Resources: AuditionTrax

October 21, 2007

I just found a terrific service for those of us who aren’t piano wizzes.  AuditionTrax is the brainchild of Los Angeles music director Tom Griep.

You transmit your sheet music as a fax or pdf and he’ll send you an mp3 of the song.  You have your choice of accompaniment only, melody only, or melody and accompaniment versions.  Prices start at $25 for a 4-page song.

I sent my order in Friday morning and had the mp3s in my e-mail that night.  The song I sent was not in the most accompanist-friendly keys, but I got really great quality piano and piano/melody versions.  And it was easy enough to copy the tracks into iTunes so I could put them on my iPod or a CD.

The order info on the site make it seems as though the service is exclusively meant for actors auditioning, Tom said that cabaret people were more than welcome to use it for learning material.

Take a Bow!

October 21, 2007

A cabaret act I saw recently started me to thinking about bows.  Up to the point of bow, the diva in question had truly been FABULOUS – really working with all cylinders firing.  Then came the bow.  Now don’t get me wrong, she did everything correctly.  She acknowledged the applause, she didn’t feign false modesty, she even blew a kiss before bowing from the waist. 

But somehow it didn’t seem enough. Simply because it wasn’t as FABULOUS as what preceded it.  At that point, she really could have gotten away with much more.  She probably could have worked three sides of the stage (the room was just big enough).  She could have curtseyed (which may be generally advisable given this particular diva’s tendency toward décolleté).

This incident made me realize that the bow is really the last chance a performer has to make an impression on the audience.  And in solo work, it’s especially important.  Because when you’re part of a larger company, unless you have the last bow, your job is to be grateful, but quick.  And even when you have the last bow, there are issues — The great actress Fran Dorn said that one of her qualms about playing Shakespearean heroines was going out for her bow after 30 other people.

In talking to various performers, especially those working below the topmost tier, there is a discomfort I’ve discovered about bows and applause.  And I think that that stems from a “modesty” that has been instilled in most of us.  We’re told we’re not supposed to obviously enjoy praise. 

However, as we all know, applause is for the audience, not for the performer.  It gives the audience the chance to participate, the chance to express opinions, the chance for release, and the chance to regroup.  And a lesson I’ve taken to heart on the issue, inculcated from some top performers, is that cheating the audience is not “modesty;” it’s arrogance.  It means that your emotional baggage as a performer is not letting the audience do their job.  It tells the audience that their reactions aren’t appreciated.  Worse, it tells the audience that you don’t respect their judgment.

But as a solo performer*, the bow is an opportunity not to be missed.  Not only do you get to bask in the audience’s thanks (hopefully), but you can really cement your persona as a performer.  Moreover, a REALLY effective curtain call can have the effect of leaving such a strong final impression that it makes people think your show was better than it was.  The best example of this is Mamma Mia.  The “concert” during the curtain call gets people up, clapping and dancing in the aisle.  And that’s the most lasting impression you have of the show, which is highly problematic in spots.

So, do you have a bow that cements your persona?  Do you have a recognizable “signature” – like the arm-to-the-side bow that Kay Thompson gave Judy Garland? It is telling that the diva who started this whole train of thought did not work with a stage director.  So there was no “outside eye.”  Maybe it’s worth it to book a session with a choreographer who can bring some ideas to the table.  Make your bow a part of your performance that you look forward to sharing with your audience.

And that way, instead of TAKING a bow, you’ll be GIVING it!

 *Okay, not alone.  There’s also the music director and any side players.

Reminder: DC Cabaret Network Open Mic Monday

October 21, 2007

Don’t forget the DC Cabaret Network Open Mic Monday Night (October 22nd) at the Warehouse Theater, 7:30 sign up, with the marvelous Alex Tang at the keys!

Michael Buble on AOL Video

October 20, 2007

Chad Griffith for AOL MusicChad Griffith for AOL MusicAOL Video has music clips of Michael Buble doing 5 songs from his new CD.  The clips are worth sitting through the annoying Chevrolet ads to get to. 

  • Everything
  • Call Me Irresponsible
  • Always on My Mind
  • It Had Better Be Tonight
  • Me and Mrs. Jones

Stephen Holden on Mary Cleere Haran

October 20, 2007

Stephen Holden reviews Mary Cleere Haran’s tribute to Doris Day at Feinstein’s:  “The summation of this musical biography arrived with an inspired mixture of “Toyland” and “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be),” that nagging jingle from “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” As Ms. Haran sang it slowly and quietly, cracks appeared in the song’s shiny crayon surface that revealed it as a meditation on fate (“the future’s not ours to see”) passed on from parent to child. “

Interesting New Yorker Article

October 20, 2007

Blogs by classical musicians can put a human face on an alien culture.The current New Yorker has an interesting article on the effect the Internet having on the classical music world.  As people working in a similarly esoteric (to many, but not to us, and isn’t the problem?) genre it has some useful observations.

Diva 5+1: Sally Mayes

October 19, 2007

Sally Mayes is another multiple-threat talent.  After being a child singing sensation in her native Texas, she moved to New York and started singing in cabarets.  This eventually led to her appearance in the original company of Closer Than Ever, and her version of Miss Byrd from the show is still a signature number.  She was Tony nominated for her turn as Ilona in the revival of She Loves Me.  Her extensive recordings include 3 musts for any good cabaret library, Pete ‘N Keely, The Story Hour, and The Dorothy Fields Songbook.  She is also a regular master teacher at The Cabaret Conference at Yale and often offers her own series of master classes in New York.

