Category: Cabaret

Cabaret review: Andrea Marcovicci at the Gardenia

March 16, 2012 | 12:52 pm


The golden age of the supper club is reborn at the Gardenia, where Andrea Marcovicci is currently holding court in "Smile." This self-described workshop of her new cabaret act finds the record-breaking song stylist turning her incisive facility with the Great American Songbook toward creating uplift in these trying times, which she does, brilliantly.

Marcovicci's veiled, fragile-edged instrument remains an idiomatic voice, made less for display than interpretation. Accordingly, when she disappears inside a lyric, or shifts registers with a melisma that illuminates a melody's structure, the spirit of Mabel Mercer is nigh.

Together with invaluable musical director Shelly Markham and bassist Nate Light, Marcovicci approaches the airtight set with an unforced desire to connect with us, from her endearing "It's Only a Paper Moon" to her heartfelt final rendition of the title song.

Along the way, we get chestnuts -- "Ain't We Got Fun?," performed with verses and lyrics intact -- and rarities -- David Ross and Marshall Barer's marvelously poetic "Beyond Compare," here almost a one-act play.  Her take on "12th Street Rag" is slyly bouncy, her pairing of Rodgers and Hart's "Thou Swell" and "This Can't Be Love" palpably rapt.

"Isn't This a Lovely Day?" and "Pick Yourself Up" as tribute to Fred Astaire is one highlight, "If I Had You" and "It Had to Be You" another. Her infectious enthusiasm supplies Marcovicci with choice conversation fodder, whether recalling the Incomparable Hildegarde or introducing "(I Asked) the Moon" songsmith Babbie Green, in attendance at the reviewed performance.

And when Marcovicci brings her 93-years-young mother Helen on stage to amaze us with chops worthy of Lee Wiley, time and space dissolve. As such, "Smile" is caviar for devotees of the art of the diseuse, and a cabaret must-see.


Neeme Jarvi, Ralph Kirshbaum at Disney Hall

'American Idiot' at the Ahmanson Theatre

Christine Brewer sings in 'Albert Herring'

-- David C. Nichols

Andrea Marcovicci in "Smile," The Gardenia, 7066 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. 9 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Ends March 24. (323) 497-7444. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Photo: Andrea Marcovicci performing in 2004. Credit: Peter Kramer / Getty Images.

Dance review: 'Ten Tiny Dances' debuts at Samueli Theater

January 21, 2012 |  2:39 pm

Segerstrom Center - Off Center Festival - Ten Tiny Dances - Nigh - Photo by Doug Gifford 007
“Ten Tiny Dances” is the descriptive title for an unusual, smorgasbord-style program started 10 years ago, and it is also the challenge for its participating choreographers: to make a work of extreme brevity (five to eight minutes) on a 4-by-4-foot stage.

The show made its local debut with two performances this weekend at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ Off Center Festival, casting two local participants with veteran Northwest performance artists, including “Ten Tiny’s” Portland, Ore., founder Mike Barber. 

The Samueli Theater was transformed into a cabaret, with the stage in the middle, making for a casual and intimate performance. 

Each dance was a kinetic ink blot test of the artists’ creative personalities. Give a dancer a small space and surprisingly diverse reactions manifest -– acrobatics, striptease, body manipulation, madness, and, perhaps to be expected, bending the rules. Gimmickry was thankfully limited. Like National Public Radio’s three-minute fiction contest, a constraining device can unlock clever ideas. Even when it didn’t, the dance ended soon enough.  

Among the highlights was Michelle Fujii, an expert in Japanese drumming and traditional folk dance, who stuffed four bodies onstage in “Slipping Through My Fingers.” Every step and whack of the fan drum was precisely measured, timed and executed with graceful amplitude. Jennifer Backhaus worked with cheerful exuberance and gymnastic athleticism in “The Margin,” using four dancers to trace and test the boundaries of vertical and horizontal space.

Wade Madsen’s “Got It,” performed by Jack Moebius, had a similar buoyancy, with skipping and robotic bursts complementing a recorded score by Dim Dim. Barber and partner Cydney Wilkes tipped the stage on its side in “Wicked,” a comedic duet and battle of body manipulation, costume hijinx and feathers. 

In “Tangle,” Margretta Hansen crisscrossed the theater, tying up patrons in the unraveling yarn of her knitted sweater (costume by Kim Mathiesen), and finally concluded onstage with a silent scream of despair. 

