Road Report: Kathryn Payne

December 28, 2007

I don’t know what they put in the water, but the Windy City has produced the most amazing series of wisecracking gals with big vocal chops: Karen Mason, Ann Hampton Callaway, Susan Werner.  Add Kathryn Payne to that list!

I caught her holding court in the cabaret room at the Gentry on State Thursday night.  Her vocal style is Lainie Kazan meets Baby Jane Dexter and she accompanies herself with an Elton John pop energy and sensibility.  Selections ranged from standards (A Nightengale Sang) to pop (Get Here) and even songs she wrote, particularly a moving song about a woman waiting for a date in a bar called Fool in Waiting.  (Payne makes it abundantly clear in her show that she is very available for the attentions of the right man.)

In addition to being a phenomenal vocalist and musician, Payne could make it doing stand up alone.  She’s riotous and involves everyone in the fun.

Maybe the next Cabaret Convention should import water from Chicago!

Michael Feinstein’s Next Step Toward World Domination

December 28, 2007

From the Thursday NY Times: “Michael Feinstein is establishing an outpost in London. Mr. Feinstein, the singer, pianist and impresario of the Manhattan supper club Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, has entered into an arrangement to take cabaret artists to the 450-seat Shaw Theater in London under the name Feinstein’s at the Shaw. Mr. Feinstein will inaugurate the series himself, with a show called “An American in London,” from Jan. 6 through Jan. 11. On his Web site,, he wrote on Wednesday: “The vision for the Shaw will be similar to its New York counterpart and will present many of the multigenerational artists who are best appreciated in a more intimate theatrical setting, but it will also have a more Eurocentric flavor. We plan to present a Songwriters’ series, a Legends series and evenings of special tributes that will run the gamut of all different types of good music.” The theater is part of the Novotel London St. Pancras Hotel on Euston Road, next to the British Library and the St. Pancras train station.”

Road Report: Andrea Marcovicci

December 28, 2007

Andrea Marcovicci Rodgers & HartI had the great pleasure of seeing Andrea Marcovicci’s new Rodgers and Hart show at the Algonquin Wednesday night. 

It’s always an amazing experience to witness a performer own a combination of venue, audience, and material as La Marcovicci does when she performs at the Oak Room.  She keeps the audience rapt in her spell.  And having a full awareness of how her magic works — how she structures her act, certain signature gestures, certain ways of working her audience — in no way diminishes the enjoyment of the experience.

Just as she focused on the story of Linda Porter in her Cole Porter show, in this show, she tells the story of Lorenz Hart.  As always her infectious enthusiasm for communicating the story behind the story saves her from being pendantic as she conveys wide swaths of information.  She performs an admirable mix of better known songs (Where or When, Falling in Love With Love, Bewitched) as well as the obscure gems she has unearthed.  Most moving is her description of the last hours of Hart’s life combined with the theory that Hart had a long-burning, unrequited torch for Richard Rodgers; this sets up her closer, My Funny Valentine.  And as sick as one is of hearing that song, she made it fresh, alive, and heart-wrenching.

Shelly Markham is his usual galvanic self on the piano.  Being used to the Glen Merbach arrangement for Marcovicci on some of the songs, it was fascinating to hear the updating that Shelly provided.  Jared Egan’s bass was at its usual superb level.

Marcovicci has already released a CD of songs corresonding to the show.

Cabaret Lesson: Andrea Marcovicci Sings Bewitched

December 28, 2007

I have to admit that when I first got the CD of Andrea Marcovicci’s Rodgers and Hart show, I was a little disappointed that she only sang one verse of Bewitched (Bothered and Bewildered), especially since there are so many great lyrics in different versions of the song.  However, seeing the show, I felt that she told a very complete story and had a very full journey in the space of what she chose to perform.

Mentioning this to her afterward, she commented that she wanted to convey a truly romantic, authentic  portrait of an older woman in love with a younger man and didn’t want to venture into “sleaze,” so she was careful to choose the most romantic lyrics possible. 

So here’s your illustration from one of the greats that you have to be proactive in defining your own personal journey in a song, and that you have permission to shop lyrics to tell the story that you need.

Road Report — Shelly Markham Update

December 28, 2007

I had a chance to catch up with Shelly Markham at the Algonquin where he is music director for Andrea Marcovicci’s show. 

 He is represented with songs on the new Naked Boys Singing DVD.  In addition to Marcovicci’s show, he’ll be playing for Terri Ralston (Company) when she does her act at the Metropolitan Room in January

His show Too Old for the Chorus just completed a successful run in California and is looking at touring.  And, of course, he’ll be teaching at Perry-Mansfield this summer.

And he still finds time to breathe!

C’Est Duckie

December 26, 2007

An interesting review from the NY Times for a different kind of cabaret…

Playbill Online has discount tickets

Resources: Jeff Blumenkrantz Songbook

December 26, 2007

The Jeff Blumenkrantz SongbookJeff Blumenkrantz is a notable Broadway performer, whom DC audiences have seen in Bells Are Ringing at the Kennedy Center and the pre-Broadway tours of How to Succeed… and 3Penny Opera.  Lately he’s been breaking through as a terrific songwriter. 

