I was fortunate to see Jill Leger on my recent trip to Toronto. Jill was kind enough to send an update from up North…
Hello from Toronto, friends! How I miss the DC cabaret scene and how delighted I am to read about so many new and exciting shows this season. I wish I were there to see them, and I send my DC friends big hugs.
I’ve been busy working on new songs since moving here in September and on Monday had my first Toronto performing experience. I hope what follows in this column entices some of you to visit me here. If you can stand temperatures in the teens and a little salt on your pant cuffs, please come on up! Just be sure you’re here on a Monday night.
Because…it turns out there exists in my new home city a place where every Monday night the cabaret magic happens. You know the magic-the Cole Porter or Jason Robert Brown lyric that melts a moment and unites a crowd in a common understanding of what it means to be alive. Or when a voice soars, taking your spirits on a ride. Or when an unexpected moment gives way to a roomful of laughter and someone’s grace under pressure makes you marvel.
Show-biz veterans Jenni Burke and Michael Barber host this incredible weekly event, called “Curtains Down,” at a swanky-yet-comfortable venue called Statlers Piano Lounge. Jenny has a killer, powerhouse voice that can rock everything from “Tomorrow” to “The Love Boat” theme, and Michael is a musician’s musician, a vocal coach and music director who’s an accompanist extraordinaire. Their warmth and easy skill in combining an evening’s many elements make the water safe to try.
And I was determined to try, though it was daunting. Jenni led last night off with a rip-roaring “Cabaret,” and each of the performers after her followed suit with some blazing new permutation of talent. From Mark Cassius’s “Blame It On My Youth,” to Justin Bott’s terrific “Blue Skies,” to Stephanie Roth’s ineffably amazing “The Girl in 14G,” the performances were fantastic. Naturally, I performed last in the first set, after all these remarkable people, spending two solid hours just trying to breathe and praying I wouldn’t forget my lyrics. As I introduced myself, I felt under-voiced and suddenly so very, very thirsty.
I’m thrilled to say the crowd was warm and lovely-thanks in no small part to the tone set by Jenni and Michael-and it was a real joy to share my songs with such a vibrant, robust, friendly and prodigiously talented community. I sang a new song I wrote called “I’d Be A Blossom Dearie” (a song about the advantages of being an understated spirit, and inspired by WNYC’s Jonathan Schwartz, who once said on-air that he sometimes feels like a “Blossom Dearie in a Shirley Bassey world). And I finished up with “Halfway,” grateful that the dear Rob was smiling at me from a table on the side. He’s the prince who charms.
With the support of Jenni, Michael and other new friends, I hope to make happen in the coming months a Toronto run of my music revue “Googling My Ex (And Other Obsessions).” Statlers has an upstairs room that’s a bit like Indigo-an intimate space for individual acts and small revues. Maybe it’s time to get the prison jumpsuit out of storage. Nothing would thrill me more! Stay tuned!
And come visit!