A packed house on a Monday night when the Giants were playing the Cowboys meant something special was happening onstage: The Duplex, a well-known Christopher Street piano bar, kicked off a series of caberet benefits for an animal rescue operation — starring, among others, North Jersey native Michelle Caniglia.
Michelle and Brian at Monday’s show (PHOTO: Lynn Paret CLIFFVIEWPILOT.COM)
Formerly of Denville and now living in Washington Heights, Michelle is teaming with, among others, Sara Cumings of Wayne. They’ve been roommates and are now part of the “Broadway Bound” performances at the Duplex.
A wonderful singer, Michelle combines personality and a youthful innocence, making it clear why the producers selected the 21-year-old graduate of the prestigious American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in Manhattan.
The emcee, Tyler Kane, cracked everyone up, teasing audience members, telling a few jokes and then, like a true DIVA, belting out an extremely crude — and extremely funny — rendition of “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King.”
After a group rendition of “My Guy” and “I Will Follow Him,” from “Sister Act” (which is coming to Broadway in the spring), Michelle took a solo turn with “Say a Little Prayer for You.”
Other plays featured in the show include “Mama Mia” and “West Side Story.” The cast is large: Besides Caniglia and Cumings, there’s Allison Maldonado, Lana Grube, Leandra Ramm, Joanna Shea, Ambar Aranaga, Jessica George, Sean Elias, Hakim McMillan, David Davila, Taylor Williams, and Kim Blanck.
Producer John Forslund has assembled the pieces seamlessly. Holding it all together is Jessica Stewart on piano.Sara and Michelle
This Monday night’s special guest was Brian Crum, a 23-year-old Broadway actor who has been in “Altar Boys“ and “Grease” and currently is performing in “Next to Normal.” The guy has the voice of an angel and left more than a few people a bit teary with it.
The benefit shows are called “Off’leash,” and the proceeds benefit Abandoned Angels Cocker Rescue, an animal rescue organization in Queens.
Michelle — whose dad, Tony, is originally from North Bergen — has been pursuing a dream, working as a waitress at night so she can attend auditions and pound the proverbial pavement by day.
It gives you that little added incentive to privately root for her when she’s performing.
The Duplex benefits will be held once a month, on Mondays. Admission, 21 and over, is $10, with a two-drink minimum.
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