There are so many benefits of producing or being a part of a Group Show as a performer and different benefits for the audience who attend a Group Show so let’s discuss…

I have the pleasure of being asked to be a part of many group shows, most recently and notably, in the “Richard Skipper Celebrates Series” and at the annual Urban Stages fundraising shows where I produce a Group Show every year. Before I get into all the benefits of being in a show like this, I’d like to just say that people who do not go to see Group Shows are not taking advantage of one of the best Cabaret deals in town.

Not only do you get to see an array of diversified talent, where else can you see 4-8 “named” performers on one stage for one cover charge? To see any one of these stars would cost you at least $30-70 plus drink/food at any of the clubs.

If you have a relative in town and want to introduce them to Cabaret, a show like this would give them an array of the various kinds of acts, music and voices that Cabaret has to offer. If you are an up-and-coming talent who wants to see how it’s done right by performers you can meet and speak to after the show…THIS is the kind of show you want to attend. These shows are Master Classes for the cost of one cover charge!

What are the benefits as a performer in appearing in a show like this?

Richard Skipper’s shows always have an extraordinary level of talent appearing, along with great musicians consisting of piano, bass, drums and a horn. When asked to do his show, you get to work with an entire band and sing to a sold-out house. If you stand out, trust me, they will come to see your solo show. If you stand out in front of someone who books the bigger gigs in town, you could be invited to sing there. Note: Always bring your solo show fliers with you to pass out after the show.

Richard Skipper with the “Love Aquarian Style Cast” (sans Lina Koutrakos): Sherrie Marcie (band), Adi Myerson (band), Karen Mack, Christine Talbott (band), Russ Woolley (Producer), Meg Flather, Stacy Sullivan, Richard Skipper (Host), Rosemary Loar and Kacey Fassett (Band)

If you happen to be on a bill with Marilyn Maye or Karen Mason or Billy Stritch or KT Sullivan or Jeff Harnar, you not only get to sing for that audience, you get to sing for these impressive and very connected bigger names. It’s an honor! Treat it like an honor! Being in a Group Show is the best marketing you can give to yourself. If you are ever asked to appear in a show like this say, “YES” immediately! If you feel like you are not ready yet, you can volunteer to help.

How else can you get yourself booked on a gig like this?

You can send a clip to the producers and offer your talent, or you can see the series a few times and chat up the producers and hosts so that they get to know you and then invite them to come see your show. Then WOW them!

The best way to be asked back is to respect the Group Show protocols which are:

•Respond timely and fully to all requests by the producers.

They may ask you to submit your tune(s), a brief resume, and a photo. Read the email and get everything that they ask for to them ASAP! Do not make them chase you. If I have to chase anyone when I produce, I guarantee you they will not be asked back no matter how big of a name they are or how good they are. These shows go up fast and need to be “drama- free!”

•Respect the theme of the show.

If the show is about Spring and all the tunes need to be positive, do not bring in a “my man done left me” torch ballad. If they ask specifically for an up tempo or 1 up tempo and 1 ballad…that’s what you bring to them.

Some producers will tell you that you have 8-10 minutes so, whatever fits into that time frame, inclusive of patter, is fine. However, if you’re told 2 tunes and one of them is a 7-minute mega-medley and then you do a 2nd tune…this is NOT COOL! It’s disrespectful to the producers and to your fellow cast mates. This is why the producers may ask you for what you’re singing prior to the show: 1) to make sure there are no duplicates in the show and 2) to make sure you are following the rules on the theme of the show.

Think about this from a producer’s perspective. If you have 14 slots plus chat on a Group Show for a 1-hour show…that’s about 4½ minutes per slot inclusive of chat, clapping and intros…that’s NOT a lot of time! Most songs are between 2½ to 4 minutes long so if you are doing 2 tunes, you have 9 minutes inclusive so let’s say it’s actually 8½ minutes. Respect this. If one person in the show did what I said above with the 7-minute mega-medley plus a 2nd tune, this is 1½-2 slots extra and now there is time pressure. If two people do this, the show runs late, the producers are upset, the club is upset and again, those who do this will never be invited back.

Consider doing tunes that do not have long solos or go back directly to the bridge but make sure that your sheet music is marked accordingly (see more on this below). If there is a band and solos are encouraged, maybe just do two A’s as your solo.

•Show up like a professional looking great and being ready to perform.

Dress to impress. NO JEANS unless you are doing a Country Western show or, if the producers say it’s OK. I would ask you why you would not want to stand out and look like a star? Again, it could be interpreted by the producers and by the audience as disrespectful, especially if everyone else is fancy! Guess whose show they will not be attending if you come off this way?

•Show up on time for your sound check and all rehearsals.

It’s always a good idea to show up by the slot right before you as these quick rehearsals and sound checks tend to go faster than you’d expect. Do let the producers know if you need to take a later spot if you are coming from work for example and absolutely let them know if you need to go up early or later in the show. They will try to accommodate you but if you leave this until the day before the show, it will not be appreciated. Lists have been printed and the order has been set.

•Have your music in a book or taped for the entire band.

If there is a trio or quartet…you need 3 or 4 EXACT copies of your music in a book or taped accordion style (ask how they want it). This means all markings to cut and go directly to the bridge are clearly marked on everyone’s copy. It seems like this is a no-brainer, but it happens very often that different charts are presented and sometimes, pages are even taped in the wrong order. This is not going to serve you well in your performance. This is your job. Present like a professional and you will be treated as such.

