Kevin On Kabaret :: Back Again & New Sounds
Cuban-born Joey Infante brings his Latin version of love to the Metropolitan Room on April 8t and 19. Infante was a child star in his homeland-a triple-threat singer, actor and dancer-and when his family settled in Connecticut, he was discovered here by none other than Richard Rodgers.
"I did a lot of shows in the '60s and '70s, and then I called it quits for many years, opened a shop, and became a painter," Infante told me. He used to hang out with columnist Earl Wilson, and Wilson talked him into going back into showbiz.
"I slowly got back into cabaret with Jillian Laurain, doing open mics at the Algonquin," he said. Laurain, who recently won a Bistro Award as a vocalist, will be directing Infante's latest effort.
"The show is called 'Amor,' and it's a love story-I'm pouring my heart out, starting with some Spanish and Latin music, " Infante said.
When I pointed out that it sounded like a very passionate Latin kind of thing, he laughed. "It is that Latin thing! People will get to know who I am."
Infante’s musical director is the legendary Barry Levitt, a Bistro Award winner in 2013. "I knew Barry a long time ago when he did a Broadway show with Roslyn Kind. When we started talking, it’s as if we already knew each other."
As a painter, Infante does all kinds of things. "I start creating on a blank canvas and it kind of evolves."
"Maybe you can sell paintings after your show," I suggested. "That would be a first."
Infante laughed again. "Many years ago, I wrote a book and did a party at Barnes & Noble and I surrounded the area with my paintings. I sold thirteen! So that’s not a bad idea!"
Joey Infante-a true artist of all mediums-will surely wow us this month at the Metropolitan Room . . .
Near the end of the month, two of my favorites return to Don’t Tell Mama with brand new shows. Daniel Brewer brings his show "Electricity" to the famed nightspot on April 27 (and again on May 4 and May 18).
A veteran performer and playwright, Brewer’s shows are not typical cabaret. Last year’s "mismatch.com" was a charming and humorous look at online dating. However, Brewer creates fictional characters for himself and his cohorts to play.
"First, I come up with an idea," Brewer told me. "I write a whole one-act musical and then put the music in at proper places."
He went on to explain, "This one is a show within a show. I play a character who takes a cabaret class and I want to do a show with love ballads about a 50-year relationship-how we touched and had a shock of electricity. But I’m assigned a director and musical director, who are already friends, and they completely change the show on me. So when I get up to sing my songs, they suddenly switch the numbers on me."
Brewer has reunited with the team from "mismatch.com": Gene Gosselin, who plays the director, Joyce Hitchcock, musical director, and real-life director Charles Sanchez.
The venue is once again Don’t Tell Mama, booked by the heroic Sidney Myer. "Sidney is tremendous," Brewer said. "He is the reason I always go back to Don’t Tell Mama. He comes to every one of my shows and he is effusive about creativity."
I am eager to see what the inventive Brewer has come up with this time around . . .
I had to call Angela Shultz, who is back with a new show, "Reality Check," also at Don’t Tell Mama, on April 26 and May 10. A MAC Hanson Award winner in 2010, I also named her last show, "Do Overs," on my top EDGE picks of 2011.
"It’s been too long," Shultz said about her return to the cabaret world. "In 2012, I did a lot of theater and did a tour. In 2013, I didn’t want to go back out on the road again, so I started putting together a list of songs I might want to do."
She continued, "Most of my shows have come to me in different ways. This time, I showed my list of songs to my director, Lennie Watts, and he said, ’Reality Check.’ I love the title and it covers different territories around relationships."
Shultz always has diverse and fascinating material covering mostly pop and theater, both unfamiliar and well-known. "I’m doing some standards," she said, and then laughed. "And one that’s on the radio right now."
"I don’t have a lot of ego wrapped up around these things, like ’Oh, I have to do that song!’ If the idea intrigues me, I like to give it a try."
Once again, she will be accompanied by songwriter and long-time collaborative partner, Brett Kristofferson. They’ve known each other since college in Missouri and are, in fact, roommates as well.
When I off-handedly mentioned that they were like the Barbara Cook and Wally Harper of our day, little did I know I would get a story.
"I don’t tell too many people this, but Barbara Cook was the first person to tell me to get into cabaret," she revealed. "It was at a workshop in St. Louis. And then when I came to New York, I worked as her assistant for a while and actually went to Wally’s apartment with her once while they were rehearsing ’Mostly Sondheim.’"
She thanked me graciously for the compliment but knows firsthand what that collaboration was. "They were partners for so long," she said. "Brett gets very busy and I wonder what will happen when he can’t fit in my cabaret shows."
For now, though, the show is a-coming and, in closing, I said, "I’m interested to see what you’ve come up with."
Shultz laughed. "I’ll be interested to see what it is too!"
I missed his recent CD release party at Sugar Bar, but jazz singer E.J. Decker has come up with a winner of a concept album with "A Job of Work (Tales of the Great Recession)," which offers songs about people who have been downtrodden by the recent economic downturn, as well as those who have found ways to survive it. From the little known Tom Paxton title song to more familiar fare such as "Born to Lose," "Nobody Knows You (When You’re Down and Out)," "Come Rain or Come Shine," and "I’m Just a Lucky So and So," Decker, with his deeply resonant baritone, seems to channel Memphis Elvis and country singers of that era. It’s quite a remarkable change from his first recording, "While the City Sleeps," an acclaimed album more out of the Eckstine school of jazz from back in 2001. "A Job of Work" was a long time coming and clearly a labor (good labor!) of love for the singer. Meticulously produced by Decker himself, in this era where the album has been losing prominence, this effort stands tall and should be a keeper for many years to come.