New video from Sony Holland

August 19, 2009

The terrific, lovely Sony Holland posted a new YouTube video of her singing What a Difference a Day Makes:

But I still think she’s best when singing her husband’s original material.  Here’s one of my favorites:

Here’s a page full of Sony Holland clips.

DONE !!!!!!

August 18, 2009

It’s a project that I got stalled on for a while, but I finally got all my CDs loaded into iTunes!!!

I’ve got to tell you that I think iTunes is one of the most fabulous tools that the cabaret artist has at his/her disposal.  The ability to isolate a word and find any song with it in the title.  The ability to compare and contrast different artists’ version of a standard.  The ability to create playlists and quickly download CDs.  I mean, I like the iPod, but I’m besotted with iTunes.

Ron has iTunes loaded onto a separate drive with LOTS of memory, and he has another drive set up that automatically backs up iTunes every night.  (It’s fabulous living with someone tech-forward — I highly recommend it!)

So now I still have to sort and re-shelve all the CDs.  And this also means that I have an easy central list to compare our LPs to and see what LPs can go and which need to be either acquired on CD or digitized.  Oh, and Ron is making aggressive strides in converting all the videos hanging around onto DVD.

(BTW, since I know you’re wondering, at present we have a mere 46,677 tracks in our iTunes database.)

Astaire & Rodgers in the Times

August 16, 2009

Is it just me, or do troubled times always make people long for Astaire and Rodgers.  Longish piece in today’s New York Times about the duo.  The best part is the links it has to their various YouTube clips.

Tied up…

August 15, 2009

Here’s the patter I usually use to precede the fabulous Brian Lasser song Another Year:

“Last August I was in Costco and I found myself standing in an aisle,  hyperventilating and screaming ‘No, no, no.’  You see, they had put out the holiday merchandise.  Not by Thanksgiving, or Halloween, but two weeks before Labor Day!  Ron turned to me and said, ‘You’re getting in the holiday mood early this year.’  And don’t tell me, ‘oh, just ignore it.’  You have to deal with it then, otherwise they run out of the good French-wired ribbon.  So is it any surprise that by the time the holidays actually get here, I’m absolutely drained of holiday spirit?  Standing outside Macy’s window, etc…”

Ron and I were in Costco tonight, and sure enough, the holiday selection of French-wired ribbon is out.  I managed to walk past the display calmly without getting any, or even stopping to check out this year’s selection.

Julie and Julia

August 14, 2009

I finally went to see the movie Julie and Julia tonight.  A movie I enjoyed as both a blogger, cook, and someone who once went to a Halloween party as Julia Child.

The film tells contrasting tales of the newly-married Julia Child discovering herself as a cook and Julie Powell, who finds herself while writing a blog about her attempt to make all the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Volume 1) in the space of one year.

The criticisms I’ve read of the movie generally adored Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci as Julia and Paul Child and were (I thought) a bit harsh on the modern story.  Maybe it’s because so many of the elements of the bloggers life hit home, but I found the modern story more involving than expected.  And I think I’ve figured out why Streep has suddenly become more appealing over the last few years — she seems to be letting the audience in on how much she enjoys performing.  Even when she’s playing someone as frosty as the heroine in The Devil Wears Prada, she seems to be having a great time up there.

It was fun to see Helen Carey, who I remember as the glamorous Phyllis when Signature last did Follies as Louisette Betholle.  And Margaret Whiting fans — you’ll hear a lot of her singing Time After Time in the movie.  Could they only afford to license that one song?

At Germano’s This Weekend

August 12, 2009

Here’s what’s happening at the most charming spot in Charm City — the Cabaret at Germano’s

Opera Night at the Cabaret

Aug 13, 2009 at 7:30 pm
Straight from their run in Young Vic’s Pirates of Penzance, Jason Buckwalter, Catrin Davies, and the incomparable James Harp at the piano return to the Cabaret at Germano’s. An evening of favorite opera duets and arias are met with some opera that perhaps it’s time to get to know.


