Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Cabaret Month: David Sabella, Byron St.Cyr, Those Girls...And MORE!

Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.
-Humorist Arnold H. Glasow

Happy Oreo Cookie Day
Happy March 6th, 2018!
March 6 is the 65th day of the year. There are 300 days remaining until the end of the year.
Today is National Oreo Cookie Day. Indulge!
I am continuing my series in celebration of Cabaret Month.
In the early 1990's, New York cabaret club owners started "March Is Cabaret Month" to encourage club attendance during the winter months.  Back then, it opened with a GALA by Backstage Bistro Awards and ended with the Manhattan Association of Cabarets (MAC) Awards.
By the mid-2000's due to changing times, the cabaret scene seems to have disappeared. However, in 2008, the New York cabaret world rekindled "March Is Cabaret Month" thanks to the late Stu Hamstra of Cabaret Hotline Online. On-the-ball cities across the U.S.A. followed suit, including Seattle, whose first March Is Cabaret Month Festival was held that same year.
Today, I celebrate a Broadway veteran who also appears in cabaret, a MAC nominee for Male Debut, and one of the nominees for Duo/Group.

David Sabella
David is one of my featured entertainers in Richard Skipper Celebrates John Kander...on His 91st Birthday! The show takes place on March 18th (John's actual Birthday) at 1PM at The Laurie Beechman Theatre. Details Below. Reservations a MUST!

On Broadway: Originated the starring role of “Mary Sunshine” in the 1996 revival of CHICAGO, with Bebe Neuwirth, Ann Reinking, and Joel Grey. He returned to the Broadway company, to appear with Melanie Griffith as Roxie Hart. And, returns as needed for the Broadway and National Touring Companies. He has also appeared in workshops of Kander and Ebb's  Visit, with both Angela Lansbury and Chita Rivera.
Chita Rivera with Matthew Deming left, and Ryan Lowe, starred when the Kander and Ebb musical “The Visit” played at the Signature Theater in 2008.

Off-Broadway: Currently in development with "Jules", a two-person play with music about the life of Julian Eltinge. Jules was first presented at the Laurie Beechmand Theater, October 2012. Other Off-Bway credits include Kiss and Make Up at the Lucile Lortel Theater, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival, the HBO reading of The Green Room, as well as Hexed in The City, Foxy, Watch Your Step, So Long 174th Street. and O'Henry's Lovers (New York Musical Theater Festival). Regional credits include A Little Night Music, Seesaw, Godspell, Merrily We Roll Along, The Gingerbread Lady, and The Lisbon Traviata.

Peter Pan and the Pirates 
Voiceover: Several network television cartoon series, including Peter Pan and the Pirates for FOX and Teacher’s Pet for Disney.
In Classical Music: David has won several prestigious voice competitions including The Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition, The Metropolitan Opera Eastern Regional Auditions, and The New York Oratorio Society Competition at Carnegie Hall. He starred in the title role of Giulio Cesare with Virginia Opera (available on Koch International Label), L’ incoronazione di Poppea (Utah opera), and Die Fledermaus (Lincoln Center). He has appeared numerous times at both Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center Messiah, and Peter Schickele’s comical Three Bargain-Counter Tenors. He has toured internationally with the now legendary La Gran Scena Opera Company.
as a principal soloist in such works as the Bach B-Minor Mass, Handel’s

Discography: A full length Giulio Cesare on Koch International Label; The soundtrack to the musical CHICAGO on RCA Victor; Foxy, Watch Your Step, A Special Place and Everybody's Getting Into The Act, (all on Original Cast Recordings).

In Media: Mr. Sabella appeared twice on the Rosie O'Donnell Show and has been featured in national magazines such as Opera News, In Theater, Entertainment Weekly, A&U (Cover), OUT, and Next. After the phenominal success of CHICAGO, David's personal caricature was unveiled (June 1998) and hangs in the world-famous theater restaurant, Sardi's.

What is it about performing in small, intimate venues that draws you to perform in cabarets? 
When you’re a young performer, you dream about performing in front of large audiences, even great stadiums, and in my case opera houses, and concert halls etc. And then, you begin to learn your craft and you realize that the art of your craft is about intimate communication. It’s about the ability to draw your audience into a given circumstance that is not truthful, but within the given untruthful circumstance to experience truthful, intimate, and authentic actions/reactions.
And now that I’m a wee bit older, I am most drawn to that type of intimate experience with an audience. I think it’s the most truthful and honest of all of the performing arts. Because of that, because you have to let an audience into the most intimate and personal feelings that you need to express, it’s also I think, the riskiest, and therefore the most rewarding.

