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May 23, 2016:

BK’S RULES OF CABARET

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, it was a weird kind of Sunday, what with the post-closing blahs and already missing the show and my cast and crew. Top that off with not falling asleep until three, waking up at eight-thirty, then falling back asleep at ten-thirty and sleeping until one, everything was kind of a haze of a daze of a maze. I really didn’t do much of anything – oh, I sent out some sheet music, had a couple of telephonic calls, but was just too discombobulated to even attempt a show order. I did have some interesting e-mails, and I finally read the cards for the LA show that I received from cast and crew, which were lovely. I also watched the first thirty minutes of the new Blu and Ray of Garden of Evil from Twilight Time and it’s mighty pretty-looking, with great color. Looking forward to finishing it this night.

Finally, I showered and then moseyed on over to The Federal to see a new cabaret act by someone who’s never done one. It was an all Frank Loesser show. I’ve written many times about cabaret shows and as you know I’ve created and directed a bunch of them. For me it’s simple – I don’t do “why” acts, I make sure the performers are communicating with the audience, I make sure the show has a sound structure that always surprises and engages, and I make sure the patter is short and to the point and hopefully charming.

Last night’s show was a classic “why” act – why was this particular performer doing an evening of Frank Loesser? That question was never really addressed and it’s simple to address it and make a composer tribute work. She did reveal that the first song she ever sang, when she was four, was Heart and Soul – that’s a good way in, but it never went anywhere after that single mention. For me, unless I know WHY the performer wants to do an all Loesser show, what Loesser’s songs meant to them or why they love singing them – anything, really – then I just tune out at some point. So, in BK’s Rules of Cabaret, number one is letting the audience know why you’re doing whatever show you’re doing – now, seasoned performers with years of history don’t really have to do that, they can pretty much do whatever they want, but the best of them always tell some kind of story.

Rule two is don’t create the act without a director or eyes you trust. It’s hard enough for a first-timer to get through an act, but to do it without any help from a director is, for me, a huge mistake. There were many, many missed opportunities in this particular show, and it would have been so easy to make them found opportunities. Another rule and it’s a really important one – don’t look over the heads of the audience, don’t always play dead center – take everyone in – you’re having a shared experience and an audience should think you’re playing to them, not over them or to only one portion of them.

But in the end, an evening of Frank Loesser songs can’t be a bad thing and that part was fine, and the performer did make one perfect decision, and that was working with the brilliant John Boswell. Amusingly, she had a bass player – our bass player from the LA show. She had almost all friends and family there – it was pretty full. But here’s the thing – the front three tables, including ours, which had the performer’s parents, were all respectfully applauding and enjoying themselves, whereas the back two-thirds of the room were filled with the usual whooping and hollering cheerleaders who do no good because not every song deserves or needs that kind of reaction. We all gave healthy applause, but even her parents, nor her husband, were whooping and hollering like her chums.

I had blackened salmon on kale – I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t what I got – this was basically a salmon salad with kale instead of lettuce. Now, kale – I hate it. The end. The salmon wasn’t great either, but they were kind enough to do my usual artichoke and that was very good.

Today, I shall definitely make a show order, I’ll start writing the commentary, I’ll eat a little something, hopefully I’ll pick up some packages, and then I’ll just relax, which is what I need to do – I have been going non-stop for about ten weeks now.

The rest of the week is meetings and meals and going and doing and also doing and going. On Wednesday evening, the Pearls and I are supping then seeing a show at the Montalban that Kay Cole choreographed and directed, about lyricist Al Dubin. Even though they’re selling it as a “new” musical, I actually saw its first iteration back about twenty years ago when it was called Lullaby of Broadway. It was dreadful then and I’m curious as to what may have been done to actually make it good, since its “hero” was a jerk, a drunk and worse.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, make a show order, finish getting performers their music, eat, hopefully pick up packages, and relax. Today’s topic of discussion: What are your favorite films of Mr. Gary Cooper? Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, where I shall ponder writing a book entitled BK’s Rules of Cabaret.

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