The Nap in the Piazza

March 31, 2010

I saw the Wednesday matinee of The Light in the Piazza at Arena Stage.  I found aspects of the production so soothing and hypnotic that I have to admit that I was out cold for at least half of each act.  I’m assuming that I didn’t snore too much or my subscription partner would have nudged me (unless he was out, too). 

From what I could tell, this was a lovely production of the show.  The production used a scaled-down orchestra and company from the Broadway version, and I didn’t feel like the reduction in grandeur did anything to decrease the piece.  As a matter of fact, the combination of the reduced orchestration, and the vocal approach of the cast made the music sound far more accessible than I remember the original production.  This is really hard music, and the cast did a great job of making it approachable.  A lot of credit also goes to director Molly Smith for the clarity of the storytelling. 

 On the downside, I think the clarity of the storytelling and approachability of the material exposed the fact that the piece is a bit thin.  The whole package (that I was awake for) struck me as much less profound than I recall the Broadway version being.  The cast is terrific, and I certainly woke up toward the end of the first act when Hollis Resnick sang Dividing Day.

Performance Range

March 30, 2010

I have to admit that I was a bit irked coming offstage after my performance at the Lina Koutrakos / Rick Jensen performance workshop.  One of the things I was personally working on was my tendency to be a little sweeping and unspecific when singing to an audience.  So, I was really ready to be better about it in the performance.  And then I got up to perform and the audience was in such darkness that I couldn’t see anyone, let alone focus on them.  And thinking about this situation distracted me a bit from the work of telling the story of the song.  And thus the annoyance.

I deliberately shut up about this, since I feel that part of the cabaret performer’s job is selling your performance after it’s all done.  I didn’t mention it to anyone until Ron and I were driving home.  And not only did he (wisely) say that he couldn’t tell I was distracted and that the performance was better than I had done it in the workshop the previous day, but he also reminded me that expecting to see the audience in any performance situation is unrealistic.

Anyway, my point is that for people who perform sober, by the time something is performance-ready, the worst that something can be is, say, 85%.  Generally, you’re probably working at 90%, and if everything is firing, maybe you’ll get to 92%.  So, if you’re aiming for that 92% and find you delivered 88%, it’s easy to be really upset that you’re in the lower half of the range of what you feel you can do.  But the difference to the audience between 88% and 92% barely moves the needle.  Similarly, you’re not going to get much better reaction from the audience when  you reach 91% than you would have at 87% (you’ll just feel they’re smarter).

I did years of interactive murder mysteries.  And an important learning was the number of times I’d come off stage thinking that the audience hated us and were bored out of their minds, after which someone enthused effusively at the end and the number of times we’d come offstage with what we thought was a hot show, and someone would offer a tepid comment about the experience.

So, yes, we all need to have standards for ourselves, and we all need to keep striving for greatness.  And we have to be honest about our weaknesses.  But we also have to be honest about our strengths.

Lina Koutrakos / Rick Jensen Workshop Concert

March 29, 2010

OK, we spent the workshop today putting the final show together.  Lina and Rick shared the process they use to assemble a show, demonstrating it on the one for the class.  Then it was the nitty-gritty of actually doing it all.  Particular congratulations to Daryl Anderson, ToniRae Brotons, Emily Everson, and Jennifer Blades who at 12:30 were informed that they were doing duets and had them ready by the 6:00pm show under the brilliant guidance of the teaching team.

For anyone interested, here’s a link to the recording I made of the concert.  (Unfortunately we were seated in front of the cafe area, so you also get the hum of the kitchen equipment.)