Jason Buckwalter
Catrin Rowenna Davies
James Harp

Russ Moss Performs “Delicious Songs”
Aug 14, 2009 at 7:30 pm
The exciting jazz vocalist and musician, Russ Moss, performs his original cabaret “Delicious Songs,” including favorites, What a Beautiful World, Georgia, and Stormy Weather. He is joined by jazz greats Stefan Scaggiari on piano and Mark Russell on bass.


Russ Moss
Mark Russell
Stefan Scaggiari

Come tol the Cabaret old chum!

Stranger’s Face — or Fate?

August 11, 2009

This post was going to be quite different.

I’ve recently heard various versions of the song “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” (Kurt Weill music / Ogden Nash lyric) where I thought the singers were getting a bit casual with the lyric.  So I was going to do a blog piece listing the various variations I’ve heard of late and what they should be. 

I was planning to start with a change that particularly annoyed me of late, a singer who has been performing the lyric “I dream of a day, a gay warm day, with my fate between his hands” when everyone knows the lyric should be “with my face between his hands.”  But just to give Cabaret Performer X the benefit of the doubt, I decided to look at my sheet music.  So I pull out the copy from my loose music file, and there it is: “fate.” 

I’m stunned, aghast, and wondering how I could have been so wrong all these years.

So I went to the Mary Martin recording, figuring that the woman who introduced the song on Broadway would surely sing the correct lyric on the cast album.  Mary Martin sings “face.” 

The sheet music that I was looking at was from the published vocal selections for One Touch of Venus.  The version of the sheet music in Kurt Weill Songs: A Centennial Anthology has “face.”

I decided to seek outside help. 

I contacted noted Ogden Nash scholar George Crandell of Auburn University* who wrote:


The sheet music that I’ve seen also has “fate” rather than “face.”  You might also want to check the copy of ONE TOUCH OF VENUS, published by Little Brown in 1944.  It should also include the lyrics to “I’m a Stranger Here Myself.”  I don’t have a copy here to check for you. 

The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin also has a large collection of Nash’s manuscripts.  It’s possible that they have a manuscript version of the lyrics.  If that’s the case, it could provide some insight into whether Nash intentional wrote “fate” or whether it’s a misprint. 

I hope this information helps.

I went to the DC public library and found the script to One Touch of Venus anthologized in Ten Great Musicals of the American Theatre.  It lists the lyric as “face.”  I would consider that definitive, except that toward the end of the song, it has a whole line, “This is a case for a woman’s intuition” that is never performed and has “You perceive before you a woman with a mission” instead of “You see here before you…”  Oy!

I then called the always-lovely Joanne Schmoll who played the role when American Century did it a few summers ago.  Turns out that the licensed version of the printed script has “face” but also has the problematic “This is a case for a woman’s intuition.”  (At least the script has “You see here before you…” rather than “You perceive before you…”)

I decided to go to the recorded versions in our iTunes library.  Here’s the round-up:

  • Fate
    • Maree Johnson
    • Sally Mayes
    • Mark Nadler
    • Kurt Weill in  America (as directed by Andrea Marcovicci and Shelly Markham)
  • Face
    • Mary Martin
    • Kristen Chenowith
    • Ralph Pena
    • Ute Lemper
    • Angelina Reaux
    • Patti LuPone
    • Teresa Stratas***

 So “face” or “fate” ? 

Maybe the deeper issue is “truth.”  Who can really know what Ogden Nash’s intentions were?  Who is in authority to say what a lyric SHOULD be, especially once the lyricist is gone?  And maybe I should just lighten up when I hear someone sing a “wrong” lyric.**

*I try not to let my work life bleed into this blog, but I have to say, I was very happy that it took me about 2 minutes to use one of the resources my company ProQuest publishes to find a scholar who is an expert and has published on the works of Ogden Nash.

**Although really, there is no excuse for the people singing “I am a stranger here myself” instead of “I’m a stranger here myself.”  C’mon, it’s the damn title of the song!

*** Given her relationship with Lotte Lenya, I’m pretty willing to take this as the Kurt Weill side of the argument

A report from the O’Neill

August 9, 2009

That very dapper Robert Sachelli (see his dandyism column) made his annual trip to see the shows at the O’Neill and was kind enough to send this report…

Music as memoir—both cultural and personal—was a refrain that ran through the opening series of performances at this year’s Cabaret Conference at the O’Neill Theatre Center in Waterford, Connecticut.

