New tag line

Just came up with a new tag line for myself, to be added to the bottom of my trademark soda, dolls & video games:

“Sierra Rein – providing the public with quality 11 O’Clock Numbers since 1988.”

1988 being the year I sang “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?” for a school play and decided I wanted to bring my love of singing into the rest of my life.

Whaddya think?

Video of “Say it Isn’t So”/”Down in the Depths” – 1930’s Idol

Please forgive the digital camera audio – but you get the picture

Final 5 in Big Night Out’s “1930’s Idol”

August 21, 2008
Sierra takes part in Big Night Out’s “1930’s Idol” and made it as one of the five final contestants by judges Adam Feldman (TimeOutNYC) and Kevin C. Fitzpatrick. Video of Round 1 of the finals can be viewed here.

1930’s Idol – A Night to Remember

I woke up this morning with the biggest, curliest head of hair in my life. I had clunked into bed at 2am with my curls still bouncing from the 1930’s hairstyle I put together for the 1930’s Idol night. Couldn’t run a comb through it, but it looks fantastic.

The night at the Broadway Baby Bistro club was great – lots of fabulous singers, great humor, some butterflies, wonderful costumes and just an overall positive appreciation and celebration of Dorothy Parker and her era of music. I heard old standards which rang familiar to me, but was also introduced to some songs I had never heard of (which I will probably steal for my own use in the future). Reminds me, I have to look into Noel Coward – his work has eluded me all these years.

Hostess Jennifer Wren, who sported more than one fabulous outfit change during the evening, modeled hats from The Village Scandal and kept the evening flowing from one song to the next. Bill Zeffiro was at the piano, and introduced the birthday celebration with an original song in honor of Dorothy Parker. Then, jazz great Daryl Sherman took the piano for two numbers.

The first round was a lightning-fast rotation through 20 contestants. There was such a lovely variety of voices, styles, comedy, pathos, high notes, belts, guys and girls…it’s hard to imagine judges Adam Feldman (writer, singer, president of the New York Drama Critics’ Circle) and Kevin C. Fitzpatrick (writer, founder of the Dorothy Parker Society) honing them down to a final 5. There was also a lottery and an audience poll for the audience favorite prize.

The contestants were (in the order they sang in): 1 Misty Coy 2 Mark Brignone 3 Sarah Rice 4 Janice Hall 5 Johanna Weller‐Fahy 6 Jen Morris 7 Gabrielle Enriquez 8 Sigali Hamberger 9 Nancy Evans 10 Elizabeth Ulmer 11 Emily Edwards 12 Danielle Grabianowski 13 Courtney Walton 14 Aja Nisenson 15 Jaye Maynard 16 Eric Hoffman 17 Nick Melillo 18 Natalie Wilson 19 Sierra Rein and 20 Sharon Taylor. For the first round, I sang a medley of “Say it Isn’t So” into “Down in the Depths.” There was a moment of deliberation, and I was announced as one of the 5 final contestants! Yay! The final five turned out to be Sarah Rice, Janice Hall, Sigali Hamberger, Danielle Grabianowski and I. We had 4-5 minutes to sing a song and have a little bit of an interview with the judges to talk about ourselves and answer some questions. I sang my medley combo of “Stompin’ at the Savoy” and “The Joint is Really Jumpin’ in Carnegie Hall.”

Then the winners were announced. All of these recieved gift certificate prizes to shopping locations, show and cabaret tickets, and restaurant meals for two. Audience favorite went to Danielle Grabianowski, first runner-up went to Sigali Hamberger and the ultimate winner of the night went….back to Danielle, so the audience and judges were in complete agreement. (Pete and I concurred as well – Danielle has a wonderfully unique vocal sound and a strong, sexy, playful and powerful presence.) A few final songs from Jennifer & Bill and a hearty “Happy Birthday” to Dorothy Parker rounded out the evening. Pete & I went home tired, but thoroughly entertained. I took a moment to have Pete take some pictures of me in full 20’s regalia on the subway platform and train. Took my pincurls out, laughed at the boing-boing curles at my forehead, and took more pictures. On the train, we traded some conversation regarding Star Trek movies and the debate whether any 4th movie in a franchise is any good with some other obvious Star Trek/movie geeks. Then, we went home.

Today, I am going to visit the Algonquin Salon open mic again; hopefully, some of the winners and singers of last night will attend to either recreate last night’s songs or bring new ones to the table. I think I might go in with “Where or When” or the fabulous rock song “I Feel The Earth Move.” Or both!

With runner-up Sigali Hamberger

With hostess (rowr!) Jennifer Wren

Talking with winner Danielle Grabianowski

With Music Director/Writer/Pianist Bill Zeffiro

The winners circle: Sigali, Kevin, Jennifer, Adam, Danielle, & Bill. Lots of red up there!

Musical Weekend spilleth over into Monday

Continuation…and please understand that I’m as enthusiastic about plugging my talented peers in the business as much as I am writing about my own exploits!

