Monday Night at 8:40

March 24, 2010

I went to the Library of Congress on Monday night to see the concert version of Life Begins at 8:40.  The original show was a 1943 revue featuyring the music of Harold Arlen and the lyrics of both Yip Harburg and Ira Gershwin, and featured both Ray Bolger and Bert Lahr. Notice the Wizard of Oz trio there.)  The featured a number of songs that have gone on to a further life, including You’re a Builder Upper, Fun to Be Fooled, and Let’s Take a Walk Around the Block, but no mega-hit.

The current concert reflects the work of scholars from the Library of Congress to reconstruct the score and the folks from PS Classics who will be recording a studio version with the assembled cast.  And what a cast they were, including stars of the recent Broadway revival of Finian’s Rainbow, Kate Baldwin and Christopher Fitzgerald, local boy-made-good Brad Oscar, and those delightful divas Rebecca Luker and Faith Prince. 

In the first act, the performers looked amazing, were energetic, and from what I could tell gave vocally lovely performances.  Frustratingly, there was a decision not to amplify the singers.  And with a 20+ piece orchestra onstage with them, even these first-rate performers didn’t have a chance.  I found it all so frustrating that I left at intermission (and caught the very end of the DC Cabaret Network Open Mic).

However, it does make me really look forward to the forthcoming CD !


See Something This Weekend !

March 23, 2010

OK, this is one of those “convergence’ weekends with a plethora of options.  I’ve tried to make sense of the dizzying array of choices.

Friday

7:30pm

New World A-Comin’: Wars, Movies, Suffrage, Prohibition and Le Jazz Hot

What did Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, Fred Astaire, Jimmy Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Ernest Hemingway, Eva Le Gallienne, Al Capone, Noël Coward, Alfred Hitchcock and George Cukor have in common? All were born at the dawn of the 20th Century in the year 1899. Faculty and students from Loyola University collaborate to present songs and music associated with these icons of a century at once fabulous and terrible.

Elizabeth Hart, soprano, Anthony Villa, Marc Irwin, pianists, and music students of Loyola University’

Germano’s Trattoria, 300 South High Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21202, 410.752.4515 Tickets and information

8:00pm

Lina Koutrakos and Rick Jensen in Concert

Catch multi-MAC Award-winning artists Lina Koutrakos and Rick Jensen featuring selections from Koutrakos’s new CD, Torch.

Tickets $10 at the door only

Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St NE, Washington D.C 20002, 202 399 7993

8:00pm

CHAWbaret CHAWbaret 7: Love, Loss & Latte

A benefit for the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, CHAWbaret 7: Love, Loss & Latte will feature performances by Lonny Smith, Sephanie Dailey, Davey Brown, Dean Reichard, Andy Woo, Ramon Atienza, Ilene Photos, Rick Mauery, and KJ Jacks. Music direction by Barbara Schelstrate. Proceeds will benefit CHAW’s mission of building community through the arts. Visit CHAW online at www.chaw.org.

ADMISSION: $15 in advance, $20 at the door; for tickets, call 202-547-6839 or email victor@chaw.org

CHAW is located at 545 7th Street SE, Washington DC 20003, at the corner of 7th and G Streets SE, three blocks (south on 7th Street) from the Eastern Market metro station on the blue and orange lines.

10:00pm

METROCABARET

Featuring Alden Michels, Stephanie Bonte-Lebair, Bill Edwards and Rachael Goldman, accompanied by Mimi Youkeles.

Join us for an entertaining evening of Broadway and Cabaret tunes. Start your weekend off with a late-night line-up sure to please!

Tickets $15 at the door (Food and Drink available for purchase.)

The Bethesda Theatre, 7719 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814-3521

Saturday

7:30pm

Jazz Blues and Broadway

Featuring John Eaton

The Barnes at Wolf Trap

Tickets and Info

7:30pm

THE CROONER AND THE COMIC

A tribute to America’s most beloved show business duo, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Bringing this comical team back to the stage are Eric Richardson as Dean Martin and Matt Macis as Jerry Lewis,respectively. With their impeccable timing, world class vocals and over-the-top antics, this Martin & Lewis tribute will leave audiences caught up in this wild pair’s high-jinx, begging for more!

