Month Upon a Time from Jeff Blumenkrantz

July 27, 2011

Composer/performer Jeff Blumenkrantz has a fascinating new project — Month Upon a Time — writing a song that reflects each month for a year. 

The first two numbers are real winners.  Drink My Way is a hilarious “always a bridesmaid” song and Pure Acceptance is a touching number about finding oneself.

I know I’m looking forward to the rest of the year now.

Ron-ing Around: Chicago Notes

July 26, 2011

Chicago Midwest Cabaret Conference — June, 2011

 Miscellaneous, Short Jottings

  • Don’t do too may repeats of the chorus
  • Don’t schmact
  • Live your story
  • Body language gives the tempo
  • Know yourself
  • Know how the mic works
  • Let audience see the birth of a thought
  • Don’t overwork
  • Let music run through your veins
  • Sing even without words till the story is over
  • Feel the room
  • Get out of your own way
  • When something “happens” the molecules in a room change
  • Take deep breaths to get rid of nerves
  • Find your beats and movements
  • Knowing who you are translates into knowing your style and how audience will perceive you
  • Put everything away and be a performer
  • Sometimes a song just doesn’t work
  • LET GO
  • Be authentic
  • Be humble even when successful
  • SHAPE everything
  • You must control a list song and have perfect diction
  • Don‘t gun the engine
  • Don’t masturbate by trying to get more laughs for the sake of the laughs
  • Choose when you want laughs and don’t try to get them all
  • You must earn the right to laughs and applause
  • Specificity in the song makes it yours
  • You must come at it from your own unique point of view
  • Have contrast in your song list
  • Be lyric driver
  • Take it out of tempo if you want to make a different point in your performance
  • Make yourself look unique
  • Trial and error is always necessary
  • You must do your homework before performing

Peter Fox at Signature

July 24, 2011

Last night I saw Peter Fox perform his show, Be Yourself , as part of the Signature Theatre Sizzlin’ Summer Cabaret series.  It was a very pleasant, tuneful hour combining songs from a variety of genres and personal anecdotes from Fox.

Backed by a trio, the evening had a certain “lounge” vibe.  Around the World and I’ve Got the World on a String in particular seemed to take advantage of his capable jazz trio.  Fox’s high tenor has an appealing warmth, with a quality more peach fuzz than velvet.  It was particularly appealing in unadorned ballads like David Friedman’s I Can Hold You (also one of the highlights of his debut CD, Peter Fox).  The most effective moment of the show was when he told a funny and touching story about his father followed by the Luther Vandross/Richard Marx song Dance with My Father Again.

Here’s what he sang:

  • The a Kid Inside  / The Way You Look Tonight
  • Someone to Watch Over Me
  • Around the World
  • I’ve Got the World on a String
  • ‘Til There Was You
  • Dance With My Father Again
  • On My Way Here
  • Lean on Me
  • I Can Hold You
  • The Best Is Yet to Come 

And don’t forget to check out the many other events that are part of Signature’s Sizzlin’ Summer Cabaret series.

Superstar on YouTube !!!

July 21, 2011

There was an interesting article in Salon today on lost movies.  This made me think of the lost movie that I missed the most.  But on a hunch, I checked YouTube, and there it was!

Director Todd Haynes originally broke through with the short movie Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story where the Carpenter saga was told using Barbie dolls.  Of course he didn’t clear music rights (or anything else), so the movie was yanked from distribution and jealously traded among certain cinephiles (who never got around to inviting me over to see it, somehow). 

But now, here it is!!!!  Who knew Barbie had such depth — especially after being scraped down!

Kate Baldwin Sings Sheldon Harnick

July 19, 2011

Kate Baldwin: She Loves Him CD Image” width=”194″ height=”194″ align=”left” />She Loves Him: Kate Baldwin Live at Feinstein’s provides a record of a show Kate Baldwin did  last season celebrating the songs of Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me, Fiorello).  The CD features a representative sampling of Harnick’s work, with both chestnutty standards (To Life, Sunrise, Sunset, When Did I Fall In Love) with some more esoteric choices (You’re Going Far, The Ballad of the Shapre of Things). 

