Kevin on Kabaret :: Fairy tales (and more)
As the fifth season of the MetroStar Challenge gets underway at the Metropolitan Room on July 9, I’m happy to report that last year’s first runner-up, Stacie Perlman, brings her debut act to the club this month, July 10th and 31st. "The Story Underneath" explores the theme of fairy tales, which ought to be a great match for her theatrical strengths.
"The idea came to me not long after the MetroStar Challenge last year," Perlman told me. "I was replaying in my mind the feedback I got and the one thing in common was that everyone said I was a really good storyteller." From there, she picked up a fat volume of Grimm’s fairy tales to read on the subway. "There is so much there to explore," she said.
"My musical director, Jason Wynn, has written a beautiful title song for the show," Perlman said enthusiastically. "At its core, it’s about disillusionment and how we look at fairy tales and how they change as we go through life."
Perhaps surprisingly, most of her selections will cover a lot of pop and rock music from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, but her technique will not change. "I look at everything as a monologue or story," she said.
Stacie Perlman grew up in Coney Island, Brooklyn (perhaps a grim fairy tale?) and ever since she was ten years old, her mother brought her to lunch and a matinee show for her birthday. "The first show I ever saw was ’A Chorus Line’ and at some point I turned to her and said, ’Mommy, I want to do that.’" Perlman joked about the horror her mother must have felt, but insisted that her mother remains her most ardent fan. "But I can’t dance a lick!" Perlman added.
Perlman also saw a lot of cabaret, describing herself as a "Forever Plaid" groupie when the show played at Steve McGraw’s (now The Triad). She also saw Ann Hampton Calloway at the now-closed Arci’s Place and was an early admirer of Julie Reyburn. "It was always something I wanted to do but I was terrified of it," she said of the art form.
Last year during the contest, she kept saying to herself, "If I can just get through this song and maybe make it to next week." She placed second to Marissa Mulder’s first. And now Stacie Perlman’s cabaret career begins. You will not want to miss her debut. In future years, you can say, "I saw her way back when . . ."
James Baldwin on stage
Here’s something that should have been done a long time ago and to my knowledge has not been: a one-man show about James Baldwin. Actor Seymour Hewitt is collaborating with writer Charles Drew on a show about the iconic gay African-American man of letters and will present it at the Duplex on July 22.
"James Baldwin came to me through a friend of mine, model Charlotte Flemming," Hewitt told me. "She told me I reminded her of him. I didn’t know much about him but I slowly started doing some research." Hewitt paused at the wonder of his discovery. "He educated me on so many levels. He was so ahead of his time and it was like reading a mentor."
Other friends had often told Hewitt that he should do a one-man show, but he was more thinking in terms of many characters a la John Leguizamo. "Now the one-man show and James Baldwin have all come together," he said.
Hewitt will try to give highlights from Baldwin’s entire, incredible life. "As a ghost talking about his life and as a teenaged waiter before he got his grant to go to Paris," Hewitt said. Hewitt explained that because Baldwin spent so much time overseas, he could express himself freely as a homosexual and as a black man during the turbulent civil rights era. "He had the freedom to be a human being," he noted.
"This piece is very new, and I can’t quite figure out why James Baldwin has never been done before," Hewitt said. "But it’s getting a little buzz just for the thought of it. If it becomes a success, it opens the door to big projects to be done about James Baldwin. I see it on the big screen!"
A one-man show about James Baldwin? I studied the writer in graduate school. You will find me at the Duplex on the 22nd of July! . . .
There’s something about singing siblings that captures our aural imaginations. With similar DNA, the harmonies are both comfortable and magical to hear. Perhaps more so when the singers are twins.
This month, that hardworking duo Will & Anthony Nunziata celebrate the release of their first CD, "Make Someone Happy," with shows at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, July 10-14.
The CD offers a pristine production of those stunning voices up front and personal, backed by just piano and bass. Covering a variety of old and modern standards (including a heavenly version of "The Prayer," first made famous by Josh Groban), this listening experience will lift you up and have you soaring above the clouds.
Each brother also has two showcasing solos. Here’s a challenge: after studying the solos, see if you can tell the voices apart on the duets. (You can; they are like the light and dark side of the moon.) I predicted big things for these two and this month their stars continue to rise . . .
This month, bon vivant and host-with-the-most Michael Beau celebrates his birthday with extraordinary pianist Jerry Scott at Parnell’s on Saturday, July 14, from 8-11 pm. Anybody who has ever been to a piano bar knows Beau. He cheers a room with his mere arrival and I guarantee you that few bring his singular interpretive flourishes to a standard. Every evening in Beau’s presence is a celebration; this one is sure to be extra special. There is no cover and you can even have a nice dinner at Parnell’s . . .
And while I have the bully pulpit, I will also be presenting my first show in eight years this month. (Yes, I performed regularly for eighteen years before I began my writing career.) I call my show "Golden" and, yes, it’s another big birthday celebration. I’ll be at Don’t Tell Mama with my band for two shows only, July 18 and 21. I guarantee quite a variety of songs-I can even rock with the best of ’em as well as sell a standard-and a few surprising stories about my life and career, such as it is. Please say hello after the show . . .
And Now, Kev’s Faves
The funniest man alive, Alec Mapa, returns to the Laurie Beechman for his third run of shows this year, July 19-22 . . .
Singer/songwriter Rick Jensen, who has a long history in clubs in many capacities, brings his new show to the Metropolitan Room, July 14, 21 and 28 . . .
O Sole Trio has been garnering raves and word-of-mouth praise for their fun blend of Italian opera and classic jazz, with the Italian language mixed in. Incredible fun. At the Metropolitan Room on July 20 . . .
And the new 54 Below continues to suck up a lot of the big-name talent. Tony-winning legend Ben Vereen appears July 10-21, followed by divalicious Jenifer Lewis, July 24-28.
And don’t forget, the fifth season of the 7-week MetroStar Challenge begins at the Metropolitan Room on July 9. Most of the clubs used to slow down in the summer, but it’s hotter than ever this year.
I will surely be keeping cool in the clubs. Until next month, hope to see you over cocktails!