back home to Los Angeles. I had big dreams of making a living in music, but I also knew that it would take time to develop relationships in the music business and find opportunities. It didn’t happen overnight. I had to get a regular job. I found myself working for the Walt Disney Company, in the area of marketing, for the better part of two and a half decades. Having a regular paycheck helped pay the bills. Getting to work in the field of ‘marketing’ also helped me learn and adopt various practices, that I have been able to apply to my, separate, music career. I have always said that, “I work a day job to fund my creative ventures!” So, you see, I’m a dreamer, but I’m practical, too. My career has been a slow and steady one. I have found great pleasure in exploring many different areas of the music industry. I’ve always known that there are lots of different ways to sing and make a living. To this day, I try and stay open to those opportunities. I do love performing live and the immediate connection, to the audience, that it provides. I have and do perform in industrials, stage shows and theatrical tours. I’ve been fortunate to be able to work for several different songwriters and composers, by singing on demos and also singing studio sessions for various film and television projects. I’ve been able to marry many of the other professional skills, I’ve acquired, like marketing, project management and communications to support my musical ventures. All of those tools came in handy when I self-produced three albums and I rely on them today when I produce shows and concerts. I have to say, that when I began to treat my singing career as a business, a lot of things changed. I went out and created my own production company, In Tempo Productions. The goal was to be able to take on creative projects and leverage the benefits of being a business owner. As the owner of a production company, I find myself being more focused on different ways to find projects, build and maintain relationships and generate work for myself and other musicians. It has also given me the opportunity to think about how I could be, of value, to the music community. I do this by hiring other musicians for events that I produce, by helping other musicians figure out their path and by making introductions, that help connect people, in the music industry. I’ve always felt, that there’s enough for everyone and choose not to dwell in scarcity. I know we live in a world that is impulsive. We want things to happen now. I have learned, over the years, that life doesn’t work that way. I find that if I go to a gig prepared, maintain a positive attitude, deliver what the client wants and am kind and respectful to everyone I meet along the way, that it pays dividends down the road. Every once in a while, I get a call for a gig from someone, who I have worked with years ago, who remembers that work ethic and hires me for those reasons alone. That work ethic and reputation, I’ve built over the years, also aligns with my “no jerk” policy. We spend a lot of time creating and using our talents on some cool projects and no one wants to work with someone difficult, or who is not a team player. I would have to say that my music career is all about saying, “yes.” I am always open to new opportunities. I can say “yes”, confidently, because I always put in the work. I train diligently and trust myself enough to know that I can do the job. If I ever get in a situation where I feel like I might be in over my head, I identify what it is that needs to be addressed. I, then, put in the time and work, so that I can deliver what the client wants. As I look back on my 30 years in the industry, I would just like people to know that there are so many different ways to share your talent. I think that when a person is being open minded and adaptable, that it can open them up to other opportunities and new relationships they never expected. I’ve enjoyed the diversity in my work and the relationships I’ve built and I look forward to the next 30 years.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If we were not in the middle of a pandemic, SoCal has so much to offer for fun, food and entertainment. Plus, I love life and try to always pack 10 lbs. of fun in a 5 lb. bag! So, we’d have a full schedule. We’d start with breakfast a local greasy diner like the Tallyrand in Burbank. We’d, then, do a drive-by of the Brady House in Studio City (I love pop culture!). I’d then have to take then to the beach and head to Malibu. There’s something so calming about the beach. We could walk on the sand at Will Rogers Beach (I always have my fold up chairs in my trunk), and we’d sit on the sand and listen to and watch the waves for bit and crank some good music. And just breathe. I’m sure we’d be hungry after that and can go to Paradise Cove which is right on the beach in Malibu. Then, we could come back to the San Fernando Valley and nap if we needed to rest up a bit for a big night. For the evening, we could get dressed up catch some live music and Feinstein’s at Vitello’s or Catalina Jazz Club We could have dinner there and take in the talents of some fantastic musicians. I think we’d have to end the night at Coral Café in Burbank for a late night dessert and reflect on the day.
