Thursday, June 7, 2018

Unusual Voices in Cabaret

We often say that it is not always the strongest voice that makes a great evening of cabaret, but the authentic personality the shines through. These two recent features of "celebrities" caught my attention and seem to speak to this thought.

The first comes via Tony Danza - retro television star from "Who's the Boss?" He was a late bloomer in terms of musical theater savvy. But I have to note that I saw him 2 years ago in the Broadway bomb Honeymoon in Vegas and he certainly won me over then. He is a throw back to old school vaudeville like Christopher Walken with his modest tap dancing skills and ukulele strumming. He comes off as both smug and as cuddly as a teddy bear. In the interview, he speaks about the gift of playing an intimate room. When he talks about his connection to the classic American Standards - he totally gets what it means to make a song his own. Doing his thing!

The second is Kathleen Turner. While her voice is unique - one would normally think of it akin to Bette Davis or Lauren Bacall. Not a finely tuned instrument that would interpret pure jazz. The title of the set itself, Finding My Voice, tackles the elephant in the room before she even sings. But the review talks about her choice of great songs as a starting point for everyone to jump on board. I have no doubt that her patter is both sassy and on point. She has never been one to mince her words or wear her dirty laundry in public. So sharing it in a small space should be very comfortable for her. She has many stories to share.

Cabaret Scenes: Kathleen Turner - Finding My Voice

So when we worry about not having the perfect set of vocal chords, that is only the icing on the cake. Know what it is you want to say and build a great set to sell it. Surprises come in unusual packages sometimes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


It seems many of our cabaret conversations center around many of the great ladies of our genre. There are always shout outs to Barbara Cook, Mabel Mercer, Marilyn Maye.... the list is predictable. So being a male, it is welcome to stumble across something that has a slant specific to the material that speaks a bit more to me.

I was not aware of Todd Murray until just this week. He is an L.A. native and as handsome as they come with dashing movie-star looks. But what intrigues me more than that - is that he has a lush baritone voice which is a rarity. In these days of screaming Broadway tenors that are belting out high A's & B's to meet the needs of pop standards. He has more in common with classic tones like Robert Goulet or Gordon McCrae.

His current show that he is peddling is a concept called Croon. He goes into detail about the original form of the word; it was a term that came to life with the invention the microphone as a tool for singer amplification. Instead of having to belt over an entire orchestra to fill a concert arena, with the addition of a mic in the 1920's, a singer could ease back and play with all kinds of different qualities to give color to songs. I think I had assumed it came upon us a bit later with the crooners at the tail end of the Big Band movement. Names more expected like Frank Sinatra or Mel Torme. Todd's show goes way back to the vaudeville days and continues into the present day with his own unique cabaret spin on a number of standards. Looking at his tour calendar, it looks like he was close enough to us here in Hastings last November. Here is hoping he makes a return where I will gladly check him out.


Monday, April 9, 2018

True French Cabaret

Charles Aznavour must be as close to Ground Zero for the origins of cabaret in our lifetime. He is certainly the last living legend that truly "lived in the day!" He was discovered over 70 years ago by Edith Piaf, the grandest chanteuse of them all and has spent his entire career performing in small rooms and concert halls across the globe. This glorious retrospective begins talking about his ability to transform from his wiry 90 year old frame into an icon when he takes the stage and finds his light. He speaks about his touring, a new album, but the centerpiece are the 12,000 songs he has written over his life. Yes - that is a correct number!

Old hand: Aznavour at the Cannes Film Festival in 1959

As does any cabaret artist, the work is often about revealing glimpses of oneself. In regard to the above mentioned songs; “everyone mistook them and said, ‘Ah, you are telling your story.’ It was not true. But after years, I found that finally – without knowing it, without trying to – I had written my life.” He starts with reference to his Armenian roots, parents en route to America, but getting stranded in Paris where he was ultimately born. Being from a musical family, he began dancing but by age 15 he was singing in the nightclubs of Montparnasse. Despite success across continents at a young age, he quoted “My shortcomings are my voice, my height, my gestures, my lack of culture and education, my frankness and my lack of personality.” What prompted this brutal self-analysis? “I wanted to know who I was. Before presenting yourself to the public, you have to know who you are. Your faults and your abilities – and often you should keep the faults, which can be very spectacular, and avoid some of the good things. Even now, I’m in search of who I am.” 

These are all remarkable quotes for cabaret artists on our ques to reveal ourselves on stage. What stories to tell, what events in our lives we want to embellish, what makes us unique. He has years of wisdom and also the spirit of a much younger man.

