Singsational Moments at Japas 55

Posted by Lia Chang on Friday, 13 August 2004.

In the mood to channel my inner diva, I head for Japas 55, a karaoke bar in NY's theater district.

Six performances in the New Federal Theater off Broadway production of William A. Parker's Waitin' 2 End Hell directed by Woodie King at the 47th Street Playhouse were just enough to whet my appetite for being on stage in front of a live audience again.

In the mood to satisfy my inner diva, I was transported to Japas 55 , a karaoke bar in New York's theater district, not once but twice this week.

Up a flight of stairs, on the second floor, several groups are partying at the bar which seats 20, drinking and singing to the lyrics appearing on one of three flat screen TVs positioned overhead at different sections of the bar. Videos flash on the screens while the melody for the songs play over the sound system.

Earlier in the week, a filmmaker friend brought me and my fellow actors Art Acuna and Eunice Wong (starring in the National Asian American Theater Company production of Antigone ), here to sing to our heart's content and have a bite to eat. The fully air conditioned private room we opt for is so comfortable-as if we are in our living room-that we channel our rock star personas until 2 in the morning.

I'm curious about the group singing experience, but tonight my first priority is food. My sister Tami and I are starving. Ordered from the East restaurant dinner menu (located downstairs), we practically inhale our shoyu ramen, nabeyaki udon, rainbow rolls and gyoza. Available until 10pm, there is a "midnight snack menu" once the East kitchen closes.

A sense of camaraderie at the bar puts us at ease and before long, we are making friends with complete strangers.

Celebrating his 29th birthday with buddies who enjoy singing just as much as he does, Tom Roh, an investment banker for JP Morgan , frequents Japas 55 often enough that there are two bottles of Grey Goose vodka labeled with his name.

"I always sing at the bar with my friends," says Roh. "There is a playful group dynamic and I like the diversity."

Emily Chiang, a financial engineering student at UC Berkeley, and her friend Ching Hu prefer the bar setting over the private rooms as well.

"It's not as much fun making a fool of yourself in front of just your friends in a room," says Chiang, as she sips on her lychee martini.

Im having a marvelous time singing the Stylistics' Betcha By Golly Wow , Neil Sedaka's Breaking Up is Hard to Do and the Beatles' Do You Want to Know a Secret .

Tonight's song selections span the decades, with tunes made famous by the Bee Gees, Bon Jovi, Britney Spears, Sting, Madonna, Barry Manilow, the Eagles, Billy Idol, Queen, Billy Ocean, and Elvis Presley on tap for the night. It is a surprisingly intimate evening and by 1:00am, I'm singing My Way with Tom and his friends Dan and Angela Lee Sullivan as if I've known them forever.

Japas 55 is located at 253 W. 55th St. All six of the private rooms were filled with happy singers when I arrived at 9pm. If you would like a room, the charge is $6 per person per hour. Sit at the bar and you pay $1 per song. The choice is yours.

The extensive repertoire features songs in English, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Enticing specials include price on salmon dishes on Monday, price on tuna dishes on Wednesday, and a price room and drink special during happy hour from 5pm-7pm every night. Open from 5pm-3am, 7 days a week, last call is at 2:30am.
For more info, call 212-765-1210.