I Feel Lucky

I went to Greece this past August to reclaim a love of mine: cabaret singing.

If you’ve never been exposed to this incredible art form, I recommend you explore some. You will find many spectacular performers in all areas who also perform cabaret, especially in the major cities such as NYC, LA, Chicago, St. Louis.

A cabaret show (of the singing variety – not the topless kind) is a very intimate experience. There’s no “fourth wall” as exists in many other art forms. The cabaret singer is singing straight from their heart using their voice, body, guts and intelligence. Whether they sing with a pianist or there are other instruments added in, there is a deep connection between the musicians and the singer that is palpable. When it is done right, it is an improvised dance happening in the moment – between the audience, the singer, the musicians and the song. It can be hilarious, moving, exciting, thought-provoking, entertaining, heart-breaking. A great cabaret show will be all of that and then some.

Today I am getting my work out there by posting a clip from one of the songs I performed in Greece after an incredible week-long cabaret workshop that was taught under the direction of master teachers Lina Koutrakos and Beckie Menzie.

The week culminated in a casual show in a hotel lobby with a very-old-and-in-need-of-tuning-and-repair-but-charming-upright piano, a so-so microphone and our hearts and souls. It was wonderful, the audience was wonderful, the other singers were outstanding, and I? Well, I was in heaven, once again, singing cabaret style. (I sang “I Feel Lucky,” written by the incomparable Mary Chapin Carpenter, arranged by Rick Jensen with Beckie Menzie at piano adding her own special magic and flare.

It has been 15 years since my NYC debut solo cabaret show, “In the meanwhile…” I loved making that show, directed by Lina Koutrakos, arranged and played by Rick Jensen at piano and Mark Wade on bass. After having been around the scene for several years, and singing in several terrific trio and group shows, I put together my own solo show. It was to be the official beginning of my cabaret life. But other parts of my life went in other directions shortly after that show, and for many reasons, so did my creative focus.

My heart has yearned for it over these years. I made a few brief visits back for various performances. But for the most part, I was outside of the cabaret world, sending love to the many people I know and who I admire who have been and continue to carry the tradition forward these fifteen years. I was doing many other fulfilling and creative things, but a part of me was dormant and aching.

But finally my heart said, “It is time, already!” And so I said yes to Greece, yes to the workshop and yes to singing cabaret again. And I am so glad I did.

Look out, Cabaret. I’m back! This time, for good.

#TheGetMyWorkOutThereChallenge #DayFifteen #cabaret #passion #cabaretsinging #MaryChapinCarpenter #IFeelLucky #Iamlucky #linakoutrakos #beckiemenzie

Featured Image by Diane D’Angelo (who also happens to be an amazing cabaret performer!)


One of my favorite lyricists is Cole Porter.

Seriously, is there any greater master of the rhyme in song?

His rhymes always feel organic. The rhyme is there, but so snugly placed that it feels natural.

As a singer, it feels effortless to memorize and to connect with his rhymes. Maybe because he not only wrote the lyrics but also composed the music for his songs. It is a tight marriage between the two. And a joy to story-tell through.

Porter lived a complicated life, and to me he is like the Tennessee Williams of the musical theatre world. Porter is brilliant and witty, but there is personal heartache interwoven into his beautiful poetry.

One of my favorites of his most intricate songs is “The Tale of the Oyster,” from the musical Fifty Million Frenchmen, 1929. It is really more of a sonnet than a song. So well crafted:

Down by the sea lived a lonesome oyster, Ev’ry day getting sadder and moister. He found his home life awf’lly wet, And longed to travel with the upper set. Poor little oyster. Fate was kind to that oyster we know, When one day the chef from the Park Casino Saw that oyster lying there, And said “I’ll put you on my bill of fare.” Lucky little oyster. See him on his silver platter, Watching the queens of fashion chatter. Hearing the wives of millionaires Discuss their marriages and their love affairs. Thrilled little oyster. See that bivalve social climber Feeding the rich Mrs. Hoggenheimer, Think of his joy as he gaily glides Down to the middle of her gilded insides. Proud little oyster. After lunch Mrs. H. complains, And says to her hostess, “I’ve got such pains. I came to town on my yacht today, But I think I’d better hurray back to Oyster Bay.” Scared little oyster. Off they go thru the troubled tide, The yacht rolling madly from side to side. They’re tossed about ’til that fine young oyster Finds that it’s time he should quit his cloister, Up comes the oyster. Back once more where he started from, He murmured, “I haven’t a single qualm, For I’ve had a taste of society, And society has had a taste of me.” Wise little oyster.