On July 30, Mary Cleere Haran time-traveled to the years between the wars to find the wordsmiths whose work made up her show “I Love Lyrics.” Haran, an old-fashioned girl singer who also happens to be a musical scholar (or maybe it’s the other way around), conjured up an era set to rhyme by the likes of Irving Berlin, Dorothy Fields, Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin, and her personal favorite, Lorenz Hart.

Haran offered songs familiar (“It’s Delovely,” “A Fine Romance,” “Isn’t It Romantic?”) as well as some seldom-heard gems like Berlin’s jaunty paean to misbehavior, “Pack Up Your Sins and Go to the Devil,” and Rogers and Hart’s wry “Way Out West (on West End Avenue).” Her rendition of a very different western anthem, “On the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe,” beautifully coaxed the expansive yearning out of Johnny Mercer’s words.

“I Love Lyrics” might have be subtitled “I Love Manhattan,” as Haran scattered songs throughout her set that sang the praises of that naughty, gaudy, bawdy borough. Particularly effective were a torchy 30s rarity, “Night in Manhattan” by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin and a meditative “Harlem on My Mind.” In all, it was a real pleasure to spend a summer evening with this witty, elegant, but down-to-earth singer.

The next night, music provided the reason for Penny Fuller and Tony Roberts to get “Together Again…and Again…and Again.” In songs that fit the pair like comfy old college sweaters, the longtime pals traced the friendship of what Southern-born Fuller calls “the Yankee and the Rebel” from their days at Northwestern through their aspiring New York years to successes on Broadway.

And who knew that they were once an item during “Barefoot in the Park”? The evening’s best zinger: Roberts’ boast that Fuller did it with him during the show’s run was met with “You were the understudy. You did it with me.”

Fuller’s skills as a singer who brings an actress’s heart to a lyric are well known, particularly to regulars of the O’Neill, where she’s an artistic associate, but it was refreshing to be reminded of Roberts’ roots as a song-and-dance man. From the rousing “Let a Winner Lead the Way” from “How Now, Dow Jones?” (probably the least revivable Broadway show ever) to a plaintive “Lucky to Be Me,” his regular-guy persona and still-strong voice were well showcased. And in “That Old Piano Roll,” discarded from “Follies,” he demonstrated why his turn in the 1998 Paper Mill Playhouse production makes his arguably the best Buddy on CD.

Though some good-natured musical bickering was on the bill (lyrics to a version of “Anything You Can Do” took a dig at Roberts’ “fates on skates” gig in “Xanadu”) it’s clear that Fuller and Roberts have an affection that can’t be faked. By the time they ended their set with a shimmering “You and I” that had Fuller cradled against her old friend’s shoulder, you knew that this pair had indeed made some beautiful music together.

On August 1, this year’s six Cabaret Fellows took the stage, and their choices of material showed that they’re disciples of the classic American songbook: only two of the dozen numbers they offered were written in the last half century. Morgan Sills go the evening off to an energetic start with a sunny-side-up rendition of “Singin’ in the Rain,” then segued into “The Best Things in Life Are Free.” Gary Baillargeon took the crooner’s route with “Teach Me Tonight” and “Moonlight Serenade.” Sandy Van Pelt, a Joan Blondell look-alike, cozied up to the piano for “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man” then changed the emotional mood for “A Cockeyed Optimist.”

A hipster with a cloud of dark curls, Aja Nisenson delivered the evening’s biggest comic impression with a medley of romantic songs that she almost sang—until bad memories got the way of each. Hers is probably the only rendition of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” in which an ex’s less-than-polite bathroom habits come in for recall. Dean Regan made one of the strongest impressions among the group, with “Old Devil Moon” and Michael Moore’s “Yellow Roses on Her Gown” delivered with an assured leading-man presence. Eddie Egan, another standout, brought an emotional directness to “I Wish I Were in Love Again” and “Being Alive.”

