Tag Archives: The Second City

True Genius at Play this Weekend: Larry Schanker at the Piano!

It’s a rare thing to experience an artist of the highest caliber in his element. Imagine being in Picasso’s studio watching him paint. Try to picture yourself on a Hollywood movie set as Humphrey Bogart tells Ingrid Bergman, “Here’s looking at you, kid.” Just think of sitting in a Harlem club listening to Louis Armstrong blowing his horn.

That’s how you’ll feel listening to Larry Schanker at the piano.

And if you live anywhere near southern Michigan, northeastern Indiana or northwestern Ohio – you have a chance THIS WEEKEND to see true genius in the flesh.

On this Sunday, September 30th, you have a chance to enjoy one of the most brilliant pianists alive — Larry Schanker.

Larry will perform at the Acorn Theatre in Three Oaks, Michigan. For tickets, click here.

According to the New Buffalo Arts Council program, Larry’s “concert will consist of several three-piece thematic suites, in styles ranging from traditional classical music to classic rock. Dr. Schanker’s original music will be interspersed, including a solo version of the 4th movement of his Concerto for Jazz Piano. Rounding out the afternoon will be a showing of “In the Park”, a Charlie Chaplin short film with Dr. Schanker improvising the accompaniment.”

 Let me say two things:

1. Larry’s Concerto for Jazz Piano is like Gershwin on steroids – and only Larry could possibly play it!

2. I haven’t seen Chaplin’s “In the Park”, but I have seen Larry play live accompaniment to a Buster Keaton film – and he was amazing.

I’ve known Larry Schanker since our college days at Northwestern University when he was the piano player who kicked our Mee-Ow Show comedy revues up more than a few creative notches. After that, he was the man behind the piano for several history-making Practical Theatre Company comedy revues, as well as an original member of Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation.

Since then, Larry’s work has run the gamut from Shakespeare to Chekhov, to The Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol, and Second City in Chicago. This past summer, Dr. Schanker (did I mention that he’s a very smart guy?) presented an evening of silent film as part of the Southwest Michigan Symphony Casual Classics Series — and at the Indiana University Cinema, he accompanied a 1920 silent film version of Hamlet.

Larry at the piano in 1988 while The Practical Theatre works on the Barrosse-Hall musical, “Rockme!” for the Columbia College New Musicals Project.

Yeah, yeah, yeah – he’s REALLY good. Go see him play. That way, you can say, “Oh! I saw Larry Schanker play in 2012 in New Buffalo!”

And everybody will wish they could have been there.

Two guys who WERE there. Rockme Foundation members Maurice Cleary (L) and Casey Fox (R) flank Maestro Doctor Schanker after his show.


Filed under Art, Beauty, Music

“Vic & Paul” Go Hollywood!

“The Vic & Paul Show” is coming to Hollywood.

Yes, that Hollywood.


The Entertainment Capital of the World

For one weekend only this summer, August 9-12, 2012, we’ll be performing “The Vic & Paul Show” at The iO West Theatre at 6366 Hollywood Boulevard — not far from those famous handprints and footprints in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and all the stars underfoot along the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

My very funny wife Victoria Zielinski and I will be joined, as ever, by our musical director Steve Rashid for what we call an “Evening of Comedy, Music, Marriage and Martinis” – a show The Chicago Tribune proclaimed “Old school sketch comedy done right.”

When we brought our show to Chicago last year, WGN Radio personality and veteran Chicago newspaperman Rick Kogan said, “One of the theatrical events of the year is the return of Paul Barrosse and Victoria Zielinski to the Chicago stage with ‘The Vic & Paul Show’…the new Nichols & May… It’s a not-to-be-missed engagement.” So, listen to Rick, and don’t miss our engagement at iO West.

Our four performances in Hollywood this August will give our friends and comedy lovers in Southern California their first chance to see the show since it opened in June 2010 at Push Lounge in Woodland Hills.

The iO West Theatre is a perfect venue for “The Vic & Paul Show” – an intimate cabaret space devoted to improvisational comedy. (Sort of like The Practical Theatre Company’s fabled John Lennon Auditorium with a full bar and more than twice the seating.) Formerly known as the “ImprovOlympic West”, iO West has been operating at its Hollywood location since October 2001.

The i.O. was founded by the legendary Second City veteran and eccentric improvisational comedy genius Del Close and Charna Halpern. Fittingly, there’s a Practical Theatre connection here: a connection that began, as so much did, in Chicago in the early 1980s. That’s when we first met Del and Charna.

Through our long association with Second City director Sheldon Patinkin (our comedy guru since 1981) and our brief partnership with Second City owner Bernie Sahlins in the Piper’s Alley Theatre, we Practical Theatre folk got to know the talented denizens of Chicago’s comedy institution at North & Wells, including the infamous Del Close.

Del’s portrait adorns a wall of the iO West main stage, where we’ll be performing.

By the time we met Del Close in the early 80s, he had already performed and directed for Second City, then moved to San Francisco where he directed another classic improv comedy group, The Committee, and toured with Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters. Del spent the early 80s in New York, as “House Metaphysician” at Saturday Night Live, coaching the cast and further burnishing his reputation as a major influence on modern American comedy.

I got to know Del better when we were both cast in a 1984 Goodman Theatre production of A Christmas Carol. I was the Ghost of Christmas Past and Del was the Ghost of Christmas Present. Around this time, I tried to develop a Practical Theatre show with Del – a project we called The Secret Show: a revolutionary new revue to be written and performed by Rush Pearson and me as humorous henchmen in the service of a mad comic scientist to be played by Del.

The Secret Show never happened, but Del was enshrined as an honorary member of The Practical Theatre ensemble in 1985 at a ritual in which Del dipped his feet in red paint and stomped his iconic footprints into the sidewalk in front of The John Lennon Auditorium at 703 Howard Street in Evanston.

At the time we were contemplating The Secret Show, Del was busy teaching improv and collaborating with Charna Halpern. Close was working with Charna at the ImprovOlympic Theater, which she’d founded and briefly run with David Shepherd, one of the founders of the Compass Players (the forerunner to The Second City). We got to know Charna when we were both doing shows at the late, lamented, counter-cultural nightclub, CrossCurrents on Belmont in Chicago.

More than a quarter of a century later, Victoria and I reconnected with Charna when we both made presentations at The Chicago Theatre Symposium in the spring of last year – and again when she came to Rogers Park during the holidays see “The Vic & Paul Show” at Mayne Stage.

The rest is much more recent history.

So, join us at the iO West Theatre August 9-12th.

You can check out those famous hand and footprints at Grauman’s before the show.


Filed under Art, Comedy, Improvisation