•Promote your appearance in the event.

List the Group Show on your website and chat it up when you’re out at Open Mics. Pass out the postcards that the producers will provide to you. You can also do an emailing and definitely post the producer’s event on your Facebook page.

What a lot of folks do is to assume that each of the other acts will provide the audience. This is a group effort. As a producer (and even as a singer in a group show) I do all that I can to fill the room. If the cross-pollination of audience sharing is to work, if every act invited just 10 people, the room would be full. You are now performing to 40-60 people who do not know your work in exchange for bringing in 10! This is how you build an audience and a reputation as a team player with the producers. The reputation of the show and the “draw” of the level of talent in that show will put the other 20-40 people in the room so, for your “investment” of 10 people, you could be playing to a sold-out house of 60-90 people! That’s quite a deal! Do your part!

Here’s the last thing I’ll say on this…inviting people to and promoting a Group Show is NOT going to keep your fans, friends and family from choosing to see you in your solo show vs. this Group Show. They would always choose to come to your solo show! They may come in addition to seeing your show or they may come because they cannot see you in your show for whatever reason. To not promote is to say to everyone in that show and to the producers that you are not a great team player. It could also appear as if you think you are above promoting your appearance. This is not fair to the entire cast, especially if they are doing their part. This is especially true for a Benefit Show. Do you want to raise money for the cause or not? Why are you singing? For yourself or to help the cause?

In a Group Show, how can you stand out in a sea of incredible talent?

What happens when you are on a bill like this with 5 other singers? How do you stand out? Well, what are your strengths? How are you maybe different? Exploit that! Like I said in a previous Blog, if you’re the only non-theater type on the bill…do what YOU do…sing jazz or be funny…own being different! I used to refer to myself at the sorbet course, the palette cleanser if you will…not a bad thing! This was for a show where everyone was signing their 11:00 numbers from their Broadway show. I stood out in a good way and it allowed the audience to take a breath before the next big number happened.

I would also suggest that you go through the material that you currently perform to see what songs could fit into the show theme (if there is one) and not choose to do something brand new. If this is your first time in a Group Show, you want to do your best work because you only have one chance to make a first impression. Do your best stuff!

When a producer puts a show in order, they may go to the bigger names or to the song choices to open or close the show. Some people do it alphabetically so as not to bruise any egos! Picking a song that could be a good opener or closer or one that is different may help you be placed in a spot in the show that will highlight you. For example, if there are 3 singers doing show tunes and 2 of you doing “other stuff”, they may place you and the other singer in between the 3 theater singers. This is just smart programming. The point is to be ready to shine wherever you are in the show! What’s that old saying? “There are no small parts!” It’s what you do in your performance that will matter.

You want to produce your own Group Show or a Benefit? Where do you start?

This is a much simplified “to do” list but it could get you started. If you are hired by an association to produce a Benefit Show, research that association and know as much about it as you possibly can. Ask them if they are willing to help in promoting the show to their mail list and if they will attend or if someone would like to say a few words at the show. Once that’s settled…your job (for a Group or Benefit Show) it to organize. That entails:

•Booking the cast. Choose people with different voices, people you want to work with and people that you know will help promote the show.

•Booking a Special Guest with a bigger name or audience draw appeal and promote that person in all your PR materials.

•If it’s for a Benefit Show, who do you know what may have a connection to this association? If it’s for cancer, do you know survivors or singers who have been through it with a family member? They may bring a poignancy to the show that will respect the associations work and bring a sense of hope to the audience or to anyone who may be going through whatever it is.

•If it’s for a Benefit Show, consider doing a Silent Auction or raffle tickets for prizes as this can bring in anywhere from $500-$2,000 more depending on the items up for auction.

•If it’s for a Group Show if there are 16 spots in the show, how many are you doing then how many are left for 1 song each or 2 songs each? You decide. Maybe our bigger name or headliner gets an extra tune or two. Map out the show and know what it will be before you invite your guests.

•Book the Musical Director and the band. Ask if anyone is using their own MD.

•Book the venue and provide them with all the PR and a blurb about the show.

•Send an email to the cast asking for everything you need from them including the things we discussed above. Keep a file and make a list that you keep updating as information like song choices start to come in. Did you get their bio? Check! Did they send you their head shot? Check!

•Look at your information, the song choices and the cast to see how you’d like the show to flow?

•After asking the cast if anyone needs to go up early or later, put the show in order and tell the cast.

•Organize your rehearsal and sound check and assign spots.

•Do not forget to constantly thank your cast for doing the show whenever you send them an email.

•Do your PR…this is usually 2 months prior to the show date so that listings can be posted in time and so that reviewers can get the date in their books.

•Offer a discount code at the very end if you are not sold out for the cast to send privately so that the audience who paid full price do not know.

•Postcards, Facebook Event, E-Fliers all go to each cast member with a request to post.

Whether you are invited to appear in a Group Show or you decide to produce your own Group or Benefit Show…show up like the professional I know you want to be. It’s hard work and time consuming but getting into one of the wonderful Group Shows or Benefit Shows in town can be the start of a new phase of your singing and certainly a great way to start to build your audience. The invite is only an invite though…it will be up to you to SHINE like the STAR you are and make the wonderful first impression.

Dream it! Believe it! DO IT!