Carla Mann’s “Snag” offered a lyrical duo coarsely executed; while Meg Wolfe’s “Shannon’s With The Band (again)” explored a morose character, part drum major, part go-go dancer. Both Linda Austin in “Nigh” and Angelle Hebert in “Splinter” (with Mann performing) went over to the dark side, reveling in over-the-top psychosis. Austin struggled through a forest of paper, while “Splinter’s” Jesse Berdine chopped the stage with an ax. 

A family emergency caused the last-minute withdrawal of choreographer Melanie Rios Glaser, so Madsen stepped in with a witty, imaginary striptease, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby,” to a Judy Garland recording. 

Big dances have their attraction, but "Ten Tiny Dances" demonstrated that size isn't everything.

The program repeats Saturday night.


Dance reviews from the Los Angeles Times

Off Center Festival draws younger crowd to Segerstrom Center

-- Laura Bleiberg

Photo: “Nigh,” choreography, visual design and performance by Linda Austin. Credit: Doug Gifford

Influences: Singer Paulo Szot

December 13, 2011 |  9:12 am

Paulo Szot
Paulo Szot seems to traverse both the physical and musical worlds with equal ease. Born in Brazil to Polish immigrants, the world-class baritone spent his formative years in both places, immersed in the arts. He has sung opera successfully in major houses in the U.S. and Europe and seamlessly crossed over to Broadway, notably in his 2008 Tony Award-winning role in the Lincoln Center hit revival of “South Pacific.”

Having just finished singing Escamillo the bullfighter in a San Francisco Opera production of “Carmen," Szot has briefly set down -- with a stop in between to absorb the Yosemite sights -- in Costa Mesa, where Thursday through Sunday he’ll sing a cabaret set of show tunes and American Songbook standards with an instrumental trio at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ Samueli Theater.

Among his life’s influences:

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Ana Gasteyer brings her cabaret act to Hollywood

August 10, 2011 |  9:35 am

Ana GasteyerAna Gasteyer knows a thing or two about singing for a live audience. On "Saturday Night Live," where she was a main cast member for six years, the actress introduced viewers to a gallery of crooning characters -- Bobbie Mohan-Culp, Cinder Calhoun, Celine Dion to name just a few.

Gasteyer left "Saturday Night Live" in 2002 and in the years since, she's devoted her career primarily to musical theater. On Broadway, she's appeared in "Wicked" and "The Threepenny Opera" while also starring in regional productions of "Funny Girl" and more.

This week, Gasteyer will perform in L.A. in her cabaret act, "Elegant Songs From a Handsome Woman." The show runs at the Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood from Thursday through Saturday.

"It's so easy in these cabaret venues to get earnest," she said in a recent interview. "I was inspired more by early Bette Midler. I do wear a fancy dress and very high heels — and extra high hair. My goal is to obliterate all earnestness."

Read the full interview with Ana Gasteyer.


'Saturday Night Live' adds another Groundling

Jim Carrey is a black swan on 'Saturday Night Live'

-- David Ng

Photo: Ana Gasteyer. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Influences: Cabaret singer Justin Vivian Bond

April 6, 2011 |  9:45 am

Bond Justin Vivian Bond is one of those rare New York artists to earn serious uptown approval (the New Yorker recently called the singer “the greatest cabaret artist of his  generation”)  without losing their downtown bona fides.  Known best as one-half of the late, great cabaret duo Kiki & Herb, Bond is an eclectic, transgendered artist who dabbles in the dance world, theater (most recently, a new musical being workshopped, written with Sandra Bernhard), visual art (a New York gallery will exhibit a solo show of his paintings in the fall) and, of course, music of all sounds and genres.

This week, Bond’s first full-length album, titled “Dendrophile,” was released by Whimsy Music. Next week the artist will be performing for two nights at REDCAT.  These events mark an important turn for the singer, as this album marks the first time Bond will be appearing not just as a cabaret act (even as a “trans-Atlantic cabaret messiah” as one London newspaper gushed) but rather as a singer-songwriter.

Sitting in the living room of Bond’s longtime East Village apartment—which tragically or glamorously, depending on your temperament, is set to be demolished in a few months—the artist spoke of career,  affinity for California (“I love playing cards by people’s swimming pools”) and the new phenomenon of appearing in front of an audience, not as one of his richly layered characters, but simply as Justin Vivian Bond. Bond shared some influences:

Judy Collins: I feel like I owe her a huge debt because even though she started out as a folk singer, she moved quite quickly to doing songs by Jacques Brel, Brecht, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell … so through her records I discovered all those people.

