Catching Up with Cabaret Scenes

cabaret-scenes1

I am very proud to be the DC correspondent for the magazine Cabaret Scenes. It’s a great publication and the publishing team is making a concerted effort to reflect what’s happening in cabaret on a nationwide level — not just the NY scenes. So I highly encourage subscribing (please, please, please!) in order to keep the venture going.

The online review section now has my reviews of Joan Morris and Barbara Cook’s recent appearances.

It’s a bit of a shoestring operation, so my reviews of Andrea Marcovicci in Reston and Liz Callaway at the Kennedy Center made it into the print edition for March but not onto their Web site. So I’ve been given permission to post them here. However, you’ll have to subscribe to the magazine to get my monthly Washington DC update column.

Andrea Marcovicci Sings Fred Astaire

Centerstage,Reston, Virginia,July 31, 2009

Watching Andrea Marcovicci Sings Fred Astaire at Centerstage in Reston, Virginia, it occurred to me that even without the songs, the show could stand on its own as a compelling piece of theater. Self-described as the “chatty chanteuse,” Marcovicci has constructed a hugely personal tribute to the work of Fred Astaire that not only gives a history of the icon, but also explores his influence in American pop culture and the effects it has all had on her.

Add the songs and you have a truly gripping experience. Marcovicci shows the effect the success of “The Carioca” in generating future songs of the same ilk such as “The Continental” and “The Piccolino.” The elegance of Astaire is reflected in “Cheek to Cheek.” And Astaire’s debonaire emotionality was reflected in a searing duo of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “One For My Baby.”

I’ve seen previous versions of the show in the very intimate Algonquin and the somewhat roomier Le Chat Noir in New Orleans. It was fascinating to watch Marcovicci adapt this show for a full-sized theater. She took advantage of the stage to add more movement to the piece, even including a dance break in the middle of “One For My Baby.” However, Marcovicci still establishes such an intimate connection with her audience that sitting in the rear of the house I still felt I was having an intimate cabaret experience.

Shelly Markham’s work as musical director was the strong foundation that permitted Marcovicci’s success. He provided subtly fascinating arrangements of familiar material, approachable readings of unfamiliar songs, and seemingly seamless transitions for Marcovicci’s medleys. Similarly, Jared Egan on bass provided a great rhythmic foundation and musical support.

An Evening with Liz Callaway

Barbara Cook’s Spotlight,The Kennedy Center,10 January 2009

An Evening with Liz Callaway presented by the Barbara Cook’s Spotlight series at the Kennedy Center was everything a fan would want a Liz Callaway show to be.

That clarion trumpet call of a voice was operating at full force, bring brass and polish to songs such as “Meadowlark” and “There Won’t Be Trumpets.” Fans who fell in love with Callaway at most points in her distinguished career got what would be “their” songs, whether “Journey to the Past” from the movie Anastasia, “Memory” from Cats, or even a medley from Merrily We Roll Along. And she certainly must have created some new fans with insightful and fresh readings of songs such as “People” and Leavin’ On a Jet Plane.” Alex Rybeck provided his usual superb music direction and piano work supported by Jared Egan on bass and Ron Tierno on drums.

Callaway has a casually cheerful stage presence. It was only a while after her show that I realized that she rarely trades in the angst that is the usual currency of the cabaret diva. And her “show-after-the-show” deserves plaudits – she spent nearly as much time signing CDs for fans as she did singing onstage.

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