|Amy Willard Top|
I’m not a big fan of the “This is My Life” school of cabaret that ties everything back to the performer’s biography. That’s not an artistic judgment, just a personal preference; some very good cabaret acts have come out of that approach.
Amy Willard Top’s cabaret debut “Back to Then” (performed at The Kranzberg Center on April 19 and 20, 2013) was definitely autobiographical, charting her course from musical theatre professional in New York and on the cruise line circuit to St. Louis mom. The fact that, my personal preferences not withstanding, I found it mostly quite entertaining and engaging is an indication of what a good job Ms. Willard Top, music director Greg Schweizer, and director Tim Schall did here.
The song selection was nicely varied, including both old and new numbers from the Great American Songbook and the musical stage as well as some pop standards. Mr. Schweizer’s arrangements fit like a glove and some of them (his jazzy “But Not for Me” comes immediately to mind) shed interesting new light on familiar material. Pacing and the overall emotional arc of the evening were quite satisfying.
The show did, in short, what a cabaret show should do: provide a showcase for the performer’s talents and present that performer in the most flattering possible light. Ms. Willard Top came across as a charming performer with a good sense of theatre and a clear, focused voice.
On the technical side, the lighting made good use of the Kranzberg’s limited space and the sound mix was very clean.
Were there some things I would have done differently? Probably, but most of them are more personal preferences than artistic decisions. The bottom line is that Back to Before was a very solid cabaret debut by a skilled musical theatre performer. Whether she goes on to do more cabaret or not, she can take some justifiable pride in this one.
Upstream Theater presented a flawed but nevertheless interesting new production through January 27th of Café Chanson, a new musical written and directed by Ken Page. The score consists of one new song by Mr. Page and his music director Henry Palkes. The rest of it is made up of (mostly) French popular songs from the 1920s through the early 1970s.
This is the second (and last) installment of a complete song list along with some background and random thoughts on some of the numbers. In cases where I had nothing intelligent to add about a particular song, I just listed it and left it alone.
The names in parentheses are the songwriters. In the few cases where the titles in the program were incorrect or misspelled, I’ve corrected them here. If there’s anything in here that I’ve gotten wrong, please let me know.
|Mistinguett, circa 1927|
“Mam’selle Josephine et Mistinguette” (Ken Page / Henry Palkes) In the show this is sung by The Man, the gay cross-dressing waiter at the Café, decked out in a flashy sequined Folies Bergère-style outfit. The Josephine of the title is, of course, Napoleon’s empress. Mistinguett (the final version of her stage name) was a celebrated French singer and actress of the early 20th century. Born Jeanne Bourgeois in 1875, she began her showbiz career at the age of 10, was appearing at the Casino de Paris by the age of 20, and went on to international celebrity. Her signature song, “Mon Homme” (1916) was not only a big hit for her but, in English translation (“My Man”) for Fanny Brice as well. She died in 1956.
“What Makes a Man (Comme ils dissent)” (Charles Aznavour) The great French singer/songwriter stirred up some controversy in 1972 with this sympathetic and tragic portrayal of a gay female impersonator.
“I’m Not Afraid” (Rod McKuen / Jacques Brel) The original title of the song was “Fils de” (“Sons of”). McKuen’s lyrics are completely different. Both English versions have had their share of recordings over the years; I remember the Judy Collins version of “Sons of” with considerable affection. In Café Chanson, the McKuen version is sung by The Young Soldier and The Mademoiselle as they try to deal with the disintegration of their relationship.
“If You Go Away (Ne Me Quitte Pas)” (Jacques Brel) The version of this used in the show has lyrics by Rod McKuen. The original is more properly translated as “Don’t Leave Me.” Brel originally released the song on his 1959 LP “La Valse à Mille Temps”. The song has been amazingly popular, with versions in nearly two dozen languages.
