Signature Open House on Saturday

July 31, 2008

The very busy Signature Theater, fresh off their Sizzling Summer festival has an Open House this Saturday, 2 August, with a full slate of events including concerts by Emily Skinner and Julia Nixon as well as a Sondheim sing-along. .

Here’s the schedule.


Here I Go Again…

July 29, 2008

Mamma Mia!

OK, I finally caught the movie version of Mamma Mia! 

It reminds me a little of Lorrell’s line from Dreamgirls — “Just because the man throws confetti in my face, it still don’t make it no party.”  Or maybe I’m being a little harsh.  Because the movie does, in the end, bludgeon the viewer into a good time.

And there is a lot of confetti.  First of all, the greatest actress of the last 30 or so years in an “I’m so brilliant watch me slum” performance.  There’s a strategically chosen international cast of stars.  There are the drop-dead gorgeous views of Greece.  There’s the sly humor in the deployment of a (literally) Greek chorus.  And there are the ABBA songs.

Actually, Ron made the point that it’s interesting that songs like Slipping Through My Fingers and Thank You For the Music are not done more often in cabaret.  (Karen Mason’s amazing Sweetest of Nights CD has her killer version of The Winner Takes It All.)

I’ve always thought the book of the stage version was horribly under-rated.  It accomplishes the difficult task of stringing together a disparate body of work with efficiency, tenderness, and wit in remarkably efficient manner. 

To me, watching this movie was like eating a Twinkie while reading the ingredient list.  While being assaulted by the sweetness, you see how much chemical engineering went into making it all possible.  But you still ate the Twinkie — and probably enjoyed it more than you’d like to admit.


Stephen Holden on Lina Koutrakos

July 28, 2008

Great review in the NYTimes for the amazing performer and coach Lina Koutrakos, doing her show Torch at the Metropolitan Room with Rick Jensen: “In her heated interpretations of classic torch songs sensitively accompanied on piano by Rick Jensen, Ms. Koutrakos implies that the war between Venus and Mars may have reached a stalemate. “


The passing of another format…

July 28, 2008

Interesting article in the NYTimes that the publishing house Hachette held an official funeral for the cassette tape.

We’ve recently purchased a device that converts cassettes to digital formats.  I’ll do a post once we get it set up and see how it works.


Michael Sazonov at the Arts Club & Signature

July 27, 2008

MVS

I saw busiest-cabaret-performer-in-DC, Michael Vitaly Sazonov do his show Love Songs for a Summer Night at the Arts Club of Washington last night.  This came a couple days after his last Psycho Cabaret show during the Fring Festival and before he performs his show, My Well Schooled Heart at Signature next week.

In last night’s program Sazonov offered a selection of mostly standards sung with a subtly modern edge.  He covered notions of romance fromt he heartfelt (So In Love) to the slightly sleazy (You Musn’t Kick It Around*) to the pained (Lonely House) and redemptive (Being Alive)  He made a warm room hotter with a sizzling medley (or “sandwich” in his terms) of It’s All Right With Me and Sway.  George Fulginiti-Shakar provided his usual sturdy musical support and Judy Simmons directed with her usual subtlety.

I have to admit that Sazonov’s Clark Kent glasses and porkpie hat ensemble in Psycho Cabaret had me a little worried that he was drifting from his very strong stage look, but pomaded in a white dinner jacket, last night he looked every bit the “young romantic” he advertizes himself to be.  One could easily believe that the audience who were generally “of a certain age” could view him either as a memory of their first love or an idealized version of their younger selves.

Next Thursday he does his show My Well Schooled Heart in Signatures Sizzling Summer Nights festival at 7:30pm.  In addition, next Wednesday he is combining forces with Natascha Diaz in a show as well.

Here’s the set list from last night…

  • If I Ever Say I’m Over You
  • So In Love
  • I Fall in Love Too Easily / Blame It On My Youth
  • It’s All Right With Me / Sway
  • The Gal That Got Away
  • Lonely House
  • Being Alive
  • You’ve Got Something
  • You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To
  • Now and Forever
  • Day By Day
  • Grateful
  • Moon River

*Has any theater around been dying to do Pal Joey?  He would be ideal!


Thoughts on being yourself from Susan Blackwell

July 26, 2008

The current Playbill.com Diva Watch column has a great interview with Susan Blackwell from [title of show].  I thought the follow excerpt might cause a spark of recognition for a number of cabaret performers.

Question: How would you describe the feeling of playing yourself in the show?
Blackwell: I’ll tell you, when I was younger, I marveled at people who could go onstage and be themselves with ease and grace. Someone that comes to mind is Janeane Garofalo. I remember watching Janeane Garofalo doing her standup and I thought, “It’s crafted and it’s well written, but that’s a lot of her.” To have the self-possession to be able to stand onstage and be yourself seemed very far away from me. I was a character actress who wanted to have a dialect, I wanted to have a hunchback, I wanted to have crazy false teeth. I wanted to sort of disappear, and I took a lot of pride in being able to do that. … I got in a lot of trouble when I was a younger person because I always wanted to play men’s roles. I just wanted to do things that were far away from myself. As I have aged — and also, frankly, as I have had a lot of therapy and gotten to know myself better and become much, much more comfortable with myself — I’ve become much more comfortable playing myself. Now it’s just a pleasure to get to go onstage and be myself. The other thing is, I’m actually quite an introverted person, and I’m a very shy person around people that I don’t know. Doing this play has been an interesting experience because the way that I behave in the play is a distillation of the way that I behave when I am around people that I am extremely comfortable with and that I trust implicitly. What audiences are seeing is a version of me that really I had only shared previously with my husband and my closest friends. Doing that on a nightly basis over an extended period of time has made me braver to be myself on a more consistent basis with people that I don’t know. It’s been therapeutic in a way because I feel like I can be more myself more of the time, and that has been an enormous gift. To know that people will be, for the most part, accepting of that and actually that people embrace that. Previously, I had just thought I was an extremely acquired taste. [Laughs.] And, I’m sure, for many people, I probably still am, but maybe I’m not as much of an acquired taste as I had previously thought.


Gardenia Open Mic

July 26, 2008

It’s a YouTube world!  Several of the performances from the Open Mic I went to at the Gardenia have shown up on YouTube.  Here are Tom Culver singing Let Me Love You and Dolores Scozzesi singing Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most — the incomparable Shelly Markham is at the keyboards.