Friday, December 19, 2014

Cabaret Artist of the Year

Again - we all know the entire civilized world of cabaret & culture centers around New York City. We, ourselves have gotten caught up in "new york style" cabaret which we try to emulate. So it is no surprise that there is a list compiled by Broadway World for the Artists of the Year in our field.

If you are connected to anyone in the theater world, you are aware that their media has taken on a massive PR blitz in the last few years to nominate locals for their Best of List. This is not meant to demean if this applies to any of you... but the nominating and voting process is circumspect with actors from Lakeshore Payers up against stallwarts like Sally Wingert at the Guthrie. I mean really! The voting procedure is then like a campaign for Dancing With the Stars or homecoming queen and I am guessing therein lies the rub of how Broadway World racks up some revenue with sponsored hits to their website.

Broadway World Awards

But I digress. We have problems defining exactly what it is we do, but they seem to have ease. Cabaret Performer of the Year seems it would suffice. But this is the last listed category. How about Best Female Vocalist? With 14 women competing for the Title! Not to be confused with Best Female Celebrity Show or Best Female Jazz Vocalist. Who decides this? When did Ute Lemper become a Jazz star? I think I would certainly see a show by Stacy Sullivan before I would pay to see Lucie Arnaz? Who is Julie Budd and what makes her a celebrity? I would be upset if I was Mark Nadler who has been pounding the keys for decades and is still labeled an amateur under Jeff Daniels who has decided he is now a cabaret star. How about Best Debut? Best Non-Piano Instrumentalist? There must be over 200 nominees in all which makes the Oscars look like a bake sale comparitively. I think the idea is maybe that everyone is a winner and can go home with a prize.

It is great that there are so many names and options to choose from. We should be so lucky in the Twin Cities. But I don't think these awards are what the art of cabaret is really intending to find. My Two Cents.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Don't Call Me Mama

I think as cabaret artists, we are always looking for the piece of music that is a little bit of a surprise and something no one else may have stumbled onto before. I got one such find via the Hennepin Library this week. I always search the new music CDs on order and saw one a month back for Cass Elliot from the Mamas & the Papas. I waited patiently until it arrived in my queue this week.

What a revelation. It is her last recording before she died, and not only that, it is a cabaret/club act that she was in the middle of developing called Don't Call Me Mama Anymore. It is recorded live at Mike Kelley's in Chicago and is everything we expect in a cabaret set and nothing at all that we would expect from her.

There is humorous patter & stories to set things up. I suspect there were plenty more on hand that were not included in the studio release which is sad, because they really let her personality shine. She opens with Pippin's "Extraordinary" with revamped lyrics by none other than Stephen Schwartz - so showtunes are represented. There is a great torch song medley. Classic songbook material. Original tunes written for her. And that voice - somewhere between the camp of the original Bette Midler and the chanteuse of Eydie Gorme. So glad I have added it to my library and so sad that we never got to see where this fine talent would have eventually landed. Give it a listen.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

TCCAN collaborates with Nautilus

Twin Cities Cabaret is getting a rare chance to partner with another musical organization at next week's Rough Cuts series. Artistic Director Ben Krywosz is always trying to push the boundaries of theatre that brings together song with story. Cabaret may be a stretch from his usual audience, but not the intention of their work.

Each month, they give public showings of works in process; all with music stands and a limited amount of rehearsal hours. But the effort is a chance for performers or composers to try out a piece in front of a warm audience and get feedback & insight. So 8 of our TCCAN roster will get a chance to experiment with new material or refine a project already in process. Janet Skidmore, Dean Elwell, Mary Keepers, Joey Babay, Katia Cardenas, Dorothy Doring, Connie Dussl & Vicky Mountain will all share the stage with Jerry Rubino giving some guidance as a musical director.

The setting will be slightly different than our normal Cabaret/ Salons, but it's still a chance to catch some of the great work we do in infant stages. There is a Monday 12/8 show at the Nautilus studios in St Paul and on Tues 12/9 at the Walker COmmunity Church in S Minneapolis. Both are at 7:30 PM. Admission is only $5 for each and full details are available on their website.

Nautilus Music Theater

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Girls Gone Wild

Not exactly the same Wild Florida Beach teen features that come to mind... But three of our lovelys will be taking it to the stage at the La Femme Lounge of the Gay 90s on Thursday evening. Jennifer, Mary & Sheridan are performing a Cabaret evening called S' Wonderful in tribute to bartender Steve Swonder who is presenting and producing the piece. If you have not seen the space - it is everything both seedy and sequined that a Drag Lounge can bring. This trio will certainly up the kitsch factor for an evening.

The girls will be accompanied by regular Todd Price and will have solo sets as well as some surpise group numbers. Show time is 9:00 and tickets are $15. Drinks and munchies available or reservations for full sit down dinner. How glam is that!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happenings Around Town

In the spirit of collaboration, I have had a few conversations around town with other colleagues that are also trying something unique to shake up the status quo in the Twin Cities music scene. All are heavy on the Musical Theater slant, but if any of our members are looking for an alternative, please check them out. Like us they are trying to find audiences and open doors for some of the great talent we have.

