My Big Cabaret Weekend
An important part of my quest for a niche in cabaret is observing the scene in Chicagoland and enjoying what it has to offer. Recently I had an opportunity to see three extra-ordinary events that gave me better perspective.
Suzanne Petri in ‘A Little Touch of Coward in the Night’ debuted at Davenports last weekend and I was there. Suzanne Petri appeared in a new Noel Coward tribute with special guest John Eskola (with his delightful tenor and graceful wit) along with pianist (and musical director) Bob Moreen with his debonair vocals and keyboard aplomb. The event was narrated by Bob Breuler who also directed and plays short scenes with Ms. Petri (his spouse). This group represents the quintessential “old guard” of Chicago cabaret. Only a group of renowned performers would venture such a refined program. It was a delight for everyone (like me) who adores ‘the Master’ masterfully performed.
But to expect that a Coward program would have commercial viability in this day and age is, well, audacious. It is also a testament to the worthy skills involved. Certainly each of these performers brings a noteworthy reputation and following for past achievements. And this is one of the purposes of the cabaret where special material can find resonance in an intimate setting in a refined milieu.
Petri is one of the founders of Chicago Cabaret Professionals and its longtime leader and former President. She is also a Jeff Award nominated actress. Past cabaret specialties includes a tribute to Marlene Dietrich. She brings a unique and winning personality to material that Coward wrote for him-self and leading ladies like Gertrude Lawrence and Lynn Fontaine. I was particularly delighted with Ms. Petri’s rendition of a song written for Bea Lillie, another Coward cohort. An evening of Bea Lillie, while it might have tickled me, would have been too much for which to ask. In this delightful cabaret performance Petri showed great range and depth and with the able support of her collaborators brought Noel Coward back to the 2013 cabaret scene where, many times in his life, he found such a natural home.
My take away from this event was: if you’re going to do unique and challenging material you had better already have a following, and it doesn’t hurt to be identified as a performer of range, wit and charm. That all takes time and for Suzanne Petri the best of times is now.
More to come on the rest of my big cabaret weekend.