“Lisa Donahey, a Versatile Singer, Shows Off Her Star Prowess at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s On the evening of Sunday, July 21st, San Gabriel Valley’s own Lisa Donahey, a terrific singer and versatile performer, finished her second of two sets at Vitello’s in Studio City (the first one taking place on Friday, July 19th), as part of the Feinstein’s at Vitello’s entertainment series, where she celebrated her 50th “Birthday Bash” in a razzmatazz and hilariously autobiographical style. After years of being a Southland darling and plying her trade as a session singer on soundtracks, an on-camera talent on various TV shows, and as a musical-theatre leading lady, it was certainly a suitable time to say “cheers.” Lisa Donahey, an established entertainer in SoCal, told jokes and performed a full set of songs with a band of six and two backup singers to celebrate her 50th birthday on July 19th and 21st at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s in Studio City, CA. Photo courtesy of Lisa Donahey Donahey was flanked by two outstanding backup singers in Lindsay Dodoras and Billye Johnstone, along with a six-person virtuoso band, including David Arana on piano, Sherry Luchette on bass, Dave Johnstone (husband to Billye) on drums, Pathik Desai on guitar, Kyle O’Donnell playing the saxophone, and Dexter Warren (who is also Lisa’s husband) manning the trumpet. The occasion epitomized the Feinstein’s at Vitello’s cachet, where guests dine in and are dazzled with some of the region’s finest and most up-close-and-personal extravaganzas. As far as birthdays go, one’s 50th is a milestone and marks a time for reflection, which the self-aware Donahey, an enthralling storyteller with a knack for off-the-cuff comedy, appropriately used to her advantage. As the sold-out crowd chanted “Lisa, Lisa,” the 1994 Berklee College of Music graduate appeared in a gorgeous, multicolored dress, layered in rows of fringes, which Donahey quipped could double as a car wash if she shook side to side. It marked an auspicious beginning for the one-time tarantula owner who willingly shared sometimes embarrassing portraits of herself from her childhood up until nearly present day. In only two hours, we seemingly grew up with Lisa all over again, smiling and laughing with her at pictures demarcating various stages of her life: as a baby with an Alfalfa-like hairdo, as a child in the Girl Scouts, and as Richard Simmons on a much later Halloween, to name a few. Not to mention, as we discovered, her crush on Fonzie (of “Happy Days”) continues unabated with socks of Henry Winkler’s likeness that are still in pristine condition. Best of all, Donahey hasn’t resisted turning 50; she has rather embraced it, even going so far as to poke fun at herself by reading farcical song titles off a satirized album cover sponsored by AARP – “The Fabulous 50s” – with so-called hits such as “I’m Hip and I Got a New One.” Needless to say, it was just the right kind of light-hearted fare that accompanied Donahey’s variety-show spectacle. Donahey also got the audience actively engaged by playing prize-winning games like “How well do you know Lisa?” along with encouraging each table of attendees – many of them comprised of friends, family, and those introduced to Lisa’s infectious panache for the very first time — to take out their kazoos from a mystery bag and hum along with the band. As a singer, whether it be as a solo star or an ensemble performer, the former shot-putter has continually reinvented herself, covering a swath of music genres by either playing her own compositions or paying homage to the greats of today and yesteryear. Refreshingly, Donahey and her band don’t follow the conventional road either, appealing instead to inventive medleys (“or mash-ups as you millennials call it”) to cover recognizable songs. For example, they combined the instrumental accompaniment of John Lennon’s “Imagine” with the lyrics in Van Halen’s “Jump,” infused Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” with the climactic part in “Shallow,” and mix-matched Foreigner’s “Feels like the First Time” and “Hot-Blooded” with Carole King and James Taylor’s “I Feel the Earth Move.” In a similar vein, sometimes the arrangement of a song was completely