Here’s what people sang:

  • Hooray for Love — Jennifer Blades
  • Come In From the Rain / Why Did I Choose You ? — ToniRae Brotons / Darryl Anderson
  • I Never Say Anything / My Superman– Chris Cochrane
  • I’ll Get Up Tomorrow Morning — Christy Trapp
  • All of My Life — Darryl Anderson
  • Baby, You Can sleep While I Drive — Marianne Glass Miller
  • When I Fall In Love — Elcindor Johnson
  • It’s a Jungle Out There — Emily Everson
  • Do Right Woman, Do Right Man — Jean McMahon
  • Sleepy Man — Emily Everson & Jennifer Blades
  • Yard Sale — Michael Miyazaki
  • How Did We Come To This ? — Christy Frye
  • On the Other Side of the Tracks — ToniRae Brotons
  • Bye Bye Blackbird — Company

DC Cabaret Network Members Only Showcase

March 29, 2010
_DSC8556 by DCMatt.

Music Director Extraordinaire, Alex Tang

I wasn’t able to go to the showcase, but thanks to Matt Howe for sending me pictures of the evening (more here) and to music director Alex Tang for sending me a list of the songs slated to be performed:

  • Justin Ritchie
    • Finding Home (Ricky Ian Gordon)
    • Home Is Where The Heart Is (Sally Fingerett)
  • Stephanie Dailey
    • Gimme Gimme (Tesori/Scanlan)
    • Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man (Gershwin)
  • Maris Wicker
    • Happy Talk (Rodgers/Hammerstein)
    • My Ship (Weill)
  • Paul Pompeo
    • I Can’t Be New (Werner)
    • Teach Me Tonight (Cahn/DePaul)
  • Angie Gates
    • Come Take My Hand (Ann Hampton Callaway)
    • DC Farewell (Ritchie Cole)
  • Adele Russell
    • I’m Not My Mother (David Friedman)
    • I Can Only Be Me (Stevie Wonder)
  • Matt Howe
    • I Want To Be Happy/Make Someone Happy (Youmans & Caesar, Styne)
    • Thank God I’m Old (Coleman & Stewart)
  • Jeanne Wolfe
    • Make You Feel My Love (Dylan)
    • Blue (Mack)
  • Lonny Smith
    • Kiss Of The Spiderwoman (Kander & Ebb)
    • Where Or When/I have Dreamed (Rodgers/Hart/Hammerstein)
  • Joe Peck
    • This Ain’t Disney (Peck)
  • Peter Fox
    • Dream (Mercer)
    • Someone To Watch Over Me (Gershwin)

      _DSC8571 by DCMatt.

      Maris Wicker performs

  • Beverly Cosham
    • Old Love (McBroom/Brourman)
    • My Favorite Year (Gottlieb/Brourman)

CHAWbaret 7: Love, Loss & Latte

March 28, 2010

It was great to go to the SRO performance of CHAWBaret 7: Love, Loss & Latte Saturday night.  The cast presented an extremely charming linbe-up of material, exploring the aspects promised in the evening’s title.  It was great seeing both Taylore , The Latte Boy (expertly delivered by Jean McMahon) and Taylor’s Rebuttal (the charming Rick Maueery) on the same program.  Other highlights included Lonny Smith’s portrayal of modern single-male angst in Unexpected Complications and I Could Be in Love with Someone Like You, KJ Jacks’s playful I Can Do Better Than That, Stephanie Dailey’s haunting The Way He Makes Me Feel, Jean McMahon’s incredible ovolley of words on The Bearand Dean Reichard in a characteristically frantic Tonight at Eight.  Barbara Schelstrate provided superb music direction, nimbly support a number of musical styles and choices.

Here’s the lineup:

  • Act 1
    • Tonight at Eight –Dean Reichard
    • The Lady is a Tramp — Stephanie Dailey
    • Jeanette’s Showbiz Number — Davey Brown
    • I Can Do Better Than That — KJ Jacks
    • What Is This Feeling — KJ Jacks and Dean Reichard
    • The Bear, the Tiger, the Hamster and the Mole — Jean McMahon
    • Taylor, The Latte Boy — Jean McMahon
    • Walking Without You — Andy Barredo Woo
    • Where, Oh Where — Ilene Photos
    • Now — Ramon Atienza
    • Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again — KJ Jacks
    • Single — The Men
  • Act 2
    • Run Away With Me — Ramon Atienza
    • Route 66 — Ilene Photos
    • The Coffee Song — Davey Brown
    • Taylor’s Rebuttal — Rick Mauery
    • Unexpected Complications — Lonny Smith
    • Hot in Here — Dean Reichard
    • The Way He Makes Me Feel — Stephanie Dailey
    • Lucy’s Laugh — Andy Barredo Woo
    • I Could Be In Love with Someone Like You — Lonny Smith
    • The Human Heart — Company