Monday, Monday…was filled with music towards the end of it. During the day, I shook off the concept of doing any temp work (hadn’t gotten a call) and puttered around the apartment for a bit. Hung my handmade jewelry rack on the wall, so I was finally able to hang and display my earrings and necklaces for easy reach. A girl’s got priorities! We still have so many more things to hang, and I still need a desk (thinking of this one from Bed, Bath and Beyond, but haven’t decided). Need a hamper, too…and a wardrobe…

Ich! But I digress…music! Music!!! That afternoon, I met up with my friend Brian Hobbs, who asked me to rehearse with him for an audition for BMI, the Broadcast Music, Inc. I’m not exactly sure what the outcome will be if it goes well, but it is simply great to discover him as a composer and work with him and his work. We went through 3 songs which I will memorize and re-work with him closer to when the audition time draws near.

I traveled directly from the Ripley-Grier studios where we were rehearsing (holy crap! Cheap rehearsal places for singers/dancers/pianists!) to The Duplex at 61 Christopher Street off the 1 train. This was to see the Monday Nights New Voices showcase, a monthly celebration and discovery showcase of new singers and new composers produced by Scott Alan (an upcoming composer himself with Broadway knocking on his own door). The structure is thus: a single composer with a solid starting repertoire is chosen for the month, along with 5 or 6 singers from the New York area who are up and coming themselves (ie have not yet made it to Broadway fame, but have the talent and drive to deserve to be heard – hmmm, sound familiar? 🙂 ). The show starts off with each singer performing a song of their choosing. The piano is then turned over to the composer of the night. He or she talks about his or her work and each singer takes turns performing the songs. It’s a great format – singers get to show different sides to their abilities, and composers have a chance to get good, solid singers to perform their pieces.

This night was particularly fun and engaging. I knew no one in the room, had to put my best fot forward. Met David Simpatico, writer of the stage version of High School Musical who sat at my table and talked to me of New York. Met Derek, who is now in a NY Fringe Festival show called “The Johnny” (concept: “The Johnny musical answers the question: What happened to the bullying blonde jock in all those beloved ’80s movies AFTER he lost to the scrappy young underdog? Drawing on inspirations such as The Karate Kid and Back to School, The Johnny musical tells a completely new story that begins just as those nerd-defeats-bully stories are ending.”) I correctly surmised from Derek’s bleach-blonde hair that he was playing the bully himself.

This night was also special because the composer of the evening was Georgia Stitt, someone I had heard of in Los Angeles. My voice teacher, Calvin, had played “This Ordinary Thursday” to me on the piano, and I was struck by her ability to capture simple human imagery in just a few short lyrics. She is also known for being married to Jason Robert Brown, a musical theater composer who is incredibly popular amongst singers and musical theater-philes. Jason was there himself in the audience, probably quite proud of his wife’s continuing rise in acclaim. Between the two of them, quite a talented household.

The singers of the night were Kelly Caufild, Tom Lucca, Michael Lowney, Onyie Nwachukwu, Andrea St. Clair, Lizzie Weiss. Musical Director was Barbara Anselmi, and Donna Lynne Champlin was a hilarious hostess for the evening (check out Donna’s website for some great 80’s hair-shots of her past). Everyone on the staged proved that there is indeed a plethora of talent to pick from in New York. Great voices and stage presence, humor, acting, connection with the audience – everything was exemplified that night.

I’m emailing my submission to Scott Alan to take part in a future MNNV showcase, so keep your eyes peeled for a possible post entitled “Sierra Rein in ‘Monday Nights New Voices’ Next Month!” Or, something catchier.

Next post – I let you know how 1930’s Idol goes! And I plan on revisiting the Algonquin Salon on Thursday.


Fleas Are Addictive…


Saturday afternoon, I met up with a friend of a friend, musical theater composer/writer Mark Garcia. Mark had moved from New York a number of years ago from Los Angeles, and had seen the show “bare” nine times while I was in it at the Hudson Theater (including one of the times I went on as Nadia). We both have Bally Total Fitness memberships, love cats, and are musical theater geeks, so I thought that inviting him to meet up was a no-brainer.

We met and ate really good Thai peanut jicama/veggie salads, talked about our projects (his musicals and new book, my new adventures in open mic & cabaret land). His musicals center around unique ideas, some inspired from news events or found books, and his own book is inspired by his past experience in the theater. I won’t go into them for fear of saying too much, but Mark gave me the first chapter of his book, which I will read.

We then visited the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market on 38th street between 9th and 10th Aves. I instantly regretted it – there was SOOO much stuff I would have bought and taken home, a horrific challenge to my budget. Racks and racks of old clothes, hats, purses, tables spread with antique jewelry, knick-knacks, military outfits & accessories, old books (Playboys!), frames and framed pictures, furniture, furs…oh the list goes on. I bought a long strand of chain & crystal beads plus a pair of old crystal clip-on earrings to wear for the 1930’s Idol show on Wednesday. We also went through a box of old photos – wedding pictures, baby pictures, souvenir photos from restaurants in the New York and New Jersey area. Memories caught for a family but forgotten, only for strangers to pick up and ruminate on.

