New York is in the House! - Billy & Judi's Talent Showcase
In St. Louis, MO, a 13-year-old boy had the audacity to wander backstage and ask Benny Goodman, legendary bandleader of the time and "The King of Swing," if he could "sing a song." One song later, young Billy Shepard was invited to tour with Goodman's band and his life-long journey as an entertainer had just begun.
Later in his early 20s, Billy relocated to New York City to sign a record deal with RCA Victor after winning a national singing competition. Judi Jourdan, "the first girl I met in New York" says Billy, had first started singing on TV as an eight-year-old kid from the Bronx and was currently receiving local and national radio
airplay. It wasn't long before the two became a couple although their professional careers saw them frequently traveling apart performing in nightclubs and cabarets across the country. This was an especially productive time for Billy, performing as the opening act for the likes of Nat King Cole and Sammy Davis Jr.
A short time after their marriage, Billy Shepard & Judi Jourdan became a duo, traveling and performing together. Then with the birth of their child, life on the road became less appealing. The couple reestablished themselves in NYC, performing locally and teaching Voice both individually and in a workshop setting. It was at this time that the idea for their talent showcase was born.
Says Billy, "We were working with a lot of wonderful students but they had no place where they could practice their craft." Recognizing that performing in front of a live crowd is crucial in the development of a singer's career, the Billy Shepard & Judi Jourdan Singer Showcase was created and is quite probably the longest-running Talent Showcase in NYC. Best of all, admission is free and anyone can participate.
Billy & Judi's Singer Showcase is held every Monday night from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Iguana VIP Lounge, 240 W. 54th St. (between Broadway & 8th Ave.), upstairs at the Iguana Restaurant in NYC. No reservations are required; just show up and put your name on the sign-up sheet. Back Stage was there the night of Dec. 28 to catch the action. Before we give our report, though, one matter of business needs to be taken care of.
Billy and Judi are the first to point out that their showcase would not be possible without the help of their dedicated and professional staff. Seven Moshod handles the lights and sound in the intimate Iguana VIP Lounge. Haim Cotton is an exceptional pianist for those performers requiring professional accompaniment. Last but certainly not least, Jackie Voyages is your friendly host and behind-the-scenes talent coordinator for Billy and Judi. Of course, all three are talented performers in their own right. Haim has recently released a solo piano album ("Mending Sparks") and Seven is being coached and developed by Billy and Judi for a successful singing career.
Now to the action! Waiting for the singers to perform, the first thing to catch your eye is the beautiful performance space that is the Iguana VIP Lounge. Cozy and intimate with brick walls and small tables, every seat gives you a great view of the raised stage. The second thing to attract your attention is the Iguana's cabaret menu, offering excellent Mexican "appeteasers" and over 20 different margaritas (the coconut-flavored did not disappoint!).
Billy & Judi started the evening with a brief welcome and then warmed up the crowd with a few opening numbers. One by one the performers took the stage. A couple things became immediately apparent. First of all, the acoustics of the space combined with the professional PA system resulted in a great, clear sound. Secondly, sitting in the audience I was struck by the immediacy and passion of the singers.
These people were up on stage baring their hearts and souls and the crowd was eating it up. We were treated to a wide variety of songs and musical styles (with a little spoken word thrown in for good measure). I know this sounds corny, but there was a real feeling of "sharing" among the performers and those of us in the audience. It was a local NYC crowd in the best of senses: very (very) diverse, warm, supportive, and FUN!! Even if you're not a performer, the next time you find yourself looking for something to do on a Monday night or if your tourist friends happen to be in town, stop by the Iguana VIP Lounge and catch the show – you won't be disappointed!
For a singer there's just no substitute for the skill and experience gained performing live in front of an audience. Whether you're an experienced performer looking to hone your craft or just starting out, Billy & Judi's Singer Showcase at the Iguana VIP Lounge is an excellent opportunity. Best of all, as your proficiency and comfort level increase, you may be invited to perform a 30-minute set as a featured performer in Billy & Judi's weekly Sunday Musical Revue at the Iguana. Over the years, Billy and Judi have also placed singers in Atlantic City and Las Vegas shows, aboard cruise lines, and even introduced a select few to talent agencies including William Morris and record producers such as Quincy Jones and Emelio Estefan.
Very special thanks to Back Stage intern Jun Yong Choi from Korea for all photos!