DC cabaret audiences have heard Emily Everson sing his song Toll and Judy Simmons sing I Won’t Mind (also recorded by Audra MacDonald). 

Jeff has put out a songbook of his work to date, presciently sub-titled “Volume 1.”  It’s a terrific collection of material with lots to mine.  There are a number of “art” songs based on Edna St. Vincent Millay themes.  And it is a treasure trove for any cabaret performer searching for that ever-elusive up-tempo/comic number. 

What’s more, if you go to his Website, he has provided an amazing service.  He has a series of podcasts of notable performers (Liz Callaway, Sally Mayes, Carolee Carmello, Judy Kuhn… the list goes on) singing his songs.  He also features fabulously dishy interviews with the performers.


Jeff* forwarded this message about his DC experiences and an exciting new project:


As for comments re: performing in DC, I want to say that I love the city and had a great time with all three shows (I also did the pre-Bway 3 PENNY OPERA with Sting at the National in ’90). My favorite memory is from BELLS ARE RINGING. I played a dentist who fancied himself a great songwriter, and I used to make up new bad lyrics every time I did the scene to try to crack up the members of the ensemble, who were seated on the stage. Getting your fellow performers to laugh is so gratifying! Please send them all my best and let them know how much I appreciated their laughter. 

FYI, my worst DC memory was getting trapped for 15 minutes above the proscenium in HOW TO SUCCEED. I was supposed to be lowered in on a window washing unit, and one night, it got stuck on a light rail and was tipped over at about a 45 degree angle. I was stuck up there watching the finale and the curtain call, all happening without me. Then everyone left the stage, the audience filed out, and finally I croaked, “Um… er… hello? Is anyone going to get me out of here?” They eventually did, but it was scary!

By the way, you might be interested to know that I’m working on a new podcast, which will be called THE BMI WORKSHOP SONGBOOK PODCAST. It’s going to feature 20 songs written by BMI Workshop members and alumni. The songs are being selected right now with an eye on material that will be useful for auditions, cabaret, and concerts. We should be “on the air” before the end of the year.

 Access the Jeff Blumenkrantz Web site at

*I’m not being pretentious.  He said I could call him that.

An Amazing CD

December 26, 2007

Blame it on my YouthThis is a CD I got on CDBaby through a link to some Karen Oberlin CDs I was purchasing.  I know nothing about this artist, but I am thoroughly blown away by it.  Music direction is by Lee Musiker (currently playing for Barbara Cook) and Jay Leonhart is on bass.

The performances on the CD are amazingly straightforward, stripped of gimmick, and totally heartfelt.

Here are the tracks:

1 I’m Steppin’ Out With A Memory
2 Through A Long And Sleepless Night
3 Blame It On My Youth
4 Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year
5 Memories Of You
6 If I Love Again
7 Better Luck Next Time
8 Why Shouldn’t I
9 I Can’t Get Started With You
10 You Keep Coming Back Like A Song
11 Ev’ry Time
12 Talk To Me
13 My Best Girl / You Wonderful You (with Christopher Gines)
14 Easy Living
15 It Amazes Me
16 You’re Nearer
17 The More I See You
18 This Moment

Merry Christmas !!!

December 24, 2007

Three Christmas gifts for my readers from YouTube.  Please accept all my wishes for a blessed and fabulous holiday!

Here’s a video of Nancy LaMott singing Just in Time for Christmas on Good Morning America…

The marvelous Jill Leger (of “Jill’s Jottings” fame) wrote a holiday duet for me and Ron…

And Judy Garland sings the most depressing Christmas song ever written…

Yale Memories: Emily Everson

December 24, 2007

For Emily Leatha Everson, the Cabaret Conference at Yale was a Golden Experience…

Going to the Cabaret Conference at Yale University in 2003 was like getting a Golden Ticket and walking into Willy Wonka’s Wonderland of Cabaret (think more Gene Wilder than Johnny Depp).  Every fellow falls into the chocolate river, getting fully immersed in the art of cabaret.

You get to work with and learn from much of the very best talent in the cabaret world…performance instructors (each one a working cabaret luminary), technical mavens, and musical directors (oh, how wonderful they make you and that piano sound).  And don’t forget your classmates!  Their talent and insight will AMAZE you!

The experience is challenging in every way.  The days are long, you want to be on the top of all your material at all times and you will process huge amounts of information. Some instructors moon all over you and others tell you exactly what you need hear (ouch!).  But it is a challenge that many of us crave as artists and are ready to meet like Veruca going for that goose that lays the Golden Egg. 

My advice to anyone going to the conference is to steady yourself for elation and heartbreak, especially for when you are emotionally spent.  Practice your most convincing “smile and nod.” There is no harm in trying to fully understand a comment from an instructor…but never argue. I saw a few classmates try that and it never turned out well.  Just smile and nod.  Pack away your ego, keep what you can use and let all the rest of it go.

I walked away more confident. I became more of a professional and learned better habits.  Every participant introduced enriching ideas and worlds of material. Best of all, the experience changed me in many ways that I can’t articulate…I was just a better.

I heard Leo Buscaglia say “You can’t give what you don’t already have.”  Yale gave me a wonderful opportunity to acquire more so that I could have more to give.  Get yourself well prepared you’ll have a golden chance to make your way!