Germano’s Trattoria, 300 South High Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21202, 410.752.4515 Tickets and information

8:00pm

CHAWbaret CHAWbaret 7: Love, Loss & Latte

A benefit for the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, CHAWbaret 7: Love, Loss & Latte will feature performances by Lonny Smith, Sephanie Dailey, Davey Brown, Dean Reichard, Andy Woo, Ramon Atienza, Ilene Photos, Rick Mauery, and KJ Jacks. Music direction by Barbara Schelstrate. Proceeds will benefit CHAW’s mission of building community through the arts. Visit CHAW online at http://www.chaw.org.

ADMISSION: $15 in advance, $20 at the door; for tickets, call 202-547-6839 or email victor@chaw.org

CHAW is located at 545 7th Street SE, Washington DC 20003, at the corner of 7th and G Streets SE, three blocks (south on 7th Street) from the Eastern Market metro station on the blue and orange lines.

Sunday, March 28

2:00pm

Love Swings

Featuring Tom Wopat

The Music Center at Strathmore

Tickets and Information (By the way, I noticed that discount tix for this are available via www.goldstar.com)

6:00pm

PERFORMANCE CONNECTION WORKSHOP PERFORMANCE

Featuring Christy Frye, Christy Trapp, Chris Cochran, Jean McMahon, Daryl Anderson, Jennifer Blades, Elcindor Johnson, Toni Rae Brotons, Michael Miyazaki, Emily Leatha Everson, Marianne Glass Miller

Musical Director: Rick Jensen / Director: Lina Koutrakos

Tickets $10 — at the door only

Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St NE, Washington D.C 20002, 202 399 7993

7:00pm

DC Cabaret Network Members-Only Showcase

Featuring Beverly Cosham, Stephanie Dailey, Peter Fox, Angie Gates, Matt Howe, Joe Peck, Paul Pompeo, Justin Ritchie, Adele Russell, Lonny Smith, Maris Wicker, Jeanne Wolfe.  Music Director and Accompanist, Alex Tang, Directed by Judy Simmons.

The Arts Club of Washington, 2017 I Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20006-1804

Tickets: $5 for members and $10 for non-members


Photos from Matt and Maris’s show

March 22, 2010

Maris Wicker sings by DCMatt.

"Hymn For A Sunday Evening"

Thanks to Matt for the great photos.  You can see more on Flickr.


Matt Howe on Publicity Challenges

March 22, 2010

Publicity Counts … If You Can Get It

by Matt Howe

I am in a reflective mood after presenting my first solo cabaret show. “Happy Endings” played at the Sitar Arts Center Friday and Saturday night, March 19 and 20.

I’m very grateful to the people who bought tickets to see my show. I had enthusiastic audiences comprised of friends (and friends of friends) and family in the 84-seat deLaski Theater.

I am frustrated, however.

I wish I could have reached people I do not know and interested them in attending my show.

Certainly there is a cabaret audience out there in D.C.?

As most anyone who has produced a cabaret show knows, it requires a lot of work behind the scenes in order to get to opening night.

There’s artistic work to be done: song repertoire; keys; arrangements; patter; etc.  Then there’s production work to be done: renting the venue that your show will be performed at; deciding what you’ll wear; hiring someone to do sound and lighting; and managing your audience once they arrive at the venue.  This is enough to keep any cabaret artist busy up to and including opening night!

On top of all that, it’s important to get the word out that your show is taking place so that people can attend. This is also known as publicity. And this is my frustration with the cabaret scene in Washington, D.C.

Let me tell you what I think I’ve been doing right:

In the past, I have publicized shows I’ve participated in by using a few tools: postcards that I handed out or hung on bulletin boards or placed in theaters, bars or restaurants; emails to friends and family; announcements on the D.C. Cabaret Network’s monthly electronic newsletter; postings to Social Network sites like Facebook or MySpace; and listings in local newspapers or online sites.

