note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Beverly Creasey
March is "Cabaret Month" and if you've never been you owe it to yourself to go. The term may summon up visions of smoke filled rooms with Peggy Lee holding forth, but you find that sultry kind of cabaret only in the movies nowadays. You're more likely to have a theatrical experience except that you'll be seated at a table not in the mezzanine. Today's interpreters create a dramatic world in each song.
If you had been in Cambridge this past weekend you might have seen Robert Saoud in an intimate lounge at Marino's performing his favorite tunes accompanied by premier pianist Jonathan Goldberg. Saoud's brand of cabaret leans toward without falling into standup, with lots of funny anecdotes between songs. Saoud is known to Boston theater-goers for his brilliant comic performances and nonpareil second-banana shtick in local musicals.
Saoud opened the set with a knockoff of Judy Garland's sweet "Dear Mr. Gable" making his own raucous appeal to "Dear Mr. Lockhart" (to the tune of "You Made Me Love You. I Didn't Wanna Do It... ") to sing with the Pops. Goldberg and Saoud even sang a few hilarious duets, a la Dietrich and Clooney no less ... and Saoud managed a demented impersonation of Katherine Hepburn passing judgement on Peggy Lee, which brought down the house. Saud has some earthy notes, an easy mid-range and an uncanny falsetto which sounds like Sarak Vaughan! Speaking of impersonations, Goldberg made that Steinway sound like a Bosendorfer.
Ben Sears and Brad Connor, on the other hand, offer a concert style cabaret. Definitely less chatter and more music, usually historical. In fact, Ben and Brad do for a Gershwin or a Berlin ballad what Ken Burns did for The Civil War. They've recorded two CDs with Berlin and Gershwin material not previously recorded, believe it or not.
Sears says "if you ask ten people what cabaret is, you're guaranteed ten different answers ... which is what makes it great." Their newest CD, out next month, is a tribute to Yip Harburg. "Beyond the Rainbow" (named for the Harburg-Arlen "Wizard of Oz" gem) will have some previously unPublished songs. Where some performers emphasize comedy, Ben and Brad exude elegance and style, and an inordinate knowledge of the masters. Perhaps cabaret diva Andrea Marcovicci says it best: "Cabaret is where the heart is."