Cabaret is a hot commodity in the Berkshires this summer. These intimate performances by superb singers where the song is the thing mostly tell a story, or reveal the inner feelings of the heart. In France, the tradition of the chanteuse who breaks your heart with a chanson is well known, Edith Piaf being the classic example. In Germany, perhaps Marlene Dietrich is best remembered, Her dresser, Paul McMahon, a colleage and theatre writer traveled with her for years and has the most fascinating stories to tell. Cabaret is a very personal art form, and while rock and pop is what the mainstream listens to, cabaret is what theatre buffs and romantics gravitate towards.
This is the summer of cabaret in the Berkshires, a virtual explosion compared to previous years. Recently Mandy Patinkin raised the rafters at the Colonial Theatre my review here, and that was just the first of many exciting evenings ahead.
On July 2 and 3 Amanda McBroom will make her first visit to the Berkshires under the sponsorship of Barrington Stage Company, this time in a new Cabaret setup on the second floor of Jae's Spice in Pittsfield. She is a fine example of contemporary cabaret and the beauty of her singing is matched by her own glamorous persona. Amanda McBroom has been called “...the greatest cabaret performer of her generation, an urban poet who writes like an angel and has a voice to match.” Composer of the power ballad "The Rose," which became a number one hit the world over, Amanda is a knock out performer and extraordinary songwriter. Her upcoming CD is a tribute to the music of Jacques Brel, and so we have high hopes to hear several of his classic songs such as "Marathon," "Ca Va," "If We Only Have Love," "My Death," and, of course, Brel's own version of "Carousel." http://www.barringtonstageco.org/
Perhaps the most anticipated event of the season is the arrival of the living legend, Shirley Jones, the sweetheart of Rodgers and Hammerstein, and star of both Carousel and Oklahoma on film. You can not miss her Monday July 6 at Barrington Stage where she will sing the songs she made famous, and many more.
You can see what's in store in this fascinating interview. The strangest thing is that she will stand and sing on the very stage where the set for Julianne Boyd's current production of Carousel is installed, and open her evening with "If I Loved You." Though a little wobbly at the very top these days - she just turned 75! - have no doubt that her voice is still a glorious instrument to hear. She's bringing songs, film clips and stories, too for a very special evening. http://www.barringtonstageco.org/
Coming to the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on July 11 is the stunning Bebe Neuwirth, known for her roles on Cheers and Frasier, but perhaps best known to theatre buffs for her role as Sheila in A Chorus Line, and her history with Bob Fosse and Roger Reese. She has won two Emmys, two Tonys, two Drama Desks, an LA Drama Critics Circle Award, an Astaire Award, and an Outer Critics Circle Award, among others. She is closely identified with many songs, including Kurt Weill's "Here Lies Jenny," "Bilbao Song, "Susan's Dream,” "Surabaya Johnny," Herman Hupfeld’s "As Time Goes By," Stephen Sondheim's "Another Hundred People," (from “Company”), John Kander and Fred Ebb's "And the World Goes 'Round," and “Ring Them Bells” (from “Liza with a Z”), Edith Piaf's "Simply a Waltz," Weill-Ogden Nash "How Much I Love You," Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane’s "The Trolley Song," Frank Loesser "On a Slow Boat to China," Tom Waits' "A Foreign Affair" and "Shiver Me Timbers," Lennon & McCartney’s “Black Bird,” [composer] "Je Ne T'Aime Pas," Irving Berlin's "It Only Happens When I Dance With You," and Sammy Fain & Irving Kahal’s "I'll Be Seeing You." http://www.mahaiwe.org/
JULY 9, 10, 11
There's not a lot of cabaret in the northern Berkshires, and this series is really more of a private club than anything else. Taking place at Goodrich Hall with tables and chairs setup, WTF presents various artists at informal cabarets on two weekends over the summer. No information yet available on who and what will be presented, though in previous years, and in larger venues, it has been quite impressive. If you buy tickets now you are buying a mystery night, though it may be your only option. Tough decision, eh? The July 11 and August 1 sessions are already sold out and there are limited places left for the other nights. http://www.wtfestival.org/
The second of this summer's Cabaret series at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Two-time Tony Award-winner (Chicago, City of Angels), film & television star James Naughton, has won critical acclaim in dramas, comedies and musicals. He has met equal success with his elegant and intimate solo concert/Cabaret acts, receiving the 1999 Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs Award for Best Male Vocalist. No information yet on the program. http://www.thecolonialtheatre.org/
JULY 30, 31 and August 1
A second series of performances at Goodrich Hall with tables and chairs setup, WTF presents various artists at informal cabarets on two weekends over the summer. No information yet available on who and what will be presented. The July 11 and August 1 sessions are already sold out and there are limited places left for the other nights. http://www.wtfestival.org/
In a show called "Live at the Algonquin," Steve Ross arrives at the Colonial to perform classic songs from Dietz & Schwartz, Kurt Weill and Cole Porter, with more recent evergreens by Jim Croce and Stephen Sondheim. The San Francisco Inquirer raves, “attending a Ross performance is like opening a treasure chest of great, often rare, songs. No one performing today is his equal.” http://www.thecolonialtheatre.org/
Through songs, stories and poetry, Andrea Marcovicci takes us on a journey through America’s wartime years of 1939–1945, when every song became irrevocably intertwined with precious memories. Highlights include “Skylark,” “Sentimental Journey” and “The White Cliffs of Dover.” http://www.thecolonialtheatre.org/
While not traditional cabaret, Melanie would be perfect for the club if only her instrument was a piano instead of a guitar. But songs are songs, and she makes my list. She will be at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. Melanie has sold more than 80 million records over a 40 year career. Her hits, including “Brand New Key” and “Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma,” plus her classic Woodstock performance of “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” have made her a legend. I'll be there, with or without a baby grand. http://www.thecolonialtheatre.org/