LP0312. PIECES OF EIGHT, Julius Monk's Upstairs at the Downstairs, 37 West 56th Street (NY), presents PIECES OF EIGHT, a new piratic parodic in two acts, with Ceil Cabot, Jane Connell, Del Close, Gerry Matthews, Gordon Connell, Estelle Parsons and William Roy, Carl Norman at the plural pianos, Original 1959 Upstairs at the Downstairs Cast. Original Cast Recording. Offbeat O-4016.
“At the new venue (officially: THE UPSTAIRS AT THE DOWNSTAIRS, West 56th Street) Monk staged a succession of revues by writers such as Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt (later collaborators on THE FANTASTICKS), Louis Botto, Sheldon Harnick, Herb Hartig, Gerry Matthews, John Meyer and Tom Poston. Monk's annual revues established the standard for New York cabaret over the following decade: TAKE FIVE (1957), DEMI-DOZEN (1958), FOUR BELOW STRIKES BACK (1959), PIECES OF EIGHT (1959), DRESSED TO THE NINES (1960) and 7 COME 11 (1961). Performers hired and/or cultivated by Monk include Jean Arnold, Michael Brown, Ceil Cabot, Thelma Carpenter, Pat Carroll, Imogene Coca, Jane and Gordon Connell, Blossom Dearie and Annie Ross; collaborators and associates also included Robert Downey, Sr., George Furth, Alice Ghostley, Ronny Graham, Tammy Grimes, Ellen Hanley, Bill Hinnant, Susan Johnson, Liberace, Dorothy Loudon, Portia Nelson, Bibi Osterwald, Norman Paris, Lovelady Powell, Caspar Reardon, Rex Robbins, William Roy, Maxine Sullivan, Nancy Sussault, Sylvia Syms, Fredricka Weber and Mary Louise Wilson.”
“In a series of New York supper clubs and cabarets - the Ruban Bleu in the early 1940's, the Downstairs, the Upstairs at the Downstairs and, in the late 1960's, Plaza 9 at the Plaza Hotel - Mr. Monk was the host, or régisseur (meaning stage manager), a title he preferred. In the heyday of cabaret comedy, he was the most celebrated maestro.
A man of prodigious panache, he was impeccable in his clothes, taste, manners and wit. His clubs were salons rather than saloons. For decades, young comics and singers nurtured their careers in Mr. Monk's shows and then moved on to Broadway or television. Sylvia Syms, Tammy Grimes, Alice Ghostley, Jane Connell, Jonathan Winters, Mary Louise Wilson and Liberace were among the many who performed for him. His writers included Tom Jones, Harvey Schmidt, Sheldon Harnick, Carolyn Leigh and Ronny Graham.
Mr. Monk's shows were marked by their topicality. Long before there was a ‘Forbidden Broadway’, he was first with a spoof of a trend, fad, best seller, hit show, popular film or poll-winning politician. The sketches and songs were insouciant rather than savage. In a profile of Mr. Monk in THE NEW YORKER in 1992, Whitney Balliett remembered the elegance of his revues: ‘The women performers wore black cocktail dresses or black evening gowns, and the men wore tuxedos. The shows had a fast, hide-and-seek quality. Heads and arms and gloved hands popped out of a paneled front cloth and disappeared. . . . The only props were stools of various sizes’."
- MEL GUSSOW, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 22 Aug., 1995