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

Ron-ing Around in New York

October 25, 2010

Ron describes his cabaret experiences on his last jaunt to the Big Apple:

I had a wonderful, if whirlwind, cabaret/theater day in NY this past weekend.  It started with Lina Koutrakos’ weekly singing class, and ended with Amanda McBroom’s show “Noir” at the Metropolitan Room.  Sandwiched in between was a visit to The Schoenfeld Theatre, to see Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight in David Mamet’s “A Life In The Theatre.”

Lina’s class, as always, was inspiring, watching all her students stretch, (and being personally stretched) and go places that we had not necessarily considered.  During a break between students, Lina talked about Amanda’s show, having seen it two nights earlier.  She commented about how amazing the show was, and that the show was a study in someone who is a master of the craft of cabaret, employing an economy of motion and clarity of purpose, and that Amanda’s performance was mesmerizing.  At this point, I could not wait to see Amanda’s show, “Noir”,  since I already had reservations for the 7pm show.

After class, I headed to TKTS to get tickets to “A Life In The Theatre”.  I scored an aisle seat and headed to the theatre.  I had not read the reviews, nor had ever read the play previously, so I had no pre-conceived notions.  To be honest, I wanted to see the show, not as much for the show, but to see Patrick Stewart, and T.R. Knight in a live performance.  From that standpoint, I was not disappointed.  

The play gives the audience a view of the actors’ lives, through a series of fairly short vignettes.  Some as short as five lines.  In this production, the director took the path of “more is more” with full costumes, and sets, for each of the vignettes.  (After talking to Michael, who has seen and read the play before, the play is usually done bare staged, and the use of minimal costuming.) 

Due to the director’s vision for the play, it turned the stage crew and set changes into integral parts of the play. Having spent time behind the curtain, as well as in front of it, I appreciated this approach, but I don’t think that it  worked, there were many times the show ground to a halt.  Although, as I get further from the performance, my quibble with this becomes less intense.   

After catching a bite, I headed to The Metropolitan Room for Amanda’s show.  The room was filled to the brim.  The show started and I attempted to do the study that Lina had suggested earlier in the day.  It was impossible.  Retrospectively I can do the study, but since Amanda is such a commanding, “in the moment” performer, all I could do during the show was experience the emotion, and enjoy the journey, and hold on to my seat.  Her commitment to the material is flawless.  This may be aided, in large part, by her having written most of the lyrics to the songs she sang, but it never faltered, even during those songs that she didn’t write.

She was accompanied by her writing collaborator, Michelle Brourman. Michele’s arrangements fitted Amanda like a glove, both supporting her, and at times playing a counterpoint to what was being sung.  

A complete set list follows. I must thank a fellow cabaret enthusiast, seated across the aisle from me, who had seen the show the previous Thursday, and had written down the set list.  Sorry to say, I have to do this anonymously since with my addled brain, I cannot remember the kind gentleman’s name.  

I was lucky to have heard some of the music from Amanda and Michelle’s show “Dangerous Beauty” on my Italy jaunt, but a highlight of the show for me was “The Art of Seduction”, where as Lina said, she sings the basest of lyrics with a dignity that only she can pull off. 

The set list (as well as we could put together):

  • Let’s Order In 
  • Nice Girls Don’t Eat Breakfast
  • I’ve Got You Under My Skin
  • Lady Has The Blues
  • Blizzard Of Lies
  • I Miss Monica
  • Hunter’s Night
  • My Life’s Been Good So Far 
  • Song of Old Lovers (La Chanson Des Vieux Amants)
  • Congratulations (the AARP Song)
  • The Art of Seduction (from their show Dangerous Beauty)
  • Portrait
  • The Early Morning Hangers-On (Les Paumes Du Petit Matin)
  • The Rose
  • Errol Flynn
  • I’m Not Afraid  (was in here as well, but I don’t know where)

Ron-ing Around: The Tuscany Adventure

June 6, 2010

“How I spent a glorious time in Italy doing two things I love, singing, and meeting new people”

My week at the Il Chiostro Vocal Technique Workshop

It’s been two weeks since I have returned from my trip, and I am still basking in the afterglow. I have to tell you, I really enjoy combining these two activities, especially in the breathtaking setting of the hills of Tuscany. This year there were 10 participants and 3 instructors, Suzanne Kiechle (Vocal Technique, and the author of “Keys To Vocal Freedom”), Amanda McBroom (Vocal Performance, and friend of this blog), and Mary Sugar (Music Director/Accompanist). (Amanda’s husband, actor George Ball, was with us too, although not in a teaching capacity. While spending time with him outside of classes, he provided a lot of insight, as well as just being a swell guy.)