“La Fanette” (Jacques Brel) Another story of love and betrayal, a recurring Brel theme. A 1965 performance by Brel is heartbreaking in its intensity.
|Charles Aznavour in 1978|
“Yesterday When I Was Young ” (Charles Aznavour) Original French title: “Heir Encore” (“Only Yesterday”); the English version is by Herbert Kretzmer. This lament for the lost opportunities of youth is especially affecting for those of us who have reached a certain stage in our lives. It’s kind of the yang to the yin of songs like “It Was a Very Good Year”. Roy Clark had great success with it in the USA, as have many other big-name vocalists.
Here’s a weekend plus edition — the plus covering a big festival that runs through Monday.
Saturday March, 9
It’s the second night of South by South City (aka SXSCity) – a local fest doing a small-scale riff on Austin’s South by Southwest mega-one – at Off Broadway (3509 Lemp).
The shows are a bargain at $5/night (3 more for 20-under, all-ages). Smoke-free.
Tonight’s lineup (with a 7:00 door):
- a blend of country, folk and bluegrass from the Hobosexuals at 7:30,
- unknown sounds from the still-not-seen-by-me Last To Show First To Go at 8:25,
- rock with ’60s pop influences from Jedi Nighties at 9:20,
- wicked, whipped up funk from The Jungle Fire at 10:15,
- a mix of soul, blues and funk from Superhero Killer at 11:10.
- a raucous rockabilly/blues/rock stew from Columbia, MO’s Hooten Hallers at 12:05.
The Gramophone (4243 Manchester) hosts a show offering roots-y solo sets by Johnny Hickman (of Cracker) and Ed Anderson (of Backyard Tire Fire).
Door at 8/show at 9, with a $10 advance/13 door cover (21+ only). Smoke-free.
Miss Jubilee and the Humdingers
Schlafly Bottleworks 7260 Southwest 9 start Free (all ages – minors only with an adult) Smoke-free
High-energy swing/rockabilly/jump-blues sounds from Miss Jubilee.
The late show at Mangia Italiano (3145 S. Grand) is supposed to be catchy pop-rockers FIREDOG, but I can’t confirm this anywhere but on the KDHX calendar. I assume there are other acts, but like I said…
This starts after 11 and is free (21+ only) and smoke-free.
Sunday, March 10
Night 3 of South by South City at Off Broadway.
Tonight’s lineup (with a 6:30 door):
- country and twangy folk from Jack Grelle & The Johnson Family at 7:15.
- smooth soul from Ransom Note at 8:10.
- smart, Crowded House-esque pop-rock from Brotherfather at 9:05.
- I couldn’t find any music online for Lewis Dubbs and The Missouri Flyguys, who play at 10:15.
- gritty, passionate rock from Bob Reuter’s Alley Ghost at 11:10.
Reggae/ska riddems abound at Old Rock House (1200 S. 7th), courtesy of LA’s The Aggrolites, Cincy’s The Pinstripes and Unifyah.
Doors at 7/show at 8, with a $15 cover (all-ages). Smoke-free.
Blank Space (2847 Cherokee) hosts a show by Chicago’s Summer Girlfriends, who mix a bunch of old-school rock styles with punk and pop sounds.
The punk-ish rock of Bruiser Queen - and possibly another act TBA – provide support.
This starts at 9, with a $5 cover (21+ only). Smoke-free.
Monday, March 11
The festival proper wrapped up Sunday, but an after-party for South by South City at Off Broadway offers raw duo blues-rock from The Maness Brothers, rockabilly sounds from The Bible Belt Sinners and blues-/country-tinged rock from Carriage House.
Door at 8:30/show at 9, with a $5 cover (3 more for 20-under, all-ages).
Your humble servant,
Thursday morning music news: Prince pounds Fallon, Ramone recovers, Iggy ignites and Alvin Lee passes on
Alvin Lee of Ten Years After has died at the age of 68.