For “Happy Endings” I asked a friend who writes press releases for a living to help me create one for my show. I partnered with my “cabaret buddy”, Maris Wicker, to share expenses of renting the venue. This also created a “hook” in our press release: We were presenting a “Cabaret Doubleheader” comprised of our two shows.

Two weeks before my event, I sent my press release to The Washington Post, Washington City Paper, DCist.com, Metro Weekly, Dupont Current, DC Agenda, and several online “event sites” like upcoming.yahoo.com and localist.com.

Only Dupont Current listed my show.

If you flip through any of the newspapers I mentioned, you will find local listings for events in music, theater, galleries, and museums.

But no cabaret.

In the past, I’ve had hit-or-miss luck getting the same newspapers to list the cabaret show I was appearing in.

I’ve tried every means of sending my press release: I’ve emailed it. I’ve snail mailed it. I’ve faxed it. And I’ve filled out forms on the newspapers’ websites. (This includes various combinations of all of those means!)

Let me clarify what I’m talking about here. By sending my press release, I am asking the newspapers to LIST MY SHOW as occurring the weekend of March 19 and 20. I am not asking for a review, an interview, a “best pick,” or even a cover story. I am simply asking that they list my show times, venue, and maybe a short “blurb” about the cabaret.

I am hoping a listing in these newspapers could attract audience members I don’t know – maybe a local or visiting couple who enjoy show tunes and intimate singing.

Here’s the problem: How would that couple possibly know I was performing at 9:30 pm on Friday if none of the local papers printed it?

I’ve had this conversation with several D.C. cabaret folks and they all say it is a constant frustration and problem that everyone producing a cabaret show in Washington has. Unless you’re sponsored by a “big” theater like Signature or Arena or The Kennedy Center, the papers seem uninterested.

I don’t believe that a listing in a local newspaper would generate huge ticket sales. I realize that since I am not Barbara Cook or Andrea Marcovicci, most of my audience will be comprised of friends and family.

But my fiscal bottom line would have been better with a half dozen or so extra audience members each night I performed.

And isn’t it true that those audience members who attended my show because they saw a listing in a certain newspaper might come to someone else’s cabaret show listed in that same newspaper?

Most of the local cabaret artists I know produce their own shows with their own money. And who has the funds in their budget to buy an ad in these papers? I priced ad rates, and could not justify running a small $300 to $600 ad in, say, Metro Weekly, for one issue. Would I recoup my expense? Would it generate ticket sales? Probably … but it’s also not in my budget. Unfortunately, we rely on these free listings to help publicize our shows.

Could I have done a better job publicizing my show? Sure! I suppose I could have plastered my postcards all around town (instead of just Playbill Café, Café Luna and a few other establishments). And perhaps I could have telephoned and followed up with the newspapers I sent my press release to. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time.

Our cabaret shows are sometimes presented for only one or two evenings. If the newspapers do not list us, our shows evaporate into the air and a potential audience was never alerted that the shows were occurring in the first place.

This is the problem we D.C. cabaret artists face. We all do a great job getting friends and family to attend. But we all face an uphill battle getting the word out to the rest of D.C. that our shows are being performed.

I spent considerable time, energy and money producing my show, “Happy Endings”. I don’t want to sound ungrateful to the people who drove, parked, and paid to come see me. However, I think there is a huge problem with the local newspapers when it comes to listing the genre of cabaret performances in their entertainment guides. And I’m not sure how to solve it.

Here’s some questions that might spur some discussion:

  • How do we build a healthy, solid cabaret audience in Washington, D.C.?
  • What do Chicago, L.A., and New York (all with thriving cabaret scenes) do better than us?
  • What else could we do as performers and directors and pianists to make sure a paying audience knows our shows are happening?
  • How do we get the newspapers to consider us and list our shows?

And here’s some ideas I’ve had to address all of this:

  • Shouldn’t we all print the web addresses for the D.C. Cabaret Network and Michael’s cabaret blog in our programs?
  • Could we call our local newspapers and ask, “Where’s your cabaret listings?
  • Could some of us combine what we know about publicity into a central “database”? For example, a list of local newspapers, their addresses, emails, and websites … perhaps the names of specific people working for the newspaper who successfully listed our cabaret shows in the past?
  • See the cabaret calendar I created, and direct people to it: http://my.calendars.net/dc_cabaret_shows

I’m hoping this post on Michael’s blog will engage D.C.’s small but vibrant cabaret community to see if we can think of some answers. (And maybe some lurkers from other cities with cabaret communities will have some ideas?)