reshuffled, to the enjoyment of the audience, as in Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” which was played with a throng of ukuleles. Feinstein’s at Vitello’s in Studio City, CA, offers artists like Lisa Donahey well-deserved exposure. Photo courtesy of Feinstein’s at Vitello’s Of course, when she wasn’t keeping the audience on their toes by taking pleasingly unpredictable vocal turns, Donahey demonstrated her soaring notes, control, powerful belt, evocative phrasing, and impressive range with tunes like Linda Ronstadt’s “Try Me Again,” Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady,” and Oleta Adams’ poignant and relatable “I’ve Got to Sing My Song.” But where she really shined was by sharing her original works, many of which were written during her stay at Berklee. “Stranded” and the duet of “Another Time, Another Place” (with Roger Befeler of “Beauty and the Beast” national-touring fame), for instance, highlighted the hopeless romantic in Donahey, while the finger-snapping jazz a capella of “Joe” (with “do-dun-dum” bass notes provided by Befeler and friend Don Lucas) accentuated her limitless musicality, and the rap, “Stealin’ Underwear,” reminded of her playfulness and intrepidness about entering the skid-marked comical world of the absurd. Last, but not least, Lindsay Dodoras and Billye Johnstone deserve ample recognition for staying right there with, and supporting, Donahey’s robust vocals, harmonizing with her to perfection, and even getting their own moment in the spotlight with a dynamic rendition of Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancin’ in the Street.” Ultimately, if several successful shows in her name are any indication, Donahey is not just seriously talented, she’s here to stay for many more years to come with her top-notch musicianship, brand of riotous humor, and sheer geniality on stage. Certainly, while the “overnight” sensation has its place, there’s something to be said for those who have paid their dues the old-fashioned way, which the humble Donahey has done, earning the right to glow spectacularly on her birthday and on many future dates. Donahey’s next engagement at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s is on Sunday, September 22nd, in a show titled “Songs in the Key of She.”” - Imaan Jalali
“Lisa Donahey Returns to Feinstein's at Vitello's What better way to celebrate a birthday than with music and friends. Add in a variety of songs spanning musical genres and eras everyone is sure to love, the best musicians around, talented guest singers and fun surprises and you have yourself one big party! Stepping into the spotlight with an all-star band, Donahey will combine her impeccable and interpretive vocals, her masterful storytelling abilities with her engaging charismatic style inviting audiences to join the party! Donahey has captivated fans throughout her native Southern California and beyond with critically acclaimed performances that tap into her passions for everything from classic Top 40 pop, R&B, rock, Great American Songbook and big band standards to musical theatre, country, novelty tunes, classical and even her own colorful mash-up style, "Jazzbaret. Following her recent sold-out show "Jazzbaret," and other sold-out shows Upstairs at Vitello's, "Just a Broad and a Little Big Band," "A Summer Night of Soul" and "Christmas in Our Soul," Donahey brings her birthday bash concert to the new Feinstein's at Vitello's with a night full of music where you can experience her powerful vocals and song stylings, one-of-a-kind wit and humor, and be a part of the festivities! The Berklee College of Music grad will touch upon some of her past works, as well, during the concert, with performances of songs from her previous two studio albums, including her homage to Broadway, "Takes on Broadway," as well as "She's Got It Covered," her cover album. Night 1-Friday, July 19 the show will begin promptly at 8:00 p.m. with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. for dinner. Night 2-Sunday, July 21 the show will begin promptly at 7:30 p.m. with doors opening at 6:00 p.m. for dinner. Feinstein's at Vitello's is located at 4349 Tujunga Blvd in Studio City. All tickets for the performance are $25. Tickets for Night 1, Friday, July 