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)

Stephen Holden on Amanda McBroom

October 24, 2010

The NYTimes on the friend-of-this-blog appearing at the Metropolitan Room: ”

Amanda McBroom is a gusher. By that, I don’t mean an obsequious well-wisher brimming with feigned enthusiasm, but a singer and songwriter who overflows with warmth and good humor, tempered with a hard, clear-eyed wisdom. Ms. McBroom, whose most famous song is “The Rose,” writes in a plain, broad-based pop-country-folk style that has a theatrical heft. The best of her lyrics, many of which address the inner lives of desperate housewives, go the quick of experience with a visionary acuity.”

The Wisdom of Amanda McBroom

September 21, 2010

It’s been a hectic few weeks, so I just got around to reading Amanda McBroom’s latest “Goodies” update on her site.  And I had to steal this graphic from it.

Talk about your ideal “cabaret tourism” experience !

March 3, 2010

Space is still left for the workshop with Amanda McBroom and Suzanne Kiechle at Il Chiostro in Tuscany.  Check out the link!  It looks like an amazing week in an amazing venue with an amazing team !

Oh, and Washington’s own Mary Sugar will be the music director!

Amanda McBroom Master Class

November 16, 2009

I’m still processing the terrific master class with Amanda McBroom and Michele Brourman yesterday.  The team did an amazing job of working with each participant, lovingly addressing their individual needs at the moment.  Yet, watching them work with everyone provided a superb set of learnings and discovery.  And it didn’t hurt that the always-amazing Mary Sugar was playing for the class!

As a special treat the session ended with each performing one of their signature songs.  Michele Brourman discussed the genesis of My Favorite Year and gave an inspired, passionate performance of the song.  Since it was a song I’ve worked on, it was a special thrill to experience Amanda McBroom performing Wheels in that intimate a space.

Stephen Holden on Amanda McBroom

October 28, 2009

The NYTimes reviews McBroom’s show at the Metropolitan Room: “Most of those songs are theatrical monologues demanding that a singer dwell inside their turbulence and ride out the storm as they intensify and dissipate like musical tornados. They can build into a demented frenzy, like “Carousel,” in which an accelerating merry-go-round is a metaphor for a world gone mad, or slowly slip into despair, like “Ne Me Quitte Pas.

“That French title, literally translated, is a blunt imperative, “Don’t leave me!” — a lot harsher than its familiar American adaptation, “If You Go Away,” lets on. The difference between the American and French versions, Ms. McBroom joked, is the difference between Baskin-Robbins and baked Alaska.”

J’Aime “Chanson” Beacoup !!!!

July 3, 2009


WoW!!!  Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow!

With apologies to Stephanie Block for her short reign, Amanda McBroom’s new CD, Chanson, is by far the best all-new cabaret CD of the year.

In the recording, McBroom pays hommage to that other singer-songwriter Jacques Brel. 

Now I have seen A LOT of people doing A LOT of Brel material over the years.  And the trap always seems to be that somehow singers look like they’re doing an excerpt from a production of Jacques Brel Is…  rather than creating their own original take on the material.  Even someone as good as Sheera Ben-David on her Brel CD feels like she’s in  a production of the show where the music director decided to throw in a rock guitar.  And what is particularly interesting about McBroom’s non-Jacques-Brel-Is… work on this recording is the fact that she was a replacement in the original production of the show and toured with it extensively.

As a canny maneuver, McBroom opens the CD with two tracks, Girl in an Armchair and Early Morning Hangers On,  unfamiliar to listeners whose only exposure to the Brel songbook is the show.  Also, the arrangements by music director Michelle Brourman and arranger Stephan Oberhoff update the sound of the show.  They seem to have moved the vibe of the material from a French tinny-accordian cabaret room to a sensuous tango palace.

But above all, are McBroom’s fierce interpretations of the material.  Without going into outer space, McBroom finds strong, personal points-of-view for each song and delivers them with conviction and a fabulous sound.  I can’t tell you how many times during the CD I found myself thinking “Oh, that’s what the song is about!”  — and this is all for material I could have recited!  Her Song for Old Lovers etches the disfunction of the relationship deeper than I’ve ever heard it portrayed; No, Love You’re Not Alone is an amazing portrait of the desparation one feels when tring to help a partner cope with their demons; and there’s a deft lightness in I Loved that finds a perfect pitch for the song’s final punchline.  I’m especially taken with Ca Va, a song about the Devil’s business report back from earth, all done with an edgy Middle-Eastern sound. 

Having seen McBroom’s version of Carousel in concert, I have to admit that no disc could deliver her amazing gestures with the song.  But much as her version of the song is the best that one could ever see in concert, it is by far the best one can hear on CD — or at least the 11 versions in my iTunes library!

Track List:

1. Girl in an Armchair
2. Early Morning Hangers On
3. Songs for Old Lovers
4. I Loved
5. My Death
6. Ca Va
7. Ne Me Quitte Pas
8. No, Love, You’re Not Alone
9. You Don’t Forget The Past
10. Marieke
11. Carousel
12. If We Only Have Love