Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Life is a Cabaret, old chum. . .

Albert Schultz is a genius. Every city needs a visionary but one not only with a lot of ideas but the ability to make things happen. He's already been instrumental in establishing Soulpepper , one of the best theatre companies in Toronto, and has helped revitalize the Distillery District by raising funds to build the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. I was down there for three nights last weekend checking out his latest, and very successful project - the Canwest Cabaret Festival. Oh, it was so much fun. I caught a solo show by Steven Page, an amazing concert of jazz set around Duke Ellington songs (which was being taped for CBC radio - it'll run on January 1st, 2009 so catch it if you can), and my favourite - a concert devoted to the songs of Kurt Weill. One of the singers was Patricia O'Callaghan who I also saw in a solo show (where she sang in no less than five languages!) Just an amazing voice. I immediately went out and bought two of her CDs which I highly recommend. Youkali contains cabaret songs composed by Satie, Poulenc and Weill, and Slow Fox not only offers even more Weill, but ends with an awesome cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.

When Schultz was introducing the Ellington songbook set, he thanked his fifth grade teacher for showing Duke Ellington's funeral to her class on live television. It was his first exposure to the man and jazz music in general. It got me thinking about what I was listening to at that age. I was (and still am) a huge Julie Andrews fan - while other kids were listening to their Disney albums and Sharon, Lois and Braum, I instead knew all the words not only to The Sound of Music (the very first record I ever owned given to me by my grandfather, probably because he was so sick of me asking him to play it) and Mary Poppins of course, but also Camelot and My Fair Lady, which I thought was so clever lyrically and which would still rate highly on my list of best musicals of all time. Still, the one album that perhaps has been the most influential on my musical tastes, may well have been the soundtrack to the 1968 movie Star!. I was in my twenties before I got the chance to actually see the movie (unfortunately, it's not that good apart from the musical numbers), but I've known every song on the album since I was six. In the movie, Andrews plays Gertrude Lawrence and so of course Noel Coward's music is prominent. But Lawrence also starred in the Broadway musical Lady in the Dark, composed by Kurt Weill (My Ship remains a favourite song of mine and I still can get chills listening to it - at the Cabaret Festival it was given a wonderful rendition by Mike Ross).

Lawrence popped up again in quite a different story, in a recent DVD that I watched - Daphne - about Daphne du Maurier, who had an affair with Lawrence. In the movie, Janet McTeer takes on Gertie with a far more brash, non-singing performance than Julie. I love exploring and discovering these endless webs of connections.
And if you're kicking yourself for having missed the Cabaret Festival - fear not. Schultz also announced that Canwest has committed to a seven year sponsorship deal. Seven years! I told you, he's a genius.

1 comment:

a nitwit said...

I enjoy reading about things I didn't know - and I enjoy your blog immensely.