First is Ruthie Baker, who has an impressive local resume as well as time in the Big City, NYC. Her new creation is Second Fiddle Productions with the tag line of They Called It a Flop.. We Call It an Opportunity. Similar to the Encores series in New York, but on a much smaller scale - at the moment. She explains the process as two-fold. First is to find scores in the theater archives that have been lost and forgotten, maybe they just didn't hit their stride, or else were a victim of bad timing. Secondly, she is championing the unsung heroes of the local community and trying to give them that chance to step out from ensemble work or stereotypes and spread their wings in roles that really challenge them. Like us, they currently are nomads to a permanent home. But they have three pieces under their belt as fully staged concert readings of shows with a production of Maltby & Shire's; Baby slated for November.

Second Fiddle 

Next is Musical Mondays at Hell's Kitchen. This November they celebrating their 2nd Anniversary. The concept came to Max Wojtanowicz when Hell's Kitchen was seeking some alternative programming for their calendars. Similar to our cabaret format, they have a monthly slot on the 1st Monday of each month. They tap into a rotating roster of Cities musical and vocal talent, a regular music director and a theme for the month. A director curates song selections between all parties and molds it into a cohesive evening of song. They don't connect with dialogue as we do, but they rely heavily on Modern Musicals and classic American Songbook. Like us they ask for donations and have a quick read through with the accompanist, but otherwise shoot from the hip. Check out their Facebook page and catch the show this coming Monday the 3rd.

Musical Mondays at Hell's Kitchen

Lastly - the new kid on the block. It is called Cast Party at CAMP and is basically karaoke Live for the Musical Theater geeks. Maria Stuckey hosts and everyone is told to bring along their favorite classics and sing along out of the songbooks in an open mic. It sounds like a festive party atmosphere which encourages duets, sings offs and even some sort of contests. Looks like they also use Monday eves to grab the potential theater crowds on their night off.

Cast Party

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Broadway to Main Street

A TCCAN podcast has been on my bucket list for the longest time. But I have neither the technology skills or spare time to bring this to fruition. I find them a great distraction while at work opposed to streaming on Pandora or Spotify.

Here is a good resource that I have just found. Again, because of my background it does lean very heavily on the Broadway stage and show tunes. They are weekly hour shows hosted by Laurence Maslon that have a theme or tangent. The menu is a bit hard to navigate until your figure out the lamppost motif. But once you do, you can sort by performers, writers et al. Lots of creative topics in the archives from getting old in the business to haunted Halloween numbers. If nothing else, it is a great resource for both music and story, free for your listening. I will add the link here, but also add it to our resource links on the side.

Broadway To Main Street

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Makin' the Big Bucks

I am a little late on sharing this feature, but it showcases our reliable member Arne Fogel among others. It turns up surprisingly in the Twin Cities Business Journal. So often we are engrossed in the creative aspect of what we do as cabaret artists, hell - any sort of artist - that we neglect the business side of what we do. This is well owned by our Marketing Committee. Great product; but what if no audiences come?

The article focuses on a small handful of musician/ singers from genres of pop, R&B and even Arne with his crooning repertoire. All of these artists would certainly be considered successful on a local level. But that does not guarantee much in terms of a steady paycheck or even regular bookings around our very vibrant scene. It talks about reinventing yourself, day jobs and fleeting fame. I think it would be a great topic for our Education Committee to explore; even though this article points out that there is nothing close to a formula for figuring it all out. Read the full article below.

Making Money For Music

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Future Cabaret and Theater Star?

In scouring feeds daily, there are always a few sweet finds. This one is "barely" connected to the work we do. But I still found it so precious that I wanted to share it.

His name is Iain and he is a precocious youngster in the NYC area who has his own video channel. He posts reviews of the many Broadway shows he sees, and actually has some valid and colorful things to say about each. Animated and well spoken. This is a recent clip of him singing one of his favorite showtunes. And NO it is not from Annie, Matilda or Billy Elliot. It is a very studied and heartfelt rendition of Sondheim's Finishing the Hat. Amazing work - with drawing et al.

Monday, September 22, 2014

New York Cabaret Conference

In related national news, a monumental event in New York coming up in October that should grab our attention. Sponsored by the Mabel Mercer Foundation and celebrating 25 years now, the tag line is Four Magical Nights. It is from Oct 20-23 and will be hosted at Lincoln Center. Each night has it's own star-studded roster and a host very much like our own Salons.

Night 1 is dubbed I Love a Piano and celebrates the tradition of great singing pianists. It features notable songsters like Jason Robert Brown, Mark Nadler, Steve Ross, Nellie McKay and many others who are cabaret double threats.

Night 2 is a gala tribute to legend Julie Wilson hosted by Ann Hampton Callaway. Those two names should pack marquee value alone, but the list goes on to include 20 other artists. It is titled Quiet Please, There's a Lady on the Stage and celebrates her 90th Birthday!

Night 3 is Something Sort of Grandish and will be a tribute to the music of Lane & Harburg hosted by Andrea Marcovicci and Jeff Harner. The festival closes with Come On and Hear - the songs of Irving Berlin hosted by Klea Blackhurst. Altogether, an amazing collection of talent all devoted to our world of cabaret. Just in case you wanted to use up any frequent flyer miles.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Colleague Shout Outs

Three separate tidbits in this posting. All are related to regular colleagues in our TCCAN community.

