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Women jazz it up at Banana Puddin’ at Theater for New City

BY RACHEL deARAGON | A little perfect taste of women’s history was in the making at Theater for the New City last month as eight fantastically talented women put on a dazzling show.

In honor of Women’s History Month, the East Village theater and its executive director, Crystal Field, presented Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz, featuring the Jazzy Lady Thespians.

On piano, Mamiko Wanatabe’s gentle focus held the energy of a diverse stylist while giving ample room to the unusually poignant delivery of Melissa Slocum on bass. Wen-Ting Wu gave us the rhythm on the drums. The band set the mood as Rome Neal led an African-inspired chant introducing this celebration of women. It was a night when the ever-enthusiastic, jazz-loving audience was given the best!

Singer Allison Semmes performed, accompanied by Mamiko Wanatabe on piano. (Photo by Hollis King)

Tracy Titus, with her wide smile and sultry good humor, let us know she “Ain’t Misbehavin’!” Tracy has appeared regularly in clubs throughout the New York area.

Ria Alexander, with her uniquely energizing delivery, told us to “Accentuate the Positive.” Recently appearing in “T’was the Night Before Kwanza,” Ria is a singer and composer with an effervescent stage spirit. Her powerful “Summertime” conveyed all the optimism and faith that is inherent in those well-known lyrics.

Daralyn Jay is an actor with a dozen stage credits and as many in film and TV. Her “No Greater Love” brought an impassioned romanticism to the evening.

Allison Semmes, a multi-genre singer/songwriter/dancer and Broadway actor, put a smile on everyone’s lips with her expressive rendition of Annie Ross’s “Twisted.” And her “The Masquerade is Over” let us all know it was done!

Lady Leah Finnie a seasoned actor and presence in the jazz scene, reminded us: “Don’t go to Strangers — Bring Your Love to Me.” Her impeccable melodic phrasing gave pathos and depth to “Guess Who I Saw Today.”

The room was filled with an audience with a deep appreciation of the music. Not an easy crowd to please, with quite a few thespians and singers in the room, their exuberance was genuine. Many stayed on for the open mic, and the traditional reading of the Banana Puddin’ Jazz Poem — composed of the comments that audience members put in a notebook as it is passed around.

The Banana Puddin’ Jazz Night — now at Theater for the New City on the last Monday of every month — invites people who love jazz to experience the love, plus a taste of Rome Neal’s homemade banana pudding for dessert.


  1. Shirley Shirley April 21, 2024

    A lovely review not only captures the performance as a whole, but each performer at its best.

  2. Rome Neal Rome Neal April 17, 2024

    Awesome coverage of this event! Thank you, Queen Rachel!

  3. Elizabeth H Upton Elizabeth H Upton April 17, 2024

    I was there at the marvelous event. Rachel de Aragon has captures the joyful spirit of the evening!

  4. Elizabeth H Upton Elizabeth H Upton April 17, 2024

    I was there to enjoy this fabulous event. Rachel de Aragon has captured the lively spirit of the wonderful night!

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