The highlight of the album is Harnick himself appearing, doing some singing and telling some stories.  Particularly interesting is his explanation of why the song Dear Sweet Sewing Machine didn’t work in Fiddler. 

Unsurprising to anyone who saw Baldwin in Arena Stage’s South Pacific, the material in the show is well-chosen, beautifully and intelligently sung.  However, Baldwin’s competence is also her undoing.  Giving on-pitch, standard readings of most of the material, she comes across as rather generic and tepid.  Other than the fact that she can perform it well, she establishes little personal connection to the material.  And her patter, though brief enough and not annoying, offers little that’s memorable, except that she requested that Harnick wear a tie for his appearance. 

CD Tracks

  1. He Loves Me
  2. “Good evening…”
  3. The Boston Beguine
  4. “What a daredevil…”
  5. When Did I Fall in Love?
  6. A Trip to the Library
  7. “My favorite Sheldon Harnick show…”
  8. Will He Like Me?
  9. The Ballad of the Shape of Things
  10. “Be kind to this Irish girl…”
  11. Fiddler on the Roof Medley
  12. To Life (with Sheldon Harnick)
  13. If I Were a Rich Man (Sheldon Harnick)
  14. “Jerry Block and I wrote a song…”
  15. Dear Sweet Sewing Machine (with Sheldon Harnick)
  16. “Cy Coleman and I had a meeting…”
  17. You’re Going Far
  18. Gorgeous
  19. “He drew from very personal images…”
  20. I Couldn’t Be With Anyone But You
  21. “It’s time to start saying goodnight…”
  22. In My Own Lifetime (with Sheldon Harnick)
  23. Sunrise, Sunset (with Sheldon Harnick)

Peter Fox Sizzles at Signature Friday

July 18, 2011

Don’t forget that the Signature Sizzlin’ Summer Cabaret series is underway.  This Friday, it’s DC’s own Peter Fox.

I did, and in case you want to, too…

July 17, 2011

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is having auditions in the DC area next Monday, July 25th at the Marriott at the University of Maryland.  More info.

Interestingly, three people associated with theater in the DC area each won $100,000 on the show.  So why not be the next one? 

If you decide to go, please feel free to contact me for some suggestions about increasing your chances.  (Oh and BTW, BuzzerBlog is a great source of info for all things game show.)

Sally Martin at Terra Sol

July 17, 2011

I caught the Bastille Day celebration featuring a 4-course dinner and a concert by Sally Martin at Terasol last night.

The theme of the evening put La Martin in the middle of much of her best repertoire.  When an early mention of the movie Midnight in Paris elicited a long, collective sigh from the audience, it was clear that she was also squarely in the midst of the most receptive house for this repertoire.

Now I think a situation like this can be tricky when you have an audience with such clear expectations.  It would be easy to over-program chestnut after chestnut; on the other hand, it would also be easy to go too esoteric.  I’m happy to report that Sally did a terrific job of balancing the many expected touchpoints of a program like this – Piaf, Josephine Baker, Brel, etc. with some lesser-known material and deft touches of her own.

 The first great moment came at the beginning when she asked the audience to stand for the French national anthem and delivered a rousing version of La Marseillaise.  Piaf’s Hyme a l’Amour was given a nifty Bach/jazz treatment.  And an Eric Satie cabaret waltz harkened back to the days of the Post-Impressionists gathering at Le Chat Noir.  As one expects of her, the program was meticulously sung, with the great support of James Fitzpatrick at the keyboard. 

 I was particularly impressed by Sally’s scripting.  She did a great job of conveying enough information about the songs and switching to English to keep the non-French speakers on board.  And she had a great sense of when it was fine to just shut up and sing the next song.

