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CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE TIPS
COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID
WHEN PLANNING YOUR CABARET SHOW


IGNORING YOUR AUDIENCE

Every performer has a following - that basic core audience that comes to your shows again and again. They come to your shows for various reasons - from close friendship or a love for your style and song choices. Don't ignore this group when planning your next show - but build on their preferences. Don't suddenly change your style - your core audience just might abandon you. But be sure to build on your style - don't make each show just like the last, but use new songs from new songwriters, include a jazz or pop number if you've been just doing standards, etc. This way you broaden the horizons of the regulars, while drawing in new audience members with the added items.

CHOOSING THE WRONG VENUE

Believe it or not, some shows simply do not work in some rooms. I noticed this a few years back when a performer moved their show from DON'T TELL MAMA to EIGHTY EIGHTS (when there still was an EIGHTY EIGHTS). Those familiar with these two rooms will note that MAMA'S is a long room, with tables lined up in three rows stretching from back to front. The stage is raised and the performer can enter from side-stage. The seating layout creates an informal atmosphere, conducive to chatting with strangers. The old EIGHTY EIGHT'S layout was a square room, round tables in the center, with a banquette running on both sides. The stage was surrounded by tables on three sides, with the performer entering from the rear of the room, passing through the audience to reach the platform. The seating arrangement is much more formal, ideal for small groups of friends to be seated together. The show was musical comedy, and for some reason it simply didn't work as well in the downtown space. Folks were more reserved, less willing to let themselves laugh and join in the fun.

Impersonator James Beaman, for example, does his Lauren Bacall show at the very rollicking DON'T TELL MAMA, while doing his more serious original Marlene Dietrich show at EIGHTY EIGHT'S and JUDY'S CHELSEA, and his more recent and rather elegant Marlene show at THE FIREBIRD CAFE. In each case, the ambiance of the rooms aptly fit and enhanced the illusion he was trying to create.

Now, I realize that most cities do not offer a variety of venues in which to perform, and so you have to take what you can get in terms of facilities. So then it is up to the performer to structure the show to fit the room.

CHOOSING THE WRONG WARDROBE

There is nothing quite as distracting as the performer who chooses the wrong wardrobe when presenting a show. Only drag performers should dress as drag performers, and the wearing of jeans by any performer in cabaret should be forbidden, unless they are performing a characterization. Cabaret must maintain a certain aura of elegance and specialness. Each performance is an event, and for some folks a chance to entertain friends and loved ones. An audience appreciates a performer who respects them by dressing respectfully. And the wardrobe should suit the material in the show.

I might as well add a little aside here regarding those plastic water bottles. It seems to have become the vogue lately. Several performers have chosen to drink directly from these bottles, rather than from a glass. Perhaps they have seen rock and pop artists at concerts and on TV drinking from these containers. It's called "product placement" and the bottled water companies make a payment to the performers or their management for displaying and using their products on stage. Now, unless Poland Spring or Evian or some other bottled water purveyor is sponsoring your cabaret show, use a glass, please. Whatever happened to class?

Peter-Michael Marino, when performing as would-be cabaret/Broadway performer "Lance Jonathan" did a wonderful spoof of the practice when, in his show, after every few songs, took a swig from a plastic bottle - each one larger than the last. His final quaff was taken from a huge one-gallon plastic jug, which spilled all over his face as he drank.

TRUSTING ELECTRONICS TO DO WHAT YOU CAN'T DO

There are a few performers out there who should be taking voice lessons, but instead ask the sound technician to patch up their vocal failings. It is quite possible, in this day and age, to change the tone and timbre of the human voice through electronics. One sees and hears this on Broadway, in the movies, and on TV quite regularly. Many recordings are so doctored they hardly sound like the actual performer at all! There is a rumor that in a show currently on Broadway the soprano's highest notes are really recorded notes inserted by the sound man at exactly the right second. I was at a cabaret show a few months ago where I complained to the sound person about the unnatural-sounding vocals - and was told that this was the electronic setting that the performer and director had specified.

Cabaret is based on honesty - and that feeling of trust must never be broken between performer and audience. Go take those voice lessons. You will discover new self-confidence and your performances will be more honest. Your audience will appreciate the effort.

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