19, are available for purchase in advance through https://feinsteinsatvitellos.ticketfly.com/e/lisa-donahey-s-birthday-bash-night--60611082379/. Tickets for Night 2, Sunday, July 21, are available for purchase in advance through https://feinsteinsatvitellos.ticketfly.com/e/lisa-donahey-s-birthday-bash-night--60611123502/ or by calling (818) 769-0905. For tickets purchased the day of the show, tickets will be $35. Donahey will be back at Feinstein's at Vitellos on Sunday, September 22, 2019 debuting her new show "Songs in Key of She" -Sisters in Song as she share the stage with three other powerful and talented female singers. For more information on Lisa Donaheyand her upcoming "Birthday Bash Concert," visit www.lisadonahey.com. For more information about Feinstein's at Vitellos', visit www.vitellosrestaurant.com.” - Lisa Donahey Returns to Feinstein's at Vitello's
“Lisa Donahey in new show JAZZBARET, May 24 What do you get when you mash up the musical styles of swingin' jazz standards and an intimate Cabaret evening of songs and stories? You get powerful vocalist and inimitable performer Lisa Donahey in her new show "Jazzbaret. Stepping into the spotlight with an all-star band and horn section, Donahey will combine her impeccable and interpretive vocals, her masterful storytelling abilities with her engaging charismatic style to bring audiences "Jazzbaret. Donahey has captivated fans throughout her native Southern California and beyond with critically acclaimed performances that tap into her passions for everything from classic Top 40 pop, R&B, rock, Great American Songbook and big band standards to musical theatre, country, novelty tunes, classical and even her own colorful mash-up style, "Jazzbaret. Following her sold-out shows "Just a Broad and a Little Big Band," "A Summer Night of Soul" and "Christmas in Our Soul" last year at Upstairs at Vitello's, Donahey decided to bring her upbeat 'Jazzbaret' leanings and expressive vocals, blended with her one-of-a-kind wit and humor, charm and lovely stories to fans, old and new, in this remarkable and intimate venue. The Berklee College of Music grad will touch upon some of her past works, as well, during the concert, with performances of songs from her previous two studio albums, including her homage to Broadway, "Takes on Broadway," as well as "She's Got It Covered," her cover album. The show will begin promptly at 8:00 p.m. with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. for dinner. Upstairs at Vitello's is located at 4349 Tujunga Blvd in Studio City. Tickets for the performance are $25 for General Deating and $35 for VIP Reserved Seating. Tickets are available for purchase in advance through https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lisa-donahey-jazzbaret-tickets-58459852994 or by calling (818) 769-0905. For tickets purchased the day of the show, general seating tickets will be $35 and $45 for VIP Reserved. Donahey will perform next in her "The Big 5-0 Summer Show" at Upstairs at Vitello's on July 19th and 21st. For more information on Lisa Donahey and her upcoming "Jazzbaret" concert, visit www.lisadonahey.com. For more information on Upstairs at Vitellos, visit www.vitellosrestaurant.com. Whether she is in the recording studio singing in a jingle, voicing a Disney Princess for a new toy or portraying the ingénue comedic side kick on the stage, there is no doubt Lisa's talent and diversity as a singer and performer set her apart. Lisa is not limited to singing one particular musical style; she enjoys singing everything from musical theater to jazz, country to classical and has made a name for herself in the music industry working with songwriters and film scorers alike. She is a graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts and studied Voice Performance, Songwriting and Music Business Management. While at Berklee, she received the coveted Outstanding Performer of the Year award, performed in numerous concerts and was asked to perform for pop singer Sting, jazz great Nancy Wilson, and The Manhattan Transfer. Her talent has taken her all over the world as she shares her love of music with audiences. With her expressive interpretation of lyrics combined with a powerful voice, one can't help but be moved by her performances.”