 The team deserves extra credit for the rousing ovation that they got at the end since everything the venue did seemed designed to make the audience as grumpy as possible.  Tables were crammed in with no thought as to wait staff traffic or sight-lines: Sally’s “front row” were four backs and a good third of the seats required epic contortions to see the singer.  There was constant extraneous, distracting noise and movement from the staff during her set, including two servers chatting loudly behind her.  And while the food was lovely (on a mostly room temperature menu limited to two choices per course), I felt like I was in one of those Top Chef Restaurant Wars episodes where everything was going wrong.  When 45 minutes passed after our order was taken and we didn’t see food coming out from the kitchen for anyone, we were wondering if part of Terasol’s Bastille Day celebration was to incite its audience to storm the ramparts demanding bread.

 I debated about whether to publicly air these criticisms because we all know that there are not nearly enough venues out there, and I think new venues should be given a chance and a break.  That said, there are also not nearly enough audience members willing to leave the comfort of their homes and shell out money – especially after they’ve had an overall experience like the one the venue provided last night.  So I sincerely hope that the good people at Terasol actually noticed that there were problems, take them to heart and assure that in the future they will be things of the past.

  • La Marseillaise – Claude Rouget de Lisle
  • Chanson – Stephen Schwartz
  • Ça  –  Lyrics–Charles Aznavour, Music Gilbert Bécaud
  • Dites-Moi/Parlez moi d’amour  – Rodgers & Hammerstein/ Jean Lenoir
  • Youkali – lyrics, Roger Fernay — Music, Kurt Weill
  • I Love Paris/Sous le ciel de Paris  – Cole Porter/ lyr. Jean Drejac, Music, Hubert Giraud
  • J’ai deux amours  — Lyr. Géo Koger, Henri Varna – Music, Vincent Scotto
  • The Last Time I Saw Paris   Lyr. Oscar Hammerstein, Mus. Jerome Kern
  • Pigalle  – Ly. Géo Koger, Georges Ulmer, Guy Luypaerts  – Mus. Georges Ulmer, Guy Luypaerts
  • J’attendrai  – Lyrics, Louis Potérat      Mus. Dino Olivieri 
  • Je Te Veux – Lyr. Henry Pacory  Mus. Erik Satie
  • For Me, Formidable  Lyr. Jacques Plant,   Mus. Charles Aznavour
  • Hymne à l’amour   – Marguerite Monnot
  • L’accordeoniste – Michel Emer
  • If We Only Have Love – Eng. lyr. Mort Shuman and Eric Blau,  Mu. Jacques Brel
  • Chanson des Vieux Amants –  Brel
  • Le Prochain Amour  – Brel
  • C’est l’amour/ Je ne regrette rien   Lyr. Edith Piaf, Mus. Marguerite Monnot/ Lyr. Michel Vaucaire  mus. Charles Dumont
  • La vie en rose    Lyr. Edith Piaf, Mus. Louiguy
  • encore– Carousels  — Eng. lyr. Mort Shuman and Eric Blau   mus..Jacques Brel

Article on Sing Books with Emily !

July 16, 2011

Congrats to Emily Everson on the great article about her Sing Books with Emily work in the Patch:”“Miss Emily has a beautiful voice and she’s so animated,” Sarah Schearer, a mother attending the program with her children, said.””

Stephen Holden on the Jonathan Schwartz Tribute

July 15, 2011

The NYTimes on a tribute to the esteemed DJ:“The two-and-a-half hour show was an outdoor gathering of his flock, both onstage and off, as Mr. Pizzarelli led the audience in humorous call-and-response renditions of standards to which everyone seemed to know the words. Although that flock was briefly scattered by a sudden shower sweeping across the Hudson, once the rain passed, it quickly regrouped…Mr. Schwartz, now 73, used to host a satellite radio program called “High Standards.” That title not only describes his musical taste, it evokes the many reasons he is an irreplaceable New York institution; he is sui generis.”