Broadway and Banjos

Pre-show class

Pre-show class

Do you like burlesque clubs that turn into dirty poet bars on Sunday nights? Well, I do. I’m talking, of course, about the Bowery Poetry Club, the one-time skid row dive that is now a venerated establishment of the arts, chandelier and all. And the last Sunday of every month, it becomes my favorite music open mic in the city, hosted by Broadway actors/singer-songwriters John Arthur Greene (Matilda) and Ryan Vona (Once). The two are a classic dynamic duo, each of them bringing their own special something to the table–Ryan, the wide-eyed sincerity, and John… well, let’s go with the hair.

These boys are only two of a surprising trend I’ve been seeing lately of Broadway actors-turned-singer-songwriters. (Because, hey, if you’re gonna pursue a career with little-to-no stability in the most expensive city in the world, you might as well light both ends of the candle.) The effect is intriguing, because in addition to the extra helping of showmanship (and the fact that Broadway actors are only getting better-looking), the pop opera vocal technique required of your standard musical theater BFA candidate is tenfold that of Joe Shmo jamming in his parents’ garage in North Jersey. End result? Singers who can harmonize on cue, work a crowd, and occasionally go a little overboard on the falsetto. (Don’t worry John, we still love you.)

So, we’ve got our charming hosts, our beautiful space, and a veritable wishing well of talented artists. Usually the line-up consists of a lot of dudes with guitars. This time, however, we were graced with the presence of one Anielle Reid, a one-woman banjo rock star who swooped up the grand prize at the end of the night–the opportunity to come back at the end of the year and record her winning song with Bowery Poetry and the rest of the year’s winners. I’ve gotta say, it was refreshing to see someone playing a banjo who wasn’t a white guy with some unfortunate facial hair. You can find her and her fabulousness at

photo 3

Anielle and her mic stand, John

We also received a cameo appearance from one of the Bowery’s more notorious bartenders, Frankie, giving the rest of us a run for our money.

Bartender Frankie ("and the Momos") blowing our minds so we'll tip better

Bartender Frankie (“and the Momos”) blowing our minds so we’ll tip better

We closed out with a late-night jam, with our gracious hosts pulling performers back on the stage to see if they could still perform as well post-whiskey. Well, I guess you need something to oil up those pipes. Following the theme, John, never one to be outdone, gave us something to shake our bones to, so I’ll sign off with that.


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