The participant group had varied levels of singing experience, from professional actress, to someone who had never previously sung in public. This variety, I believe, only enriched the whole learning experience. (Although the level of experience was varied, the raw talent of the group was pretty darned high) Each of my fellow students was enormously supportive and just plain wonderful. As is usual for a program like this, there was much sharing of feelings and emotions, for you never really grow as a singer (and a person) without that. I cannot adequately express the joy I felt being around them, and how much I miss their company.

Our days began with optional stretching/warming up exercises led by program director Michael Mele. Breakfast followed, then we had morning and late-afternoon classes, with a 2 to 3 hour break in between, which follows the classic Italian day. Dinner, ably provided by Program Director Linda Mironti (who also proved to be a powerhouse jazz/cabaret performer), followed the evening class. We were provided opportunities to tour neighboring towns and cities between morning and evening classes, if we wanted to. I always did. Why wouldn’t I? Not only did we have group classes, but also had separate private sessions with Mary Sugar, and the Amanda and Suzanne team.

Suzanne’s vocal techniques and exercise were right on target, eliciting not only vibrant sounds, but doing so without creating any tension in the larynx. It clearly extended my range in just a few short days. And it hopefully will increase the longevity of my singing career (what it is) by not damaging my vocal chords.

I worked on about 6 or 7 different songs, which hopefully will make it into my next show. One of the songs I worked on was “The American Hymn” (the theme from the min-series East of Eden). It is a glorious expansive ballad. During my working on the song, Amanda stopped me, had the whole class go outside, and she had me sing it out towards the green flowing hills surrounding San Fedele. That picture is indelibly etched in my brain. Thank you Amanda.

Needless to say the food was amazing. The cooking, according to Linda, was fairly simple, (I sincerely doubt that), but the local produce, much of which was picked earlier in the day, was what provided the flavor. Our hosts, and owners of San Fedele have a real passion for the arts, and for the history surrounding the monastery.

At the end of the program, we had a salon, where each of the students, as well as Linda, Michaelino (associate program director, tour guide, driver, and overall “let’s make it a great experience for everyone” guy), George and Amanda sang. The highlight of the evening, for me, was everyone singing backup to Amanda singing “The Rose”. It is something that I will always treasure. I hope that I will have the opportunity to do the program again in the future. (I did throw a coin in the Trevi fountain.)

For more information on the programs look at http://www.ilchiostro.com/about.html. For info on San Fedele check out http://www.tuscanrc.com/21615/24843.html


Photos from Germano’s

May 26, 2009

Thanks to Debbie Barber-Eaton for sending the photos taken during Ron’s show at Germano’s. 

I think the photo of me proves that I’ve inherited my father’s hairline (he’s the one sitting next to me).


Ron-ing Around: David McMullen in My New Year’s Resolutions

January 25, 2009
Friday night, I was privileged to see David McMullen at Maggie’s Cabaret, where he shared with us his latest show “My New Year’s Resolutions”. David turned the hall at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church into his living room, performing with a comfort and ease that made me feel like he was giving me one big hug. In fact, at one point mid-way in the show, I thought that he was singing the whole show to me, and started to feel sorry for the rest of the audience, only to step back and realize that with his tremendous talent, he really was sharing this experience with everyone, making each person feel that they were getting a personal performance.

David presented a range of material, mixing Great American Songbook standards with songs from contemporary Broadway musical theater and cabaret. (song list to follow). David is an upbeat sort of fellow, which undeniably showed throughout his show.

To say that David has a formidable performance toolbox at his disposal would be an understatement. His lyrical and emotional interpretation of the songs, with impeccable phrasing, and dynamic expression, varied from tender falsetto, to bold Broadway, to full classical resonance. This was most ably supported and enhanced by the accompaniment of his music director Mary Sugar. It would have appeared that David and Mary had been doing this show forever, as they musically seemed to breathe together. Looking at their bios, they both performed in “Beauty and the Beast”, and I would have to check with them to see if they actually had performed together earlier.

