Friday, 30-Jan-04 12:40:40 EST
Here is a recent CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE message sent to over 1350 readers of this free e-mail newsletter. Check at the bottom of the message for the way you can have a free subscription.
CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE #000109 - Wednesday, January 26, 2000
We got hit with another snow storm yesterday, here in New York City, with about 5 or 6 inches falling in midtown, and some areas getting 8 to 12 inches. Of course, the curse of any snow in NYC is the mess the following day - huge slush puddles everywhere, especially at the crosswalks. A few cabaret shows were cancelled last night, but for the most part, the shows went on, just with smaller audiences.
I have had a busy time since the last newsletter - and I'm so glad to be back on the cabaret circuit seeing shows by folks I love!
Saturday I was at DON'T TELL MAMA (343 West 46th Street, NYC - 212-757-0788) at 6:00 pm to see Courtenay Day's CD release show - and I was really impressed by this gal's vocals. Having seen Wesla Whitfield on Friday night, it was a real treat to see two very beautiful cabaret shows in a row! Courtenay has a voice that caresses you, and each delicious lyric is delivered with tender, loving care. It was a small house, but a quality one - with singers like Eric Michael Gillett and Bill McKinley in the audience - along with Barry Kleinbort.
On Sunday, the 23rd, we attempted to see 4 performances, starting at 2:00 pm at CHELSEA LOBSTER CO. (156 Seventh Avenue, NYC - 212-243-5732) for jazz brunch and the special added treat of seeing Phyliss Pastore perform - it has been too long since this gal did a New York solo show. The good news is that she will be doing some shows in February at DON'T TELL MAMA with D. Jay Bradley as musical director. By the way, the Sunday jazz brunch here is fantastic - and the service could not have been better!
Next I headed uptown to DON'T TELL MAMA (343 West 46th Street, NYC - 212-757-0788) to catch Susan Matsuki's show at 3:30 pm - with the Gregory Toroian Trio. Her show was called "Speaking of Happiness," and featured songs relating to a questionnaire that Susan sent to several of her female friends regarding what made them happy. It is always a delight to hear Susan sing, but I am afraid she was just a bit distracted by her props and her papers (and so were we).
Which leads me to my special topic in this issue - "Do you really gotta' have a gimmick?"
I have been to a spate of cabaret shows lately which featured "gimmicks" and "props" as a major part of the performances. There was a globe that had to be spun to introduce every song in one show. Another show had to have a "story line" involving a special "guardian angel" that appeared in various forms. Then there was a show that was so filled with props, the poor performer spent most of the show (or so it seemed) dashing from coat rack to table to piano top, replacing hats, jackets and scarves as she went.
Take a glance at some of the top vocalists in the best cabaret rooms and you will rarely see a gimmick or a prop. Of course, there is Julie Wilson's boa, but that is more of a trademark than an prop. Over the past few months I have seen some of the best in cabaret - Wesla Whitfield, Michael Feinstein, Tom Andersen, Jack Donahue, Marilyn Volpe, Andrea Marcovicci, Mark Coffin, Courtenay Day, Charles Cermele, Scott Coulter, Eric Michael Gillett, Annie Hughes, Baby Jane Dexter, Jeanne MacDonald, Barbara Brussell - the list goes on - and most of these shows had a theme, but nary a gimmick or a prop. These are folks at the top of the cabaret list. They just go out there and "sing the songs!"
So, to Susan, ditch the questionnaire, toss the letters, scarves, necklaces and other distractions and sing the songs! You have lovely vocals, great arrangements, and great delivery.
Quote of the day: Effective cabaret is when nothing which is said or done distracts from bringing the full meaning of the songs or the message of the performance to the audience.
By the way, many of the folks in my above list of wonderful performers will be or are currently appearing in cabaret here in NYC. You owe it to yourself to see as many of them as you can in the weeks ahead!
Now, on with the story.
At 6:00 pm I was at CAROLINES (1626 Broadway, NYC - 212-757-4100) to catch Rick Crom's latest version of "Our Life & Times" revue. The show is running on Sundays through February 13th. It's all the news that's fit to sing about, including some new material about NASA's missing Mars probe ("Mars Kids"), Tipper Gore's perfect companion ("My Robot"), and Hilary's move to NY State ("Have I Ever Mentioned That I'm Jewish" and "White House Home Alone"). There are over 20 songs in all, including some favorites from past shows ("Gays in the Army," and "Lesbian Madness"). Directed by Collette Black, the MAC & BISTRO Award winning show featured Hector Coris, Michael Macaione, Steve Wertz and Stephanie Kurtzuba, with John McMahon as musical director. Rick himself appears via video tape as a TV newscaster between songs. It was absolutely fabulous!
Three shows down, and one to go, but I decided to stop for dinner with my pal Victor, who had joined me at CAROLINES. This was a mistake, since my plan was to see one more show at 8:30 pm - and we didn't finish dinner until about then. So, home I went - to get set for another exciting week.
Monday night I went to JOE'S PUB (425 Lafayette Street, NYC - 212-260-2400) to catch "All Girl Band - The Songs of David Zippel," featuring Randy Graff, Debbie Gravitte, and Adriane Lenox. The place was packed to all four walls - if they put in any more chairs and tables, I am certain the Fire Department would have closed the place. I could barely move in my seat!
Remember my comments above? You will note that I was talking about avoiding gimmicks and props, not avoiding "patter." And that was what I sorely missed in this show - the songs just kept rolling along with no introduction and no "set up." At least most of the tunes were up-tempo! I saw a dreadful ballad-filled, slow motion cabaret show a few months ago where the performer did a minimum of patter - it was so dull that even a critic from a local weekly fell asleep twice! (He ended up giving the show a rave! What did he miss that I was awake to see?)
