You see the fabulous slender frame of the lady with the signature gardenia in her hair at almost every cabaret venue. She’s the great supporter of anyone in cabaret, rooting them on, ready to offer little gems of wisdom, especially to the newcomers. Kudos to Scott Barbarino and Scobar Entertainment for organizing a two show Tribute to Julie Wilson on Tuesday, August 13th at Iridium Jazz Club, at 8 & 10 pm.
With the Barry Levitt Trio and a series of speakers, many singers are on board for the evening’s enterainment including: (8 pm show) Eric Comstock, Chris Denny, Baby Jane Dexter, Natalie Douglas, Barbara Fasano, Terese Genecco, Jeff Harnar, Mark Harman, Tanya Holt, Colm Reilly, Julie Reyburn, Steve Ross, KT Sullivan, Carol Woods and (10 pm show) – Leslie Anderson, Antonio Edwards, Eric Engelhardt, Eric Michel Gillett, Nina Hennessey, Helen Klass, Sue Matsuki, Marissa Mulder, Leslie Orofino, Christine Pedi, Ricky Ritzel, Stacy Sullivan, Jonathan Tomaselli, Grace Wall, Lennie Watts.
Julie Wilson, with dreams of stardom, loved “Mary Lou” (1920’s pop tune), was just beginning her education at Omaha Univ. when offered a chance to join Earl Carroll’s Broadway revue “Vanities.” From there it was on to the chorus line at the Latin Quarter and the Copa. She was earning $75 a week. It was wartime when she went out on a Copa/USO tour, got a singing spot in the Copa’s “They’ve Got an Awful Lot of Coffee in Brazil,” followed by club dates in Miami and Hollywood.
Back in New York she replaced Lisa Kirk as Bianca in Kiss Me,Kate, repeating it in London, remaining 4 years and appearing in South Pacific and Bells Are Ringing, and studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. She was slated for the lead on Broadway in The Pajama Game but chose to remain in London. However, years later she did replace Janis Paige in that same role. In 1955, she appeared in Kismet on Broadway, toured in Show Boat, Panama Hattie, Silk Stockings and Hi Fidelity. And she recorded and made some grand black & white movies!
She married twice, the first one brief, the second producing sons Holt and Michael. The marriage ended and her sons lived with her parents in Omaha so she could work and earn money. The grandeur of nightclubs faded but Julie continued in smaller venues around New York City and in 1967 had a short run in the Broadway musical Jimmy. Later on she had roles in Sondheim’s Company, Follies, A Little Night Music.
Time passed, family responsibilities were first and foremost, but in 1983, after her brother and parents had died, and her sons were grown, she was ready to resume her career. And she did at Michael’s Pub. As the cabaret scene began to revive, it was Julie Wilson who was called upon at The Russian Tea Room, Rainbow and Stars, The Algonquin’s Oak Room and clubs in Chicago and California.
She was 75 when in 1999, the Mabel Mercer Foundation gave her a special evening in her name; she chose the performers and she wowed the audience with her new Cy Coleman show, adding Sondheim favorites. The Julie Wilson Award has become part of the Mabel Mercer Foundation Cabaret Convention. It is presented to a new, up and coming cabaret performer.(mabelmercer.org)
This Tribute, creating a night to Julie Wilson, couldn’t be more timely.
Julie Wilson – a supreme artist, with the uncanny ability to convey the emotional intention of a song musically and lyrically; a person who cares and is always available to her fans and the cabaret community.
Tickets: 212 582-2121 www.theiridium.com 1650 Broadway at 51st St. NYC
(see CityCabaret.com – official Julie Wilson website)