The return of ‘Jim Caruso’s Cast Party’ to Birdland

With the reopening of NYC performance venues comes the long-awaited return of Jim Caruso’s Cast Party to Birdland Jazz Club, live and in person every Monday, at 8 pm, beginning on July 5, with Billy Stritch at the piano leading the Cast Party Symphony Orchestra (Steve Doyle on bass and Daniel Glass on drums). But for fans who can’t make it to the iconic NYC nightclub for the acclaimed weekly open-mic night, now in its seventeenth year, the other good news is that the award-winning impresario, performer, and host’s virtual version of the popular variety show, Jim Caruso’s Pajama Cast Party, which has streamed on the YouTube Cast Party network on Mondays during the pandemic closure, will continue online, moving to Wednesdays at 8 pm, starting on July 7.

Jim Caruso. Photo by Christopher Boudewyns.

The wildly popular and hilariously impromptu live variety show has brought Broadway glitz and wit to the legendary NYC nightspot since 2004. It’s a place where show-biz superstars hit the stage alongside talented up-and-comers, and the ultimate spot to mix and mingle with them and their music-loving fans. When COVID-19 put an unexpected halt to mingling, Caruso, with the invaluable help and techie know-how of producer and online regular Ruby Locknar, took to the internet to continue the show, which will celebrate its 64th digital episode on Monday, June 28.

Guests for the upcoming livestream installment of lively chats and performances are Tony Award-winning operatic baritone and actor Paulo Szot (South Pacific), singer/composer/instrumentalist/music director Darnell White, celebrated deaf singing drag queen The Mother Birdie, soul singer/songwriter Matt Bloyd, and Madeline Forman, a 94-year-old singer resuming her musical career after a 77-year break. Previous guests have included have included such luminaries as Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Betty Buckley, Marilyn Maye, Jelani Remy, Marc Shaiman, Kathy Najimy, Christine Ebersole, Ariana DeBose, Clifton Davis, Chita Rivera, Michael Feinstein, Isaac Mizrahi, Mary Wilson, and Toni Tennille, who have all presented remote performances from their homes.

Back live at Birdland next month, the ever-effervescent Jim told me that “the return of Cast Party on July 5 promises to be a combination of New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July! There will certainly be vocal fireworks, and I’m going for a brass band to kick off the evening in high style! I’m hearing from so many Broadway stars, jazzers, and cabaret divas who are busy dusting off their vocal chords, instruments, and tap shoes, and I’m raring to celebrate their talent live and in person! Mondays will once again be show-biz Disneyland!”

He also noted that, “Over the past 64 weeks, I’ve grown accustomed to cheering folks on the virtual show, to say nothing of the charm of wearing sweatpants and bedroom slippers. Happily, we’ll continue the online fun on Wednesdays. It’s been invigorating to entertain the throngs internationally. Each week, Pajama Cast Party has been viewed by 5,000-12,000 people, and we hope each and every one will make a beeline to Birdland when they come to New York City! I’ve also expanded and diversified our talent outreach during this time, and I’m looking forward to meeting and thanking the people who have kept us so deeply entertained during the pandemic. Once again, the show folks have rescued each other!”

Jim Caruso’s Cast Party is held every Monday evening, starting July 5, at 8:00 pm, at Birdland Jazz Club, 315 West 44th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues), NYC. For reservations, call (212) 581-3080, or go online.

Jim Caruso’s Pajama Cast Party is available for viewing on YouTube. Access to current and past episodes is free, but voluntary donations support the show’s weekly contributions to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and The Actors Fund.

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