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PHOTO BY RICK GONZALEZ Nellie McKay McKay, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 7, the 37th annual Celebration Of The Arts (COTA), Delaware Water Gap. PHOTO BY RICK GONZALEZ Nellie McKay McKay, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 7, the 37th annual Celebration Of The Arts (COTA), Delaware Water Gap.

Spotlight On: Nellie McKay one of the COTA cats at The Gap

Wednesday, September 3, 2014 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

Acclaimed singer-songwriter and Poconos resident Nellie McKay has appeared on Broadway, performed on the "Late Show With David Letterman" and tours coast to coast.

Now, she'll be one of the COTA cats.

McKay performs a rare solo concert in the region, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 7, at the 37th annual Celebration Of The Arts (COTA), Delaware Water Gap.

McKay, expected to perform a variety of originals and some standards at the piano and on ukulele at COTA, debuted her one-woman show, "A Girl Named Bill: The Life and Times of Billy Tipton" last month at 54 Below, New York City, and is touring with The Turtle Island Quartet, with whom she appears, 3 p.m. Sept. 28, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.

"A Girl Named Bill" was described as "her [McKay] most ambitious adventure yet" by Stephen Holden in an Aug. 6 review in The New York Times, calling McKay "phenomenally talented."

Of her Café Carlyle debut, "Nellie with a Z," in February, The New York Times wrote "she can write and sing in any style."

An estimated 4,000 is expected for 15 jazz concerts at the COTA hillside amphitheater beginning at noon Sept. 6 with a concert by Nancy Reed and Spencer Reed and continuing at 10 a.m. Sept. 7 with a Jazz Mass.

There will be 18 artisans, children's games, crafts and storytelling area, and food.

"Music Motif Art Show" opens with a reception, 6 p.m. Sept. 5, and continues noon - 6 p.m. Sept. 6, 7, Antoine Dutot Museum & Gallery, 24 Main St., Delaware Water Gap.

The Water Gap Players present theater, music and dance, 7 p.m. Sept. 5, Presbyterian Church of the Mountain, Main Street (Rt. 611), Delaware Water Gap.

Highlights of COTA concerts at the amphitheater include: Bob Dorough And Friends, 3:45 p.m.; Phil Woods And The COTA Festival Orchestra, 5 p.m., and Miss Ida Blue, 7:45 p.m., all Sept. 6, and COTA Cats Volume XXXIV, 2:30 p.m.; Expansions: The Dave Liebman Group, 4 p.m.; and The Shockenaw Mountain Boys, featuring Tim Carbone, 7:45 p.m., all Sept. 7.

McKay made her Broadway debut in 2006 in "The Threepenny Opera," receiving a Theatre World Award for her portrayal of Polly Peachum. In 2013, she performed her songs, opposite Bill Irwin and David Shiner, in the off-Broadway world premiere of the revue, "Old Hats."

During a phone interview, McKay is unceasingly polite, modest and self-deprecating. When asked if she'll perform solo at COTA, she jokes that she asks people to accompany her, but they never seem to show up.

Look, and listen, for McKay to perform songs from her critically-acclaimed double-album debut, "Get Away From Me" (2003), produced with Beatles' engineer Geoff Emerick, as well as from her albums, "Pretty Little Head" (2006), "Obligatory Villagers" (2007), "Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day" (2009) and "Home Sweet Mobile Home" (2010).

McKay says that on his way home after the "Get Away From Me" recording sessions, Emerick wouldn't listen to music. "People in the music business can't listen to music," she observes.

She says Emerick didn't even listen to The Beatles. "He's sick of their music, too," she quips.

McKay's songs have been heard on the TV shows "Mad Men," "Boardwalk Empire," "Weeds," "Grey's Anatomy," "NCIS" and "Nurse Jackie."

In addition to "Letterman," she's been on the TV shows, "The View," "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson," "Live with Regis & Kelly" and "CBS Saturday Morning."

She's performed onscreen in the film, "PS I Love You" (2007) and wrote songs for the soundtrack of director Rob Reiner's film, "Rumor Has It" (2005).

Of composing, McKay says the music and lyrics happen in various ways. "That's nice when they all come to you all at once. You just get lucky one way or the other. Most of life is luck."

When asked if she has plans for her next album, McKay answers coyly, "It's about time. We better do something. Thanks for the reminder."

COTA Information: