Once I decided to be a vocal performance major in college, there was no turning back. For four years of college, eight years of graduate school and a decade in New York City, I immersed myself in the classical vocal world. And I did truly love it. At both my universities, my professors taught me to adore art songs, find the theatricality in a well-programmed recital, and flex my operatic muscles. And my beloved voice teachers Julian Patrick and Cornelius Reid taught me how to sing it all beautifully and healthfully. Ironically, all those skills would turn out to be just as invaluable in singing and teaching Musical Theater as they are in the operatic and classical repertoire. But a few years ago the business of it all just got to be too demoralizing and my passion for my art started draining away. Frankly, I practically stopped singing altogether.
At about this same time I did a favor for my vocal coach and sang a bunch of Cole Porter songs with him to show him the style so that he could play them for someone else’s recital. When we finished the session, I was practically levitating off the ground with joy. It was a high I had not experienced in my singing in far, far too long. I took this as a sign.

 

The signs had actually been everywhere that I would eventually find my way back to Musical Theater, I had just ignored them. For Heaven’s sake, the first and biggest one was my being hired as a voice teacher for the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA NY) when I first moved to NYC. Here was Musical Theater at its most intense and varied. I remember thinking in the first few months of my employment there how much I had missed the genre- the energy, the fun, the American-ness of it all. Sign #2? the most well received, most enjoyable set in my recital in Paris, the songs that had the audience jumping to their feet: four songs by George Gershwin! And did I listen to classical music or opera for fun? Did I hum Puccini and Schumann while I did the dishes? Nope. Musical Theater, again. Did I go to the Met when I had the money? A handful of times. But I racked up more debt going to Broadway. Opera had somehow become a job to be done and Musical Theater a relaxing vacation.

On the subway ride home after that fateful coaching session, I pondered the meaning of my elation. I knew that it meant something profound and that I HAD to do something with these feelings, but what?

 

After my musical epiphany, I sought out my dear and über-talented friend Jeff Caldwell, who also harbors an equal passion for both opera and Musical Theater. If anyone would know what I should do about this situation, he would. And he did. Coming home on the 7 train one evening he suggested that I do a cabaret and that having never done one before, I should do it with someone AND he would happily volunteer. Yes! Brilliant idea! And so, two years later we did our original cabaret, “The Boyfriend Back Home” at Don’t Tell Mama Piano Bar and Cabaret in New York City. We created a sort of mini-musical from already composed Musical Theater songs. We wrote a script, had props, choreography- the works!  It was a fantastically wonderful experience from beginning to end. I loved everything about the process; the creativity, the collaboration, the rehearsals, and the performances. After every brain-storming session or rehearsal, I felt exhilarated and rejuvenated; I was genuinely, profoundly happy! I was so proud of what we had produced. It was the first project in a long, long time that I felt completely connected to- it came from a place of real joy and inspiration. And we did it for the pure satisfaction of creating something new and personal and then we got to share our vision and  talents with the outside world! It doesn’t get better than that!