Thursday, October 4, 2012

Welcome Back, Mark Cotter!

Just Do It!

The above is Mark Cotter’s mantra and as you will see from this blog, he walks the talk and talks the talk. Mark is returning to New York after an absence of seventeen years!
Mark was born and raised in Connecticut. He was very lucky that he lived in such close proximity to New York that he could simply take the train into Manhattan to see shows and study in New York. 
He would come in for auditions. He did that for many years and in 1990, made the move to New York City. At that point, he had already decided to dive into the cabaret field. He did a lot of cabaret work back then. Through his cabaret work, someone saw him and recommended him for a job in New Orleans with the Delta Queen Steamboat Company. He was performing as a cabaret artist on a river boat, the Mississippi Queen. He did that for fourteen years. He traveled back and forth from New York to New Orleans. That was a huge thing for him because he got to meet amazing people, great artists. He met Margaret Whiting. She was a huge influence in Mark’s life. She was a very special lady with a great love of life. She was very supportive of other artists. She came on the boat to perform. She and Mark hit it off immediately and she more or less took him under her wing back in New York. She got him involved in the Cabaret Symposium at The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut. Mark did that and that was a life changing experience more than anything else he had ever achieved on stage to that point. It taught him so much about himself. The International Cabaret Conference At Yale University is an intensive nine-day teaching program in the art of cabaret performance and trains professionals for the live entertainment industry. The Great American Songbook is addressed and promoted in its entirety, from its origins in the late 19th century through the classic pop standards of the 1930s and ‘40s to today’s contemporary cabaret, musical theater, jazz and pop music. Participating students have come from the USA, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa and the United Kingdom. 
All classes are conducted in English. There are thirty students and thirty teachers. Everyone starts out in one large group and then it breaks down to smaller groups and then it breaks down to one on one. It is the crème of the crop of cabaret mentoring you. 
Margaret Whiting

It was phenomenal and was a big step for Mark. From there, he was asked to do a couple of Cabaret Conventions in the early nineties. 

Margaret Whiting continued to be so supportive, down to what he wore at his performances. She was that involved. That, too, was a huge turning point in Mark’s cabaret career.  

Entertaining audiences was in the cards and is something he has been doing since he was a kid. 
Right now, he is in the midst of writing a book about that. 
As with most entertainers, music was always being played in Mark’s childhood home. 
He considers himself lucky in that regard. 
 It was very influential for him. Then he went the church route and sang in church as a kid. He sang in chorus in high school and things like that. He began directing a church choir.

That had all been around professionally. He went to school and got a degree in Spanish and taught school for one year. 
He realized that that was not for him. Mark’s mom was also a teacher. He wanted to follow in her footsteps, he thought. For one year after he graduated, he taught and then he quit and decided that he was going to pursue his singing career full time.
He began the theater route, i.e., summer stock and things like that mostly along the east coast. He was one of the lucky ones. He has made a living at this.

Mark, John Travolta, Roger Welch

There was a turning point as far as “cabaret” is concerned. Mark was cast in a musical revue after doing book shows. This was in the late eighties around ’87 or ’88. When he was cast in that show, he fell in love with the genre of cabaret. It was in a very small supper club. That was a turning point for him professionally. 
He really started to pursue cabaret work with more emphasis on cabaret than theater. That was in New Haven, Connecticut.
I asked Mark if he has a routine, a regular time when he works on his craft. He says that it’s rare when he’s NOT working at it. He’s a list maker. He’s always making notes or trying to listen to as much music as he can. He’s very aware of music and thinking of how he would interpret it his own way someday. He’s always working as far as a routine goes. When he’s working on a project, he likes working on a schedule with a definite goal. He’s very anal retentive that way.
When Mark and I spoke on Tuesday morning at nine AM, I asked him what work he had done that morning on his craft and/or career. He said, “I’m doing this interview with Richard Skipper.” To all artists reading this blog, are you paying attention!?!?!  It was nine AM! Tuesday was not a rehearsal day for Mark. He would be on his own. He would definitely work alone on everything especially his music. He will work on lighting charts and patter. 
Mark in Forever Plaid

