Monday, October 6, 2014

Carly Ozard: Midler on The Roof: A Divine Musical Journey

If I could be granted a wish, I'd shine in your eye like a jewel.
Bette Midler

A San Francisco native, Carly Ozard had multiple one-woman shows at the Rrazz Room. She has also guest starred in the Richmond Ermet AIDS Foundation Benefits. In 2009, her Freddie Mercury Tribute debuted at Don't Tell Mama and in 2012, Shift Happens debuted at The Laurie Beechman Theater. Other New York credits include The Cranky Cabaret, 54 Below, Don't Tell Mama, The Iridium, The Duplex, Hosting Mark Janas's Salon, and Stu Hamstra's Annual "March is Cabaret Month" Gala. Favorite musical theatre roles include Diana in Next To Normal and Nettie Fowler in Carousel. Carly performed in Toulouse! The Musical with the New York Theatre Barn! Her latest show is Midler on the Roof! at Stage 72 at The Triad at 7PM TONIGHT night, October 7th at 7PM in celebration of her birthday later this week.
Carly lives with her rescue dog Peevie in Hell's Kitchen.

Earlier this summer I was able to see Carly Ozard in her incredible show at The Duplex, Midler On The Roof. The show chronicles Carly's difficult growing up years as an outsider in San Francisco. The muse that helped her through this difficult period was Bette Midler through her films and music. She is bringing her show back tomorrow night for one night only to celebrate her birthday and to benefit The New York Restoration Project. Carly and I sat down this AM to discuss all of the elements that have conspired to bring her to this point.
Carly learned at a very age that she had a gift for song. The first movie she recalls seeing was The Music Man.
That struck a chord with Carly. As other kids her age were watching Sesame Street and Nickelodeon, she was watching musicals. She would "devour" them. The fact that she, too, could sing allowed this to all work out for her. She has continued on this path because "it is the only thing I know how to do."
Director and inspiration Kristine Zbornick
Bette Midler obviously inspires Carly as an artist, but there are others as well. Freddie Mercury.
Carly actually had a very successful tribute show to him, as well. She is also inspired by Neil Diamond, Cher "as funny as that is", and for theater's sake, Ethel Merman.
New on the horizon for Carly is her director, Kristine Zbornick.She also inspires Carly.
Carly has a very impressive team for Midler on The Roof. It started when Carly saw Bloody Bloody Lennie Watts.

She didn't know what to expect other than he is good. She found herself loving a show more than anything she had loved before, especially in cabaret. This show was IT for Carly. She desired to know how to make her audiences feel the way his show made her feel. She found out that Kristine had directed his show. Carly was already taking classes with her. When Carly found out that Kristine had directed Lennie's show, she thought, "Oh my God!" Carly and Kristine developed a great working relationship.
Carly admits that she has not had a great working relationship with teachers. She feels that she and Kristine are cut from the same mold.
Kristine went from teacher to director to mentor in about eight months. Now she is mentor/friend. Carly loves her so much. So do I!
Kristine is a force of nature. Carly tells me that the show has not changed since its earlier run this summer, but she has. She has loosened up a lot. She was so nervous.Kristine is not intimating at all to Carly. Kristine is a big personality (as is Carly). They are both forces but everything that comes from both is backed up by kindness.
Carly has learned in therapy to always come from a place of love. Kristine has that down pat.

There is nothing negative or scary when it comes from a kind place. 
Kristine is a great combination of "hands on" and "arms length", allowing Carly to find her way. 
Interestingly enough, tomorrow night will be the first time that Kristine will be seeing the fruit of her labors. When Carly last did this, Kristine was appearing in Damn Yankees at The Goodspeed Opera House. I saw Kristine and she was wonderful. Even away, Kristine was hands on via phone and Skype.Carly will approach something from one angle, and Kristine will ask her, Are you nervous right now?" and Carly will answer with an emphatic, "Yeesss!!!!"
Photo credit: Stacy Sullivan
Kristine will let her know right away if something isn't working for her or if it is reading a certain way. Kristine has remained consistent with her intentions for this show. Everything that Carly is trying to do, Kristine is already there before her. She's a pro. Period.  
Carly met musical director Steven Ray Watkins five years ago at the MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) Awards.
Musical Director and friend Steven Ray Watkins

This was before she had even moved to New York. She was still living in California. She and Steven just hit it off immediately. He was sitting at a table at the after party. She doesn't even remember what she said but Steven found it very funny. He kicked the chair next to him out and said, "Sit down! Why aren't we friends?"
They both burst out laughing and spent a good portion of the rest of the night laughing and talking and enjoying each others company.
Again, there was an instant chemistry with someone she desired to work with. Then there are the "back-up" singers.
Carly saw Karen Mack perform at Don't Tell Mama with Michael Holland in Gasohol which had a nice long run performing in various rooms around town. Once again, Carly was blown away by a great talent. She couldn't believe how great she was. She couldn't believe how individual she was.
Karen Mack
Carly doesn't know anyone else like her. I agree. Carly had never met her other back up singer, Uraina Collazo, but Steven was raving about her. She was doing The Artist Formally Known As Show (Prince). Having done a Freddie Mercury show, Carly was happy to hear about another "girl" was doing a tribute to someone like Prince. Uraina showed up at the first rehearsal and was fabulous. With this team in place, they sound"ridiculous"! I was so impressed when I heard them. Carly is grateful for the sound they have.
The best experience for Carly on this project has been working with a director who "gets her". Throw into that mix an amazing musical director and two of the best "back up" singers that an artist could ever have.
They ALL love Bette Midler and respect her. "Everyone is happy to come to work". Carly is happy that everyone else is enjoying this as much as she is. She would feel terrible if that attitude was, "Oh yeah, I'm doing this show but I really don't like it." None of that is going on which Carly loves. She loves that her "girls" and Steven and Kristine all honor The Divine Miss M.
There is nothing Carly would change with this show. She would like to develop the show further and further. The more comfortable she can be on stage, the better. She considers herself a different performer here than she is in San Francisco. She feels that New York intimidates her. Back "home" in San Francisco, everything uncomfortable goes away. There are no challenges. Here, Carly goes, "Oh, God! Oh, God!" Every time she gets up on stage, it is yet another opportunity to try to match the "nonchalance" that she has there.  
Having seen the show this past summer, I already know what Bette Midler means to Carly on a spiritual level.