The first is an addition to the upcoming Salon on Sept 20th. Lori Dokken, performer extraordinaire, will be on hand as our cabaret accompanist for the evening. Over the last several months she has been generous to share her stage at the Town House with us for our Saturday Salons, but this will be her debut alongside our roster of singers. We are excited to finally have this chance to collaborate and she brings a special artistry that is all her own. Please plan to join us if you are not already.

And in an abundance of wealth, regular musical director Steven Hobert has his own special gig on that very same evening. He has been at work on a project called "Ocean Eyes" for a long while and is having his CD Release Party also on Sept 20th @ the Friends Meeting House at 6:30 on 1725 Grand Ave. So it is indeed possible to catch both events in tandem if you are wanting. He is also featuring it on 10/4 at the new Matties on Main in Minneapolis from 9:00-11:00 if you are needing to take a rain check on that date.

Lastly - David Cummins who is a staunch advocate of TCCAN and does regular coverage of our Salons, has told us that his station KFAI is having their pledge drive on Sept. 22nd while he is on air. So feel free to give him a call and support the great work they do in bringing our alternative music to the airwaves.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

In the Room with Jason Robert Brown

Attached is a podcast from a day masterclass a year back that just found its way to my feeds. It is sponsored by the Dramatists Guild - so expectedly, the focus is on the structure of writing.

Of course I am a huge champion of his work. I was first mesmerized by his score when I saw him conducting the National Tour of his show Parade. Because of my background in theatre, it is no surprise that his songs are character driven. His primary aim is to "tell a story" and the "best what to do that is to sing it." Trust that a song is one moment for a character. Certainly how I approach a song. Worth a listen.

In The Room - JRB

Thursday, August 28, 2014

NextStop - Cabaret

Another cabaret offering; this one from a theater in Eastern VA and the Washington DC area. As we keep talking about expanding the genre of "cabaret" in the Twin Cities, it seems other parts of the country are doing so as well. Granted this festival falls under the guise of a fully supported non-profit theater. Maybe that is the type of partnership we need to nurture?

Anyway - they just wrapped up their Summer Cabaret Series during the months of both July and August. On a small thrust stage, much more intimate than the Guthrie from the pictures on the website, each weekend featured a smorgasbord of vocal talent. They used major star power like Karen Mason, Sally Mayes and Jim VanSlyke to anchor the calendar. But digging deeper, it looks like they also have a roster of venerable locals that including their own Artistic Director, Evan Hoffman. (thus the connection) The selections looked like a great mix of Broadway, pop and true cabaret and concluded with - need I say it - a "showcase" of the DC Cabaret Network. Planting a seed for us to pursue here as well.

NextStop Cabaret Series

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Emmy Winning Musical numbers

In honor of last night's telecast; which I did not even watch. I am more apt to take in a live concert or a piece of theater than to watch television. Occasionally a bit of binge watching on Netflix, but the appeal is just not there for me as much. Television certainly does not do much to include our genre of music. Yes there has been Glee and Smash which can either be a guilty pleasure of a train wreck of sorts.

But I can hearken back to the golden days of the Variety Show and how it exposed me to new music. Donny & Marie; Sonny & Cher; the Hudson Brothers; Carol Burnet - the list had tons of options that are long gone. I guess we get the obligatory holiday special with Michael Buble or Kelly Clarkson when they have a new disc coming out. But for the most part they are now relegated to Vegas acts. So by chance I stumbled onto these 2 video clips by the Divine Miss M who seemed to be able to navigate several mediums with ease. The 1st is from one of her personal television specials in 1977. This is her opening number where she bursts out of a clam shell and launches into Oklahoma! I have no idea what sort of brain cell hatched it but it is certainly entertainment.

The 2nd is a musical mash-up from the Sonny & Cher show with both Bette and Cher camping it up doing a Trashy Ladies medley featuring everyone from Sweet Georgia Brown to Lulu's Back in Town. Total camp. And both are performed live which is an anomaly these days. So in some sense they are theatrical cabaret work being broadcast to a large viewing audience. I include both because they were Emmy Award winners in their category. (I could not embed - so follow the link)

Bette & Cher - Trashy Ladies Medley

Monday, July 28, 2014

Getting Your Phil

Our own Phil Mattson has gotten his share of shout outs from TCCAN and the local scene. All rightfully so. Here is another great feature that has been shared with our members, but worth broadcasting to a larger audience.

It is a slightly old feature from last Fall on TPT's Minnesota Originals series. Each segment is a short 5-10 minute documentary on local heroes who have put a stamp on the arts community, not just in town, but across the country. Those of us fortunate to have worked with him, know what a tremendous resource he can be as a musical director while we are at the mic. But his true gift has always been his spin on Jazz, and in particular - vocal arrangements. In this clip he talks about how he merges the concept of music theory to musicality and comes up with pure genius. His list of credits in huge and his impact nothing less. Please enjoy.