He is becoming familiar with his choices as far as his songs and where they fit into the arc of his show and making sure that they all make sense to him. He doesn’t script his cabaret shows. He has bullet points of what he wants to say. He wants to make sure that all of his thoughts are clear. 
He tells me that he will sit for a long time. All of that was part of his game plan on Tuesday.   
The advice that he would give to others wanting to embark on this career path takes us back to his mantra, Just Do It!   
Jeff Blumenkrantz
Do what you feel. 
It was a huge realization for him when he came to realize he is enough. He is different from other people. You wouldn’t compare two different types of flowers and say that one is more beautiful than the other. 
He realizes that he is not lesser than the music he needs to serve him. The composers represented in Welcome Back, Cotter covers a wide range of styles from Stevie Wonder to Amanda McBroom to Peter Allen to Jeff Blumenkrantz. Everything is so different and yet everything is so beautiful. 
Let those songs and those composers serve you. They have done the work for you. Put your interpretation on it and realize your interpretation is enough.  
When I interviewed Robin Lamont, she gave me the next question: What would the perfect day look like for Mark Cotter?
Mark tells me he has been having a lot of them lately. The perfect day is when he has something to rehearse. 
We conducted this interview over the phone on Tuesday morning at nine AM. He told me the day before had been a perfect day. It was a gorgeous day here in New York. It was a perfect Autumn New York sweater day. He was able to go to a rehearsal studio and spend hours with his musical director for his upcoming show, Christian Duhamel, and that night we had a wonderful time at Jim Brochu’s show.
Why this new show, Welcome Back, Cotter, and why at this time? Mark has been away from New York. He has been working a lot but not in New York. He hasn’t done anything in New York for a long time and he has desired to do so. Living up to his mantra Just Do It!, here we are!! He took a chunk out of his schedule to make this happen. The show title is, obviously, a play on the sitcom, Welcome Back, Kotter, which was one of my guilty pleasures in the ‘70s.That is Kotter with a “K”, He is Kotter with a “C”…Cue song! 
Even though Mark has been doing his cabaret show all over the country and abroad, there is something about being able to try many different things in New York. Everything doesn’t have to be a “standard”. One of the challenges for Mark outside of New York is sneaking in more obscure material. He is very good at that and he does that well. It’s nice to do, this time around, songs that Mark loves and relates to on so many levels. 
It’s going to be a very interesting night. It is a show where we get a chance to experience Mark and hopefully new friends are being made all around.

This next question is from Linda Purl: Who does Mark pray to when he’s in trouble?
Mark prays to the universe. He’s a great believer that what you put out, you get back. He tries to center himself with spirituality. Both of Mark’s parents are deceased. He prays to them. He knows they are still parenting him.
In general, Mark is most proud of the cabaret work he has done. He is very proud of the career in New Orleans. That was, as he said before, a life changing experience on so many levels. He is most proud of cabaret shows he has done. 
There is nothing more exciting to him than taking material and structuring it so that it is about him and making sure the audience gets a sense of who he is without saying, “I was born in Connecticut in December of 1963…” He desires to say the same thing through song and his choices. Mark is also proud of having appeared at Town Hall and Lincoln Center.  A lot has changed in this business since Mark appeared at Lincoln Center.
One change he would like to see in this “business” is for it to be more accessible. 
Margaret Whiting and Mark

He would love to see a way for more artists to be able to do what they were put here to do. It has also gotten more difficult to get an audience. He would like to see a change where people are more enticed to go out and see something new. 
Mark doesn’t know if that lies with the club owners or the audiences.

