Show: The ninth annual St. Louis Cabaret Conference was held July 28 through August 1, allowing students to take lessons from a variety of artists adept in the stylistic art form. Founded by Tim Schall and Sharon Hunter in 2006, the conference was expanded in 2012 by producer Schall to include the St. Louis Cabaret Festival, a series of cabaret performances occurring while the conference is under way.
This year’s festival participants included noted singer/songwriter Ann Hampton Callaway on July 31, pianist/vocalist Billy Stritch and the legendary Marilyn Maye (both on August 1), all at the Sheldon Concert Ballroom, and an evening of cabaret showcasing what 33 students learned at the week-long conference on Saturday, August 2 at the Kranzberg Center.
Kicking off the festival on Wednesday, July 30 was Tony Award winner Faith Prince at the Sheldon. Prince, who garnered a Tony for her portrayal of Adelaide in a Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls in 1992, is a Virginia belle who brings a refined charm to the stage, even with numerous humorous asides.
Prince explained to the large Sheldon audience that she is “gracious with an edge” as a result of her Southern upbringing followed by years of living and performing in New York City. In the course of her 90-minute set, she regaled her listeners with amusing anecdotes as well as a string of songs, some more familiar than others but all delivered with considerable charm, courtesy of her smooth tones and the splendid accompaniment of pianist and fellow Conference teacher Alex Rybeck.
Dividing her performance almost equally between stories and songs, she told an amusing tale about an ill-fated production of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever she once did with Jack Jones, whom she described as a splendid fellow and a wonderful singer but not the best at memorizing lines.
While they labored through the musical and its myriad challenges, she had her eye on a musician with the show who had a mutual interest in her. She and her husband Larry have been together for 27 years now and have a college-age son, Henry, so Jack Jones turned out to be a good-luck charm for her after all. She then performed the title tune from Clear Day in her down-home, likable style.
Bantering with the audience, she recalled how badly she wanted to do a new musical about a carnivorous plant based on a “C grade B movie,” but was kept from the lead actress role she was offered by a contract she had at the time with a corporation to do business shows. She then segued into Somewhere That’s Green from Little Shop of Horrors, following that up with a Suddenly, Seymour duet with Rybeck from that same show.
She entertained the folks as well with her signature tune, Adelaide’s Lament, from Guys and Dolls, as well as a variety of other songs.
The well-received show set the stage for the performances that followed later in the week, demonstrating how the intimacy of cabaret can bring an artist and an audience close together to share the common bond of music.
Cabaret: St. Louis Cabaret Festival 2014
Venue: Sheldon Ballroom
Dates: Run completed