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Selected Projects

Julian Fleisher is one of the most accomplished nightclub singers in New York. Even so, the urge to create and engage in a multiplicity of artistic endeavors can exert a strong pull on even the most focused and disciplined of artists. As a self-described "restless creative spirit", however, Julian has always been inclined to respond to such invitations with a hearty "Yes, And..."  As such, rarely has he turned down an opportunity to explore new frontiers and seek out fulfilling collaborations with a wide variety of fellow artists and institutions. What follows is a selection (in no particular order) of projects, passions and pursuits that have occupied the precious time in between his many gigs over the years...

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The Naked American Songbook from WNYC

From WNYC Studios, the folks who bring you RadioLab, Two Dope Queens and Meet the Composer, comes The Naked American Songbook, the show that dares to ask: What Makes the Great American Songbook so damn great? For three seasons, producer and host Julian Fleisher deftly and hilariously helps his guests unburden themselves of all sorts of layers of musical clothing. Seasons 1 and 2 featured such guests as Chris Noth, Martha Plimpton, Mo Rocca. Rachel Dratch, Isaac Mizrahi, Edie Falco, Molly Ringwald, Tonya Pinkins, Ana Gasteyer, Lea DeLaria, Alan Cumming, Zachary Quinto, Ari Shapiro, Darren Criss, Sheldon Harnick, Stephen Merritt, Rachel Bloom and Ira Glass. To listen to complete episodes, go to the PRX site here.

Almost Maine: The Music

Playwright John Cariani’s Almost, Maine is an indelible portrait of one cold night under the vivid skies of rural Maine. Detailed, magical, poignant and hilarious, this baker’s dozen of interlocking 2-person vignettes is now the most frequently produced play in America, beating out A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the first time ever! Read the fascinating piece about this play’s unprecedented success in the NY Times.

Cariani (himself a performer whose Motel the Taylor in the Broadway revival of A Fiddler on the Roof won him a TONY Award nomination) asked Julian to score the show. The job yielded a catalogue of over 30 minutes of music that itself was published along with the play, and which has become the most successful underscore for a play in history. With thousands of productions, Fleisher's music is a part of the lives of the countless folks who have used it for their productions, but also for their videos, indy movies, and even their weddings. Samples here.

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Under Under the Radar

Headlining New York's premier Downtown theater festival is one thing. Headlining the final one was another. At the invitation of the legendary conference's artistic directors, Julian turned his storied nightclub act into a theatrical event, exploring the nature of performing, the comfort of great songs and the tension between audience and performer. Contrary to rumor, this show was not the reason for the death of UTR. Look for a new edition as part of La Mama's 2025 season.

Ana Gasteyer: I'm Hip

After a year music directing Ana's cabaret show "Elegant Songs from a Handsome Woman", he got behind the console of one NY's finest recording studios and Julian produced I'm Hip, the swingingest, sassiest, most moxie-filled debut from one of Entertainment's most entertaining entertainers: Ana Gasteyer! ​


Check out the official video for the album's opening number, One Mint Julep, and then head to your favorite music service to hear the whole remarkable package.

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February House: A New Musical

In 2012, Julian was invited to play the lead role of George Davis in the new musical February House, the first commission in 20 years from New York’s legendary Public Theater. Composed by Gabriel Kahane, written by Seth Bockley and directed by Davis McCallum, February House was adapted for the stage from the book of the same name by Sherril Tippens and tells the remarkable, true story of a ramshackle Brooklyn Heights brownstone that housed such cultural luminaries at W.H. Auden, Benjamin Britten, Carson McCullers and Gypsy Rose Lee in the late 1930′s and early 1940′s. This remarkable rotating roster of literary and musical legends was curated and cultivated by the strangely forgotten George Davis, writer, editor and talent whisperer, for whom the house was a kind of professional last stand.


“With his gliding falsetto and runaway panache, Mr. Fleisher makes George Davis the inarguable, indelible hero of the household.” wrote the New York Times in their review of the World Premier which began it’s life at The Long Wharf theater in New Haven. 


The Hartford Currant raved “Not since “Sunday in the Park with George” does a musical so dazzlingly explore the role of art, artists and the “real” world in which they live with such creativity, intelligence and heart. Julian Fleisher anchors the evening with his special brand of charisma,”


New Haven Theater Blog wrote ” …applaud the casting of Julian Fleisher as George—he has the bonhomie, the knowing looks, the den-mother coddling, the grade-school teacher cheer, the man-of-the-world theatricality, the self-deprecating humor of a man with a great idea and the personality to pull it off. He’s so vividly rendered you believe he might walk off the stage and, if you’re lucky, invite you to a Forties soiree—and you would go with him most anywhere. Fleisher’s singing voice is less than overpowering, but his songs in the show are the kind that make you lean forward and listen. He’s a major strength of this production. You would be glad of the chance to spend time with him even if his housemates weren’t famous writers.”