I also love the simpler but oh-so-exquisite “What is This Thing Called Love?” from Wake Up and Dream, 1929.

I was a hum-drum person
Leading a life apart
When love flew in through my window wide
And quickened my hum-drum heart
Love flew in thorugh my window
I was so happy then
But after love had stayed a little while
Love flew out againWhat is this thing called love?
This funny thing called love?
Just who can solve its mystery?
Why should it make a fool of me?
I saw you there one wonderful day
You took my heart and threw my heart away
That’s why I ask the Lawd up in Heaven above
What is this thing called love?
You gave me days of sunshine
You gave me nights of cheer
You made my life an enchanted dream
‘Til somebody else came near
Somebody else came near you
I felt the winter’s chill
And now I sit and wonder night and day
Why I love you still?
There is just one Cole Porter song currently in my repertoire. It is my most favorite. The glorious “After You,” one of his lesser known songs, written to open the musical Gay Divorce, 1932. I simply love it. Here is a beautiful rendition by the sublime jazz singer Sylvia Syms. An aside: she died of a heart attack at the age of 74, onstage at the Oak Room in the Algonquin Hotel in NYC, after a long and rich career. Now that’s the way to go.
Though with joy I should be reeling
That at last you came my way,
There’s no further use concealing
That I’m feeling far from gay,
For the rare allure about you
Makes me all the plainer see
How inane, how vain, how empty life without you would be.After you, who
Could supply my sky of blue?
After you, who
Could I love?
After you, why
Should I take the time to try,
For who else could qualify
After you, who?
Hold my hand and swear
You’ll never cease to care,
For without you there what could I do?
I could search years
But who else could change my tears
Into laughter after you?


#coleporter #thetennessewilliamsofmusicaltheatre #wordsmith #rhymemaster


Mr. Snow

I grew up singing. From pre-school, I was in choirs, and I loved it.

Throughout the chaos and confusion that is childhood, middle and high school, chorus was my lifeline. It was where I found my people. It was what helped me stay as connected to myself as I could be given the trauma of my early life. It saved what sanity I had.

I auditioned for musicals, playing mainly chorus roles. (Except for the role of The Ghost of Christmas Past, which was awesome!)

In college, chorus continued play a crucial role, but I also got more deeply into theatre, which was like finally finding my true “home.”

I had my first lead in a musical, and then a drama. That was it. I was forever hooked.

So after college, I moved to NYC to pursue acting. I trained heartily, and I began to pursue.

And in the course of my training, which required me to delve deeply into my young and perhaps fragile psyche, I found and opened a Pandora’s Box within. And my whole life changed course.

And in the course of that change, I lost my singing voice.

Or perhaps, it was that for awhile, I could not use it.

I would miss singing and try to go back to it, but when I began to sing, my throat would close off and I would feel choked. I would feel overwhelmed with emotion, and I literally could not make sound.

It was terrifying. For something that had always been so central to me to feel unavailable was horrifying.

I entered into therapy, and in time, that was happening to me began to make sense. I was moving through the early trauma and there were memories in my body having to do with holding things in, “not telling anyone” and so forth. I was re-living a time when I literally felt choked.

Later, I came to understand that singing connected me to my breath in such an intimate way and allowed for the expression of my internal experience in such a direct way that while I was moving through that time of awakening and healing, it felt dangerous to my body system to communicate that way.

At a certain point, I once again decided I would try to sing again, as I had tried many times, to no avail.

In a way that I will forever consider miraculous, I found a singing school, in what seemed a fairly random way, in the way that often things of incredible significance can appear to be randomly found.

