The Brownville Concert Series presents A Swinging Brownville Christmas

Press release

The Brownville Concert Series is thrilled to present Klea Blackhurst, Jim Caruso, and Billy Stritch in “A Swinging Brownville Christmas!” The Christmas Gala is always a beloved tradition, and this year will be no different! Look forward to swinging arrangements of seasonal favorites.

The singers will be joined by Steve Doyle on bass and Daniel Glass on drums. They will perform in concert on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 12 at 2 p.m.

Friday co-sponsors will be Jody and Charlie Anderson, First National Bank of Johnson, Lifetime Vision Center, and Lou and Deborah Solie, Saturday sponsor will be Auburn State Bank, and Sunday sponsor will be Ruth Keene in memory of Jim Keene.

Billy Stritch is one of the premier singer-pianists on the New York and national jazz and cabaret scenes. He began his career in Houston, Texas, where he formed the vocal trio Montgomery, Plant and Stritch. The trio performed all over New York and Europe from 1983 until they disbanded in 1990. A chance meeting with Liza Minnelli in March 1991 resulted in her asking him to create vocal arrangements for the record-breaking extravaganza Liza Stepping Out at Radio City Music Hall.

In addition to his 25-year collaboration with as accompanist and opening act for Liza, Stritch recently toured with the legendary Tony Bennett as Bennett’s pianist and musical director. A solo entertainer in his own right, he has performed his own shows (including tributes to Mel Tormé and Cy Coleman) in concert halls and nightclubs across the country.

When he’s not on the road, he is the pianist for Jim Caruso’s Cast Party open mic night every Monday at New York’s legendary Birdland Jazz Club and he and Jim hold forth on Sunday nights at Bemelmans’ Bar in Manhattan’s fabled Carlyle Hotel. During Covid-19, he created his own weekly Facebook live-stream show “Billy’s Place”, celebrating the Great American Songbook with songs and stories from his varied career. He has recorded five solo CDs and his latest CD release “Billy’s Place” (Club44 Records) is a collection of his favorite songs from these online concerts.

Klea Blackhurst is an actress, singer and comedienne known for her award-winning tribute to Ethel Merman, Everything The Traffic Will Allow. Most recently she appeared Off-Broadway with Hayley Mills in the comedy, Party Face, at City Center Stage 2.

She starred in Hazel during its world premiere production at Drury Lane in Chicago, as Dolly Levi in the highly acclaimed 50th anniversary production of Hello, Dolly! at The Goodspeed Opera House and as Miss Lemon in The Nutty Professor, which premiered in Nashville, directed by legendary comedian Jerry Lewis and featuring a score by Marvin Hamlisch and Rupert Holmes.

Blackhurst also played Rose in Drury Lane Chicago’s production of Gypsy, garnishing rave reviews in 2012.

She’s performed with symphony orchestras and in theatrical productions across the country and abroad including the London Palladium presentation of Jerry Herman’s Broadway with Angela Lansbury, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, 15 Mabel Mercer Foundation Cabaret Conventions, New York’s Town Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, New York’s 92nd Street Y Lyrics and Lyricists, The Chicago Humanities Festival and as Ado Annie in the BBC Proms concert of Oklahoma! in London’s Royal Albert Hall.

In addition to regular appearances at New York’s famed Birdland, Blackhurst’s nightclub engagements include tributes to the Broadway career of composer Vernon Duke at the Café Carlyle with a subsequent sold-out engagement at Joe's Pub at The Public Theater and “Dreaming of a Song: The Music of Hoagy Carmichael,” a collaboration with Billy Stritch.

Jim Caruso made his Broadway debut alongside Liza Minnelli in the smash hit Liza’s At The Palace!, singing, dancing and celebrating the music and arrangements of the late, great Kay Thompson and the Williams Brothers. The show was honored with a 2009 Tony Award for Best Special Event and the recording was nominated for a Grammy.

For his nightclub work, Caruso has won nine BroadwayWorld Awards, six MAC Awards, two BackStage Bistro Awards, and a Sidney Meyer Award for sold-out shows at Birdland, The Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel, and The Russian Tea Room. He has also performed at clubs in Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Palm Beach and London.

His most recent studio recording, “The Swing Set,” was called “a top drawer, first-rate swinger” by Jazz Times and “a completely entertaining experience” by All About Jazz. His first CD, “Caruso Live and In Person,” went to number one on both the album and singles charts at Outvoice.com. For the past eight years, he and singer/pianist Billy Stritch have been regular weekly performers at Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle Hotel in NYC.

With his award-winning jazz vocal trio, Wiseguys, he performed in an all-star Inaugural extravaganza for President Clinton and was then invited to sing at his First State Dinner at the White House in an evening hosted by Lauren Bacall. The trio performed in concert at the Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall, and in "the big room" with Rosemary Clooney.

For the past 18 years, he has hosted a weekly Monday night showbiz bash at Birdland called "Jim Caruso’s Cast Party.” He’s taken celebrity versions of the Party to Lincoln Center and Town Hall in New York, and celebrated local talent at venues in London, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Chicago, Austin, Dallas, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and on the high seas. When the pandemic hit, Jim wasted no time in storming YouTube. His virtual “Pajama Cast Party” celebrates extraordinary Broadway, jazz, pop and country talent for a worldwide audience.

Steve Doyle originally hails from Omaha and is a graduate of the University of Nebraska. He is one the most sought after double bassists working today on the New York jazz and cabaret scenes. He performs regularly at prestigious venues such as Birdland, Feinstein’s 54 Below and Carnegie Hall and Rose Hall. He frequently plays double bass at the Carlyle and is a featured piano/vocalist at Bemelmans Bar with the Steve Doyle Trio. Doyle currently resides in NYC where he teaches, arranges and performs regularly.

Daniel Glass is an award-winning drummer, author, historian and educator. He is widely recognized as an authority on traditional American music styles. As a professional musician, Glass has recorded and performed with many top artists, including Brian Setzer, Bette Midler, Liza Minnelli and KISS front man Gene Simmons. Glass has served as the Monday night house drummer at New York’s legendary Birdland Jazz Club since 2010.

Glass has published six books, three DVDs and dozens of articles dedicated to sharing the amazing story of our American musical heritage. As an educator, he has presented more than 300 clinics, master classes and seminars worldwide. His DVD “From Ragtime to Rock: An Introduction to 100 Years of American Popular Music” is used by hundreds of music educators at schools across the U.S.

The board of directors requests that all wear masks whether vaccinated or not for the protection of our audience, our performers and our staff. Masks will be readily available at the door and hand sanitizers and wipes will be on each table and at various locations throughout the Concert Hall.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $16 for students. Purchase them online at www.brownvilleconcertseries.com, on Facebook or call 402-825-3331. All shows are concert seating. In show biz (and in pandemics), dates are subject to change so please double check the website.

The Nebraska Arts Council (www.nebraskaartscouncil.org), a state agency, supports this program through a matching grant funded by the Nebraska Legislature, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.