Friends often ask me just what the difference is between a cabaret and a club act. In the old days a cabaret was defined as a place where liquor was served, sometimes with a little naughtiness on the side. A club was where you went to drink. At a club, if someone sang, you could gab over them and nobody would complain. But in a cabaret you watch and listen to the performer raptly, for there are nuances to be found in every phrase. These days most cabaret performers have taken to theatres, sans drinks, and the next few months will see a wide variety of artists take to our stages, large and small. The clink of glasses and hustle-bustle of waitstaff will not interrupt the performance.
Cabaret is an adult pleasure,, one in which the artist and the audience open their hearts to each other.
So “here’s to the ladies who lunch,” the Stephen Sondheim tune that has become Elaine Stritch’s anthem. It’s a perfect example of the sort of song that works in a cabaret. Whether torch singer, diva or chanteuse they all make lyrics king, singing about real people, broken hearts and life with wit, satire and just a hint of scorn.
Here’s a rundown of what to expect in the coming months, in chronological order.
Summer Cabaret Offerings
The Fabuloous Fifties Musicals – Saturday, June 26 at 8:00
An interesting find by the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington. The 1950s produced countless memorable musicals both onstage and on film. Classic story musicals such as My Fair Lady, West Side Story, The Music Man and more are included, as well as showstoppers from film musicals, Broadway revues and some of the great stand-alone hits of the decade. Charlotte Kaufman joins the artists of Boston Musical THeatre onstage to share with you the “inside story” of this amazing repertoire and the composers, lyricists and singers who created and performed it.
Singers include Mara Bonde, soprano, David Ripley, bass-baritone, with guest, Jennifer Sheehan, soprano, and Mark DiCampo, tenor. The BMT Jazz Trio provides accompaniment and includes Dan Loschen, piano, Rich Appleman, bass, Bertram Lehmann, drums, and their guest, Allen Bonde, piano. Mahaiwe PAC.
Cabaret at Williamstown Theatre Festival
July 8-10, 22-24, August 12-14
They’re a pretty well kept secret, and insiders tend to buy up all the tickets long before you learn who will be performing. It’s AYOR but WTF has run this legendary cabaret for years. They take place at Goodrich Hall not too far from the stages. Usually around 11-11:30. Often cast members – both famous and unknown – strut their stuff in song, dance or whatever, so if you are mad about cabaret you might want to just take a chance and buy a ticket. You could be blown away. www.wtfestival.org
Patti Lupone – Sunday, July 11 at 7:00
Tony Award-winning singer and actress Patti LuPone brings her powerhouse talent to the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington. Fresh off her rapturously received, role-defining stint as Mama Rose in Gypsy, Broadway star LuPone – the original Evita – takes us on a high-spirited tour of her favorite songs. Her recent stage credits include Mrs. Lovett in John Doyle’s award winning Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, the title role in Marc Blitzstein’s Regina, a musical version of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes at Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center, and a critically acclaimed performance as Fosca in a concert version of Stephen Sondheim’s Passion, which was also broadcast on PBS’ Live From Lincoln Center. Mahaiwe PAC.
Maureen McGovern – Friday, July 23 at 8:00
Maureen McGovern returns to the Colonial with her one woman show, A Long and Winding Road: The Concert, featuring Jeffrey Harrison on the piano. This eclectic concert is an entertaining and introspective look at the songs that inspired Maureen McGovern before her Academy Award-winning hit “The Morning After.” Her repertoire includes selections of iconoclastic singer-songwriter material including “The Circle Game,” “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” “The Moon’s A Harsh Mistress,” “Imagine,” “Fire and Rain” and many others. Colonial Theatre.
Judy Collins – Saturday, July 26 at 7:00
Barrington Stage Company welcomes Judy Collins who for more than 40 years has thrilled audiences worldwide with her unique blend of interpretive folksongs and contemporary themes. Collins won the 1975 Grammy for Song of the Year for her version of Stephen Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns. Barrington Stage Co.
Betty Buckley – Wednesday, August 11 at 7:30
Betty Buckley’s Colonial performance will weave amusing stories and anecdotes with songs from her Broadway songbook in Broadway by Request. Winner of the coveted Tony Award for her portrayal of Grizabella in the original Broadway cast of Cats, Buckley is one of only a handful of women who can be referred to as a real Broadway star and a true legend. Buckley is best known on television for her role as Abby Bradford in the hit series Eight is Enough. Colonial Theatre.