Matt Howe and Maris Wicker in a “Cabaret Doubleheader”

March 20, 2010

Maris Wicker and Matt Howe presented a “Cabaret Doubleheader” at the Sitar Arts Center last night, with each presenting their separate show, all under the terrific music direction of Alex Tang.

Wicker was up first in a springy-yet-cabaretish ensemble of black chiffon printed with peachy pink blossoms.  Her show, The Passage of Time, was indeed inspired by the first line of the James Taylor song, “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time” which Wicker said had become, of late, a mantra for her.  Highlights of the show included a lovely medley of the Waters of March and You Can’t Rush Spring, and a quietly passionate reading of How Glory Goes.  I also have to say that her anecdotes were some of the most movingly charming patter I’ve heard on a cabaret stage in a while.

Matt Howe’s show, Happing Ending, took a comic exploration on the thesis “life is a musical, and where’s my happy ending!”   That search for a happy ending gave a framework for a variety of material from a medley of “happy” songs, Cool Rider (from Grease 2), and even I Honestly Love You.  Particularly effective was the way he presented his title song twice in way that reflected the journey he took in the show.  It was great to see Matt look so comfortable on stage, and see him effective deploy both his sense of humor and his touching seriousness.

On a personal note, here’s something that really thrilled me.  I happen to know that both of these performers are people who regularly invest a lot of resources – time, thought, effort, and yes, money, into their craft.  And it is great to see those investments pay dividends with each being the best I’ve seen them!

The program repeats tongiht (Saturday) with Maris Wicker at 8:00pm and Matt Howe at 9:30.  Tickets and info.

The Passage of Time set list*:

  • Walkin’ Shoes
  • Secret O’ Life
  • The Best of Times / It’s a Good Day
  • Times Like This
  • Waters of March / You Can’t Rush Spring
  • Lullaby
  • A Child is Born
  • Time Enough for Love
  • Happy Talk
  • I Do What I Can With What I Got
  • Our Love Rolls On
  • Love Is Here to Stay
  • How Glory Goes
  • On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever)
  • Encore: My Ship

Happy Endings set list:

  • Born in a Trunk
  • Happy Endings
  • Wanna Sing a Show Tune
  • Happy Medley
  • Cool Rider
  • Hymn for a Sunday Evening
  • Nobody Does It Better
  • I Never Has Seen Snow
  • I Honestly Love You
  • Losing My Mind
  • Isn’t This Better ?
  • Thank God I’m Old
  • It’s a New World
  • Encore: I Love a Piano

*I love the way they had their set lists discreetly taped to the floor of the stage.


Ben Brantley on Michael Feinstein & Dame Edna

March 19, 2010

The NYTimes reviews the duo’s Broadway outing: “In “All About Me,” which opened on Thursday night, this most dominating of dames is given what feels like less than half a chance. The production also stars Michael Feinstein, the celebrated piano-playing crooner who possesses considerable gifts of his own. But they are of an entirely different stripe from the brasher talents commanded by Dame Edna. Seen side by side, in a production that brings to mind a desperately assembled television variety show from the 1970s, these two headliners clash like polka dots paired with plaid.”


Stepehn Holder on the Sondheim Tribute

March 19, 2010

The NYTimes discusses the NY birthday concert for Sondhim’s 80th: “Recent revivals of Sondheim shows using chamber orchestrations have shown how sturdy his music is, even in drastically reduced arrangements. But Monday’s concert demonstrated that there is still no substitute for a force as mighty as the New York Philharmonic (conducted by Paul Gemignani) playing songs conceived and orchestrated (most often by Jonathan Tunick) for a symphonic palette. The major songs from “Follies” and “A Little Night Music” in particular, are far-reaching ballads with melodic lines that sweep to the horizon.”


