Cabaret comes from the big city
Legendary cabaret diva Marcovicci will lead workshop at Perry-Mansfield
Cabaret is a big city thing, said Andrew Levine, Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp musical theater department director.
So when Levine decided he wanted to bring cabaret to the oldest performing arts camp in the nation, he knew he had to do something spectacular.
“If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it really the right way,” Levine said. “This is an opportunity for the larger theater community to see what’s going on out here — the spirit of the place, the special quality of creating art in nature.”
On Monday, a small group of professional and semi-professional singers, some with cabaret experience and some looking to add it to their repertoire, will gather at Perry-Mansfield for a weeklong performance workshop called “The Art of Cabaret.” They auditioned in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles for limited spaces to study with five of the top cabaret professionals in the country. Leading the faculty will be legendary cabaret diva Andrea Marcovicci.
“Andrea is one of the most amazing performers I have ever seen in her ability to find a fresh take on the material,” Levine said. “You feel like she is singing to you.”
And that is what cabaret is all about, Levine said. Cabaret allows performers to be themselves and show individuality they never get to show in a character role. The performers unveil themselves through the music they choose, the presentation, the connection between parts of an act and revealing elements that create a direct connection between performers and the audience, he said.
Marcovicci will share one of her signature acts Wednesday night under the Strings in the Mountains tent when she performs Cole Porter songs in “How’s Your Romance?” accompanied by pianist Shelly Markham. It is a cabaret show that she has performed in some of the tonier piano bars across the country, and she is doing it here as a benefit concert for Perry-Mansfield.
“Cabaret has a history of being riskier, politically and socially,” Levine said. “It’s an exciting genre, a more intimate setting.”
Nothing is more evident of that intimacy than when you page through Marcovicci’s Web site, a virtual cabaret trip through her life. Her “scrapbook” starts and ends with a tribute to her mother, Helen Stuart, who looks like a golden-age movie star. It shows Marcovicci’s parents wining, dancing and dining Ã¡ la Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It documents the process of finding her “look,” being smitten with former President Bill Clinton and having a crush on a fellow actor. She shows herself as a young girl in a frilly dress and patent leather shoes, in a sultry and sophisticated ad that appeared in Playboy, and behind a Hollywood kiss with Woody Allen. She professes her love for gardenias and the tragedy of losing a best friend to AIDS.
These are the kinds of emotions Levine said the audience can expect from Marcovicci’s Cole Porter cabaret performance.
“It’s tear-your-guts-out dramatic,” Levine said. “Andrea is a top-of-the-line example of contemporary cabaret.”
Cabaret is a very active and alive community with a special niche in the performance world, Levine said.
Marcovicci will be joined for next week’s workshop by Broadway composer and lyricist Craig Carnelia, director and composer Barry Kleinbort, musicians and musical directors Shelly Markham and Christopher Denny, and Michael Kerker, assistant vice president of musical theater and cabaret for American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
To round out the master workshop and share its fruits, workshop participants each will create a show throughout the week and perform a cabaret show at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 28 in the Julie Harris Theatre at Perry-Mansfield.
“It’s really about helping performers find the most truthful way,” Levine said of the workshop designed to foster the art of cabaret.
Marcovicci shared this conviction in a colunm she wrote for the New York Times in 1994: “What inspires this sort of passion? A field of endeavor that is described, alternately as in the verge of extinction, having a renaissance or actually dead. Cabaret is an art form, if you’ll excuse the expression, to which I am hopelessly devoted. … One of the most important things about cabaret is the world it conjures up. It is a world of elegance, grace and sophistication — cocktails and conversation, fox trots and Fred Astaire, of Dorothy Parker and the perfect retort.”
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