Monday, May 22, 2017

Reinventing Rogers

This feature fits very succinctly into our recent conversations about the Great American Songbook, and how we use it as a Ground Zero for our cabaret sets and stories. As we debate about TCCAN on how to frame who and what we are, we have been focusing on how to retain whatever cabaret heritage there is, but also embrace a new and younger generation.

It involves Billy Porter, who is certainly both an old soul as well as a rising force in the world of New York theater and cabaret work. I first recollected him as a protege of the former Rosie O'Donnell show. She was notable for shining a light on the Broadway stage and always supporting raw talent there. Billy was a frequent guest and started showing up on holiday albums and such. But even with that - it was a long road to steady roles and acclaim. With his star turn in Kinky Boots a few years back, it seemed his time to bloom finally arrived. Right place, right time after years of sweat, labor and talent.

Now he is collaborating with his huge network of New York talent; this includes recording musicians, stage stars AND cabaret artists. Leslie Odom Jr., Cynthia Erivo, Ledisi, Pentatonix. His new CD project is the Soul of Richard Rodgers. This "making of" video totally hits the point that we have all been struggling to articulate. He talks about how these classic tunes were indeed the pop songs of those decades. And then uses the word "treatment" for his reinvention of the songs. Now, they will certainly not meet approval with all our members or audiences; they are definitely R&B/ Soul arrangements - sometimes to the point of being barely recognizable. BUT, and importantly BUT, they are unique, personal and authentic versions of those songs that you can easily see resonate with the performers. Is this not indeed the cabaret we are seeking to participate in ourselves? Interesting revelation. Profound - He Gets It.

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