What made you want to go into this business?
It wasn’t until later in my life that I considered it a business. Early on in my life, it was a passion. And as I was growing up it seemed inevitable. My mother was a singer, and my brother was a singer/actor, so it seems like the thing to do. Later in life, I would call it the “family business.” Right up until college I wasn’t sure which discipline I identified with more, acting, or singing. Back in those days, there were no music theater programs. You’re either apply to the college of music, or the college of drama. I had an audition set at the same time for both departments at the college of my choice, which was SUNY purchase.
When I arrived at the parking lot had to make the decision to go left, or right, to either the acting department or the music department.
I chose right, walked into the music building, sang my two songs/arias for my audition. The dean of the department played the piano for me, it was a private audition. And at the end of my two songs he simply put the lid on the piano down over the keys and said “OK, you’re in.” I did not know that that was not the normal college audition experience. LOL. But, from that moment on, singing has been in the forefront of my career. Although, I will say I do consider myself as much an actor as a singer. And, this past week I learned that I actually have one my first award for acting! The play that I did last summer, as part of the Fresh Fruit Festival,  The Phillie Trilogy, won several awards, including myself for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play. Go figure!

with P.J. Benjamin
What is your most useful tool for overcoming a creative block?
“VIP” - Vacation, Inspiration, and Preparation. If I am in a creative rut, I need a change of routine or a change of venue (vacation), then I need some inspiration, I’ll listen to great singers, and great musicians, great arrangements, etc. And, Many of those have come from the cabaret community. Of course, I grew up with Judy, Liza, and Barbra. But later in my life, that list grew to include many cabaret artists, including Nancy Lamott, Elena Bennett, and most recently Josephine Sanges. GOING to cabaret is ALWAYS inspiring to me. I always learn something when I go to a show, ALWAYS!  Also, I keep a list of great songs that I hear, that resonate with me. These ruminate in my heart and soul until they find a time to come out, in one way or another. So, THANK YOU to all my cabaret colleagues for their continuing inspiration.

What inspired you to become a performer?
This is a simple answer..... my Mom, and my Brother. You know how kids talk themselves to sleep? And very often parents will shout “Be Quiet! Go to sleep!” Well, I SANG myself to sleep, and mother would shout “Sing out, I can’t hear you!”

Do you feel that you are part of the cabaret community? What do you like MOST about the community and what do you like least?
Honestly, I still feel like a bit of an outsider. Not at all because of anything anyone has ever said or done. But just because I don’t feel able to participate as much as I want.
The cabaret community is both welcoming and supportive, “the family you pick.” But there are responsibilities in any family, both perceived and actual. I feel the responsibility to support my friends and colleagues by going to their shows. And, I feel the responsibility to put up good work and participate as a performing artist as well.
with Leslie Stifelman 
That being said, the financial hurdles or putting on a show (and sometimes even getting to a show) can be very challenging. Everybody experiences this, I am sure. We need more producers (honestly, like Russ Woolley), who support artists to realize their performance goals and potential, and who help GROW the audience for cabaret in general. My wish for this community is that we see a resurgence of producers and cabaret rooms that take on the mantle of producer and that they are celebrated for their contributions to the art. TOGETHER we thrive!

with Tony Award-winning costume designer William Ivy Long
What are you currently working on? How did this project come about? What is it that you like most about doing what you are currently doing? 
Professionally, I am in the midst of putting together 2 new cabaret shows, and working with a wonderful playwright, Doug Devita, on a new play we are developing. And, I also teach voice full-time and am working with a few students on developing their own cabaret shows. And Personally, of course, and what I MOST like, I am raising my two daughters (ages 10 and 14) who keep me very busy.
An abundance of time I do NOT have

Name one person you would like to see profiled in my blog
Jenny Litt and David Alpher

Please be sure and join David Sabella and me on March 18th and read more about David HERE.


4600 Mithra: My New Orleans
Don’t Tell Mama

What is it about performing in small, intimate venues that draws you to perform in cabarets?  There’s something magical about the exchange of energy with the audience in a cabaret setting that you can’t get anywhere else.

What made you want to go into this business?
I first started in theatre and think I was initially inspired by the old movie musicals I grew up watching. The shift to cabaret came after leaving the business for years. I missed performing but wanted to feature myself and focus on the material I really wanted to sink my teeth into.

What is your most useful tool for overcoming a creative block? 
Physical activity. I treat working out and taking dance class almost like a meditation. I always leave with less stress and inspired by the music, people around me, and the ability to push myself. It leaves me feeling refreshed and open.

What inspired you to become a performer? 
I’ve always loved music and performing. Music was always playing in our house and learning to play an instrument was mandatory. I chose the saxophone and actually thought for a while that playing the sax would be my career. But it was my high school drama teacher, James Fountain, who inspired me to pursue theatre ultimately.

