Taylor Simon King, a celebration of the three American troubadours James Taylor, Carly Simon, and Carole King, is produced by Jersey Shore musical power couple Lisa Sherman and Franke Previte, an Oscar winner for the 1987 classic Dirty Dancing. Their production will be coming to Franke’s hometown of New Brunswick on March 25 with a performance at the grand New Brunswick Performing Arts Center.
Having won for Best Song, “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life,” Franke will be submitting an updated version of his other Dirty Dancing tune, “Hungry Eyes,” to a forthcoming sequel along with new material. Meanwhile, Lisa also keeps busy and fit as an exercise instructor when not producing the high-energy fun of The Disco Connection, a salute to the 1970s dance hall days that returns April 1 to The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park and will perform July 15 at The Vogel in Red Bank.
Meanwhile, Taylor Simon King also will perform May 23 at Penns Peak in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. Also in May, TSK is doing an outdoor festival at the Army National Guard military base in Sea Girt. On July 19, they will be at Penn Community Bank Amphitheater in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, and, as previously discussed, August 5, they will be back at Carteret PAC. The tribute band also includes new vocalist-acoustic guitarist James Gedeon, vocalist-acoustic guitarist Mary McCrink, lead guitarist-music director Ralph Notaro, violinist Gary Oleyar, saxophonist-flutist-percussionist Tommy LaBella, guitarist Todd Sherman, keyboardist Sam Sherman, drummer Lance Hyland Stark, and bassist Buddy Allen.
We spoke with Franke and Lisa about all that they have going on, including a return to Franke’s hometown, in the following chat. Enjoy!
How does it feel to be presenting Taylor Simon King in Franke’s hometown of New Brunswick?
Lisa: I have such respect and admiration for my husband as a person, his past as a performer, and obviously as an Academy Award winner. He talks fondly about his earlier days growing up in New Brunswick, and so, to bring this wonderful production to his hometown will make me want to truly offer my best ‘A’ game on performance day to make him proud in his hometown.
What do you think of the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center and why?
Lisa: This will be my first time at the theater and I’m looking very forward to it.
Franke: Well, to tell you the truth, I haven’t seen the new renovation yet, but Eric Greenberg who booked TSK told me it’s “state of the art.” My recollection of the building started when I was just a kid at the YMCA going to camp and learning how to box. Many years later, the building became the George Street Playhouse, so, yes, I’m looking forward to seeing it.
Franke, most folks don’t realize that you’re a Hub City native because you’ve been so closely associated with the Jersey Shore for so long, especially Asbury Park and Oceanport. What was it like growing up in New Brunswick and how did growing up there impact your musical direction?
Franke: Looking back, growing up in New Brunswick was an integral part of my development in who I am today. I’d spend many Saturday nights crushing the avenue with my buddies or singing a cappella at the NB train station. Coincidentally, that’s where the reverb between the north and south tunnel was happening. We would serenade the strap hangers on their way home from work with our ‘blow harmonies,’ and these folks became my first audience, which helped me build my confidence to become a performer. For me, NB was a melting pot of cultures, which taught me that through my love of music and playing sports – without even knowing it – I was molding myself for future things to come.
How has New Brunswick changed since you grew up there?
Franke: Well, my mom used to work for Johnson & Johnson so I got an inside look at just how this embraced the city and helped it turn the corner. New Brunswick Tomorrow was a strategical part of helping not only the inner structure of life in NB but also the cultural artistic development within the NBPAC and the State and Crossroads theaters. My friend Warren Zimmerman and many others were huge contenders concerning all the success and growth.
How has Taylor Simon King evolved as a production within the past year?
Lisa: Each time we get the opportunity to perform the show, we learn something new. It may be how the audience connects with the songs, perhaps it’s about our personal delivery; however, each performance allows us as a musical family to become more confident with the material and each other.
Franke: As an Academy Award and Golden Globe winner, I felt that passing the torch with these three American troubadours was a no-brainer. Their song lists hits are enriched with classics that have become the soundtrack for our generation. Even though their musical catalog overflows with so many mainstay recognizable songs, we like to add some deep-cut favorites just to help enlighten any individuals who haven’t yet fully embraced all their music. We do this not only musically but with simple visual projections, as well.
The lineup has remained the same for quite a while. What impact does that have on the show?