The next evening featured a pair of shows that connected the musical with the personal in very different ways. The Conference’s artistic director, Michael Bush, had a long professional relationship with composer-lyricist Ed Kleban, and he’s collected a variety of his songs—many previously unheard—into a revue called “Better.” With a cast that included Gregg Edelman, Penny Fuller, Mary Cleere Haran, and a number of talented young singers, the show demonstrated that there’s still a trove of wonderful music beyond “A Class Act” and “A Chorus Line” awaiting discovery by audiences.

A group of songs from “Gallery,” Kleban’s unfinished musical were a particular delight. From Harris Doran’s comic “Do It Yourself” (it’s about exactly what you think it is) to a gorgeous ballad, “I Am Not Beautiful,” sung by Sheri Sanders, there’s plenty of potential material here for cabaret performers. (Bush and “Class Act” co-librettist, Linda Kline, who wrote “Better,” are developing “Gallery” for production.)

Patricia Geraghty, a 2008 Fellow, also was assigned a real charmer, “Is This the Ballad?”

Though the show took a warts-and-all look at the career of the talented and prickly Kleban (“the joy of him, the silliness, the hell,” as his song “Self-Portrait” puts it), the songs of “Better” left you with a bittersweet sense of gratitude for that too-short career.

Five years ago the O’Neill was the incubator for the musical that became [title of show], and this year the quartet behind that smash returned, as they declared to the audience, “to rock your cabaret asses.” And boy, that’s exactly what they did.

Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen, Susan Blackwell, and Heidi Blickenstaff plus musical director Larry Pressgrove and director Michael Berrese have begun a sort-of-sequel to [title of show], called “And Now This Is Happening,” and though it shares the previous work’s smarts and anarchic humor, it also deepens the sincere affection that it showed towards musical theatre.

“And Now…” (whose title was swiped from a line in “Anchorman”) is a four-part self-portrait, a revenge-of-the-theatre-nerds saga that dives headlong into the strange and wonderful experience of falling in love with show biz as a kid and growing up to become part of it all. Glimpses of childhoods spent performing for school audiences (and the mirror) in a song called “Dazzle Camouflage” reveal the stars-in-training. “Tootsie” is one of the bonds between the foursome, and we got a lovely version of “It Might be You,” as well as a spot-on Terri Garr impression from Heidi. One of the show’s highlights was an exploration of the joys and terrors of singing, as Susan voiced Heidi’s thoughts—both silly and profound—as she sang “We Belong Together.”

The new work can be as funny as anything in [title of show], and I’m still laughing at the parade of drag-queen names the group trotted out (Lady Foot Locker being my favorite), but “And Now…” seems to reach for a different goal. The meta-musical [title of show] was self-referential, but this work in progress aims for a degree of self-revelation. If that’s a surprise from the group that can put together a song entirely from the titles of flop musicals, that’s exactly what gives “And Now…” its punch. In the final number, “My First Time,” Susan and Hunter recall seeing their first Broadway shows, and the result was a mash-up of “Annie” and “Angels in America.” It was a way—both hilarious and deeply touching—of reminding us that we are all theatre nerds at heart.

Renegade Cabaret Coming to an End…

August 6, 2009

A message from that renegade cabaret artist Mary Foster Conklin:

Many thanks to all who made it out to see the performances of the Renegade Cabaret overlooking Highline Park. Every night has been a blast. For those who have not, you have only two more chances before the lanterns on the fire escape go dark for an indefinite period of time. Please join us this Friday and next Tuesday at 9pm at the Highline Park entrance on Tenth Avenue and 20th Street. When the Party Patio Lanterns are lit, you know something is about to happen!
Friday night August 7 at 9pm – The Lady in the Red Dress (yours truly) with Patrice at the Wheel
Tuesday night August 11 at 9pm – a special variety night tribute to Elvis Presley, featuring the Lady in the Red Dress, the Guy with the Hat (John Dipinto), Barefoot Roger and as always, the lovely Patrice at the Wheel
Stay in touch via the Facebook Group or the website at

There are videos galore on YouTube for your viewing pleasure – search for the Renegade Cabaret channel.
Enjoy the Dog Days and try to stay cool.
Best, Mary

Two interesting items from the New Yorker

August 6, 2009

Classical music critic Alex Ross on some interesting music sites.

And a great analysis of the business of major concert promotion.