How did 4600 Mithra: My New Orleans come about? 
4600 Mithra St was actually the address where my father grew up and where I spent most of my holidays as a child.  After hurricane Katrina, my grandparents moved and that address kind of haunted me. 4600 Mithra was in my dreams, in my thoughts, really demanding that I do something with it. I didn’t know what it would become but I knew 4600 Mithra was going to be something I would pass on somehow. And actually, my first instinct was a restaurant featuring family recipes that I’d learned. But when my grandfather passed in February of 2017 I knew I had to tell the story of the music we shared.

What are you currently working on? How did this project come about? What is it that you like most about doing what you are currently doing?   
I’m currently working on two new shows. The first, Sondheim and the City, is a duo show with my good friend Steven Ferezy. We both love Sondheim and Sex and the City and during a random 'idea' session began pairing scenes from the show with songs. It’s a fun chance for me to show off my inner Samantha Jones and have some fun with the material I’d never thought of singing before.
Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrell)

That’s on March 19th at the Duplex. I’m also working on my next solo show, Byron St. Cyr Swings Up Broadway which will expand on the musical theatre section of 4600 Mithra and give me a chance to swing more of my favorite theatre tunes. My music director, Drew Wutke; my director, Jim Brigman; and I had the idea when cutting songs from 4600 Mithra. We realized that it could really be a series of shows including a Broadway and a soul session. I’m excited to reinterpret more contemporary material with my trio to create “new” American standards. That show we hope to book for the summer.

Who are your biggest musical influences? 
Mine would definitely be Sammy Davis Jr, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nina Simone.

What is your favorite “escape” in NYC? 
I love Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Now that I don’t live in Brooklyn I don’t get out there as much but I love a good Brooklyn day. BAM always has such interesting work
happening and Prospect Park is really the best place to lay out and enjoy a good book.

Anything else you wish included
I’m just so thrilled and honored to be a MAC Award nominee this year. The cabaret community has been so welcoming and encouraging. If anyone is interested in learning more about what I’m up to they can check out my website, www.byronstcyr.com

Nominee: DUO/GROUP
THOSE GIRLS (Eve Eaton, Rachel Hanser, Karen Mack, Wendy A. Russell)
Those Girls; Those Girls Unplugged
Laurie Beechman, Pangea
What is one of the most unusual things to ever happen to you during a performance? 

Once during a performance, we commented on how good the french fries looked on a plate that was right down front and the next thing you know, someone (a wonderful supporter of the group who shall remain nameless) appeared on the stage with a plate of french fries and put them on a stool for us to enjoy!  Unusual….and thoughtful!

How do you give back your art/passion to younger artists and the community? 

From the beginning of forming Those Girls, giving back to the community was an important part of what we all wanted to do.  In fact, we created a program we call Healing and Education Thru Harmony which is partly about bringing our music to those who have limited or no access to live music, and also about educating the next generation and instilling a love of harmony and singing in them.  We recently had the honor of doing a performance and workshop for kids at P.S. 51 as the kick-off to the American Songbook Association’s outreach program.  And we can’t wait to do more!  We also love to sing at benefits for organizations doing great work in our community.  You can read more about Healing and Education thru Harmony on our website: https://thosegirlssing.squarespace.com/givingback/

What is your most useful tool for overcoming a creative block? 
Rachel:  Listening to a lot of different music - and going out to hear all manner of live music
performances.  I always find that inspirational.

Eve:  I love going to see other people’s shows and getting inspired by the diversity of creativity that’s out there.  There is such talent in the cabaret community and I learn something new every time I see a show.

Karen: Sometimes I have to change up my routine – find time to go to a new place or listen to music that has nothing to do with what I’m working on. Sometimes it’s about restoring balance – spending time with friends or just taking a night off.

Wendy: if listening to other music doesn’t help, I walk away and do something entirely different...clean the house, organize.  A distraction so my subconscious can go to work!

What inspired you to become a performer? 
Rachel:  The love of singing and moving other people, whether it’s to laughter or to tears.  It just feels amazing to be on the stage and see the look of appreciation on someone’s face.
And if I never got on the stage and just sang harmony, it would be the pure joy of hitting that chord that makes you soar.

Eve:  Watching variety shows on TV in the 70s, everything from Donnie and Marie to Flip Wilson to Carol Burnett.  And listening to ‘Liza with a Z!’ non-stop on my parent's hi-fi stereo.

Karen: I think a lot of us that were shy or awkward or “too smart for our own good” as kids gravitated to performing to find a tribe. My aunt saved up to take me to a Broadway show when I was pretty young - something definitely clicked for me watching the show that THAT was something special to do. I started auditioning for local shows shortly after that, and I knew performing would always be part of my life because of the people I got to play with.