Lisa: If your ‘lineup’ refers to the songs, in actuality, their catalog of music is enormous and we do interchange songs quite often. However, so many of the tunes are classics, and it’s for that reason that we continue to hang on to what we know drives the theaters to sell out and the audiences to standing ovations. If your ‘lineup’ refers to the band members, well, our next show will debut our new band member whose name is James Gedeon. James is very well known as a fine musician and vocalist and we’re really excited and lucky to be able to add his flavor to our production. In addition, we’ll be adding a cool acoustic section to the show with songs we haven’t added previously; and so, all in all, will offer quite an exciting new impact to the evening.
I understand TSK will be returning to URSB Carteret Performing Arts & Events Center this summer. What do you like most about that venue? Why?
Lisa: We were there just after it first opened and we were all still dealing with heavy COVID restrictions; however, even contending with those two issues, they couldn’t have been more kind and professional, and the theater itself was state-of-the-art stunning… really looking forward to being invited back.
Franke: First off, the venue is state-of-the-art. [Second], the folks that work there are first class professionals; just like the NBPAC.
Where else will TSK be performing in the coming months, what are looking forward to most about those shows, and why?
Lisa: The best way to see where we’ll be performing is to go to our website: taylorsimonking.com. What do we look most forward to? Having more opportunities to share live music written by three of the most incredible singing songwriters of all time.
In addition to Taylor Simon King, Lisa produces and performs The Disco Connection with a great, fun band – some of whom perform in TSK. The amount of energy you exude in that show, Lisa, is amazing! How does the music, your fitness level, and your connection with the band and audience enable you to do that?
Franke: Great question, Bob. Lisa brings so much energy to every show, but her Disco show is literally on another level; it’s two-and-a-half hours of nonstop live music! I can’t wait to hear Lisa’s answer.
Lisa: The Disco Connection is by far the highest energy performance I’ve ever been involved with. To be honest, I go into training for that show physically and vocally months in advance. Well, to be honest, I’m always in training, but I do have to concentrate a bit more diligently prior to performance day. Our rehearsals are so much fun, and although I do have a few band members who are also in TSK (Buddy Allen on bass, Ralph Notaro on guitar/vocals), as a band, we’re all able to fall into a new character once the disco beat begins.
When and where are you teaching what exercise classes, and how can folks learn more and sign up for them?
Lisa: You warmed my heart with this question, Bob. Yes, that entity of my life continues to exist. Exercise and educating in the area of functional movement will always be a huge part of my life. I absolutely adore where I teach, which is a studio called URfit in Ocean Township. Personally, I teach my own choreographed free style barre, aerobic step, and a class called ‘Cardio Chisel,’ which is their signature class. Lots of other class options and times available.
Any other projects coming up, Lisa, such as Bob Burger’s Fleetwood Mac tribute?
Lisa: Who doesn’t love Bob Burger? Yes, Fleetwood Mac is coming back to McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park on March 19. Tickets will hopefully be up soon on their website.
Franke, any Dirty Dancing-related activity coming up?
Franke: Glad you asked. In 2024, Jennifer Gray is producing and starring in a sequel – not a remake, folks! This story tells us what happened to the character Baby 35 years after the fact. Lions Gate is sending me the script, and there’s a good chance of a few new songs, too. Stay tuned.
Valentine’s Day often is a busy time for you, Franke, in promotion of the song “Sweetheart.” Anything special going on this year?
Franke: No, not this year, Bob. I did release an updated version last February for Valentine’s Day with a band out of Dayton, Ohio called Stranger. The band interpreted the song with more of a rock feel, which I loved. They also gave the song a touch of a Toto sound and vibe, too. It’s actually very cool. For any fans wanting to check it out, you can find it on Amazon and YouTube. I also recently recorded a new version of “Hungry Eyes” with my Stranger band buddies. It kicks ass and I’m actually going to submit it for the upcoming sequel along with a new song Lisa sang on called “I Had a Dream,” written with my cousin, Dusty Micale, and co-produced with Bob Burger from The Weeklings.
You’ve been a couple for a very long time, but married a little over a year. What impact has marriage had on each of you?
Lisa: He’s my music man, and I always hoped to find someone who spoke the same language as me. We’ve both been in the entertainment industry for a long time, so we get it. In general, we’re a pretty chill couple, and ‘marriage,’ persé, hasn’t changed that perspective.
Franke: As far as our marriage, I’d have to say truthfully that nothing has changed. We still love each other just as much as before we got married. Lisa is the love of my life and we are so lucky we found each other at this point in our lives.
Is there anything I didn’t ask on which you would like to comment?
Franke: No, I think you nailed it, Bob. I have to say, it’s always great to reminisce about my hometown, and I’m truly looking forward to reconnecting with a lot of my old friends who can make the TSK show at the NBPAC.
Lisa: Thank you so much, Bob.
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