Barbara Cook – Sunday August 15 at 7:00
Barbara Cook’s silvery soprano voice, purity of tone, and warm presence have delighted audiences around the world for more than 50 years. The recipient of a Tony, a Grammy, a Drama Desk Award, and an inductee of the Broadway Hall of Fame, she was considered “Broadway’s favorite ingénue” during the heyday of the Broadway musical. Ms. Cook is a consummate solo performer, appearing everywhere from Royal Albert Hall to the Sydney Opera House and on such records as the definitive performance of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies and the original cast recording of Candide. She continues to thrive, most recently with a triumphant return to Broadway in 2010 with the premiere of Sondheim on Sondheim, a new musical that delves into the life of the famous composer through his own works. For this role, she was nominated for another Tony-Best Featured Actress in a Musical.Mahaiwe PAC.
Sutton Foster – Sunday August 22 at 7:00
The Tony award winner will bring her cabaret performance “An Evening with Sutton Foster” to Berkshire Theatre Festival. This evening of song and laughter, presented with her Musical Director Michael Rafter accompanying, is fueled by Ms. Foster’s sparkling wit and incredible voice. Songs for the evening are drawn from her critically-acclaimed debut solo album Wish and from the stage roles that have helped make her famous, such as Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Drowsy Chaperone and Shrek: The Musical. Rafter was music supervisor for Jersey Boys. Berkshire Theatre Festival.
Bill Nelson’s All-Male Revue – Aug. 26 and 27 ay 9:30 and Aug. 28 at 10 pm
You’ll love the intimacy of this all male revue on the Barrington Stage II. If David Sedaris were musicalized, he’d sound like Bill Nelson! The lyrics can be jaw-dropping, amusingly “out,” often profound and even just plain daffy. Join Bill and the guys for a casual, fun evening of fresh, inventive theatre songs. There’s something for everyone here, including the LGBT community. Barrington Stage Co.
Ute Lemper – Friday, August 27 at 8:00
A surprising and welcome choice for the Colonial, international star Ute Lemper’s career grows out of a passionate and enduring commitment to art, politics, history and a contentious and complicated relationship with her homeland and its past. Her panache, versatility and sophisticated repertoire—including Berlin cabaret songs and the dark gems of Brecht and Weill—have garnered her international acclaim in the theatre, cabaret and film worlds. Colonial Theatre.
Tyne Daly – Thursday, September 2 at 8:00
Tony Award-winning star Tyne Daly brings her knockout cabaret act to Barrington Stage for one night only. It promises to be a sensational evening of heartfelt and humorous songs and stories. “Don’t miss her “whip-smart, sophisticated new cabaret act.” (says The New York Times) Barrington Stage Co.
The Bill Finn Show – September 3 and 4 at 8:00
William Finn has had two shows make it to Broadway, but this evening is more about promising new composers and songs who he is nurturing and encouraging. It’s the fifth edition of the show with longest title and a popular Labor Day weekend treat. Sit back and enjoy William Finn as he tells the audience what makes a good lyric, why some work and others don’t. Performed by four dynamite singers. Oh, the official title of the show is “Songs by Ridiculously Talented Composers and Lyricists You Probably Don’t Know but Should…” Barrington Stage Co.
Bill Nelson’s All-Male Review, The Encore – October 8, 9 and 10 at 8:00
Nelson and the boys return for another evening of Nelson’s highly creative songs. These performances take place during the second “Out in the Berkshires” weekend, but it’s all very tasteful. There’s nothing naked except the lyrics. And even they have lots of melody. Barrington Stage Co.
Tommy Tune – Friday, November 12 at 8:00
Coming to the Colonial, nine-time Tony Award-winner Tommy Tune teams with longtime collaborators The Manhattan Rhythm Kings for a personal look back at his incredible career, featuring timeless standards, elegant choreography, and Tommy’s own unique charm and warm-hearted humor. “Steps in Time” is his biography, delivered live and in person. His Broadway credits include Nine, Grand Hotel, Will Rogers Follies and My One and Only. Colonial Theatre.