UK Telegraph: Charles Aznavour - a Special Character 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Darling, This Is Cabaret

Source credit on this one goes to Nichole, who shared it on our private Facebook group. But I thought it spoke so incredibly well to who and what we are at TCCAN, that is deserved a share to our entire Facebook following.

The article is published on a digital magazine called W42ST that blogs about happenings in the Big Apple. This particular post is a twist on how they are presenting their monthly cabaret calendar. Instead of just listing dates and places for the featured artist; each one gets a few short paragraphs to expound on their inspiration for cabaret. And each memoir is a perfect bit of cabaret patter through their unique tale. The lead story by Jim Caruso talks about his early days in the choruses of Dallas TX and how a detour at a small place called the Baja opened a new door to his career. Both Megan Hilty and Joie Bianco talk about the transformative power of seeing Marilyn Maye on stage. Marilyn herself is performing this month and takes it back a notch further to the very old times and the influence of Shecky Greene in Las Vegas. KT Sullivan speaks of the intimacy of the Gardenia Room and seeing Broadway icons like Donna McKechnie and Pamela Myers revealing their true stories outside of their successful long runs. Jane Monheit speaks about the passion of Brazilian music via Ivan Lins.
Image result for jim caruso
But the common themes among them all, are the tenets we speak about each and every time we see each other. They talk of "strange ballads with tons of tears and quirky patter," an "Intimate experience - just a microphone, some stories and lots of songs," "Taking an audience on a journey." Key words like wit, connection, Standards, intimate, personality, vulnerability. It brings me joy to know that we truly comprehend who it is we are and what we are trying to accomplish as a network of great artists here in the Twin Cities.

Read the full article here: W42ST - This Is Cabaret

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Father & Son Sinatra

A small piece of fluff here to share - but sometimes that is needed. We talk constantly about the legacy of the Great American Songbook and its iconic performers from Ella Fitzgerald to Tony Bennett. And though we are always exploring new material, new writers and sometimes even finding our own voice - it remains that our ranks are a vital part of passing this heritage forward.

Now add to that the unusual paradox of singing in our cars! We have all belted out favorite songs with the windows down and a friend in the passenger seat. Showtunes and pop standards. Radio or 8 Track. There is not one of us that is not a guilty participant. With #JamesCorden and his raging Carpool Karaoke it is even more a part of our current culture.

So how adorable is this father and son duet of a Sinatra & Sammy Davis classic? Meet Matt Clayton and son Archie! Cheeky, Fuzzy and Damn Entertaining.

Source: Father And Son Belt Out Frank Sinatra Duet In The Car by Caters_News

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Thank You Evan Hansen

I know that I am drawn to all things musical theater and that certainly impacts my choices in my cabaret work. More-so than standards, I think it is because the songs often are small stories in themselves and almost always have the roots of a character to dig into. Which makes them not only an easy "sell" but gives me a window into the world of "that song."

So this share is a new collage from the huge success of Pasek & Paul's Dear Evan Hansen. The show is speaking to a generation of youth that feel alienated and are trying to connect somewhere in the virtual world since they are not finding that connection in their real lives. So it is fitting that this compilation is assembled from duets across the globe. The clip is edited and sponsored by the show itself. But I love that it shows countless possibilities of singers who are making it their own and interpreting it with their authentic spin, whether singing to their puppy, a stuffed animal or a special partner.

I know we often cling to the Great American Songbook of the past, but I am certain that the current generation of musical theater composers will generate another century of anthems that will be remembered for many of the same reasons.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Song Sister Meets the Janes

Our own TCCAN trio of Dames; Connie Dussl, Vicky Mountain and Dorothy Doring have been creating some local buzz with their own side act Song Sister. We saw them workshop a set with Nautilus 2 years back, they resurfaced this Fall at the Nicollet Island Inn and are now featuring a holiday set of new arrangements at Jazz Central in the Vocalists series.

The Janes: Jingle n' Jazz!
So I was indeed surprised in my cabaret #Twitter feed to stumble onto a similar set of ladies doing the same thing in the New York area. The Janes are comprised of Sula Haska, Christine Hanck & Patti Wyss who have collaborated on and off for some 42 years now. Their current gig at the Triad in NY started with the Andrews & Boswell Sisters and went thru the girl groups of the 1960s. It then expands to contemporary harmonies like Wilson Phillips & Destiny's Child.

Our local girls are on to something that audiences are reminiscing about and wanting to see. Here are the Janes doing a cover of "Crazy People."