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Hot town: Avery Sommers in the city

Anyone who attended the unique performances by jazz vocalist Jane Monheit at the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale in March may recall  what a special setting the museum offered both for her stylish vocals and engaging personality.

The Up Close & Personal performances – a joint effort of the museum, Nova Southeastern University and the Venetian Arts Society – included a straightforward Friday night concert in front of more than 200 folks in the museum’s Horvitz Auditorium, followed Saturday morning by a relaxed and chatty Conversation With the Artist session. The Saturday morning event, also in the Horvitz Auditorium, paired Monheit’s singing with a Q&A opportunity for the audience, which included vocal students from local colleges and high schools.

Both the concert  and the conversation allowed the audience intimate access to Monheit, a two-time Grammy nominee who has performed at Carnegie Hall and such hallowed New York jazz halls as Birdland, the Rainbow Room and the Blue Note.  One Monheit fan proclaimed the venue “wonderful” and said she had never imagined the singer could be “so personable.”

The Up Close & Personal series, hosted by the Venetian Arts Society’s William Riddle, will continue with its next installment at the Museum of Art on June 28-29,  showcasing the theatrical talents and memories of Broadway star and cabaret singer Avery Sommers.

As an actress, Sommers has starred on Broadway in “Ain't Misbehavin” (replacing Nell Carter) and in “Showboat,” and been featured in national tours of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” with Ann-Margaret and as Matron Mama Norton in “Chicago,” with Chita Rivera and Joel Grey.

She can also talk about TV, having appeared on “Miami Vice” and many episodes of Burt Reynolds'  series “B.L. Stryker,” and she created the role of Regina Darby in the CBS soap “As the World Turns.” Her film credits include roles in “Lost Everything,” “Mysterious” and “Hiding Victoria.”

Sommers’ distinguished career on local stages includes a best-actress Carbonell Award for her 1994 one-woman autobiographical show “But Not for Me” at the Caldwell Theatre in Boca Raton, and she was Carbonell-nominated for her 2011 performance in “Hairspray” at Actors Playhouse in Coral Gables.

Locals also know to keep an eye on the schedule at the Royal Room at Palm Beach’s Colony Hotel, where she makes too-infrequent cabaret appearances.  

Sommers’ Up Close & Personal performances at the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale begin with a Salon Concert at 7:30 p.m. June 28. Cost: $60. The Conversation With the Artist performance is from 10 a.m. to noon June 29. Cost: $20.

A Grand Salon Package that includes both performances and a post-concert reception with Sommers on June 28 is $85.

The Up Close & Personal series is scheduled to return to the museum Oct. 25-26 with opera star Leona Mitchell.


Get daily updates on South Florida entertainment and things to do at and on Twitter at @BenCrandell.


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