The problem I had with the patter-free "All Girl Band" show was that nearly all the songs were from Broadway and off-Broadway shows - and show tunes are best understood within the context of the show. With no "set-up" the songs lost a lot of their punch.
Last night (Tuesday, January 24th), with all that snow coming down, I fortunately only had to go downstairs from the spacious offices of CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE to catch Bobby Belfry's wonderful gem of a show at 6:00 pm DON'T TELL MAMA (343 West 46th Street, NYC - 212-757-0788). A special treat in this show was the audience, made up in part by about two dozen high school students from Florida - in town through Friday - who came to see Bobby perform. The kids were excited about the show - and hopefully will be inspired to see more cabaret in the future.
The 9:00 pm show I planned to see had been cancelled, so I was able to head back upstairs to work on the "Cabaret Picks" page on the website. Please remember, I no longer send out the "Stu's Cabaret Picks" via e-mail, but the picks are now posted on my website at:
And, since this is an on-line web page, I keep adding new shows and cabaret events as they are brought to my attention, and adding days to the list as the month progresses. This means that it would be a good idea to check the "PICKS" page every few days, to see what has been changed, added or deleted. There are listings for shows in Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto, San Francisco, Washington DC and elsewhere, as well as New York City on this page.
Also, if you want to check on any new pages added to the website, just look at the "Cabaret In The News" page, also updated almost daily. I also post news items and stories of unique interest not covered by the other pages of the website here.
Here's a note received from the top, left corner of the USA ...
Just wanted to let you know of some exciting events in my life these days. One, of course, is that I started getting your online updates, which puts me in the "know" in cabaret - even though I live out here in the hinterlands of Portland, Oregon.
In spite of its bucolic reputation, we DO have cabaret in Oregon - not much, but it exists. Our only venue is in an old restored church, called - ready? THE OLD CHURCH. I debuted my Frank Sinatra show, "The Lady Is A Tramp," there last year, prior to my three-week run at DANNY'S SKYLIGHT ROOM (346 West 46th Street, NYC - 212-265-8133) in New York in July. And - here comes the second exciting event - I have a new show, which will also debut at THE OLD CHURCH. And it will also be presented at Danny's on April 8, 15 and 22.
The new show is called, "IT'S MAGIC: A CELEBRATION OF DORIS DAY." Surprisingly, many are no longer conversant with her music, though she spanned all types - from the big band sounds, to movie musicals, to standards, to those wacky novelty tunes she made into huge hits. The Portland show runs February 16, 17 and 18 at 8:00 pm.
I've been fortunate to work with some awesome musicians in my career and so I'm lucky again. Gordon Lee (who arranged and conducted the strings on my CD, "A Torch You Can't Lose") will be on piano; Danny Davis (who worked with Carmen Mac Rae) will be on bass; and my good friend, Donny Osborne, will be on drums again. If the name sounds familiar, it's because he spent 22 years playing drums for Mel Torme.
Looking ahead to DANNY'S in April, Gary Pace will be my musical director and head up the jazz trio, as he was with the Sinatra show and my recent gig last December at SWING 46. Hey, I'm almost a New Yorker now!.... and loving it, I might add.
So thanks again for the frequent and entertaining updates. Maybe one of these days you'll mosey out to Portland to see some cabaret. Of course, if you wait long enough, we'll come to you!
All the best,
Folks often ask me where they can learn more about the art of performing and cabaret, and here's a note about one place that very nearly makes me wish that I was a singer - imagine going to Italy for a vocal workshop!
I have just mailed out the brochures for The 8th Annual TUSCANY PROJECT: Voice & Song. Last year we once again filled to capacity, including three people who subscribe to CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE.
The TUSCANY PROJECT, will take place this year from July 23rd through August 5th. Once again it celebrates voice, sound, and song with an exploration of Cabaret music. The project gathers a small (24) international group in Italy to spend two weeks working intensively, while leaving time to explore the villages festivals, wine and food of Italy! The unique constellation of teachers represent the vocal, theater and movement arts. There is group and individual work, a blend of vocal exploration with work on individual songs, and theater and movement work as it applies to performance style ... all to create a program that allows each student to work on their own growing edge. The workshop culminates in a final celebration concert. Beginners are welcome, as are those with more experience. The only prerequisites are a sense of discovery and the courage to take risks.
My involvement in this workshop began six summers ago when I was a participating student. My own personal vocal and performing skills were so enhanced by my experience, that I have offered to inform people about this program. More information can be found at:
Also, people can contact me for information and a full brochure. Thanks so much for letting people know about this unique Project!
Gail Zarren ( email@example.com )
The BACK STAGE Magazine BISTRO AWARDS will be announced later today, and I plan to have the names of the winners up on my website for you all to read after midnight tonight. Actually, I am catching Jack Donahue's wonderful show at 11:00 pm at THE FIREBIRD CAFE (363 West 46th Street, NYC - 212-586-0244) so it will be a bit past midnight before they get posted.
The Annual BACK STAGE BISTRO AWARDS GALA will be held on Monday night, February 28th, at the SUPPER CLUB (240 West 47th Street, NYC) and the first 500 or so invitations have gone out. Previous and current winners get first chance to purchase tickets, with the balance going on sale through BACK STAGE at $50 each. All the winners are asked to perform at the gala, and best of all, there is "cabaret seating" at this event, and a buffet supper after the show.
And www.cabaret.org, which is part of the Technology and the Arts Practice of DATA INTO ACTION is proud to be one of the sponsors of this year's BISTRO AWARDS GALA. More details can be found in today's issue of BACK STAGE MAGAZINE, available here in NYC on the newsstands tonight.
And that is just about the way it was.
Hugs & Stuff,
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