Uraina Collazo
There is a line at the beginning of the show the show in which Carly states how Bette has always broken tradition while honoring the past. That, to Carly, is exactly what she desires to do with her music. Carly wants to have respect for what has happened in the past and incorporate that into what she creates in the future. Bette does that magnificently.
She has been a voice for people everywhere, gay, straight, drag queens, whatever. She goes on stage and she is brassy and confident and has fun costumes and fun back up singers and puts on a show! It is a big expensive cabaret show when you think about it. She sets an example that "old"  entertainment can be new again. The vaudevillian and musical theatre tones still work. Gene Castle at Stage 72 at The Triad taught Bette Midler how to tap! Carly has never seen Bette tap in her life but is sure that she excelled at that. Can Katy Perry or Miley Cyrus tap?
Carly and I would like to see that! Wouldn't that be great to see in their shows? Bette Midler put it ALL in her shows.
Carly first began working on this show approximately nine months ago. Carly cannot imagine this show not coming along at this time.
This is the most involved Carly has ever been on stage.
On the eve of her debut at Stage 72 at The Triad, Carly admits that she is definitely nervous. She is excited because the venue is so beautiful. She desires to "live there". She wants to make this her cabaret home. She loves the way the room feels. She feels that she fits well on that stage. Her nervousness is not a negative. "All I can do is show up and try and be as relaxed as possible on stage. That is my challenge. I get really nervous when it comes to patter. With the singing, I am fine. With the patter, it is rough for me."
Bette Midler got Carly through the worst part of her life. That was when Carly was "growing up". Carly knows that she shares those years as being rough with many people. Middle school, high school, and college was hell for Carly. "It was just so awful!" Bette Midler got
Carly through this period because, "Somewhere in the world was this amazing lady putting on shows and people were saying that was OK."

Carly recently took one of those silly Facebook quizzes, one that asked "What job should you have?" Carly thought, for sure, that it was going to come up with 'entertainer'? She actually got humanitarian. Carly will not deny that she is proud of winning the San Francisco cabaret competition. However, when she looks back on her charity work through entertaining and what she has gotten to represent because she IS an entertainer, for example, singing at the opening of the first LGBT history museum in San Francisco, because of the work she has done in her community. You don't just get picked because "you can sing". Carly got chosen because of the work she has done with the people in the community. That is what Carly misses here in New York. She is not part of that community yet. "It is so big and enormous and overwhelming." Carly really settled in nicely in San Francisco with the LGBT community and did a lot of volunteer work which grew into raising money for different charity work almost always through singing.
That is what Carly is most proud of . She would like to do more of that here. That is a goal for next year that she and her coach have set for her. She needs to find charity work and start immersing herself. Being an entertainer is Carly's "job". What she does with that, is the vehicle she uses to help other people.
Carly is exploring Bette Midler's music on a level that is very personal to her.
Bette Midler embodies individuality and confidence. She is brassy, broad, sophistication personified, Even through her raunchiness and being "dirty and out there", she retained a level of sophistication, somehow. Carly has a number in her show that she calls her homage to her own "bath house days". It is a number that embodies Bette's "bath house" days,   that period in which Bette was the most "out there". She was swearing on stage and all that stuff. There are "phases of Bette" that Carly and company represent throughout the show. There is calm in story telling as represented in Shiver Me Timbers and I Think It's Going to Rain Today. Beaches is represented. Her whole career and everything she has ever done is represented in Carly's show in some capacity. It is not a narrative such as, "this is when this happened..."
Carly's advice to anyone putting together a "Bette Midler show", whether it be an impersonation, or a show representing a single album, such as Amy Wolk sings Bette Midler's Divine Madness, which was done as part of Lennie Watts' Under the Covers series,"you have to bring YOU to Bette's music. Bette isn't a songwriter. Songs were being written for her or she was doing covers.
Carly wishes that Bette would return to Broadway in a musical. So does Jerry Herman. Read my blog on Jerry.
 Midler on The Roof: A Divine Musical Journey is about leaving the past behind. It encapsulates all of Carly's circles, all of her fighting as a child. She is leaving that behind so she can move forward with her future goals. This show is an hour of honoring the little girl inside of her as well as the Divine Miss M. Please join me tomorrow night as I celebrate Carly Ozard and her body of "worth"!

Thank to ALL mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!
With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating the first Fifty Years of Hello, Dolly!


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges that you can't handle!

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