Even though the show had a light and airy feel to it, there were very poignant moments, but they were never heavy-handed. Actually, after the show, a DC chanteuse chatting about how warm the show and David were commented that there was no angst in it, almost as if that was a necessary part of a cabaret performance. Not this one. David ended the show, saying that he shared his New Year’s resolutions for a couple of reasons; to reinforce them to himself, and to have us remind him about them later. I am going to put “Check with David to see if he has gotten a pet yet” on my calendar in July.

My New Year’s Resolutions Set List

  • Leaning on a Lamp Post – Noel Gay
  • We Can Be Kind – David Friedman
  • Bring Him Home – Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg, Herbert Kretzmer
  • My Dogs – William Finn
  • Tale of the Oyster – Cole Porter
  • Temporary – John Bucchino
  • Long Before I Knew You – Jule Styne, Betty Comden, Adolph Green
  • All the Wasted Time – Jason Robert Brown
  • My Favourite Occupation – John Taylor
  • I Won’t Mind – Jeff Blumenkrantz, Annie Kessler, Libby Saines
  • Travel Hopefully – Andrew Llyod Webber, Alsn Ayckbourn
  • Way Ahead of My Time – Peter Mills
  • What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

Ron-ing Around: Grey Gardens

January 2, 2009

I seem to have caught something on the plane coming back from SF, so Ron saw Grey Gardens without me.  Here’s his write-up:

Well, I got a chance to see Studio’s production of Grey Gardens New Year’s Day.  It’s a quirky little musical, which is OK, because it’s about two quirky ladies, and their quirky relationship.  I really should call this an evening of two one-act plays. 

I have to be honest, I did listen to the Broadway cast album, just once, but that was quite a while ago, and I had hoped to see the show in NY, but it had closed before I could get my toosh in gear to get some tickets.  Listening to the album, and hearing some folks talk about the premise of the show, and reading the reviews gave me a little bit of insight into the plot.  
 
Barbara Walsh did a Herculean job playing both the role of the mother in the first act and the role of her daughter (albeit 30+ years later) in the second.  All of the characters in the first act (which is basically a flashback to the 1941), to me, were pretty much one (or at most two) dimensional, and pretty annoying, with the exception of the two young ladies playing Jackie (Kennedy-Onasis), and Lee (Bouvier).  this doesn’t seem to be the fault of either the actors, or the director, but just seemed to be the way that the characters were written. 
 
The second act, on the other hand, presents the disturbing relationship between the mother and daughter.  This is the quintessential telling of a tale of co-dependence which spirals down to great despair.  Oddly, after the annoyance that I felt by the characters of the first act, I felt sympathetic to the them in the second act. 
 
But, I do have one major quibble.  When viewing rehearsals, I have to believe that directors only sat in row 6, center audience.  I on the other hand was sitting in Row D, 4 rows from the stage on the left.  Although the theater is fairly intimate (small), due to the blocking and the fact that the actors were not mic’d, there were whole verses of songs where the lyrics were unintelligible.  
 
I never have a problem understanding lyrics at the multi-Helen-Hayes-award-winning Toby’s Dinner Theater, which is completely in the round.  They have a good sound system, and a director who knows how to block a show for that space so that everyone feels like they are getting an equal shot at enjoying all the show.  To be honest, I am a fussy audience member, since even when actors are mic’d, I dislike them acting upstage.  I understand the realism, but if someone is delivering lines upstage, or to the stage left audience, and I can’t see their facial expression, I might as well be listening to a recording of the scene. 
 
Having grumbled about all this, this still is a show that should be seen.  It depicts the unfortunate life of people who were American Aristocracy, and shows us that life is not necessarily better than any one else’s. 

Ron-ing Around — Posts to SongSpeak

February 24, 2008

Should I be concerned that my partner is seeing other blogs?

Ron Squeri is February’s guest blogger for SongSpeak: The Blog of the DC Cabaret Network. 

Here are links to posts he’s done so far:

By the way, don’t forget that Ron’s CD Haunted Heart is now available through CD Baby