October 19th, 2020
The 1st Virtual Cabaret Convention
Every year, at this time, I head for New York to attend the annual Cabaret Convention. It’s a fixed point in my calendar, I think I’ve missed only two in the last thirty years. This is an amazing event, over four nights, when you can hear just about every great living cabaret singer. Live. Except this year. But instead of cancelling the event, as so many other festivals have cancelled, the Artistic Director, who is the brilliant and indefatigable leader of New York cabaret herself, KT Sullivan, decided that the show would go on, but virtually. So, this week, Monday – Thursday, Oct 19-22, the world’s best cabaret singers, dozens of them, will be performing online from wherever they are in the world.
The first three nights are free, just click on www.mabelmercer.org at 7pm EST, and then click 'Watch Live'. For those of us not in the US, it will still be available for 24 hours so we can watch it the following day. Thursday is ticketed, just click on the link above, and will be coming from Birdland, all introduced by KT Sullivan who, in addition to being New York’s busiest and most popular cabaret star, runs and organises the Mabel Mercer Foundation which puts on this extravaganza every year. (And if you don’t know who Mabel Mercer was, do look her up. Frank Sinatra said he learned everything he knew from Mabel Mercer.) For lovers of the Great American Songbook, and cabaret in general, this is an event not to be missed. I, for one, will be glued to my screen for the entire Convention.
Why do we need sleep? What happens when we go without it? The 50-minute play small hours probes the mysteries of human circadian rhythm, the daily pattern of wakefulness and sleep, and how this can be either disrupted or adjusted. Performed by the Mandala Theatre Company with scientific advice from the University of Oxford Sleep & Circadian Neuroscience Institute. Until Oct 25th.
Five Minutes That Will Make You Love Baroque Music – New York Times
This is a clever and thoroughly enjoyable series from the pages of the New York Times. In this one, the music of the Baroque, they’ve had the simple idea of asking a number of music luminaries for their favourite piece of Baroque music, and why they’ve chosen it. Nothing is longer than five minutes. There’s an MP3 recording for each one but, if you can’t reach it, you can download the piece and listen to it.
Broadway’s Best Shows
We’ll be talking more about this series. It is a series of livestreams of important plays from the recent past. On October 20th at 8pm EST and available for 72 hours thereafter, Kenneth Lonergan’s This is Our Youth, which follows forty-eight hours in the lives of three very young New Yorkers at the dawn of the Reagan Era, has attracted a trio of the most exciting new actors. This play which involves theft, drug-dealing and youthful desires is a riveting snapshot of the moment between adolescence and adulthood. Starring Lucas Hedges, Paul Mescal, Grace Van Patten. Lila Neugebauer directs.
Help is on the Way
This is the best group-sing of the week. An excellent song by David Friedman, just the thing for our current moment, not new, but sung and played as though it were, by excellent professionals, many of whom you will recognise. They are singing about help being on the way – as my mother would have said, from their mouths to God’s ear.
Thoughts of Home – National Gallery
The National Gallery is restarting its live classical music programme, together with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. This first concert pairs the music of Antonín Dvořák with paintings by Giuseppe Maria Crespi and Akseli Gallen-Kallela.
The Snail and the Whale – Tall Stories
Now pay attention, this one is complicated, but you only have to pay attention if you have small children. A number of regional theatres have got together to put on the same play, an adaptation of the children’s book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler about a tiny snail’s trip around the world on the tail of a great big, grey-blue humpback whale. Live music, storytelling, and audience participation via chat will bring the story to life.
Oct 24th-Nov 1, you can see this show online via your local theatre, always assuming that your local theatre is one of those participating in the virtual tour. There are theatres in Salford, Derby, Hertford, Cardiff, Coventry, Nottingham, Birmingham, Inverness, Brighton, Dundee, Plymouth, Leicester, London (The Pleasance), Hamilton and Lanark. You'll have to look up which theatres are playing the show on which date. I'm assuming you know the name of your local theatre - you can find dates and tickets here.
All you have to do is choose a show that suits you that's linked to a venue (nice for those that do live near to a theatre listed to choose/support that particular venue) on the date they’re playing the show. Then you are sent a link to watch the show at that time - it's live, so you can only watch at that time. If you don’t have a participating theatre in your area, you can choose any of those who are. In my view, this is only worth doing if you have a 4-year old who is obsessed with The Snail and the Whale but, then, I don’t have a 4-year old so what do I know?
High Notes at Home - Joseph Calleja and Diana Damrau in Concert
This week’s special Met concert has current favourites, Joseph Calleja and Diana Damrau singing a selection of opera lollypops, including excerpts from Puccini’s Tosca, alongside other popular duets and arias, including selections from operas they’ve never performed at the Met. The setting is the Cappella Palatina of the Royal Palace of Caserta, Italy, the world’s largest royal residence. Tickets for these concerts are $20 and so far, they’ve all been worth it.
Death of a Salesman - Playbill
Beginning October 21 at 8 PM ET, Playbill is streaming Arthur Miller’s great play, starring Tony winner, Brian Dennehy, a great actor of the American classical stage, who died in April. This role, that of Willy Loman, an aging man trying to keep his balance in a changing post-War world, is one of those, along with James Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey into Night, and Lopakhin in The Cherry Orchard against which actors measure themselves. Dennehy played them all and distinguished himself in all of them. In this Broadway production, his wife is played by the immaculate Elizabeth Franz. Go to Playbill.com after the 21st of October and click on the Playbill link within the article. That should take you to the stream.
Carol Channing and Angela Lansbury
This is more about the boy dancers than about Angela Lansbury and Carol Channing who tend to stand there looking indomitable, but the two of them together is irresistible. And they do sing, just not very much. And they both look great, if rather ancient. Have a watch below.
Ruth Leon is a writer and critic specialising in music and theatre.