Teresa Stratas: I love her, I could never sound like her. When I heard her Kurt Weill music, I was like “wow, that was amazing.”  These are people who because they are so outside the box, they give you freedom.

Karen Carpenter: “Superstar” [covered on “Dendrophile” in an arrangement interwoven with “Diamonds and Rust”] is the first song I ever chose to sing in public.  I heard it in my parents’ car, I remembered it, and then I dreamed about it all night.  By the time I woke up, I thought that I had made the song up in my dream. Then I went to school for Show-and-Tell and sang what parts I could remember, and that was my first performance.  When I eventually heard it on the radio again, I confessed to my teacher that I hadn’t actually written the song.

Wassily Kandinsky: One of the first books I read was “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” by Kandinsky because I saw these paintings and they looked like music to me.… After reading it I began to think in terms of different ways of coloring things, of saying things, of eliciting a response from an audience.

Lily Tomlin: What was so great was her diversity, her ability to convey her worldview through all these different characters.  She was always saying something other than “Look at me doing these funny things,” there was an intentionality running through everything she did.  But you never forgot that it was Lily … I love people like that— Cher is like that too—and I know that because of the way I look, no matter what I do, no one’s going to forget that it’s me, so I just embrace that.

-- James C. Taylor


Soprano Renée Fleming

Broadway star and Tony winner Lea Salonga

Broadway maven Seth Rudetsky

Michael Feinstein, interpreter of the Great American Songbook

Cerritos Center's 2011-12 season includes off-center classical music

March 28, 2011 |  6:54 pm

ChristopherORileyJayClendenin2009 Promising Radiohead and Astor Piazzolla alongside Bach, Chopin and Stravinsky, plus a second half in which they decide what to play as they go along rather than planning it in advance, the piano and cello duo of Christopher O’Riley (pictured) and Matt Haimovitz will be among the highlights of the classical, dance and theater offerings the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts announced Monday as part of its 2011-12 season.

“Shuffle.Play.Listen” is the title of O’Riley and Haimovitz’s Jan. 18 concert; another genre-spanning collaboration, billed as “Music of the Sun,” teams the self-described “post-classical” string quartet ETHEL with flutist Robert Mirabal (Oct. 26).

On tap in the Cerritos Center’s classical “recital series”  is an international selection that includes Taiwanese-born, Australian-raised violinist Ray Chen (Sept. 14); the Brazilian sibling guitar duo Sergio and Odair Assad (Feb. 15); the youthful Morgenstern Trio from Germany (Nov. 4); Austria’s Salzburg Chamber Soloists (Feb. 2); the Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra of Poland (Feb. 24) and the Juilliard String Quartet (March 17).

Rob Kapilow offers two sessions of his “What Makes it Great?” musical demonstration series, with Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata (Jan. 25) and Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat Major (Feb. 22) the works to be explored.

Moscow Festival Ballet offers “Cinderella” (Feb. 12), and the contemporary dance series consists of performances by the L.A.-based Viver Brasil troupe (Sept. 24); River North Chicago Dance Company (Jan. 13) and a Celtic-Canadian combination of stepdancing and tapdancing from the StepCrew (Feb. 4).

Continue reading »

Lou Reed chat and sonic installation coming to Cal State Long Beach

March 16, 2011 |  7:00 pm

LouReed2008Lori The Carpenter Performing Arts Center at Cal State Long Beach and the university's Art Museum will take a walk on the wild side early next year by featuring rocker Lou Reed as a conversationalist and an avant-garde musician.

The 2011-12 season at the Carpenter Center being announced on Wednesday also includes more traditional fare, including Shirley MacLaine in a Sept. 24 speaking engagement and Broadway veterans Davis Gaines (Sept. 21-22), Rachel York (Feb. 29-March 1, 2012) and Susan Egan (May 6, 2012) as singing headliners.

Whether Reed will do any singing or guitar playing is questionable, since his Jan. 27, 2012 appearance is billed as an “in conversation” evening with Bob Ezrin, who produced Reed’s 1973 album “Berlin,” a semi-narrative piece so laden with despair and degradation that it’s one of rock’s deepest and most sublime downer experiences. Ezrin played a key role in launching rock-as-a-theatrical-spectacle, producing 1970s albums by Alice Cooper, KISS, Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and the debut solo release of theatrically innovative rocker Peter Gabriel.