I had seen a school advertised over and over again in the acting trade paper Backstage called The Singer’s Forum, and one day I finally went in and spontaneously committed to a group class.

That action, which took tremendous courage for me, turned out to be perhaps one of the most important actions of my life.

With that action, again, the course of my life changed.

With the help of several incredible voice teachers and a very supportive environment, with tons of patience and love, I found my singing voice again.

There were many tears. I would feel overwhelmed when I sang. But at the encouragement of one teacher in particular, I learned to accept and relax into it instead of judging, fighting or being afraid of it. And eventually, the tears lessoned. I felt other things. And eventually I felt incredible joy, and I was “home” again.

Then, at this same school, I found miracle number two. I found a mentor, Mr. Johnny King.

Johnny had been a very successful singer and dancer in the 50’s – 80’s. At the time I met him, he had been retired for years but loved nurturing talent and passing along his decades of experience as an entertainer.

I started taking his Get Your Act Together class, and I fell in love. With him, with the art of cabaret, with the Great American Songbook.

He taught me so many things, and he became my biggest fan. He took me under his wing, and he helped me learn who I was as a singer, what gifts I brought to the stage. My own presence. How to be on stage. Phrasing. How to tell my stories through the song.

He changed my life in innumerable ways. He was incredibly generous. He became a kind of surrogate father, and through the way he loved me, I came to understand a healthy male authority figure love.

And I was not the only one! There were a slew of us. We were “Johnny’s kids,” all talented singers whom he took under his wing and gave all he had to so that we could fly as performers. His wing had no limit or shortage. We all felt special under his tutelage.

One of the many things he did as a director and teacher was to suggest songs, and one song he gave me in particular became one of my “signature” songs for a time. A signature is a song that audiences come to identify as “yours” because of a strong connection you have with it so that over time it “becomes” yours in a way. Not every song is like that. When you find them, it is an amazing experience.

I believe songs find me for a reason. When I begin to sing a song, to live it, it changes me, it deepens and expands my life. It is a kind if a marriage, the union between singer and song. And this one was such a special gift.

It was a song called “Mr. Snow” from the musical Carousel, by Rogers and Hart.

I loved singing it. Like any well written song, it was a beautiful journey, a story I got to live each time in a new way.

I sang it hundreds of times.

It’s the story of a woman who ends up falling in love with a fisherman, a man whom some might not consider an obvious catch, but whom she has come to know and love for all his unique ways.

Johnny was an incredible teacher and director, but as we all are, he had his flaws. He could be tough. He was a bit of a gossip. Occasionally, he’d talk out of both sides of his mouth.

One of his flaws was not taking as great care of himself as he took of us. He became sick after ignoring a kidney issue, and never recovered. We never knew how old he was, so I am not sure at what age this happened. He was at least in his 80’s. It was hard to see such a force of the stage in a hospital. He never lost his sassy edge throughout the tribulations of kidney failure and dialysis.

The last time I sang “Mr. Snow” was at Johnny’s memorial service. It had a whole other significance, singing it on that day. He was my Mr. Snow after all, in a way. He taught me how to love a father figure, flaws and all.

As it happens, today when he is so on my mind, I took a break from writing this about him. And I happened to read of the loss of one of the great singers of all time, Barbara Cook. Johnny was a huge fan of hers, and often referred to her performances as teaching points.

I was also a fan, and went to see her as much as possible at Carnegie Hall, at the Met and The Carlyle.

Barbara starred as the character Carrie who sings “Mr. Snow” in Carousel in 1957 on Broadway. She was a true master of the stage, and she will always represent the very best of what the art of cabaret brings to the music world (or to the world at large, really.)

Thank you Johnny King. Thank you Barbara Cook.

You are both in me every time I sing and perform.

I continue to lovingly charge myself to bring all that you’ve taught me and given me to all I do and to give back and share all that you taught me whenever I can.

I leave you, reader, with Barbara’s incredible rendition, later in life, of “Mr. Snow.”