This ain’t your nephew’s Grand Theft Auto: Snoop Dogg to star in a “rhythm-action, beat-matching combat experience,” aka a video game.
Yeah, SXSW Music is pretty freaking huge. Interactive is burgeoning as well.
From a mashup galaxy far, far away: “School House Rock” meets “Star Wars.”
Prince kills/destroys/annihilates (come up with your own verb) Fallon. Watch.
The story of Richard Hell and one very special book.
Washington University in St. Louis frat boys make really bad use of their time — and some rap lyrics.
Producer Phil Ramone has suffered an aortic aneurysm; he appears to be recovering well.
Fail of the week: Clueless wannabe mob guys try to sell $2 million Stradivarius for $150.
The forthcoming Cowsills documentary sounds amazing.
This will happen: The Hold Steady to contribute to “Game of Thrones” soundtrack.
The Quietus shares a stunning video of Fela Kuti live in Paris in 1984.
Moby auditions for the Postal Service. Watch.
The legendary Stompin’ Tom Connors as died at age 77.
Word on the street is that Beats by Dre and Apple have hooked up.
Listen to a new track by M83 from the sci-fi flick “Oblivion.”
Wu Tang Clan readies new album. Line of Best Fit has the scoop.
Dangerous Minds shares some gorgeous psychedelia from Thailand.
Behold: The science behind your crap-sounding MP3s.
Taylor to Amy and Tina: Burn in hell, bitches!
Noel Gallagher offers further evidence (yeah, I know) that rock/country/hip-hop/whatever stars should stop talking.
Iggy and the Stooges burn. Listen.
The Guardian UK chats with the peerless Emmylou Harris.
Robots play Ramones. Watch.
Thursday morning music news: Scott Weiland looks for work, Michael Nesmith looks down the road and Van Cliburn, Cleotha Staples and Magic Slim pass on
The incomparable Van Cliburn has died at age 78.
Don’t mess with Pope Emeritus.
Google isn’t just sitting around while Spotify takes over the known musicverse.
The saga of Pussy Riot continues, with a few signs of reprieve.
Richard Street of the Temptations has died at the age of 70.
Nine Inch Nails map out reunion tour plans.
Not to be outdone, Michael Nesmith plans to hit the road for the first time in over 20 years.
$350K will buy you the house where “Born to Run” was written.
The Guardian UK pays homage to the late, very great Cleotha Staples.
What was Leonard Cohen doing in 1986? Making a cameo on “Miami Vice” for starters.
By the numbers alone, the recording industry is doing all right.
Leave it to the Coen Brothers to bring Marcus Mumford and Justin Timberlake together.
What do you get when you combine Aimee Mann and Ted Leo? #BOTH.
The Stone Temple Pilots have canned Scott Weiland. Mr. Weiland begs to differ.
Stereogum shares the first single from Yeah Yeah Yeah’s new album.
NPR’s First Listen hits the mother lode with previews of new albums by Youth Lagoon, Josh Ritter, Bajofondo and James Marshall Hendrix.
The “nice life” of David Bowie continues with 1) a new single and 2) smooches and cuddles from Tilda Swinton. Watch.
Big Brother has nothing on the Copyright Alert System.
Blues legend Magic Slim has died at the age of 75.
Iggy Pop picks a fight with Billy Corgan.
This is why I love Flavorwire.
And this is why I love the BBC.
Thursday morning music news: Billboard dives into the data, Jimi Hendrix gets the ‘Earth Blues’ and Mindy McCready and Kevin Ayers pass on
Kevin Ayers, founder of Soft Machine, has died at the age of 69.
The redoubtable Resident Advisor takes a good hard look at industrial techno.
Billboard gives YouTube its blessing.
The new Atoms for Peace website has the most annoying design ever, but at least it’s streaming the new album.
Rolling Stone talks with Adam Ant about his struggles with bi-polar disorder.
Are we about to get another new David Bowie single?