Adding to the intrigue: In recent years Reed has been revisiting his 1975 album “Metal Machine Music,” four LP sides of whining, grinding electronic noise that’s celebrated in some quarters as a visionary and influential sally into the avant-garde and condemned in others as a sick, nose-thumbing, temporarily career-stalling joke on his rock audience at a time when Reed’s popularity was at a peak. 

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Valentine's Day countdown: Betty Buckley's favorite love song

February 10, 2011 |  1:30 pm

From now through Valentine's Day we're sharing the favorite love song from eight musicians who are about to perform in the Los Angeles area. Broadway belter Betty Buckley picks the Rodgers and Hart standard “You’re Nearer.” (This video clip features the voice of Trudy Erwin dubbing for Lucille Ball in the 1940 movie "Too Many Girls.")

"It’s a perfect expression of love, which is the purest level of pure consciousness. This concept of romantic love has messed us all up. Because we are capable of experiencing that from time to time, we are under the illusion that that is the optimum state. When I was younger, nobody told me the difference, so I wasted a lot of time in the quest for romantic love — keeping it around when it arrived and grieving its loss when it left. The wonderful thing about getting older is that I can see these things with a lot more clarity."

Buckley has two L.A. concerts: Feb. 21, “Broadway by Request” with Seth Rudetsky for the Reprise Theatre Company at the Freud Playhouse at UCLA, and Feb. 26, with Marvin Hamlisch at the Valley Performing Arts Center at Cal State Northridge.


Constantine Maroulis' favorite love song

Wynton Marsalis' favorite love song

Keely Smith's favorite love song

Check back with Culture Monster every day through Feb. 14 for a new selection.

— Marcia Adair

'Glee' star Matthew Morrison will lead gala for his alma mater, Orange County High School of the Arts

January 31, 2011 | 10:00 am

GleeMatthewMorrisonLuisSinco If its annual gala hits its mark on March 19, the Orange County High School of the Arts figures to have close to a million reasons to be gleeful -- and grateful to its most famous graduate, Matthew Morrison, who anchors the Fox TV series “Glee” as high school glee club director Will Schuster.

Morrison, a 1997 graduate, is chairing the event at the Hyatt Regency in Irvine, which the school hopes will raise $800,000, nearly a fifth of the $5 million in annual donations it needs to augment the $9 million in state funding it gets as a public charter school. A school spokeswoman said details were still being worked out regarding Morrison's on-stage role at the gala. The black-tie evening's theme is “A Swingin’ Singin’ Salute to the Stars of the USO!” featuring more than 100 of the high school’s hoofers, belters and instrumentalists doing their best in the old entertain-the-troops tradition of Bob Hope.

In a further assist to his alma mater, Morrison has arranged to host a day on the set of “Glee” for two –- the prize of a benefit raffle, with the winning ticket to be drawn at the gala. Raffle tickets will go for $10 each.

Morrison isn’t the only successful OCHSA alum who’s doing a bit for the school, which opened in 1987 as an adjunct of Los Alamitos High School, then moved to its own campus in Santa Ana in 2000. 

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Performance review: Sutton Foster at the Orange County Performing Arts Center

January 7, 2011 |  5:00 pm

Suttonfoster.jpg The role of the all-American ingénue turned New York diva comes naturally to Sutton Foster. “I was the girl in those songs,” the Tony-winning star said Thursday during her cabaret performance at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, after singing a medley of tunes from three of her Broadway performances: "Thoroughly Modern Millie," "Annie" and "Little Women."

Foster has a practical, self-deprecating demeanor and the big voice and long arms of a stage queen -- or at least a Princess Fiona, her last star turn (in "Shrek: The Musical"). 

Foster’s best when she’s playful about her prodigious talent and homespun beauty. She romped through “I Don’t Want To Show Off,” from "The Drowsy Chaperone," with goofball charm, ripping falsies out of her dress (then retrieving them from an audience member). In perhaps a Samueli first, she displayed her pair of “Pimp” and “Ho” goblets. Making fun of the genre she does best, she held up her “Big Book of Really High Belt Songs.”

The problem is, those really high belt songs play better in a big room. On the otherwise moving “My Heart Was Set on You,” Foster’s voice rattled the small space with sharp, metallic tones.

Continue reading »

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