Colleen McHugh Sings Why, Oh Why Can't I?: The Songs of Harold Arlen
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The last date listed for Colleen McHugh Sings Why, Oh Why Can't I?: The Songs of Harold Arlen was Thursday November 5, 2009 / 9:30pm.
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Quotes & Highlights
Accompanied by musical director Jody Shelton on piano and bassist Michael Pearce.
She was born in the wagon of a travelin’ show. Her mama used to dance for the money they’d throw. Papa would do whatever he could. Actually, Colleen is a singer, writer, actor and comic. Since leaving her post at Second City’s National Touring Company and moving to New York in 2003, she has appeared on television’s “The Colbert Report”, and in several comedy sketches on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” She has also made her Carnegie Hall debut as a Special Guest Artist in Michael Feinstein’s “Now and Then” concert series, and made her Lincoln Center debut at Rose Hall/Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Colleen has been performing award-winning solo cabaret shows since January 2000. Her debut at Davenport’s Cabaret in Chicago, “Keeping Up Appearances” was described by AfterDark’s Jeff Rossen as “as absolute joy to behold.” Colleen’s next solo outing was “Tales of Revenge & Regret,” selected by CabaretHotline as Chicago’s Best Cabaret Show of 2001. She received the 2001 AfterDark Award as “Outstanding Cabaret Artist.” In 2002, Colleen introduced “Songs of Self-Delusion,” which the Chicago Tribune’s Howard Reich described as “a bittersweet cabaret show, as original as it is meaningful.” 2002 marked the beginning of Colleen’s several collaborations with famed vocal group Foiled Again, as well as the introduction of her tribute to “The Harold Arlen Songbook” at the Chicago Cultural Center. In 2003, she tackled the notorious Randy Newman songbook (with background vocals by Foiled Again) in “Feeling Randy: Colleen McHugh Sings Randy Newman,” which Chicago Sun Times reporter Misha Davenport called “a sterling performance, dwelling on and around the fine line between tragedy and comedy.” When Colleen made her New York debut at Helen’s Hideaway in May 2004 with an updated version of “Revenge & Regret,” she was described by Backstage as “a serious singer, whose ballads are made even more effective due to her show’s light moments and her buoyant personality.” 2005 marked another milestone for McHugh with the release of her debut CD, a live recording of “Songs of Self-Delusion” once again featuring Foiled Again vocals and musical direction by Chicago composer Chuck Larkin. The CD was recorded live at Chicago’s Sparrow Studios. Accompanying the CD release is Colleen’s first appearance at Danny’s Skylight Cabaret in New York, with acclaimed musical director Jeffrey Harris.
Along with her cabaret partner-in-crime Miriam Plotkin, McHugh has created perennial favorites “Bastille Magnolias,” a summer send-up of all things French, and the hilarious holiday extravaganza “There’s Noel in Chanukah.” These shows, performed in Chicago every July and December since 2000 and directed by Rob Lindley, have been performed to sold-out houses and critical acclaim, incorporating improvisation, popular standards, original comedy and many, many props.
Colleen spent several years writing and performing with Chicago’s legendary Second City National Touring Company. She was selected as a Fellow in the prestigious Cabaret Symposium at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in 2000, as well as for famed Broadway musical director Paul Gemignani’s summer Musical Theater Workshop at the Manhattan School of Music in 2004. She has been a featured performer in the Mabel Mercer Foundation’s Cabaret Conventions every year since 2001, performing at New York’s Town Hall, Chicago’s Palmer House Empire Room and Park West, Philadelphia’s Harold Prince Theater and East Hampton’s Guild Hall. She has performed the national anthem for, among others, the Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks. She made her mark in high school performing in the Utah All-State Choir (at the Mormon Tabernacle) and brought down the house performing “Happy Days Are Here Again” in the talent category of the Utah Junior Miss Pageant. Seriously.
Her improv and acting career has included such classic stage shows as “Sitcom,” “Riverboat Lawyer,” “Commedia dell’High School,” and the Royal George Theater’s smash hit “MUSICAL! The Musical,” where the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones reported that Colleen “deserves special mention for her tuneful emotional intensity that will have you rolling with laughter.” In 2002 she became a member of Chicago’s leading musical improv group Baby Wants Candy and continues to perform original musicals around the U.S. She made her operetta debut as The Bride in Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Trial by Jury,” and was featured in the Equity Workshop production of Mark Hollmann (Urinetown) and Jack Helbig’s new musical “The Grouch” at The Acorn Theater.
She has taught writing and improvisation at Chicago’s Second City Training Center, as well as at the Chicago Center for Performing Arts. She continues to write original material for theater and cabaret performers in Chicago and New York along with her director and writing partner Rob Lindley. She received her improvisation training at the Second City Training Center, Victory Gardens Theater, ImprovOlympic, the Annoyance Theater, and New York’s Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater. She studied voice and song interpretation in Chicago with Kathryn Hartgrove as well as at the Old Town School of Folk Music, and in New York with Broadway legend Betty Buckley at the T. Schreiber Studio. She has a degree in History and Architecture from the University of Illinois and resides in New York City. She is a member of AFTRA and Actors’ Equity Association.