“Lisa Donahey's Holiday album "Christmas in Our Soul" was featured in the Top 20 New Holiday Releases to Add to Your Playlist.” - Laura B. Whitmore
“The stars did shine! “We both love Big Band music so my friend Ruth and I decided to get tickets for Saturday night’s “Swingin’ with a Big band” concert starring Lisa Donahey and Don Lucas. Wow-and wow again! The term “talent abounds” was written for them. They were not only excellent singers but were funny as well. And turns out were also former members of the cast of the long-running soap opera General Hospital. So they did a “bit” on that too! And the 15-piece big band orchestra-simply stellar! Would love to see them again! My only regret is that we were kept entertained and laughing so much that it seemed the concert ended much too soon. We wanted more. Bring them back is all I can say-bring them back. And thanks to Cyndee Whitney for bringing them to the Village. -Diane Duray” - Diane Duray
— The Globe News published by the Orange County Register
“Powerhouse Chanteuse Lisa Donahey Returns With Female-Fronted Homage To Big Band At Upstairs At Vitellos, 3/11 Glenn Miller. Benny Goodman. Count Basie. All names that signify Big Band's big orchestral arrangements. Powerful vocalist and inimitable performer Lisa Donahey will bring to life the era's jazz and swing stylings during her upcoming show, "Just a Broad and a Little Big Band" at Los Angeles' Upstairs at Vitello's in Studio City on March 11. Stepping into the spotlight with a modified big band backing her up on horns, Donahey will share her takes on some of her favorite jazz and big band standards, in addition to unique arrangements of contemporary hits, during this not-to-be-missed 'little big' concert. Following her sold-out show at the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood last fall, Donahey decided to bring her upbeat 'Jazzbaret' leanings and expressive vocals, blended with her one of a kind wit and humor, charm and lovely stories to fans, old and new, in this remarkable and intimate venue. The Berklee College of Music grad will touch upon some of her past works, as well, during the concert, with performances of songs from her previous two studio albums, including her homage to Broadway, "Takes on Broadway," as well as "She's Got It Covered," her cover album. The show will begin promptly at 7:30 p.m. with doors opening at 6 p.m. for dinner. Upstairs at Vitello's is located at 4349 Tujunga Blvd in Studio City. Tickets for the performance are $25 for general seating and $40 for VIP, which includes dessert and a copy of Donahey's "Takes on Broadway" album. Tickets are available for purchase in advance through www.vitellosrestaurant.com or by calling (818) 769-0905. For tickets purchased the day of the show, general seating tickets will be $35 and $50 for VIP. Donahey will next perform as one of the Swell Girls with Swell vocalist Cortes Alexander at Upstairs at Vitello's on March 28th, as part of the debut of his exclusive residency at the venue. For more information on Lisa Donahey and her upcoming "Just a Broad and a Little Big Band" concert, visit www.lisadonahey.com. For more information on Upstairs at Vitellos, visit www.vitellosrestaurant.com.” - Just a Broad a Little Big Band
“STAGE SCENE LA - SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD - RECOMMENDED Inland Valley Repertory Theatre celebrates the end of summer with Jason Robert Brownâ€™s Songs For A New World, the song cycle that put the future Tony winnerâ€™s name on the map, and if not the inspired vision of Brownâ€™s 1995 debut that Iâ€™ve seen previously, a number of fine performances (and one in particular) make this a mostly effective, ultimately affecting revival of the very first JRB hit. The now-renowned composer/lyricist (Parade, The Last Five Years, 13, The Bridges Of Madison County) made his first big splash on the New York musical theater scene way back in the mid â€˜90s with sixteen songs centering on a single theme, that of facing the â€œnew worldâ€ that unexpected life changes can bring about. Brown had been a mere twenty when he arrived in NYC with a stack of songs and a dream. Five years later that dream became a reality when Songs For A New World opened at the WPA Theater under the direction of Daisy Prince, daughter of Broadway legend Harold Prince. The final product retained many of Brownâ€™s original songs, revised some, and added new ones, including the showâ€™s opening number, which ties them together: â€œA new world calls across the ocean. A new world calls across the sky.