Famous as a downtowny place to hear jazz, folk and international music, New York's Village Gate closed in 1994 after 36 years on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. On Oct. 17, the club returns -- this time at the former Lone Star Roadhouse space on West 52nd Street.
Founder Art D'Lugoff told Playbill On-Line that although the main focus of the new Gate will again be jazz, the club will open with an Off-Broadway musical, A Brief History Of White Music (featuring an all African-American cast doing soulful versions of Caucasian pop music). Legit theatre would not be a first for the club, which in recent years hosted Vernel Bagneris' One Mo' Time and Chicago's Real Live Dating Game/Brady Bunch combo, as well as the revival of Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris.
A Brief History Of White Music stars Wendy Edmead, Deborah Keeling and Glenn Turner. The show, conceived by Denise Thomas and David Tweedy, is directed and choreographed by Ken Roberson, with Nat Adderly, Jr. serving as musical director.
According to a release, the show takes this view: "For years, white performers -- from Elvis to Michael Bolton -- have had hit recordings, interpreting the music of black artists. Now the tables are turned. Songs of the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Connie Francis, and Sonny And Cher are given a new interpretation."
Producing the musical with D'Lugoff are Gene Wolsk and Jon Platt. Previews for the show begin Oct. 17 with an opening set for Nov. 7.Asked why he's bringing the Village Gate back, D'Lugoff laughs, "Why not? That's a Jewish answer, always answer a question with a question. But I'll never retire. And I never closed the Village Gate, I only lost a venue, a place."
D'Lugoff then expresses displeasure at the new owners of the Bleecker Street space for calling it "The New Gate," since they had nothing to do with the club's legendary years.
At this point, my animated conversation with the club owner is punctuated by his repeatedly having to stop and holler at his squalling family "I'm on the phone! Please!!!"
"I get no respect," D'Lugoff sighs. When I joke about Rodney Dangerfield probably having appeared at the old Village Gate, D'Lugoff corrects me: "No, but he did come in one time and suggested his doing a show about Elvis."
Finding a moment of quiet, D'Lugoff gives details of the new setup: "The theatre space has 199 seats, with the after-show jazz and dancing holding 300-400. We've brought in Peter Ashkenazi, the restaurateur [Charley O's, etc.] -- it's really going to be great. Hey, we're on Swing Street, 52nd Street in Manhattan, where all kinds of music used to be. And there'll be Village Gate memorabilia, too.
For tickets and information regarding A Brief History Of White Music at The Village Gate, call (212) 307-5252.
-- By David Lefkowitz