Lina Koutrakos Performance Workshop

March 28, 2010

Wow, it’s been a really fun, intense couple of days with Lina Koutrakos, Rick Jensen & company doing their DC cabaret performance workshop.  It’s always a pleasure to see the insightfulness the team brings to their reactions to all the performances.  Also, it was great to see the team’s show on Friday night.  (I’ll be doing a Cabaret Scenes review of it, and will link iwhen it posts.)

On a separate note, I am really proud of all out people from the area, who combine talent, intelligence, great material, and a lot of heart.  If you want to witness this  yourselves, come see the end-of-workshop show at the Atlas Theater (1333 H St NE, Washington), today (Sunday) at 6:00pm — but only if life prevents you from going to the DC Cabaret Network Members Only Showcase at 7:00pm.

MAC Nominees Announced

March 26, 2010

Nominations for this year’s MAC Awards were just announced.  Here are nominees in selected categories:


  • Cynthia Crane
  • Jenna Esposito
  • Sue Matsuki
  • Karen Oberlin
  • Anne Steele


  • Hector Coris
  • Rob Langeder
  • Kim Smith


  • Mary Foster Conklin
  • Tony Middleton
  • Shaynee Rainbolt
  • Jane Scheckter


  • Eric Comstock & Barbara Fasano
  • Baby Jane Dexter
  • Terese Genecco
  • Eric Michael Gillett


  • Michelle Collier
  • Kathleen France
  • Danielle Grabianowski
  • Nesha Ward


  • Tom Rocco
  • Jaron Vesely
  • Joshua Warr


  • Ann Hampton Callaway
  • Liz Callaway
  • Marilyn Maye
  • Lillias White


  • Cait Doyle
  • Joan Jaffe
  • Gretchen Reinhagen


  • The Accidentals
  • Marquee Five
  • Uptown Express


  • “Closing Notice” Series
  • The Disney Diaries
  • Metrostar Talent Challenge
  • Ricky Ritzel Has Hysterical Blondness


  • Cabaret Cares
  • Concerts at Tudor City Greens
  • Wednesday Night at the Iguana


  • The After Party
  • Algonquin Salon, Oak Room Salon, Salon
  • MetroJam


  • Jenna Esposito, MetroJam
  • Mark Janas, Algonquin Salon, Oak Room Salon, Salon
  • Dana Lorge and Richard Skipper, Wednesday Night at the Iguana


  • Michael Barbieri
  • David Colbert
  • Randy Lester
  • Jean-Pierre Perreaux


  • Eric Michael Gillett
  • Barry Kleinbort
  • Peter Napolitano
  • Lennie Watts


  • Mark Janas
  • Barry Levitt
  • Alex Rybeck
  • Tracy Stark
  • Steven Ray Watkins


  • Ann Hampton Callaway, “At Last”
  • Liz Callaway, “Passage of Time”
  • Daryl Sherman, “Johnny Mercer: A Centennial Tribute”


  • Jenna Esposito, “To Connie . . . Love Jenna: Jenna Esposito Sings Connie Francis”
  • Elli Fordyce, “Songs Spun of Gold”
  • “Grace Notes: Hope and Humor in Hard Times,” Grace Cosgrove and guest artists
  • Susan Winter, “Love Rolls On . . . Live!”
  • Julian Yeo, “Deep Purple Dreams”


