I was able to attend two shows on Friday! The first was the MAC SUMMER PREVIEW SHOWCASE at Don’t Tell Mama, an evening featuring 10 MAC member acts. The purpose of the showcase was to allow audience members to catch a glimpse of these performers’ full upcoming shows. (I would have loved to have Marquee Five in the lineup, only our bass Mick Bleyer is doing summer stock in Lake George!) On the docket for the evening were:
- David Alpher & Jennie Litt – a husband/wife duo composing team
- Seth Bisen-Hersh – a musical theater composer/ lyricist who is also musical director, vocal coach, and host to numerous showcases around the year.
- Elli Fordyce – cabaret singer/actress
- Terese Genecco with Sean Harkness on guitar – force of nature (a mix of Judy Garland and Dean Martin), and her Elvis Priestly show will be awesome! And Sean is a virtuoso on the guitar!
- Adelmo Guidarelli – operatic clown, as his website says!
- Joan Jaffe – funny cabaret singer, even takes classic standards and makes them funny!
- Jillian Laurain – classic cabaret singer and soprano
- Rosemary Loar – dangerous cabaret singer with a unique take on Sting songs!
- Tanya Moberly – unique theater and cabaret singer (also produces The Salon!), catch her “Theater Songs” show.
- Barbara Porteus – classy jazz cabaret vocalist, will be at Feinstein’s at the end of the month.
Musical direction and a bit of piano playing was by Tracy Stark, with additional accompaniment by pianist Barry Levitt and bassist Tom Hubbard. It was hosted by Hector Coris. I was particularly affected by the artists that took risks with their work, or who had such a unique onstage personality that – like them or not – they stood out from the lineup. It was a good lesson to me to ask “What is unique about myself as a performer? What are my passions that, when I perform, can shine out bright?” It’s a good thing to think about when putting together a show, singing at a showcase, or even choosing material for an open mic. In one hour I saw so many different and specifically unique singers – it was just a matter for audience members to say “I’m intrigued by this singer, I’ll go see his or her full show next week.”
However (and not to totally disregard the wonderful preview performance at Don’t Tell Mama), the real highlight of the evening was to go to the famous Feinstein’s cabaret and dinner club on East 61st Street to see Marquee Five member Julie Reyburn perform her show “Summer Nights,” and sit with Marquee 3 (re: Marquee 4, Mick, see above). With Julie on stage was Mark Janas (who played for our show last December) and bassist Ritt Henn. Lennie Watts directed it, Walter Usiatynski was on drums, and Jeff Hamblin produced. I’m not going to praise Julie because she’s a member of M5 – I’m going to praise her because she is goddamned awesome.
After the show, I was trying to compare her to something we can all relate to. I came across the imagery of The Best Dessert in the world. Julie is like the best dessert you have ever tasted in your life; rich and creamy, yet with a light aftertaste that allows you to want to have more. You are willing to pay extra for it, for that special evening, and yet are grateful when even just a nibble is available. You will email the menu item to your friends, saying “this is the thing to eat in the city.”
Okay, enough with the metaphor – Julie is the real deal. She has a beautiful voice – part human, part trumpet, but all with a great amount of power and control. She has a gorgeous mix (the part between the belt and the soprano) and is able to hold on to notes with ease and breath. She can soar to high notes with grace, and belt with energy. And that’s just her vocal prowess. When it comes to interpretation of a lyric and nailing the acting part of a song, Julie is a maestro. She never lets a lyric go without taking care of each phrase with thought, passion, humor, and the *story* in mind. Even when she sang “Abadaba Honeymoon” (a very silly song), she painted the romantic relationship between the Monkey and the Chimp beautifully. Each song comes from a personal place in Julie’s heart, and when she sings even the most “standard” of songs, you come away with a unique interpretation – one that is uniquely hers. She’s always trying to emphasize something – even in the lyric to “Moon River” “there’s such a lot of world to see,” Julie reminded us of potential adventure. She makes every single song new and unique. Unique, unique…I guess I can’t help but using that word to describe what she does with a song.
And she had another ace up her sleeve in addition to her lyric interpretation and vocal prowess: the musical direction and arrangements of Mark Janas. Those arrangements were flawless, brilliantly orchestrated, some with mind-boggling musical wit and surprise mixed in. Julie sang at the MAC Award-Winning The Salon open mic on Sunday as well, and performed three pieces from her “Summer Nights” show – I blog for The Salon, so you can read about some of Mark’s amazing arrangements at the official blog here. When I put together my show, I want to save enough money to hire Mark for my arrangements – once you invest in one of his masterpieces (which combine musical traits from musical theater, cabaret, classical and rock), you know you have a unique piece that can never be replicated by another. Collect enough Mark Janas original arrangements, and you will have a repertoire of music that will last you your lifetime.
I’m so glad I know these amazing, creative people!!!
“I don’t sing because I’m happy, I’m happy because I sing” – William James