â€ More specifically, â€œItâ€™s about one moment, the moment before it all becomes clear. And in that one moment, you start to believe thereâ€™s nothing to fear. Itâ€™s about one second, and just when youâ€™re on the verge of success, the sky starts to change and the wind starts to blow and youâ€™re suddenly a stranger.â€ Each of Songs For A New Worldâ€™s â€œcharactersâ€ is facing that one moment, whether itâ€™s Man 1 Richard Bermudezâ€™s sailor on a journey to find a â€œpromised landâ€ in â€œOn The Deck Of A Spanish Sailing Ship, 1492â€ or Woman 2 Lisa Donaheyâ€™s angry wife taunting her philandering husband by threatening to take â€œJust One Stepâ€ off the ledge of their fifty-seventh story penthouse apartment. Then thereâ€™s Woman 1 Amanda Minano singing about a woman who feels â€œthe calling of adventureâ€ and the need to escape from the fearful people around her in â€œIâ€™m Not Afraid Of Anything,â€ and Man 2 Patrick McMahon in â€œShe Cries,â€ as a young man longing but unable to break free from a toxic relationship. For each of them, itâ€™s a moment when â€œthe surface cracks to reveal the tracks to a new world.â€ Previous productions have found particularly inventive ways of linking Brownâ€™s sixteen Songs For A New World and connecting the cast of four. This time round, director Hope Kaufman mostly lets JRBâ€™s songs work their individual magic, aided by Kim Eberhardtâ€™s snappy, jazzy choreography and musical director Ronda Rubioâ€™s sensational live accompaniment on keyboard with Brad Vaughn adding oomph on drums and percussion. Is there is a Southern California musical theater leading man with a headier combination of matinee idol looks, Menâ€™s Fitness cover model physique, gorgeous tenor, and first-rate acting chops than Bermudez? Whether getting funky in â€œThe Steam Trainâ€ as a young Latino who dreams of escaping el barrio by becoming a famous basketball player, or embodying a young inmate longing to break free from prison walls and fulfill his destiny in â€œKing Of The World,â€ or as a man nearing the end of his life and ready to fly into his Fatherâ€™s arms in â€œFlying Home,â€ Bermudez makes Man 1â€™s every song a stunner. The delightful Donahey gets to perform Songs For A New Worldâ€™s splashiest numbers, demonstrating terrific comedic skills and a soprano as smooth as silk. Sheâ€™s the pissed-off wife in â€œJust One Stepâ€ and a frustrated, German-accented Mrs. Santa in â€œSurabaya Santaâ€ (think Marlene Dietrich or Lotte Lenya in vamp mode). On a more serious note, she sings of a woman who chooses material possessions over â€œThe Stars And The Moon,â€ and in â€œThe Flagmaker, 1775,â€ of a young woman on the home front sewing â€œone more starâ€ onto the colonial flag as she waits for her belovedâ€™s return from the war. Incandescent UCI senior Minano sings the exquisite â€œChristmas Lullaby,â€ to Woman 1â€™s unborn child, and joins McMahon in â€œIâ€™d Give It All To You,â€ about a couple whoâ€™ve gone their separate ways only to discover that each would give it all to be back together again. â€œGod knows itâ€™s easy to run, easy to run from the people you love, and harder to stand and fight for the things you believe,â€ Minano sings in her lovely soprano, echoing the showâ€™s leitmotiv of people at the crossroads. McMahon has a strong stage presence but is less successful vocally than his castmates in â€œShe Cries,â€ â€œIâ€™d Give It All To You,â€ and â€œThe World Was Dancing,â€ about a man whoâ€™s run away from a dysfunctional family and from the woman who loves him. The evening concludes with the entire cast lending their voices in glorious harmony to the inspiring â€œHear My Song,â€ a song which can â€œhelp you believe in tomorrow. Itâ€™ll show you the way you can shine. Itâ€™ll help us survive all the pain.â€ Costume designer Jamie Brown has come up with some fine New World Wear, with special snaps for keeping Mrs. Santaâ€™s sexiest elf provocatively underdressed. Daniel Morefield lights Mark MacKenzieâ€™s set modification quite strikingly. Andrew PiÃ±aâ€™s sound design insures a clear mix of vocals and band. (Another design team takes over for Songs For A New Worldâ€™s upcoming Fontana transfer to Tibbies Center Stage.) Leading the IVRT staff are producing artistic director Frank Minano, executive director Donna Marie Minano, artistic director Terre Gunkel, and associate artistic directors Kaufman and Bobby Collins. Collins is production director. Having just won his second and third Tony awards for The Bridges Of Madison County, and with Honeymoon In Vegas scheduled to begin Broadway previews in just a few months, Jason Robert Brown is hotter than ever nearly twenty years after Songs For A New World first saw the light of day. IVRTâ€™s latest reminds us of how it all started. â€“Steven Stanley August 26, 2014 Photos: DawnEllen Ferry” - Steven Stanley
