Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Making Faces

Years ago, I attended The Cabaret Symposium, a 9 day Master Class for cabaret singers at The Eugene O'Neil Center led by cabaret and theatre stars like Julie Wilson, Margaret Whiting, Lina Koutrakos, Sally Mayes, Julie Halston, Carol Hall and many others.

I call it "Cabaret Bootcamp" because I can't take "The Art of Cabaret" too damn seriously or I get a rash.

I remember Erv Raible, who is sort of The Cabaret Godfather in NYC, told us that Jason Robert Brown used to play in Erv's piano bar.

Mr. Brown... or Mr. Robert Brown, whichever it is... is a Tony Award winning composer of such musicals as PARADE, THE LAST FIVE YEARS and song cycles like SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD.

Erv said that when Jason started playing in his club, he would make these strange, twisted faces when he performed. Finally, Erv put a huge mirror on the piano facing Jason and said something like...

"We have to sit here and look at you making those ugly faces.
Now, you do, too!"



Apparently, it cured Jason of his bad habit.

Now, I know we all have bad habits on stage. After I shaved my head, I had a few people complain that I would run my hand over my head when I sang "as if you're moving your hair out of your eyes." They thought it was distracting.

I told them to fuck off.

I wasn't "pretending to move the hair out of my eyes." Those of you blessed with a full head of hair don't understand that with my shaved head, when I sweat, there is nothing to absorb all that moisture and it slowly begins to trickle down into my face. I'm simply wiping the sweat away. I'm not pretending to flip my Farrah Fawcett- Majors 'doo!


Britney understands what I'm talking about, don't you Brit?

I truly understand physical idiosyncrasies and the last thing I want is for a performer to be self- conscious or to start thinking about what their body is doing.




But this guy... this YouTube wonder who made his television debut on THE VIEW last week... this white kid singing I'M TELLIN' YOU, I'M NOT GOIN' from DREAMGIRLS...

...well, as a little girl said to me after my performance as Shere Khan in THE JUNGLE BOOK last year when I asked her if I was scary or too frightening...

"Nah. You're just silly."

This guy is just silly. Talented? Yes. Has a better career than me at age 20? Definitely! But he's way, friggin' silly.



And let me say this: Is he really that good a singer or is just singing a really great song?

See, I judge this WINDY CITY GAY IDOL competition (my first round I judge this year is at Hydrate this Thursday night at 9pm) and when people ask me what they should sing in the finals, I always say, "I'M TELLIN' YOU, I'M NOT GOIN'" because it always, Always, ALWAYS makes the drunken crowd go bat- shit crazy.

In vaudeville, if you wanted a standing ovation at the end of your act, you sang a patriotic song. Nowadays, if you want to sing on THE VIEW or win an Academy Award, you sing I'M TELLIN YOU', I'M NOT GOIN'.

Similar... similar...

15 comments:

J-Ro said...

It's a cute story, but it's a complete lie, Erv never did anything like that; I barely remember him even being around on the nights when I was doing my piano bar sets. But if it makes an old queen happy to tell that story, so be it. It is true, for what it's worth, that I used to make all sorts of odd faces when I played. However, nobody ever cured me of it: I still do.

Stephen Rader said...

J-Ro - First off, how much do I love that you actually read this!!!

Second, THE LAST FIVE YEARS is one of the most, if not THE most, brilliant pieces of theatre I have ever seen. I saw it at Northlight and was amazed by it. My memories of that production will stay with me for a long, long time.

And last but not least, it doesn't shock me at all that this little story is a complete fabrication. You keep making odd faces when you play and I'll keep grabbing my bald head when I sing.

And if they don't like it...

...whoever "they" are...

...well, as I sometimes say to critics who don't like this or that about my performance, "Lick me where I can't reach."

Alex said...

Oh Dear God that poor child.

He has no friends, for if he had, they would tell him to leave the gospel to the gospel singers. He might have a cute voice (if he takes it out of the screechy stratosphere) but part of being a good singer is knowing what you can and can't sing.

He might be a lot of things, but a large black woman with a high C is not one of them.

David said...

I understand cabaret faces and sex faces are similiar.

Haunted Tuna said...

No one sings that song better than Bianca Ryan...

Smalltown RN said...

laughing...enjoying so very much your blog.....I was over at Whim's place and she mentioned and linked your blog to her sight.....I am glad she did and I am glad I dropped by...

Stephen Rader said...

David - You've never seen my sex faces... yet...

Haunted Tuna - Who is Bianca Ryan? Educate me!

Smalltown RN - Thank you for the compliment! I just went to your blog and may I say that the pictures of the beautiful birds and sea lions made me wish I lived with you - - or at least in the same city! What a lovely blog!

Stephen Rader said...

Alex - Yes, leave gospel to gospel singser, leave I'M TELLIN' YOU, I'M NOT GOIN' to black women with the first name of "Jennifer," and leave all Dolly Parton music to me!!!

Haunted Tuna said...

This guy sings Aguileras "Hurt" better: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7eGhXGe3Ig

Bianca Ryan, 11-yr-old
http://youtube.com/watch?v=ozDh4NQveJs

Lance Noe said...

HOLY SHIT! jason robert brown reads your site, your POPULAR! hehehehehe

I have a story but i wont say it here!

note to JRB - I saw the last 5 years in Korea, i live here, you should write them and say thank you! They put on a version of that show that was breathtaking! they added "korean" elements that made the show so relevant to this culture and it blew me away!

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

I don't know which is funnier, the faces that guy made or the fact that Britney Spears might actually understand something you are talking about.

jer said...

holy shit. i was going to say something about the kid and then jrb went ahead and read your blog. i love him. i love his work. i think i just died. i have nothing to say.

Stephen Rader said...

Whim - Both are funny, but the fact that Jason Robert Brown friggin' read my blog posting is causing all of my Chicago theatre friends to become positively GIDDY!!!

Jer - I know, right?!?!?!

The Lone Beader said...

Just stoppin by to say that the name of your blog is AWESOME. Cheers from Boston=:)

Stephen Rader said...

The Lone Beader - Thank you so much for the compliment! And I love your blogs! Beautiful work... and cute new glasses! :)