Songs for the Season

Unique Musical Programs

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Master Class

“If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches and poor man’s cottages prince’s palaces.”  Portia – Merchant of Venice

I didn’t have my 16-bar audition piece or my monologue ready to go or I would have done more than observe, but when I heard about this opportunity through Chicago Cabaret Professionas, I felt that I really had to attend.  I’m glad to report on a very productive and motivating educational experience I enjoyed on Saturday July 11, 2012 when I audited a master class featuring Sam Samuelson’s perceptive and spot-on audition coaching.  The event was facilitated by music director/accompanist Mark Burnell and hosted by “Your True Voice” voice teacher Randy Buescher and Kidz Kabaret in Naperville, IL.

The first third of the three hour master class featured performances by Mr. Buescher’s students which he curated, followed by an hour and three-quarters of some of the best audition coaching critiques I have ever encountered by Mr. Samuelson of Stewart Casting.  The class concluded with a short question and answer exchange with everyone pitching in.

Mr. Samuelson was introduced as “one of the good guys” and one of the top musical theatre agents in the business.  His sensitive, incite-full comments and interactions with a variety of talented performers with a wide range of experience (from beginners to pros and all stages between) convinced me just how good he is and why he is so well regarded.

He consistently encouraged the performers to “get out of their own way.” Whether the performance might be obscured by self-indulgence, obtrusive technique or working too hard to be loved, his primary message was that an agent wants to see the “real you” shining through an audition.  He warned against artists who seem to be “high maintenance,” which I took to mean, too encumbered by personal issues.  He emphasized that the performer who is well prepared, has the material which will allow their unique personality to shine, and who has fun and seems to be “cool” to be with, will have the best chances of booking a job.

It’s a common-place bit of trade wisdom that agents are really all pulling for you as a performer.  After all they are looking for the solution to the immediate casting challenge at hand and they want clients that succeed so that their bread will be buttered.  But in this master-class I witnessed not just an agent who was willing to give guidance out of self- interest, but someone who seemed to have a sincere goal of improving working conditions and the art-form.  I wouldn’t want to miss the next opportunity to participate.  Kudos to all involved.

Daniel Timothy Johnson is a retired speech teacher who has coached auditions and verse performance.  He has bi-coastal experience performing in theater and film and is new to the Chicago market where he is an enthusiastic associate member of CCP.

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Plenty of Summer

June 29, 30 and July 1st 2012 saw the debut of “Summer Songs:  In the Season of Plenty” at Bonnie and Clyde’s Soda Shop featuring me, Daniel Johnson, and Liesl Bell at the old general store in Bristol, Indiana.  This venue is about five miles from my home and thus definitively qualifies as local.  The show was attended by mostly my friends and family and a few innocent by-standers.  It did seem to be well received by all.

I invited a list of business contacts (in addition to friends and family) including the decision makers in the nearby community centers and retirement homes.  There does seem to be interest among these contacts but little or no money for bringing entertainment to such venues.  No one showed up to check out the show.  Rethinking the business model, I believe if this project is to continue it will need to be set up as a not for profit and be financed by underwriters.  I will probably need to write grant requests if I expect to finance a tour to local retirement homes.

The weekend at the Soda Shop was an expensive one for me.  I didn’t break even this time, by a long shot, but I was gratified by the support that I did receive.  I was especially grateful to John Shoup of the Bristol Opera House for the loan of musical equipment and to Miriam Houk for the loan of her amplifier.  The collaboration with Liesl Bell and Michael Rand at Premier Arts was over-all a good experience.  Liesl is a sensitive, creative and very talented musician.  Her ability to improvise arrangements from lead sheets is extra-ordinary.  And there is no one that I know in this area that I would rather have accompanying me in a live performance.  I’m going away once again without hard copies of the customized arrangements.  In this respect I hope to do better in the future.

The creative end of the project has been productive and has given me a lot of stimulation and pleasure.  I truly love performing the material and selecting and preparing the programs is a very satisfying endeavor.  This end of the production involves my skills as a writer and director.   I received positive feedback about these aspects of the show.

So here is a rundown of the program:

  •  The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down (Friend and Franklin, 1936)
  • Me and Marie (Cole Porter, 1935)
  • Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer  (Tobias and Carste, 1963) as a medley with That’s What they Meant by the Good Old Summertime (Tobias and Frisch, 1963)
  • Down by the Old Mill Stream (Tell Taylor, 1908)
  • In Your Custom Made RV (music by G. Edwards, 1905 – Parody, my lyric)
  • I Want to Go Home (Cole Porter, 1938)
  • The Crawdad Song (Traditional, adapted by Dan Johnson)
  • The Green Leaves of Summer (Webster and Tiomkin, 1960)
  • Plant a Radish (Schmidt and Jones, 1960)
  • It’s a Boy’s Life (written by Bill Solly, 1975)
  • A Letter from Camp (Allan Sherman, 1963)
  • All Things Bright and Beautiful  (Alexander and Rutter, 1984)
  • Back Home Again in Indiana (MacDonald and Hanley, 1917)

This was the climax of several months preparation and with the performance I plan to refocus my endeavors on finding a musical director for developing audition material.  I will be spending more time in the immediate future in the Chicago area and hope to pursue professional musical theatre opportunities there.

I will continue to investigate the cabaret scene in Chicago and do hope to revive Santa Songs (reincarnated as “Carols and Kris Kringle,” a holiday themed cabaret set) for the upcoming holiday season.

But I do plan to spend my energy more on finding acting work rather than producing my own cabaret shows at this time.

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