The original cast recording of February House, produced by the composer, is available here

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Ryan Haddad: Falling for Make Believe

When Ryan J. Haddad was five, he founded an acting troupe called The Haddad Theater and forced his family to put on plays. Produced and directed by Julian Fleisher — who called in the big guns with pianist-to-the-stars, Billy Stritch — this charming, hilarious and deeply moving one-person show was the toast of 2019's Under The Radar Festival, garnering a coveted "Upscale / Brilliant" on New York Magazine's dreaded "Approval Matrix".

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Tomorrow, Together

The COVID lockdown was a time of introspection, contemplation and countless online sing-alongs. From the tiny den of his upstate cabin, Julian produced, directed and performed in the grand-daddy of them all: Tomorrow, Together. A fundraiser for Shields for Heroes, the video invited a panoply of stars and first responders to sing along to the greatest song ever written, Tomorrow from Annie. With an essential assist from the great Billy Stritch, Julian was joined by Sarah Jessica Parker, Molly Ringwald, Alan Cumming, Bridget Everett, Justin Vivian Bond, Tonya Pinkins, Gabrielle Hamilton, Ana Gasteyer, Norm Lewis, Mo Rocca, Ari Shapiro, Capathia Jenkins, Lisa Loeb, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Billy Eichner, Molly Pope, Heather Christianson, Melissa Haizlip, Mary Testa and many, many more. At the center of it all, though, was the one-and-only original Annie, the legendary Andrea McCardle, who leads off the choir in a gorgeous and emotional tribute to the bravery of the folks who gave so much to get us all through the challenges of the pandemic. Enjoy.

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44 Charlton: A Variety Show from WNYC

A love letter to the city it adores, 44 Charlton is a live, monthly talent and variety show hosted and produced by Julian Fleisher — by, for, and about New York City. The first Friday of every month is date and the address is, well, 44 Charlton Street -- otherwise known as The Greene Space, WNYC and WQXR's fabulous, street-level performance studio. Each month, musicians, singers, dancers, comics, magicians, performers, chefs and folks we cant quite qualify gather together to put on a show. Host Julian Fleisher is your docent through this cavalcade of Only-In-New Yorkers who remind us, on the regular, why NYC is still the wildest, wooliest, weirdest and most wonderful place to catch a shooting star. 

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The Drag Queens of New York: An Illustrated Field Guide

Long before the current craze for all things drag swept across the globe, Julian penned the first comprehensive survey of New York's underground scene. Part cultural critique and part loving tribute, DQNY (Riverhead Books) was literally decades ahead of its time in acknowledging the meaning, madness and metaphysics of drag. Taught in universities and collected by aficionados to this day, this 1996 publication represented the vanguard of quasi-academic thought on a once-niche subject that has now fully entered the mainstream.


Read it! Memorize It! Lip-Sync it!” — The Village Voice. 

Simply put, The best book of it’s kind.”— CNN. 

"You go, Girl!”—Vanity Fair. 


"Fleisher has expertly combined the descriptive rigor of an ethnographer, the wry enthusiasm of a seasoned tour guide and the empathetic heart of an old friend to paint a deeply revealing portrait of not only an extraordinary demi-monde, but also of its bizarre relationship to the world at large. He also wisely leaves plenty of room for the queens to relate their own experiences and ideas, while gently guiding both them and the reader to look beyond the hoary canards that characterize almost all discussions by and about drag. The portraits are lovely, the format clever and the final result is illuminating, hilarious and very humane. Read it." – Amazon

Martha Plimpton & Julian Fleisher: Save It for the Stage

Ok, so it didn’t last forever. But during their brief run on the boards, Julian Fleisher and Martha Plimpton had ‘em lining up for more. After a couple of one-offs in the trenches of NYC, this daring duo headed to LA, scene of many of Martha’s greatest triumphs. Produced and directed by Julian Fleisher, the month-long run at Tim Robbins’ Actors Gang theater, quickly became the hottest ticket in town, grabbing rave reviews and selling out every seat in the house.​

“Intoxicating! Fleisher and Plimpton make an irresistible team, with unerring chemistry, obvious regard and fabulous voices, her delicate belt a perfect fit with his soaring instrument…a triumph of intimate spontaneity.” 

