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Broadway's Richard Jay-Alexander honors his 'Karaoke Criminals'

Broadway Director and Producer Richard Jay-Alexander, center in baseball cap, surrounded by the Karaoke Criminals at the Mova Karaoke Grand Finale
Broadway Director and Producer Richard Jay-Alexander, center in baseball cap, surrounded by the Karaoke Criminals at the Mova Karaoke Grand Finale
Monika Zdziebkowka

The Karaoke Criminals bid farewell to Mova Lounge in grand style when Broadway's Richard Jay-Alexander turned up to honor our karaoke group with our own special awards.

Yes, that Richard Jay-Alexander. Although he spends his life mounting concerts for the world's biggest stars, including Barbra Streisand, Bernadette Peters and Kristin Chenoweth, he drops in on our Monday night karaoke songfests as often possible.

He also bestowed the "Karaoke Criminals" name upon us about a year ago, and we just as swiftly proclaimed him our leader. So it was especially fitting that he join us this past Monday at our "Mova Karaoke Grand Finale," when we bid farewell to our time at this popular South Beach gay lounge. Mova closes its doors forever tomorrow night.

The Karaoke Criminals is a loosely formed band of karaoke aficionados that formed around our KJ, Miik Martorell two years ago. Our leader discovered us soon thereafter when, as he puts it, "My best friend, Edison Farrow, dragged me there."

Our delight in seeing Richard Jay-Alexander walk through the door to Mova that night turned to amazement when we saw he was bearing a large shopping bag in preparation for the impromptu awards ceremony he had just dubbed the “Richard Jay-Alexander's (self-invented) KARAOKE CRIMINALS Recognition Awards."

“Over the past few years, I’ve developed great affection for this group. I come here and I listen to people sing. I never make judgments, but I notice things,” said Jay-Alexander. “I think it is important to say that these awards are self-invented and are solely decided by me," he added.

Most of the awards consisted of valuable mementos amassed during his 40-year career in show business. These included a U.S. Army shirt from the opening night of "Miss Saigon," (which he produced on Broadway); a special collectible book from "The Little Mermaid," and a piece of piano/conductor sheet music, a tool used in concert arranging. He and Streisand had used this one, and it was marked with her pencil notations. "It's the only one in the world," said Jay-Alexander.

As for the Karaoke Criminals, the experience was overwhelming. “Receiving the award for 'Most Improved Singer' from Richard Jay-Alexander is a dream come true," said Henry Perez. "This is the icing on the cake in my journey since I started singing at Mova." A few months ago, Perez had been stunned to learn that Jay-Alexander so enjoys his portrayal of Sebastian the Crab when he does "Under the Sea" that he has shown Streisand a video of it. Not surprisingly, Perez took home the “Little Mermaid" book. This was not your ordinary souvenir book, but is a special one showing how the hit Broadway musical had been staged.

Jay-Alexander bestowed upon Rick Jazzed a snazzy black fedora and the “Best Sinatra Singer in the House Award.” “Richard Jay-Alexander brought a level of professionalism to the group,” said Jazzed. “He inspires us to reach limits in our voices we never thought we could reach. He has been the real inspiration to our growth," Jazzed added.

“I love it when Richard Jay-Alexander is there. His enthusiasm for performing and for all things entertainment is absolutely contagious. His energy takes it to another level," said David Kessler," who is our group's "Mr. Soul." Said Jay-Alexander of Kessler, "David always shows up, always does a good job, and is always well-put together." Kessler took home a pair of collectible suspenders from Paris.

As for me, I was very proud to receive the "Founder's Award," (for co-founding the group with Perez) and I received the Streisand piano/conductor sheet music, which I will treasure. And may I just add that, when Richard Jay-Alexander is with us, the atmosphere is electric. With these awards, he showed his generosity, his caring, and that he is a true mensch.

People in his show business circle are understandably dumbfounded when they learn that that Jay-Alexander spends his rare time off singing karaoke in a South Beach lounge. "But I love karaoke," the legendary Broadway producer proclaims. "When you audition for Broadway it’s all rejection, rejection, rejection. With karaoke, you may be good or not, but it’s all done in the right spirit and no one gets hurt,” he said.

Jay-Alexander also relishes his turn on the karaoke stage, and his signature rendition of "Breaking Up is Hard to Do," is so heartfelt that, by the song's end, he's on his knees. "Karaoke is a great way to blow off steam. You can crack notes and it doesn’t matter," he noted.

He also gave Maryel Epps, one of South Beach's most cherished professional entertainers, an award as well. "Maryel is the heartbeat of the Karaoke Criminals. One night on stage, she looked over at everyone and said, ‘I love us.' For me, that hit the nail on the head. Most of the singers here will never have a music career, but they just love music," said Jay-Alexander, adding, "I get a little teary eyed when I think about it but this karaoke was our Monday night church."

Note: Mova is closing, but it's not over for the Karaoke Criminals. We are moving to "The Gaythering, and we will be singing there every Monday night. Karaoke with the Karaoke Criminals starts at 9. More info: The Gaythering

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