Three events for next week

March 18, 2010

DC Cabaret Network Open Mic

The next DC Cabaret Network Open Mic will be Monday, March 22nd at the Atlas Theater, 1333 H St NE. Sign up is at 7:30 and the wonderful Alex Tang will be playing.   More info.

Life Begins at 8:40 Concert

Rebecca LukerA very starry concert version of Life Begins at 8:40, featuring Rebecca Luker, Kate Baldwin, Faith Prince, and Philip Chaffin will take place Monday, March 22nd a the Library of Congress’s Coolidge Auditorium. The word on tickets that I got from Betty Auman at LOC is “I’m still taking reserved ticket requests (eaum@loc.gov / 202-707-2398) through Friday. There will be a limited number of stand-by tickets available the evening of the performance. The standard procedure is that people show up, indicate they don’t have tickets, are given a waiting number and sent to an adjacent room. As people return tickets or as seats remain unfilled, we start calling the numbers and admitting people without tickets into the Auditorium.” More info.


This Weekend at Germano’s

March 18, 2010

A lot going on in Charm City’s favorite boite !

Russ Margo in “Schizophrenic Music Epidemic”

Mar 18, 2010 at 7:30 pm

An evening of music with the marvelous Russ Margo, accompanying himself on the baby grand in a cabaret of classics from George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Russ Margo–with a few surpises!

Russ Moss Performs “Delicious Songs”

Mar 19, 2010 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.

Karla Chisholm’s Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald

Mar 20, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Ella Fitzgerald is an inspiration to singers and non singers alike. For more than half a century she wowed audiences with her child like sound and unparalleled improvisation. Karla Chisholm embodies the same playful spirit and authentically recites the Fitzgerald chapter of the American Songbook with an honest reverie not often seen. Chisholm pays tribute to the First Lady of Song by narrating her timeline with the songs we’ve all come to know and love. This is a spectacular concert experience you don’t want to miss!

Tickets and information

Germano’s Trattoria, 300 South High Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21202, 410.752.4515


Jason Robert Brown at Birdland

March 18, 2010

Jason Robert Brown, 3/15 - 3/19, Photo by Stephen Sorokoff by castpartynycI returned to Birdland last night to see Jason Robert Brown in concert, as part of the club’s terrific Broadway at Birdland series.  Even though I’ve admired him as a songwriter (especially when Lonny Smith sings Someone to Fall Back On or I Could Be in Love with Someone Like You), and I’ve liked his CD, I’ve never seen him live.  It was quite an experience !

Brown has matinee idol looks and is a completely controlling, compelling presence at the piano.  He balances a beguiling mix of intelligence, passion, and humor during his show.  As it was St. Patrick’s Day, it was really a treat that he did his tribute to Irish girls, I Could Be in Love….  A slick version of a song tributing Vegas showed off a sly humor and his 7-piece backing ensemble.  And guest Anika Noni Rose contributed stunning vocals, especially notable on I Can Do Better Than That and Stars & Moon.

One of the more charming moments in the show came as Brown and Rose were discussing the song The Rainbow Connection, and Brown teased Rose (lately of Disney’s The Princess and the Frog), “What, being one Disney character isn’t enough for you?”  Rose made it clear that she would welcome more in the future.  Introducing the song A Caravan of Angels*, Brown gave the audience an insight into his songwriting style: “Someone tells me ‘you have to write this;’ so I sit on Facebook for three hours.” Jason Robert Brown, 3/15 - 3/19, Photo by Stephen Sorokoff by castpartynyc

Somthing that Brown did that I thought was really, really nice for the band and the audience was not only to introduce each band member by name, but also provide an anecdote about how he came to work with each.  (And it really makes me feel old to wqatch someone so youthful discuss his “twenty years int he business.”)

  • Low Morals and High Places
  • There Ain’t No Way*
  • I Could Be In Love With Someone Like You
  • One More Thing*
  • King of the World*
  • Stars & the Moon
  • When You Say Vegas*
  • I Can Do Better Than That
  • All Things in Time*
  • A Caravan of Angels*
  • A Brand New You*
  • Someone to Fall Back On

*Guessing at the title