-Bette Davis (1908-1989)
Happy Thunder Moon Friday!
It is a full moon tonight in New York. The July full moon is called a thunder moon because we are so susceptible to thunder storms in the month of July. So I suggest a Stay-cation! Right here in NY!
I'm here to report that there will be a thunder storm tonight at The Metropolitan Room.
Baby Jane Dexter is appearing. I'm a die hard fan of Baby Jane's. I have a confession to make. I didn't start out that way. When Baby Jane hit the scene, she was like a rocket that took off and EVERYONE was talking about Baby Jane. She was the greatest thing to hit the cabaret scene since the two drink minimum. I heard so much about her that I was jealous. There. I said it.
I didn't have to see her. She couldn't be that good.
In 1998, I was running "The Wheel of Divas" for The Actors Fund for the annual Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids Flea Market. I was collecting cds for raffles and give aways. A singer from the west coast, Shane Kelly, sent me cds. I became an instant fan of hers. I was lucky enough to be booked in San Francisco at the same time she was appearing and I got to catch her show. She has since become a successful chef. Anyway, Shane was asked to appear in the 2000 Mable Mercer Cabaret Convention. I was going to bite the bullet and attend.
I'm awfully happy I did!
I had avoided the Cabaret Convention up until that time. You see "The Cabaret Convention" had always avoided me. Donald Smith, who is in charge, feels that I don't represent "cabaret". There has been a lot written about this over the years. Tommy Femia,(pictured)
I had become such a fan of Shane's that I wanted to be there to support her. The evening unfolded with the usual suspects that have always been a part of the Cabaret Convention. Even though I had never been, I followed who was asked to participate year after year.
And he has the right to ask who he desires.
If he doesn't think I represent "cabaret", that's ok.
It's his right!
One after one, the entertainers came out...one by one. If I'm not mistaken, Baby Jane Dexter came out in ACT TWO. Alright, Ms. Dexter, entertain me. She started to sing "There is Nothing Like A Dame". What an incredible arrangement, I thought. Then her second song, "Zing! Went The Strings of My Heart."
By the end of that song, I was on the edge of my seat and my appetite had been whetted. I could not wait for a full meal! A few weeks later, she was appearing at The Firebird.
(Actor James Beaman transforms himself into the legendary Marlene Dietrich in this 2001 short film by filmmaker Rick McKay ("Broadway: The Golden Age.") With Jack Coco.)
So I finally went to see Baby Jane Dexter! I was hooked! I don't see her as often as I'd like due to conflicting schedules. But when I do, I'm in Dexter heaven!
I get it! The Cabaret Convention is a pu-pu platter of what is out there to savor. For those who like the intimacy of a small, nonjazz nightclub-where singers make Broadway ballads sound as personal as a talk between lovers, and where comics address day to day worries as if they were chatting in their living rooms-choices are widest of all.
(Simply Barbra (aka Steven Brinberg) peforms "You Don't Bring Me Flowers Anymore" before a Sydney audience
The same is true of Mark Janas' The Salon...which I wrote about earlier this week, Jim Caruso's Cast Party, Dana Lorge's Wednesday Night at The Iguana, Jenna Esposito's Metro Jam (also happening tonight at The Metropolitan Room), Raissa Katonah Bennett's Tudor City Greens Concerts...and all the other such events around town. See these shows to see what is out there.
I've written and spoken about our cabaret community many times. I am so happy to be a part of this community. It is, however a double edged sword. It is a very incestuous community and there is a tit for tat game that is often played.
"You come see me, I'll come see you." On one level that is great! It's wonderful that we support each other. But I also find that when some people who are from out of town (and therefore unable to play that game)come into town, they are not always welcome with open arms. Everyone who reads this should make it a goal to go see ONE NEW ARTIST every month that you have NOT seen before. You might be pleasantly surprised! Hopefully, in a great way! Of course, the clubs need to be a little more diligent and discerning in who they book so that it isn't a total disaster.
I already wrote earlier this week about going to The Salon. I had a great time. Saw a lot of my favorite cabaret "stars" but it was great to see a few new faces as well! Then I went to see David McBride. If you follow my blogs, you know I loved his show! Not only was he wonderful, but he had a guest singer, Jennifer Miller. I'm now a fan of hers! He also had three top notch musicians. They are all within a 25 minute radius of an event I'm doing in late October. I've hired them all to play for me. I can't wait! Most sailors have a guy or a gal in every port. This Skipper has a musician in every port! (Charles Pearce would have been 85 yesterday! Is this not cabaret?)
The flip side of David McBride's show, and I hope he doesn't mind my writing this, was that there were only 8 of us in the audience. This was definitely not a reflection of David's talent, which is massive. It just goes back to what I wrote earlier about supporting those entertainers that come in that are not part of the cabaret "clique". He gave 150 percent which testifies to the showman he is!
In recent weeks/months, in addition to The Salon and David McBride, I appeared as part of The Ziegfeld Society's Summer Soiree (sharing the stage with some amazing talent including Sarah Rice), saw Jacqueline Jonee at a packed house at The Bruno Walter Auditorium at 2:30 on a Monday afternoon!, Kimberly Faye Greenberg in One Night With Fanny Brice, saw Mark Nadler's amazing tribute to 1961 (the year we were born)He will be bringing this show to Town Hall on his actual birthday with an expanded show...Go, Go, Go see this show!, and also saw Vincent Wolfe at The Triad (also with a much smaller house than he deserved).
And tonight, I will be celebrating once again the magic of a singer and songs. No special effects needed except the magic that the lighting designer brings to the show! Hope you'll join me!
When I first came to NY and slowly began going to cabaret shows, I wanted to be part of that world! Be careful what you wish for! It really is a wonderful art form that is so often neglected. There is a wonderful book by my friend James Gavin that I highly recommend, Intimate Nights.
As it says on the book jacket, "A tiny stage, an instrumental trio or just a piano, a singer or a comic, tables of listeners crowded together in the dark-these were the components of some of the most exciting evenings spent in New York City in the 1940's, '50s, and after."In its heyday, cabaret contributed unforgettably to America and its entertainment.
I applaud ALL who keep this tradition going! Here are three of the best! Terri White is this month's cover girl on Cabaret Scenes Magazine
(July 20th 2007 A song for mother by Terri White at Rose's Turn)
(Recorded live at The Laurie Beechman Theatre on October 1st, 2010 as part of SONDHEIM UNPLUGGED. Performed by the woman who ORIGINATED the role of Johanna in the Broadway production of Sweeney Todd!)
(Kevin Dozier singing "I Believe" for the composer, Ervin Drake, at Feinstein's July 5, 2010. Alex Rybeck arrangement, piano,. Jered Egan Bass. John Redsecker Drums. I was there this night!)
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TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED JULY!
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com