  • “All Together, All Alone,” Music and lyrics by Drew Fomarola
  • “Don’t Say Another Word,” Music by Joshua Salzman, Lyrics by Ryan Cunningham
  • “Finding Beauty,” Music and lyrics by Ann Hampton Callaway
  • “Say Hello,” Music by Matthew Ward, Lyrics by Peter Napolitano
  • “Things That Haunt Me,” Music and lyrics by Brett Kristofferson
  • “This Time, Music” by Tracy Stark, Lyrics by Michael David Quinn
  • “Union Square,” Music and lyrics by Gaby Alter


  • “An Artificial Tree,” Music and lyrics by Nicholas Levin
  • “Identity Theft,” Music and lyrics by Ray Jessel
  • “The Sacrifice Of Love,” Music and lyrics by Joshua H. Cohen
  • “Two Again,” Music and lyrics by Richard Eisenberg
  • “Understudy Blues,” Music by Brian Cimmet, Lyrics by Amanda Yesnowitz

Game changer…

March 25, 2010

TorchOops, this is embarrassing.  In preparation for Lina Koutrakos’s concert at the Atlas* tomorrow (Friday) night, I went to link to my review of her brilliant CD, Torch, and I realized that I never wrote a review.  It all happened because I got an early copy and wanted to write it after it became commercially available, etc. etc. etc.

And maybe part of me avoided writing about the CD, because it’s tough to describe something this good without constantly slipping into hyperbole.  My most rational senses are over the moon about this recording.  Not only do I feel that the quality of the recording itself is amazing, but I feel that it may end up being very influential, as I’ll explain later.

The CD is just Lina Koutrakos singing fairly standard American Songbook (with some contemporary) material, accompanied only by piano.  And from that, she creates a ever-changing palette of shifting scenes in a cognac-infused setting, from the mood-setting Lush Life, to the playful You Fascinate Me So, the hyper-sexy Night Moves, and the cathartic Man That Got Away.  All of this is supremely enhanced by the inventive and insightful piano work of Rick Jensen.

I’ve long marveled at the fact that Lina Koutrakos, rock chick, is one of the premier teacher/directors in the realm of the American Popular Songbook.  In this CD, all that insight and wisdom come to bear on her own performance of the material.  And just the way that Barbara Cook’s It’s Better With a Band recording showed sopranos that they can indeed swing, this CD is a watershed moment to show singers a path to contemporary interpretations of classic material without slipping into Linda Rondstadt-esque cheesiness or Rod Stewart-esque incoherence.

 Although you can order the CD through iTunes or Amazon  pick up a copy at Melody Records, why not just get one (or several) when Koutrakos and Jensen play the Atlas* tomorrow night?

*Atlas Theater, 1333 H St, NE, Washington DC, Friday, March 26th, 8:00pm, Tickets $10, at the door only.

You Heard it Here First…

March 24, 2010

The sequel to Andrew Lord Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies, opened in London to less-than-enthusiastic reviews (and wags have already re-named the show Paint Never Dries). 

However, the CD (which I haven’t gotten through yet) is on the British pop charts.  And the song ‘Til I Hear You Sing threatens to be the next Music of the Night.

DC Cabaret Network March Open Mic

March 24, 2010

I got there for the very end of the DC Cabaret Network Open Mic after leaving Life Begins at 8:40 at intermission.  However I got lovely notes (from the even lovelier Kathy Reilly) about who sang what:

  • Eileen Warner
    • Easy to Love
    • Nothing in Common
    • Storybook
  • Ron Squeri
    • Annie’s Song
    • Perhaps Love
    • Leavin’ on a Jet Plane
  • Barbara Papendorp
    • I Won’t Mind
    • To Roger on My Wedding Day
    • La Vie En Rose
  • Terri Allen
    • I Won’t Mind
    • I’ll Be Here with You
  • Kathy Reilly
    • Chez Moi
    • Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year
    • It Amazes Me
  • Michael Miyazaki
    • On Such a Night As This