— The LA Times

For once,the publicity is accurate…they play off each other with reckless, almost magical precision” — LA Weekly​

“Delightfully bizarre...spectacularly large and soulful voices” — Backstage West​

“The most unique and polished duo in town…fun in this upbeat, slyly wacky way” —​

“This seemingly unlikely pairing of the nightclub entertainer and the award-winning actress…could end up with the dynamic duo becoming the next Steve and Eydie” —

“It’s terrific…There’s enough energy and adoration between the two to light up the Hollywood skies. They captivate the audience.” -- Hollywood Reporter

Priceless.” — Variety

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Molly Pope: Polly Mope

How do you get through the night? Cabarettist Molly Pope faces the literal and the metaphorical question on a nightlong musical mental agility course. Locked in her 6th floor walk-up, this solo musical delves into what she’ll do to make it to the dawn; coping with being a human person, the bi-polarcoaster, and wind chimes. Directed by Julian Fleisher, “Polly Mope” premiered at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center in May 2019 and was developed in part at the Afterglow Festival, the Orchard Project, Joe’s Pub/Kimmel Center Residence, Greenwich House Music School’s “Uncharted Series.” 

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Kiki And Herb: The Recordings

Legendary downtown performers Kiki & Herb, whose manic evenings of song styling-cum-gestalt therapy have attracted an enormous and rabid following, have gone from the bars of the village all the way to Carnegie Hall and now Broadway. Their shattering and ingenious interpretations of pop songs both old and new have been written about in countless articles, reviews and even a dissertation or two. Along the way, Justin Vivian Bond and Kenny Mellman (as they are often and otherwise referred to) recorded two full-length CDs – both of which are produced by Julian Fleisher.

The first, the essential Christmas album Kiki & Herb: Do You Hear What We Hear, is a pristine and twisted account of many holiday favorites (and more than a few shocking surprises) and features special appearances by some of the duo’s favorite friends including Debbie Harry, Alex Gifford, Molly Ringwald, Lilly of the Valley, Isaac Mizrahi, the Eerie Institutional Gospel Choir.

The second, Kiki & Herb Will Die for You at Carnegie Hall, also produced by Julian Fleisher, is a 2-CD record of their storied concert at the world’s most prestigious concert venue and is as much a testament to the passion of their fans as it is to their own monumental talent.​

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Coraline: A New Musical

With songs by Magnetic Fields super-genius Stephin Merritt, adapted for the stage from Neil Gaiman’s instant classic by downtown luminary David Greenspan, directed by wunderkind Leigh Silverman and starring theater royalty Jayne Houdyshell, MCC Theater’s production of the new musical Coraline at the Lucille Lortelle Theater was the summer’s hot ticket. In a coup of counter-intuitive casting, the pivotal role of the Cat went to Julian Fleisher, about whom the critics had to say this:

“But for me the most completely drawn character is a cat. Portrayed by Mr. Fleisher, who isn’t remotely feline-looking, this yawning, stretching Cat (who plays an important role in Coraline’s deliverance) has all the compelling self-containment and capriciousness of his species.” — Ben Brantley, New York Times

Julian Fleisher is a knockout as the slyer-than-sly cat who befriends Coraline. Mr. Fleisher, a theatrical novice, is a not-quite-lounge singer whose smoothly ironic cabaret act is familiar to habitués of the nightclubs of downtown Manhattan. I didn’t know he could act, but he does a first-class job in “Coraline,” and I expect we’ll be seeing more of him on stage.” — Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal

“When Coraline returns home to find her real mother and father missing, she enlists the help of an inscrutable black cat — a sublimely disdainful Julian Fleisher.” — David Rooney, Variety

“Still, some of the songs do stand out, such as the Cat’s solo number — terrifically delivered by Fleisher” — Frank Sheck, Hollywood Reporter

“Absolutely the best cat I have ever seen onstage” — Michael Feingold, The Village Voice

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Ana Gasteyer: Sugar & Booze

The success of their first collaboration led Julian and Ana Gasteyer to double down and swing for the fences. The result is a newly minted, Christmas classic, Sugar & Booze, produced by Julian Fleisher, that blends loving rethinks of traditional holiday bangers with original contributions to the catalogue of Christmas songs. Fleisher's own addition, Nothing Rhymes with Christmas, can be heard in Hulu's The Holiday Season starring Kristen Stewart and Aubrey Plaza and in high-school choirs, cabarets and concert halls nationwide. Catch them on tour

The Performers on Broadway

Starring Henry “The Fonz” Winkler, Alicia Silverstone, Cheyenne Jackson, Ari Graynor, Daniel Breaker and Jenni Barber, The Performers was playwright David West Read’s Broadway debut. A hilarious, charming and surprisingly sweet look at the world of adult movies, it was directed by Evan Cabnet and featured music composed and produced by Julian Fleisher. Eschewing the predictable “bow-chicka-bow-bow” so closely associated with the world of porn, Julian’s music was a jazzy, Vegas-tinged tribute both to the boulevard sex farces of yesteryear and the setting for the play’s hijinks, two adjoining rooms in a Las Vegas hotel room.

