Daniel Dunlow & Russ Kaplan talk The Green Room 42 & more

by | Apr 10, 2017 | Culture, Dining, Entertainment, Music

The Green Room 42 / Photo: Madrid Kuser

Opened last month in the heart of the Theater District, The Green Room 42 is an immersive 130-seat state-of-the-art entertainment venue. It not only offers audiences the chance to see some of their favorite performers up close and personal, but it also offers a food menu designed by Chef Gabriel Israel of the adjacent restaurant Green Fig. Beyond the food and entertainment, cocktails, craft beer and wine are also offered. Yes, all on the fourth floor of the YOTEL.

Since its Mar. 5 opening, plenty of major Broadway performers have taken to the stage of The Green Room 42. This includes Constantine Maroulis, Lillias White and Alice Ripley. A change of pace from the top stars of the stage, The Green Room 42 also offers a “Bottomless Brunch” on Sundays, featuring the undewear-clad singing duo The Skivvies, dishes from the aforementioned Chef Gabriel and 90 minutes of unlimited prosecco drinks.

Downtown had the pleasure of speaking with Daniel Dunlow, The Green Room 42’s Program Director, and Russ Kaplan, who will be performing at the venue on Apr. 30 at 8:00 PM. More on Russ can be found at www.russkaplanmusic.com, while The Green Room 42 can be visited via www.thegreenroom42.com.

Why was The Green Room 42 launched?

Daniel Dunlow: The Green Room 42’s owner Gil Rubenstein operates all the food and beverage outlets at the YOTEL NYC, including modern Israeli restaurant Green Fig and rooftop lounge Social Drink & Food, which both opened last year. For the final piece of the project, Gil transformed the hotel’s event space into an entertainment venue where guests could watch performances in an up-close and personal setting. Although New York City has a lot of theaters and music venues, he found that there weren’t many intimate rooms that offer Broadway level performances at a wallet-friendly price.

How would you describe the venue to someone who hasn’t yet been there?

The Green Room 42 is a new, funky, urban take on the classic New York cabaret scene. It’s Frank Sinatra meets Sia, which is exactly the aesthetic of the room. As for the business model, it’s centered around value and hospitality. That means just one show a night, spacious seating and no food or beverage minimum ever. Come as you wish and stay for as long as you like — you’re our guest. We pride ourselves on offering a lower ticket cost than anywhere else in town, and all the while paying the acts fairly. It’s all about the experience: great food, drink and creative entertainment. Broadway stars are coming out of the woodwork to perform at this venue, and they’re also flocking in to see the shows; so you never know who’ll you’ll run into in the crowd.

What does the venue name mean? Is the 42 related to the street?

DD: A “green room” is the space in the theater that is between the dressing rooms and the stage. It’s where actors hang out before they go onstage. It’s a place on Broadway where you get to see Simba from The Lion King in full lion costume and makeup, but playing Candy Crush on his phone. That’s exactly what cabaret is to me: It’s a space where the artist is live in front of you, but being a human being and not playing a part. They are comfortable and personable, telling stories, laughing, joking and kidding around. That’s what you get in the green room and at The Green Room 42. As for the “42,” it was added so people knew where to go: 42nd Street.

Do you have a favorite item on the menu? Is there a full menu offered during all shows?

DD: We offer a full menu during every show at The Green Room 42. We have everything from artisan pizza to an unreal schnitzel burger. My personal favorite are the steamed mussels with garlic and white wine sauce that are served for the table to share. They are absolutely addicting. They’re meant to be shared at the table, but if you’re sitting with me, we will not be sharing them — I will be eating them all by myself. (laughs)

What was the first show you booked there?

DD: The first show I booked here was Lillias White, the Broadway legend from The Life, Dreamgirls, Fela! and Hercules. She sold out her Valentine’s Day show here. She’s already returned for a second show with a packed house. While she was signing her first contract, I got the impulse to have her sign two copies just so I could keep a copy of her autograph.

Russ, for someone who hasn’t seen you live before, what should be expected?

Russ Kaplan: “Theatrical Psychedelic Party Jazz.” For this show we’re ransacking the Broadway canon — from both classics and new shows — to find new exciting twists on familiar tunes. It’s mostly instrumental with the occasional stealth vocalist.

Who’s going to be onstage with you?

RK: My band, the massive and massively-awesome Russ Kaplan +7: me on keyboards, Moppa Elliott on bass, Wayan Zoey on drums, Tom Gavin on guitar, Christoph Knoche on reeds, Kyle Saulnier on more reeds, Eric Biondo on trumpet, and Brian Adler sitting in on percussion. Plus of course special guests Justin Guarini and beatboxer Chesney Snow, both from In Transit.

Do you have a favorite song to perform live?

RK: So far, “Poinciana.” We haven’t played these Broadway songs yet, but I’m pretty psyched to jam out on some Phantom; I don’t want to give away which song.

Where was the first live show you ever performed in New York?

RK: First show with my band was at the Douglass Street Music Collective in Brooklyn, at my 29th birthday. First performance of any kind as a New Yorker, at Arlene’s Grocery, beatboxing to “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” at a Motown tribute show.

Russ Kaplan

Russ Kaplan aside, any upcoming shows you’re especially excited for?

DD: I’m really stoked to get Telly Leung in here. He’s such a genuine guy with a love for the arts. I can’t wait to see what he brings to his solo show. Also, there are some shows in the works right now that I can’t yet speak about, but they’ve got me very excited—you’ll hear about them soon.

The Green Room 42 show aside, Russ, what’s coming up for you career-wise?

RK: Lyricist Sara Wordsworth and I are finishing the latest draft of our new musical Minnesota. Hi, producers!

When not busy with your career, how do you like to spend your free time?

DD: Free time? I go see theater, but I consider that research. I’m a huge fan of Broadway. I love seeing current shows, watching YouTube clips of old shows and collecting Broadway memorabilia. Some of my prized possessions are a signed Ethel Merman Gypsy playbill, a signed Mary Martin headshot, Billy Porter’s eyelashes from Kinky Boots, and my hall of Tyne Daly memorabilia — I’m obsessed with Tyne Daly. My apartment is like a museum of Broadway. I recently bought the original grand piano from Don’t Tell Mama, one of New York’s first true cabaret clubs. This is the piano that they had in their club since day one. I played it when I performed my very own first cabaret there five years ago. This piano, which is now in my bedroom, is the piano that all the greats like Liza Minnelli and Bernadette Peters sang on, and shows like RENT and The Last 5 Years were written on this piano late at night in the piano bar. I’m a pianist and composer myself, so I spend some free time tickling the ivories and performing around town. So as for free time, I’d say roughly six hours of my day are spent sleeping, and then the other 18 are for theater stuff.

RK: Hanging with my wife and daughter. Watching BBC nature movies.

What’s the last concert you attended for fun?

RK: The Jayhawks.

DD: I love pianos and I love music, so I obviously love the Piano Man. I went to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden again last month. That was my fifth time seeing him. That guy knows how to do it.

Finally, any last words for the kids?

DD: A wise man once told me that there are many different llamas that take you to the top of “Mt. Great Entertainment.”

RK: You don’t want kids following my advice.

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