Wendy: My parents were performers and my Dad used to sing me to sleep.  The love he had in his voice was so comforting.
I also loved listening to my Grandmother and her sisters harmonize the hymns they loved.  The blend
of their voices filled me with incredible joy and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

Do you feel that you are part of the cabaret community? What do you like MOST about the community and what do you like least? 
Those Girls might not even exist without this community.  It was Lennie Watts’ arrangement experience class that brought us together and introduced us to so many wonderful people in cabaret.
And the community has been overwhelmingly supportive of our work.  They help inspire us to keep pushing ourselves to do more and better.  We feel so very lucky to be a part of this community.  And frankly, what’s not to like about a community like that?!

What are you currently working on? How did this project come about? What is it that you like most about doing what you are currently doing?
The group grew out of our taking the Arrangement Experience workshops with Lennie Watts.  We often ended up in the same classes together and would sing back-ups for other people.
We discovered we had a great blend, and really liked singing together and being with each other.
And one day someone said, we should form a group.  And we got ourselves an amazing team to work with Lennie Watts and Steven Ray Watkins, and we launched Those Girls.
What we most like about what we are doing is the creativity of building arrangements in the rehearsal space, and putting out a product we can be proud of musically and professionally.
Singing harmony together with other people is also incredibly fulfilling so we get a lot of joy from that.

Currently, we have a few shows coming up at Pangea - these are unplugged and will be an eclectic mix of material and styles (Wednesdays, March 14, April 4, and May 2 at 7 PM at Pangea. https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3348487).
We are also working on new songs for a show we will do in Spring 2019 called Those Girls Sing The Boys.  And we hope to do some traveling and take Those Girls on the road and do some recording at some point.
 Phew!  That’s a lot! (Editor's note: They are also appearing in Richard Skipper Celebrates Liberace (David Maiocco) and Friends on May 20th at 1PM at The Laurie Beechman Theatre.)

What is your favorite pasta shape?
Eve: Bowties
Rachel: Cavatappi
Wendy: Wagon Wheels

Now, go out and Do Something Nice For Someone Without Expecting Anything In Return!

Here are a Few Testimonials for Richard Skipper Celebrates: Next One March 18th 1PM Laurie Beechman Theater:

We had the great joy to be at the wonderful Carol Channing birthday bash Richard blessed us with on 1/31/18.  He is truly brilliant and thru him,  the great joy that was spread throughout the room was perfection. Thank you again.  Each time I am able to be at your "Celebrations" I feel uplifted and so glad that I was there.
-Bob Diamond, NYC

What a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season! My daughter Jamie and I felt the Christmas magic, and for me, I took a wonderful stroll down memory lane. Thanks Richard for all that you do and for putting together such a wonderful show, we'll be back!
Rich Braaten, Ridgefied, CT

I had the immense pleasure of performing in Richard's Nov. 5th show. Richard's introduction of me
Marta Sanders (who will be in the April 8th RSC) and Booking Manager Kenny Bell
was so lush, that I was looking at myself to see who he was talking about! So, with his wonderful band behind me, I hope that I gave the folks something to 'write home about"! By the end of the evening, I felt as if I had been missing out on a tradition that is integral to showbiz!! Before I could even get through the doors of the theater, I was warmly greeted by people who had seen me perform in other venues but were "fierce cheerleaders" of the 'RICHARD SKIPPER CELEBRATES MOVEMENT' ...YES.I see this as a 'MOVEMENT', a wonderful way to keep us 'Baby Boomers' connected to iconic shows that set a standard for every show that would come down the pike! Richard's show took me back to the grand days of variety shows that drew you in and held on to your heart for 60 to 90 minutes every Saturday and Sunday evening. MY
Hey Richard, I could've sworn that I saw Pearl Bailey, Perry Como & Dinah Shore sitting at a table in the back of the room! If you ever need me again, just remember the lyrics of that famous Michael Jackson song and "JUST CALL
Denise Spann-Morgan, Brooklyn NY

 If you've attended one of Richard Skipper's Events and you haven't done so already, please add your comments in Richard's Guest Book at RichardSkipper.com

March 18th, 2018 

Russ Woolley Proudly Presents
Richard Skipper Celebrates
John Kander... On His 91st Birthday!

1 PM Brunch Show Laurie Beechman Theater  

Confirmed to perform are Tony Award winner Lilias WhiteDonna Marie Asbury currently in
Chicago on Broadway, Jana Robbins (Zorba with two separate tours with Georgio Tozzi and Theodore Bikel), Lucia Spina (Kinky Boots), David Sabella (originated Mary Sunshine in the current revival of Chicago on Broadway), and Sandy Stewart (My Coloring Book) and two-time Grammy nominee Bill Charlap
Click HERE to Order Your Tickets Today!
check out our PROMO VIDEO here

Thank you, to ALL who are mentioned in this blog for showing me that it is up to ME to lead by example!

With grateful XOXOXs ,

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Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com