Sadly, The Performers ran headlong into a force of nature even greater than a bad review in the New York Times: Super-Storm Sandy. Happily, though, the music lives on and you can hear it here

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Elevator Repair Service

After the success of February House, the new musical in which he starred at The Long Wharf Theater in New Haven and the Public Theater in New York, Julian was asked to join the legendary Elevator Repair Service — one of New York’s most innovative and storied independent theater companies. Under the direction of fellow Yalie John Collins, Julian joined the cast of The Select, the company’s sprawling adaptation of Ernest Hemmingway’s literary classic The Sun Also Rises.

Having met the company when they shared dressing rooms at The Public Theater, Julian joined the show first at the Dublin Theater Festival in Ireland and then toured the show to Portugal, Australia and then for an extended run at Princeton University’s McCarter Theater.

Next up was ERS's production of Anton Chechov's The Seagull, the ultimate play about a play, which received its world premier at NYU's Skirball Center in  2021.

Why Songs Matter

Hosted and produced by Julian Fleisher for the 92nd St. Y in New York City, this series of conversations with such luminaries as Ira Glass, Rosanne Cash, Micheal R. Jackson, Martha Plimpton, Terry Radigan, Shakina Nayfack, Rev. Jacqui Lewis, Rabbit Amichai Lab-Lavie, Martha Redbone and others explored the primal importance of songs to the human spirit and soul. The three panels were an early attempt at remote media production during the early months of the COVID pandemic and were remarkably successful both as conversations but also as proof that such complex audio-visual productions could be achieved from home. Revisit these illuminating conversations here. 

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Gather Round

Picture book author/illustrator David Covell's latest opus from Penguin Books is a gorgeous, charming and magical look at the simple joys of making friends with nothing more than a guitar, a fire and the stars above. Gather Round features David's signature dreamy illustrations, inviting verse and -- would you believe -- a brand new global hit by your own Julian Fleisher. Featured on the back cover of the book, and meant to recall timeless classics from the likes of Burl Ives, Peter, Paul and Mary and Free to Be You and Me, The Circle Song (Gather Round) is a campfire canon that generations can gather together and sing, over and over, all night long. 

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Stamford Coffee

Everyone's response to COVID was different. Some kept calm and carried on. Some went home, where you're not supposed to go again. Others wrote that album or novel they'd been dreaming of. Julian bought a derelict building in his beloved Catskill Mountains and built a thriving business: Stamford Coffee. From the ashes of a crumbling old printing house rose the phoenix of not just a place to grab a cuppa joe, but a vital, bustling center of community, In the span of just six months, the grim, empty edifice down the street from the liquor store was transformed into the center of town, Leveraging his creative skills, and the moxie that is the trademark of almost every working entertainer, Julian hustled into being a town hall of sorts that, to this day, feeds not just the caffeine cravings of locals and tourists alike, but also the spirit of the county that badly needed a place to gather, connect and commune. Visit the shop's instagram to keep up with all the goings on.

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The Orchard Project

After his first summer as Artist in Residence, Julian was invited to become Director of Cabaret and Musical Theater at the Orchard Project, where he spent three years guiding artists too numberless to name through the often challenging landscape of the creative process. The Orchard Project  has been a preeminent engine of new work in the dramatic arts world, helping over 1500 artists and 400 shows develop and go on to stages as big as Broadway and as small as a basement in Sweden. The artists in our extended community are pushing the field of performance forward each and every day. Through residencies, developmental productions and other support activities, we take risks where no one else is willing to.

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The Musical Theater Factory

Since its founding in 2014, Musical Theatre Factory, Inc. has been an inclusive community wholly dedicated to the developmental process of innovative new musicals by early-career artists. MTF began in the back of a porn studio when Founding Artistic Director Shakina Nayfack was gifted 18 months of a lease. She opened the doors to any volunteer willing to put in sweat equity to build the space with her, thus providing all access entry into participating at MTF. Julian is proud to have served seven years as a Founding Board Member of this unique and thriving new community devoted to developing changemaking new work in a joyous, collaborative community free from commercial constraints. That MTF's first musical out of the block, Micheal R. Jackson's A Strange Loop, went on to win multiple TONY Awards and a Pulitzer Prize is a tribute to the vision of MTF's leader and the vitality of our mission and those who have committed to making it a reality.

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