This box, and indeed all the stuff found at this great flea market, reminded me that the East Coast is incredibly old to the eyes of a Californian, where most buildings are less than 100 years young. Here in New York, families have stayed and passed down their heirlooms for more than 200 years. It also made me a bit puzzled to think about the thinks I will pass down to the next generation – plastic Star Wars toys and digital pictures? And what about furniture? The furniture of the past was made of beautiful wood, hand-carved pieces meant to last for many, many years. What do I have – Ikea :/ furniture, which is bound to be sold used on Craigslist or tossed on the curb if a part of the particle board gets too worn down or has a hole in it. Sigh. Then again, someone in the future may find interest in my Munny figures or MST3K DVD collection….maybe.

That afternoon with Mark & the flea market was a lot of fun. I’ll definitely have to meet up with Mark again (maybe catch a show or go to Bally Fitness together), and the flea market is calling me to it again for this weekend. I’ll try some restraint on the latter…

More to come…

There’s music everywhere…in New York!

It’s Tuesday, and I have to blog about a weekend (plus) of music and discovery. I’ll try to be quick, or I might (probably) break it into a few blog posts. I fear in the future it will be literally impossible to blog on every musical adventure I have in this city – the place is literally crowded and packed with countless theaters, cabarets, music halls and other venues to see music.

Thursday, the 19th, I finished work for the day and took the train/walked through the pouring rain to the famous Algonquin Hotel on West 44th St. Each Thursday, Mark Janas hosts an open mic called the “Algonquin Salon” in the Oak Room. This Thurs, the room was filled to the brim with singers, people coming off the street, and regulars. Raissa Bennett had taken over for a vacationing Mark, and David Caldwell was at the piano.

Each Algonquin Salon has a theme for the week which singers can gain inspiration from or use as an excuse to sing a song they’ve always wanted but never had the opportunity to sing. However, one is also able to sing anything, bring instruments, read lyric sheets, sit and play the piano themselves, even read poetry or content from books if wished. This week’s theme (garnered from the weekly email mailing list) was “Gender Benders,” meaning women could sing songs originally meant for men to sing, and vice-versa.

I was excited and appreciative of all the talent up there. Composers got up and sang new material, cabaret artists sat on stools to recreate pieces they’ve done before, an author read a shatteringly funny piece from a book of his about his early life in New York, people who just loved to sing and obviously wanted to share that with people, everything was there. I had two songs to sing at the ready, although I had printed out lyric sheets: “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha and “Go Home With Bonnie Jean” from Brigadoon. I was able to sing “The Impossible Dream,” and it felt so good to sing full-out without any expectation or pressure.

I was also able that night to meet up with Jennifer Wren, who is hosting the 1930’s Idol singing night on Weds the 20th. She is an enthusiastic singer and overall positive person. I was also able to briefly meet Bill Zeffiro, our music director for the night as well. In addition, there were a couple of singers who are going to be sharing the stage with me that night, so I introduced myself. Later, I even met & petted the hotel cat, Matilda.

That night, I left extremely positive and looking forward to the future. It’s such a wonderful feeling to know that there is a huge group of enthusiastic people out there, just wishing to sit around and enjoy each others talents and passion for the same love of music.

Friday, after work, I met up with my cousin Stephen, his niece Mary, and his boyfriend David for dinner at a cute little Italian restaurant called Apizz, which I later learned was an American-Italian slang term for “pizza”. I had a great slake fish dish, but we all ate off each other plates like a proper family. Had my first vodka Gimlet and shared a few desserts all around.

Afterwards, we walked a few blocks through the wet asphalt to the Rockwood Music Hall on the recommendation of one of Stephen’s friends. There, we caught the solo guitar/vocalizing of Emily King and the band of Richard Julian (whose song “Syndicated” particularly hit my ears with its witty lyrics about America’s spread around the world). The Rockwood Music Hall, while small, is a good venue for solo or small bands and is cozy with good drinks. There’s also a second, smaller room off to the side to stand and talk without disrupting the musicians, and it as a video feed from the hall itself if you want to keep in touch with the music.

We all had an adventurous time taking a cab back towards David’s neck of the woods (Hells Kitchen). I hadn’t taken a cab this entire time in New York, and I had forgotten how much of a rollercoaster ride it is. Things went by in a blur!

Stephen (left), me, and David (right)

Next post: New friend, new audition project, and Monday Nights New Voices.

A beautiful post by my husband

Go here to read a wonderful, sweet post by my husband, Pete. I was thankfully alone in the room at work when I read it, so no one noticed when I started tearing up.

Old Movie Reviews & Recommendations

Just thought I’d post a link to an ooooold blogspot page which I wrote between Feb, 2003 and Jan, 2004 on the subject of theatrical releases I saw. I laugh at the hyperbole and vitriolic language I use on the less-than-good movies I saw. Enjoy!

and here’s another blog I did on things I recommended at the time (movies, theater, etc):

Rush Limbaugh’s Billboard — Needs Work

In Times Square, right above Toys ‘R Us, is a huge, faded, beat up billboard for Rush Limbaugh’s television show. I found its appearance to the public quite fitting. Plus, I’m very much relieved that his face wasn’t blown up and plastered for all of the tourists to see – that might have turned them off to spend their money elsewhere. Would have certainly scared the kiddies away…