Mindy McCready has died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Attention twee bands: You and your ukes have some competition.
Nick Cave talks about his new album “Push the Sky Away,” which, like all his releases, has not “gone down the toilet.”
For Record Store Day, Stephen Malkmus opens up a can of Can covers.
Listen to a previously unreleased Jim Hendrix song, “Earth Blues.”
Mosh-pit physics could save us all.
The Bonnaroo lineup is out.
Ditto for the SXSW music showcase schedule.
The KDHX and Twangfest Day Parties at SXSW 2013 now have a complete lineup, and it’s pretty darn great.
Sophia Bush stars in the new Passion Pit video. Watch.
Early Beatles collaborator Tony Sheridan has died at the age of 72.
This really has been a sad week for the passing of musicians. Songwriter and producer Shadow Morton has died at the age of 71.
Everything you need (or dread) to know about the “Harlem Shake.”
One Direction has penetrated pretty much all corners of the teen-pop universe. Cavities are next.
Thursday morning music news: Mobb Deep regroups, Pacino does Spector and Cecil Womack and Reg Presley pass on
Some rumors do pan out: Mobb Deep reunites.
And that MBV album is officially no longer a rumor. The Guardian UK reviews.
Wayne Coyne has your bloody (and chocolate) valentine right here.
George Clinton is not happy with Detroit rip-off artists.
Unsigned indie duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Marianne Faithfull chats with Quietus about her 13 favorite albums.
According to Will Sheff of Okkervil River this is the greatest rock movie ever filmed.
Reg Presley of the Troggs has died.
Slate looks back at the Beatles’ recording session for their debut album.
The New York Times takes a good, literal look at Mozart.
Bummer. One of my go-to blogs is shutting down. The Stool Pigeon is flying the coop.
Sasquatch! lineup is out.
Robyn Hitchcock and Stereogum have a sit-down.
Noisy gathers up the very best of the very worst Kickstarter band campaigns.
RIP R&B great Cecil Womack.
The best. live. albums. ever. Or not, but at least there’s 40 of ‘em.
Spin reports on the return of Fall Out Boy.
The New York Times teases out My Morning Jacket’s Jim James’ love for N.W.A. and other stuff.
NPR chats with Douglas Brinkley about the publishing of Woody Guthrie’s sole — and previously-unknown — novel, “House of Earth.”
HBO teases its forthcoming Phil Spector biopic. Spoiler: Al Pacino wears some excellent wigs. Watch.
Thursday morning music news: Kendrick Lamar smokes SNL, Josh Ritter previews his new beast and Leroy ‘Sugarfoot’ Banner passes on
Blackberry 10 has a Creative Director and her name is not Don Draper.
Congrats to Euclid Records NOLA for making Flavorwire’s list of most beautiful record stores in the world.
Johnny Cash. Stampified.
RIP Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner, frontman for the Ohio Players.
Dirty Projectors cover Usher. Watch.
Lance Armstrong is a creep, a weirdo and mashed-up.
We’ve been told the album is dead. Is the single next?
Cockroaches, however, will enjoy their cassettes long after we’re gone.
Josh Ritter is leaking all heck out of “The Beast in Its Tracks.”
Songwriting guru John Braheny has passed away at the age of 74.
Pitchfork has the scoop on the forthcoming Depeche Mode album.
The future of the iPod nano is in your DNA.
LouFest has a new logo and a new month.
Steve Earle is back with one new album and two new books.
Over 30,000 mourners march through the streets of Santa Maria, Brazil, where a nightclub fire took the lives of 231 people.
Sixteen years later, MMMBop is still catchy as hell.
Mixmag has details on the forthcoming MGMT album.
Apparently Björk has a purely “educational” Kickstarter.
The horrifying story of Kombo Kolombia.
Kendrick Lamar killed it on SNL.
Meet Professor Socks (aka Andrew Bird), the next superstar of kids music.