1.        Please describe a “perfect” cabaret experience that you’ve had.

 I think that is an oxymoron, because the very nature of cabaret is that it is never perfect, and you just go with it.  I had a night at the Firebird a few years ago doing my DECADE show, and I had bass, piano and violin and we were doing all my big arrangements,  with back up vocals, etc.  Well, that particular night, Stephen Holden of the NY Times came to review us, and my violinist got stuck in Bill Clinton traffic.  So we had to take our beautiful show, which we had planned and paced and written to the nth degree, and move everything around, so that the things she was singing and playing on came at the end of the show, and then we just hoped for her to make it at some point during the show before we got to those.  Well, that gave an energy to the evening that was intense, and I was totally winging it, and it was the best show I have ever done. And it totally wasn’t perfect, but it was CABARET with a capital “C” !!! 

2.       What is a recent song you’ve been struggling with?  Have you won yet? 

In my last show, UNWRITTEN, I wanted to use Maria McKee’s PANIC BEACH, which is this pop song with an amazing lyric, but like so many pop songs, it just sort of ends, with no real resolution.  So I wrote a monologue about my great grandmother IDA PEARL, and her days in Vaudeville, and we used HAVE I STAYED TOO LONG AT THE FAIR as our lead in and lead out, and it was very difficult to find a way to make it all scan emotionally, and I must say as the run went on it got stronger and clearer and by the time we closed it was I think, really STRONG and CLEAR.  So yes I won.

3. a. The relationship between a singer and the musical director really is a “cabaret marriage.”  What are the keys to making the marriage work? 

Flexibility and lot of respect for each others talent. My Patrick is a genius.  Bossy, but a genius. I never feel safer than when he is backing me up, and that frees me up to do my job without worrying about all the other stuff.  He and I take long breaks from each other, and we don’t see or talk to each other for long periods of time, but when we do come together, we have sort of become one mind about the work, and we have a shorthand that makes it such a joy to work.  

3b. And for the times you need to work with a surrogate, what are the steps you take to get quickly on the same page?

I work with someone I really like.  I give them time to learn the stuff, and I give constructive notes.  And then I just let it all go and let it morph into what it becomes with this new person.  

4.       What is a particular image that you can rely on to be an effective sense memory when you’re performing?

 Different things for different songs.  My son is a big source of emotion for me.  And my father, god rest his soul.  

5.      What is the most pressing need the world of cabaret has today?

Good venues and people to fill the seats

+1 You have had such a varied career — cabaret, recording, Broadway, jazz, TV.  I’ve always wondered about your relation with country music.  Have you ever thought about doing a mid-career K.T.Oslin-esque career shift?

Yes, I am working on a one woman piece right now, called SOUTHERN STORIES, and it will totally go in that direction.  My problem is I like to do a lot of things and I do them all pretty well. So we will see how this works for a while.

Jill’s Jottings: Primary Urges

October 19, 2007

“Primary” Season Is Here

City in a Swamp Productions gives the presidential primary season an unofficial kick-off with “Primary Urges,” its witty and smart send-up of the all-American election process.

Part “Damn Yankees,” part “Capitol Steps,” the show centers around a meek congressman (Doug Smith) turned presidential candidate and his sly, Mephistophelian political adviser (Michael Bruno). Along the way, we meet a
well-coiffed Hillary Clinton (Rachael Goldman), the candidate’s wary spouse (Marilyn Bennett), a Lola-like temptress (Goldman), two fresh-faced staffers (Mary Jean Bruno and Michael Miyazaki), and an ardent, very ardent, Obama fan (Miyazaki). Heck, the spirit of Luciano Pavarotti (Miyazaki) even gets in on the fun.

Everyone is terrific, especially Goldman, whose excellent Hillary is replete with spot-on mannerisms and loony laugh, and Miyazaki, whose hilarious Pavarotti warbles a Rudy Giuliani-themed “Message From Beyond.”

The original songs by Howard Bennett and Nicholas Zill are fresh and fun, the skillful choreography by Nkemjika Ofodile makes effective use of the small stage, and the live musical accompaniment at the back of the room makes for an especially dynamic theater experience. Special kudos to percussionist Stan Ismart, whose hilarious sound-effects are courtesy of an amazing gizmo he invented himself.

“Primary Urges” is playing at the Warehouse Theater until November 10. Tickets: $25.  For info, visit or call the Warehouse at 202-783-3933.

The Day the Music! Music! Music! Died

October 19, 2007

A painting of Teresa Brewer on the cover of her 1991 collection 16 Most Requested SongsSad news about the death of Teresa Brewer.

Go See Something This Weekend!!!

October 17, 2007

“What good is sitting alone in your room?”

It’s a busy weekend for cabaret in the DC area.  There are a lot of good people doing good work — so there’s no reason to stay home.  You can get more information about specific events listed below by clicking “Happenings” on the right.

Primary Urges  — Friday & Saturday, 8:00pm (Warehouse)  

Naked Cabaret — Friday, 8:00pm & 9:45pm – 10/19 Naked Cabaret (Warehouse) 

Beverly Cosham — Friday, 9:00pm (Indigo / Atlas Theater) — $5 discount for DC Cabaret Network Members!!!

Barbara Cook — Friday, 7:30pm  (Kennedy Center)

Blake Pace — Friday, Saturday & Sunday, 8:00pm – Midnight (11:00pm on Sunday) (The Flaming Pit)

Leon Bates: Gershwin on Broadway — Friday, 7:30pm (George Mason)

Rory Stitt — Saturday, 9:00pm (Indigo / Atlas Theater)

Naomi Frankel: Shakespeare in Song — Sunday, 7:30pm (Washington Shakespeare Company)

DC Cabaret Network Open Mic — Monday, 7:30pm (Warehouse)