“I've been to many community melodrama's and dining adventures/shows but when it came to talent...... man, I got WAY more than I expected at this one! A girlfriend I work with and I had a last-minute opportunity to attend a packed performance of "Welcome to the Rat Pack Revisited" here at the FCLO (http://www.fclo.com/) in June. It was dubbed 'an evening of music and memories under the stars...... " but it was way more than that, it was talent equaled to those Rat Packers of long-ago! We walked in a bit early and had our names checked on the guest list and continued to the bar area for a drink before the show was to start. The beer and wine prices were very reasonable, then we made a bit of chit-chat with other Rat-Pack fans in the reception area. The stage area opened and we were seated at a great round table with a beautiful centerpiece, candle and table cloth. Almost immediately there was a delicious sit-down dinner served by candlelight as Lettie and I sat at our table with 2 couples in the Skyroom's costume-department-provided fur coats and suit jacket's (to keep warm through the evenings performance). Bread was brought out before the salads, delicious lasagna dinners were followed by coffee and sinfully amazing chocolate fudge and raspberry dessert, it was DEVINE! The dishes were being cleared when the stage lit up and the entertainers for the evening were in front of us in amazing gowns and suits. The girls were in their first costumes for the night, black evening gowns with satin gloves and the men in tux's --- the elegance of the 1960's and the Rat Pack was INSTANTLY REVIVED! Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr were there in spirit AND on stage! Don Lucas, Randy Gianetti and Desmond Newson were the Rat's and their lovely lady pack consisted of Lisa Donahey and Leslie Scott accompanied by an awesome LIVE 9-piece band. I have to say, Lisa Donahey, impressed me with her CD She's Got It Covered - http://www.lisadonahey/... - but she BLEW ME AWAY with her rendition of Mr. Bojangles..."I knew a man Bojangles and he'd dance for you, In worn out shoes, With silver hair, a ragged shirt, and baggy pants, The old soft shoe, He jumped so high, jumped so high, Then he lightly touched down..." her voice and those lyrics gave me goosebumps and watery eyes, it was beautiful! Lisa was adorable dancing on stage with Desmond (young Sammy Davis Jr) and left a great little red lipstick kiss print on his cheek..... Desmond's voice was perfect in the Candy Man! He opened his mouth and out of nowhere this voice came belting out of that young man and ........ wow, just WOW! Newcomer to the stage was Leslie Scott, she was new to the FCLO but has many popular roles behind her -- her voice is rich and flowing and both she and Lisa danced and sang around the guys as arm candy for the handsome versions of Frank, Dean and Sammy ;) Don Lucas sang "I did it my way" at the end of the evening and it made me think of Frank AND Elvis, powerful notes coupled with his suave appearance, yes he played this lady's man role PUUUUURFECTLY! Randy was hilarious in the Dean Martin role, stumbling around like Dean used to .... cracking jokes and one liners to the drummers ba-dump-dump! Then singing tunes that would have made ol'Dean proud. As I looked around the Skyroom, I couldn't help but notice this was an older crowd, more like the original Rat Pack followers than I. The women were dressed in their 'date night' dresses like those elegant evening gowns, with jewels dangling from their earlobes, necklaces delicately placed, and bits of flashy jewels adorning their wrists, some of the men were in suits (as obvious companions to their evening dress adorned dates), there were a few 40'somethings like me, but it was nice....... everything about this evening was fun, lots of smiling and laughing, it was entertaining as well as relaxing, and it was very, very, nice to have felt, if but for just a couple of hours, that we had been magically transported back to those night clubs of the 60's and personal guests of the original Rat Pack! ******* standing ovation **********” - Michelle Klein
— Audience Member
“ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER -June 15, 2011, Eric Marchese Re-creating the style of entertainment forged by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and other members of the "Rat Pack" may be a lost art, but as long as performers like Don Lucas are around, fans of the genre won't have to say goodbye just yet. Lucas' show, "Rat Pack Revisited," happens to be a very good fit with FCLO Music Theatre's summertime series at its outdoor "Skyroom" facility where, appropriately enough, the evening begins with cocktails and dinner before progressing to what amounts to the floor show. Billed as "the timeless music of Frank, Dean and Sammy" and "an evening of music and memories," the compact, briskly paced yet relaxed show unfurls nearly three-dozen numbers that came to be associated with the trio during their "Rat Pack" days in the early 1960s â€“ some of the best jazz, pop and musical theater songs of that era. The show's first half opens with some half-dozen numbers associated with Dean Martin, then segues into songs popularized by Sammy Davis, Jr. The second act celebrates "Swoonatra," including an entertaining nine-song medley. And while Lucas states that he and his cast won't impersonate the Rat Packers, Randy Gianetti jokingly graces us with several Dino-like quips and Desmond Newson offers touches of Sammy. What's crucial to note is that Lucas and company capture the spirit of the Rat Pack, with plenty of good-natured ribbing, bon mots, playfully naughty double entendres and self-deprecating humor. Gianetti often does indeed evoke the ultra-relaxed Martin. He delivers a dynamic "Something's Gotta Give," sings Italian lyrics for "Evening in Roma" and, in "Luck Be a Lady," shows Sinatra's command of the stage. Newson has the grace, charm and velvety-voice of a young Davis, Jr. or Nat King Cole, in fine form for "Candy Man" and "I've Got the World on a String." Leslie Scott's megawatt smile lends her a Julia Roberts-like persona that's put to good use for "That Old Black Magic" and an upbeat "A Foggy Day." Lisa Donahey has a larger-than-life personality visible in songs like "All of Me" and the intense, pathos-washed "Mr. Bojangles," and she and Scott create appealing duets of "Bye, Bye Blackbird" and "Almost Like Being in Love." Lucas has the earnest charm of all great stars, showcased in his many songs and epitomized in an at-first thoughtful and low-key, then resolute and defiant "My Way." More importantly, he's the dynamic, driving force of this show, working as director, musical director, master of ceremonies and conductor of the fine onstage nine-piece band that features the expert sax playing of Ed Peffer. The evening's best moments include all five performers with a Rat Pack-like synergy that's swingy and fun and loaded with class and elegance. The songs indeed take us to "different places," as Lucas notes, and with this show, they also take us back to a time of fun and frolic, when hearts were light and free of care.” - Eric Marchese
— Orange County Register
“NEW REVIEW - THE BLUNDERS - October 12, 2009 Jon Berstein's site-specific comedy with music about L.A. ditherers and sweet loons is set in an L.A. bar-cabaret - cleverly using the environs of the Vermont Restaurant's cabaret room. This provides the opportunity and context for Lorna (Leslie Beauvais), Gretel (Celina Stachow) and Suzy (Lisa Donahey) to croon musical director Mitchell Kaplan's original songs (with additional lyrics by Bernstein), as well as excerpts from Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. Meanwhile the unrequited loves and stifled ambitions that play themselves out at the bar resemble a sitcom based on a Sondheim musical - unapologetically so. The parodies include Ezra (Marco Tazioli), a kind-hearted gravel-voiced sage perpetually frustrated in romance and by his over-the-limit credit cards, and who's mistaken for a Muppet character. We see him somewhat spinelessly or perhaps desperately duped by fly-by-night shrink Dr. Sylvia (Keli Daniels), a former canine psychiatrist who makes her living applying her doggy techniques to Angelenos. Heart-throb bartender Barry (Casey Sullivan) sends overweight Suzy's heart aflutter in what she thinks is a mutual romance but is merely Barry's attempt to exploit her job as a receptionist at Capitol Records. After about 30-minutes, the concept wears thin, because it's a dramatization of symptoms rather than underlying causes. Posing as an affectionate nod to life in our Industry town, it unwittingly provides grist to outsiders convinced of our city's superficial denizens. The sound design and/or actors use of mikes needs modifying in order to prevent distortion, though Donahey in particular has a gorgeous singing voice, and knows how to use it. Upright Cabaret at Vermont, 1714 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles; Wed., 9 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.; no minimum for dinner or drinks); through October 21. http//the blunders.com (Steven Leigh Morris)” - Steven Leigh Morris