That brings me to my next question: How is Mark reaching out to the audience that he wants to join him on October 17th and 25th, He tells me that he has met this guy, Richard Skipper! He is finding social media to be very powerful. The last time around he didn’t rely, of course, on social media. He did well, nonetheless. Last time, he also had a larger network because he wasn’t going away. He wasn’t dividing his time between Coeur d'Alene, Idaho where he now resides with his husband, Roger Welch, and New York. He did two shows that were scheduled. Those quickly sold out and he added two more which did as equally well. At that time, it was the very “old school” way of doing things. He mailed out fliers and postcards. He went to every show he could get to to network and to meet as many people as possible. It was a much different community then. Club owners made it easy. We both remember that when you were doing a show, you could go to any other show for free.
It was a great opportunity to see other singers in the cabaret world. That doesn’t exist anymore. So right now, Mark is really relying on friends and family and the on line media, which is turning out to be pretty powerful for him.
When Mark is working on a show, he goes to EVERYTHING for inspiration, from reading books to going to museums to everything in between.
Mark figures out what touches him. If he can’t get it out of his head, he knows it’s going into a show. It structures all of his inspiration. He knows songs that he has desired to do. There are songs from the past fifteen years or so that he has not done for one reason or another. He reaches a point where he says, “OK, I need to do this.” He may not necessarily know where it is going, but it WILL end up in the show. Then he gets a list of songs and starts whittling them down. For his upcoming show, he started out with nineteen songs.   

with  Brian Jose, husband Roger Welch,  and Krystle Armstrong.

It has been reduced to fourteen. He knows what he is opening with. Usually what happens, and this is where he knows he’s right, he starts putting songs next to each other and they start making more and more sense next to each other. He is very open to rearranging things. The day before this interview, he looked at the song list and saw different possibilities. 
He sometimes sees a new twist on things. He has a blast when he settles on the final result.  
To prepare for a show, Mark tells me he starts with a healthy dose of nerves. He likes to be quiet. That day, he doesn’t necessarily like to rehearse. He just ruminates all day long. He gets to the point where he can’t wait to get there and get it out of his system. On the day of, he doesn’t do much.
Right now, Mark is going through a sinus situation because of the change in seasons and environment. He considers himself lucky that he very rarely gets sick, knock wood. He does find that when he does get sick, gargling with apple cider vinegar is the way to go. It is his secret weapon.          
Julie Wilson
I asked Mark if there is a show or a production that he WISHES he had seen. He tells me there are many. He would have loved to have been around during the heyday of New York nightlife. He would have loved to have seen Julie Wilson at the height of her popularity. Being away from New York, there are many shows he misses. He reads reviews and wishes he was in New York to see them.
Looking back over his career so far, his fondest memory, among many, was the opportunity to work with and learn from Margaret Whiting. Doing his first cabaret show in New York is also a very fond memory. Everything was so new and as far as his profession was concerned, that was a new journey.
Why does Mark do this? It is something he has to do. It is not about money, obviously. It is HIS expression. It is his version of a beautiful painting. It is his version of writing a novel. It is the way he expresses his creativity. He has to get it out and DO IT!
Welcome Back, Cotter will be presented at The Metropolitan Room in New York City on October 17th and 25th

I hope that ALL of my readers within the tri-state area will help me celebrate this great artist. I will be there on the 25th and I would love YOU to join me! Mark has structured the show in a way to have something for everyone. Mark tells me that he is revisiting “old school cabaret” with this show. Each song will be a three act play in this show. 
It is very personal. There are fun moments and funny moments. If you come to the show and question one song choice, sit tight! You don’t know what’s next! It changes that quickly in the show. There is a lot going on!  
 During his last New York engagement, Dramalogue proclaimed Mark "among the very best" of Cabaret performers. Backstage said that, "Mark is a real charmer with a fine set of pipes!" Cabaret legend Julie Wilson says, "I love his voice. He is a great interpreter of lyrics."

TV and film actress Ellen Travolta proclaims, "Mark is the best of the best! He really touches you when he sings!"
 The Metropolitan Room is located at 34 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10010. For more information or to purchase tickets to this exciting event visit or

Thank you Mark Cotter for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!

With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!
I want this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!

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If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
My next blog will exclusive interview with John Beasle (Horace Vandergelder: opposite E. Faye Butler, Drury Lane Dinner Theater, Chicago, 1992)

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

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The Autumn Season is Upon Us! THIS is the show to Catch!
I'm celebrating Pamela Luss on Saturday, October 20th, 2012 at 7:00 pm
Pamela with Houston Person at The Metropolitan Room in NYC

Just The Two Of Us and Friends

Hope you can make it. It’s going to be a party!

Reserve today if that date is available! Call me if any questions!

Richard Skipper 845-365-0720

Check out the clip below of Pamela performing on The Jerry Lewis Telethon:

Richard Skipper,                            

This Blog is dedicated to ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level!

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