A report from Las Vegas

June 29, 2010

It was great to hear from the ever-fizzy Karen Michaels.  She has a terrific write-up of seeing Rebecca Spencer’s Las Vegas show on her blog

And do you have her CD, Dangerous Curves yet?  If not, why not?

Bob Hope & the Gershwins at the Library of Congress

June 28, 2010

I finally made it to the new exhibit at the Library of Congress, Hope for America: Performers, Politics, and Popular Culture.

It seemed to be another of those exhibits that really wants to be a book, rather than being artifact-driven.  So you can get almost as much from the Web site as you can at the Library.   However, the one really cool thing in the exhibit was an interactive monitor with access to Hope’s joke file.  If only that were online…

Much cooler and more artifact-driven is an exhibit saluting George and Ira Gershwin, including George’s desk and piano and Ira’s typewriter.  And very specially, self-portraits that the two painted !

Unusually, “As Usual”

June 27, 2010

OK, I’m a sucker for more-literal English translations of foreign-language songs that have better-known English versions. 

Here’s a great new one.  Deborah Boilly has written and performs the song Comme D’Habitude (As Usual) that we usually know with the Paul Anka “My Way” lyric with her more literal translation.

Oh, and here’s one of the top Japanese stars of the last century, Hibari Misora, doing her version.  (I can’t vouch for whether the Japanese lyric is based on Comme D’Habitude or My Way or something else.) 

Oh, and for what it’s worth, my favorite version of My Way is by Eartha Kitt.

Rehearsal Tracks from Katy Stephan

June 27, 2010

I recently wrote about Katy Stephan expanding her musical services

I just got a couple of rehearsal tacks from her, and I’ve got to say that she provided them very quickly and very reasonably.  Also, she does this great thing of having the melody line with an oboe-ish sound against the piano background.

Here are samples of her tracks:

email or call Katy Stephan katyann7@yahoo.com 310-529-6702 .  www.katystephan.com

The Wisdom of Donna Migliaccio

June 26, 2010

I’m taking a musical theater workshop at the Theater Lab with Washington’s great musical theater star, Donna Migliaccio, who I became a fan of in the mid-80’s when she was still Donna Lillard and appearing in the Arlington Players productions of A Little Night Music and Sweeney Todd, not to mention Jerry’s Girls at the Hotel Omni.

Miggliaccio was one of the people who transferred to Broadway from the Kennedy Center production of Ragtime*.  Talking about that production, she made the terrific point:  “There are basicially three reasons to take a job: the money; it’ll advance your career; or it’s artistically fulfilling.  If you can get one, OK; if you can get two, that’s great; and three almost never happens.  And Ragtime was all three.”

*Interestingly, Miggliaccio was playing Emma Goldman, the only major principle replaced from the original Toronto production to the origianl Broadway production, with Judy Kaye replacing Camille Saviola.

Stephen Holden Defends His Job

June 26, 2010

The NYTimes cabaret critic in a season-review think piece that calls cabaret “precarious but resiliant“: “Artistically, at least, cabaret is reasonably healthy; an optimist might even say flourishing, as younger singers like Kelli O’Hara, Maude Maggart, Nellie McKay, Johnny Rodgers and Sutton Foster have established themselves as acts that blend singing and patter into intimate, sophisticated entertainments that can’t be found anywhere else.”

Signature Sings 2005 – 2009

June 26, 2010

I just saw the last installment of this year’s Signature cabaret series, each of which featured songs from 5 years of Signature’s history.  Tonight’s show featured songs from the last five seasons previous to this, as performed by Eleasha Gamble, Will Gartshore, Tracy Lynn Olivera, Matt Pearson, Bligh Voth, and Jake Odmark.

The show is a concert with some truly spectacular performers having some spectacular moments.  Eleasha Gamble is the sort of performer who never seems to set a foot wrong onstage; she was particularly riveting in Midnight Blues from Giant and Saving Aimee’s God Will Provide.  Tracy Lynn Olivera was jazzily sassy in See What I Wanna See and heartbreaking (in a park-and-bark kind of way) in I Dreamed a Dream.  Will Gartshore had an energetic Run, Freedom Run and Bligh Voth was mesmerizing in He Wanted a Girl from Giant.  (Really looking forward to seeing her in Chess next season!)  All this was supported by the great music direction of Jenny Carter with Frank Higgins on bass, Mark Carson on drums, and a rousing back-up quintet: Shayna Blass, Autumn Seavey, Alyssa Easterly, Darrin Ellis, and Michael Cafarelli.

A show like this is a kind of a crossword puzzle for a director: getting selections from all the applicable shows, dividing material among the performers, assembling the material and performances in a way to create  a unified evening, and then directing the performances in coordination with musicians, lights and sound.  On the whole, director Matthew Gardiner did a solid job negotiating all those elements.  (And OK, two quibbles — I would have loved to see Show Me from My Fair Lady follow Words, Words, Words from Witches of Eastwick, and I didn’t think the suite from Nevermore had the heft or interest for its placement in the show.)  Oh, and there were a couple of real genius moments in the show — especially bringing on Holly Twyford to do a cameo as the problematic auditioner in Our Time.

I thought  it was a great touch to do a song from Glory Days as the encore as it was, in many ways, both the most celebrated (Broadway transfer…) and most disappointing (… that lasted one night) show of Signature’s in the last five years.  Especially appropos are the lyrics “I’m making mistakes but each one takes me in a different direction” and “I’ve got to tell a story… there’s so much more I feel.”

Here’s to Signature’s next twenty years !

Mary Testa in Playbill Online

June 25, 2010

Mary TestaGreat interview in Playbill Online with one of the more singular talents out there: “My problem is, though, I cannot put together, and nor can Michael – Michael and I have worked together for years, and we’re very good at working together – we cannot seem to put together a really commercial show. [Laughs.] Our shows are always really left of center, with a lot of material people don’t know and new stuff and concepts that are not your usual “cabaret acts,” ’cause we’re not really into that. Jason Graae is a dear friend of mine, and I was talking to him yesterday, and he was like, “Can you please put a show together that has standards in it?” [Laughs.] And I was just like, “I just can’t! I just seem to not [be able] to. It doesn’t call to me.” But we are doing the brand-new show July 12, and I’m excited about it. It’s kind of wonderful, actually.”

Life Begins at 8:40

June 24, 2010

Life Begins at 8:40

PS Classics has reconstructed the score for Life Begins at 8:40, a 30’s-era musical revue.  The score has music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by both Yip Harburg and Ira Gershwin.

The CD is a treasure trove of material for the cabaret singer and of stellar performances by luminaries such as Kate Baldwin, Rebecca Luker and Montego Glover.  Particular favorites, so far, include You’re a Builder Upper and Fun to Be Fooled.  Brad Oscar and Faith Prince score in a number of comic pieces, particularly the sketch C’est La Vie which reminds us that menage a trois is also French.

Luck Be a Lady at Strathmore

June 22, 2010

Nifty looking concert this Thursday at Strathmore, featuring friend-of-this-blog Julia Murney, Emily Skinner and Cast Party’s Jim Caruso…

Luck Be a Lady
Presented by Strathmore
Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 8:00 PM
Music Center at Strathmore

Tickets and info