Kevin on Kabaret :: Back to Business
"Words make you think. Music makes you feel. A song makes you feel a thought." --Yip Harburg
When perusing the clubs’ websites to see what was coming up this month, I was surprised to see the name Christian Nova, who will be appearing at Don’t Tell Mama on September 14th and 15th. Nova made a splash in the cabaret world back in the ’90s, doing many of his own shows, appearing at the Cabaret Convention, and releasing a CD, "Walking Happy," in 1997. Soon after, he all but disappeared from the New York scene.
"I wanted to give New York a shot and did so for about ten years," Nova told me by phone. "But I grew up in southern California and that’s where my family was, so I felt it was time to move back in 1999."
Hit a milestone
Back in California, Nova worked in theater and did an act at the famed Gardenia Room in Los Angeles in 2000. Then he began contemplating going back to school. "I’d already had a Master’s from UCLA and now they had a PhD in Vocal Performance.
They told me I had already completed a lot of the work, so I enrolled and finished my PhD in about three years." Soon after, he landed a job at Los Angeles Valley College in Sherman Oaks, and still teaches there today.
"I’ve continued to do a lot of performing, but most of it has been classical," Nova said. However, earlier in the year, a friend had a milestone birthday and invited Nova to perform with his former musical director, Christopher Denny. The cabaret bug hit again, and the two did an engagement at the Gardenia in June.
"Revisiting some of the songs I did before, I realize they’ve become something different and I’ve had to revamp the patter," he said. "I always encourage my students to revisit songs because the perspective changes. It’s one of the powerful things about art."
Nova promises an eclectic mix of songs from different sources, and will even sprinkle in a few quotes from Walt Whitman. "It’s kind of a hybrid between a cabaret show and an art show," he said.
In the ever-changing landscape of New York cabaret, Nova described going back to Don’t Tell Mama and booking manager Sidney Myer as a kind of homecoming. Describing the pull of cabaret as an art form, he said, "It’s about the venue as much as the material. That smaller, more intimate venue makes me feel more comfortable."
I look forward to hearing Dr. Nova in mid-September . . .
The delightful British-born Melanie Stace returns to Feinstein’s at Loews Regency with her show "Sirens of the Silver Screen" on September 16th and 17th. Stace has been living in New York for three years now, but she had a good measure of stardom on the telly and in musical theatre productions back in her home country, not to mention all the touring . . .
"On the iPad, they can track you on that map application," she noted cheerily in a phone call from London. "I’ve been to Australia, Hong Kong, and Turkey in the last few months and I’ll soon be going to Iceland, Canada, New York, Germany and beyond! My ancestors were gypsies and I love the traveling life."
Stace, who has been singing since the age of eight, also recently released her first CD, "How Lucky," a nifty collection of theater songs and standards, including a duet with Petula Clark. "It’s not just talent, there is luck, and I feel so lucky," she said.
In addition to being a triple threat (singer/actress/dancer), Stace is writing songs for her second CD and also has a flair for marketing. I asked how she does it all. "You have to love what you do and find a joy in it," Stace told me. "I’ve done the whole thing, from waitress on up, and I never have to search for that joy. I get excited just to hear a new arrangement!"
As for the show, she told me, "I have always loved the ladies in film who could sing and dance and act, so I wanted to do something about Hollywood." She promises to honor the expected talents-Judy, Liza, Doris Day-but also Rosemary Clooney, whom she believes was not as appreciated as she should have been, and some more modern icons like Bette Midler, Barbra, and Michelle Pfeiffer. "I don’t impersonate them, but I will tell stories about them. I also got my hands on an original song called ’Streisand Got There First’-it’s very funny, about how Barbra gets all the good songs first."
Looking ahead, I wondered if the relatively new New Yorker had her sights on Broadway. "Absolutely, that’s what I’ve wanted," Stace said emphatically. "But I just love being in New York and learning so much from watching everyone’s work."
Melanie Stace: another one I can’t wait to see and hear . . .
"Social Intercourse" to return
A sold-out crowd of mostly Gen Y-ers (a rarity in cabaret) greeted the new revue "Social Intercourse" at the Duplex for its run of shows in late August. Director Lisa Moss (also a tech director at the club for many years) has created a show of off-the-beaten track songs and skits around non-face to face communication (almost all of it, these days). Apparently she’s been collecting the songs for twenty years, songs about answering machines and cell phones and Facebook.
The young and winning cast pulls off the often lyrically complex songs with aplomb. A standout is a duet of Peter Mills’ "Breaking Up," about certain words being left out because of a bad connection, causing hilarious misunderstandings between the two. Hearing these guys and gals passionately belt and riff (a modern singing style, thanks to "American Idol" and its ilk) about subjects such as status updates brings on gut-busting laughter. This show is an idea whose time has come. While we are laughing about the foibles of modern technology and their effect on our relationships, we might also be secretly wondering what we have wrought. Also, look for a great supporting role from the Duplex’s booking manager Thomas Honeck in one of the skits, who plays an increasingly aggravated hotel guest through a series of misunderstood emails. He nearly steals the show.
"Social Intercourse" will be back on Friday, September 28th, at the Duplex, with hopes for a monthly run. Moss is also open to hearing additional new and rare songs to add to the mix. Great fun!
And now, Kev’s faves: After a summer hiatus, the ethereal Judy Collins opens the fall season at Café Carlyle, September 11-29 . . . Michael Feinstein and Marilyn Maye tear up Feinstein’s at Loews Regency together, September 4-22 . . . at the same club, Blue Sky Riders, a new trio featuring iconic singer/songwriter Kenny Loggins, plays September 25-29 . . . sexy crooner Gregory Nalbone returns to The Metropolitan Room on Thursday, September 20 . . .
Returning to the cabaret stage after a hiatus of thirteen years, Frank Dain brings "The Magic of Mathis" to the Metropolitan Room, September 8, 15, 21, and 28 . . . and 54 Below continues to wow with headliners: Marin Mazzie (September 4-8), Jason Robert Brown (11th-15th), Patti LuPone (returning the 18th-22nd), and Ann Hampton Calloway (25th-29th). Goodbye, summer! The fall season is most definitely in full swing!
I will certainly be out and about. I’ll be back here next month. Until then . . . I’ll see you over cocktails.