His name is Mister Snow and an up-standed man is he
He comes home every night in his round-bottomed boat
With a net full of herring from the sea

An almost perfect beau, as refined as a girl could wish
But he spends so much time in his round-bottomed boat
That he can’t seem to loose the smell of fish

The first time he kissed me the whiff of his clothes
Knocked me flat on the floor of the room
But now that I love him, my heart’s in my nose
And fish is my favorite perfume

Last night he spoke quite low and a fair-spoken man is he
And he said, “Miss Pipperidge
I’d like it fine if I could be wed with a wife
And indeed, Miss Pipperidge, if you’ll be mine
I’ll be yours for the rest of my life”

Next moment we were promised
And now my mind’s in a maze
For all it can do is look forward to
That wonderful day of days

When I marry Mister Snow
The flowers’ll be buzzin’ with the hum of bees
The birds’ll make a racket in the church yard trees
When I marry Mister Snow

Then it’s off to home we’ll go
And both of us’ll look a little dreamy-eyed
A driving to a cottage by the Oceanside
Where the salty breezes blow

He’ll carry me across the threshold
And I’ll be as meek as a lamb
Then he’ll set me on my feet
And I’ll say kinda sweet
“Well, Mister Snow, here I am”

Then I’ll kiss him so he’ll know
That evry’thin’ll be as right as right can be
A living in a cottage by the sea with me
For I love that Mister Snow
That young sea-faring bold and daring
Big bewhiskered, overbearing, darling Mister Snow


Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word prompt: carousel


A Foggy Day

I am a singer. And I love songs.

All different kinds of music and songs: my taste is eclectic and far-reaching. On a given day you could find me listening to rap, David Bowie and Patsy Cline in the same half hour and loving all three.

That said, I am a musical theatre actress and so of course love all things “musical theatre.” But I have also spent many years performing in the cabaret clubs of New York City, and I think that that medium is one of the most beautiful. The intimacy of the cabaret form is unparalleled.

So I have always had a special spot in my heart for the Great American Songbook.

(In case you don’t know what that refers to, it is loosely defined by Wikipedia as “the most popular and enduring songs from the 1920s to the 1950s that were created for Broadway theatre, musical theatre, and Hollywood musical film. They have been recorded and performed by a large number and wide range of singers, instrumental bands, and jazz musicians. The Songbook comprises standards by George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and also Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, Richard Rodgers, and others.”)

Thanks to Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett, Rod Stewart, and other contemporary artists, many of these “standards” are still being brought into the mainstream. And the jazz world also keeps these chestnuts alive and well. They truly stand the test of time.

Because the songs themselves are so well-crafted, a singer can take a standard and bring their own interpretation of it to the mix, which in turn resonates with the listener and their interpretation of that particular singer’s arrangement.

It becomes a live collaboration between the musicians, the vocalist, and the composer and lyricist (even though they may have been long since dead,) which comes to life again and again when performed with an audience or recorded to be experienced by a listener.

One of my favorite standards is called “A Foggy Day,” composed by George Gershwin, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin, introduced by Fred Astaire in the 1937 film A Damsel in Distress.

It has been recorded by a zillion amazing singers. But I felt very connected to the song in a specific way. Together with my amazing accompanist and arranger Rick Jensen (an incredible songwriter/singer and one of the most talented people on this planet) and the bassist Mark Wade, we found our own unique relationship with the song.

We recorded it for a demo CD I made many years ago now, but I still love what we found.

I feel such gratitude to the Gershwin brothers for having created such a classic song that spoke to something in me so much that I had to create my own version of it.

I was a stranger in the city
Out of town were the people I knew
I had that feeling of self-pity
What to do, what to do, what to do
The outlook was decidedly blueBut as I walked through the foggy streets alone
It turned out to be the luckiest day I’ve known

A foggy day, in London town
Had me low, had me down
I viewed the morning, with much alarm
British Museum, had lost its charm

How long I wondered,
Could this thing last
But the age of miracles, hadn’t passed
For suddenly, I saw you there
And through foggy London town,
The sun was shining everywhere

For suddenly, I saw you there
And through foggy London town,
The sun was shining everywhere

I am so grateful that music exists, period, to connect me to my own heart, to artists of the past, and to other people, today and tomorrow.