Back on Stage for the First Time Since Covid
“The stage is bare, the lights are gone, the love we shared still lingers on. I sang and played, and we laughed and cried and in my fumbling way I tried…to say what only hearts can know and all too soon we had to go…” – Sandi Patti
Here I am at my computer ready to launch tonight’s Cabaret Hotspot! Newsletter and Spotlights after having just debuted my first full, formal Cabaret show back since January 2019. I know, the glamorous life of a performer…still working after a gig and past midnight! I haven’t event taken off my eyelashes yet! But, I have so many feelings and emotions flooding my being right now that I wanted to put them down on paper, so I figured, why not just make this a column?
First of all…the audience…WOW…what an amazing group to sing to tonight. To all who attended, I felt your love and support and I am beyond grateful that you were all there. To Pangea for having us and, of course, to my band…Gregory Toroian, Skip Ward and David Silliman and props to Lina Koutrakos for lending her watchful eye.
So let’s start with how I felt all day pre-show. To be honest, for the first time in a long time, I was nervous. Excited-nervous but nervous. I have been set singing (see my May 19th column) since April so I thought I was over the awkwardness of standing up in front of an audience again vs. just performing dressed up from the waist up on Zoom. However, the last thing I always say/pray to myself before I take the stage is, “This is my joy! Let me give these people the best 60 minutes of their day!” and I take the stage. Tonight all I did was remind myself that this, the stage, was my “happy place” and I was literally ready to attack the stage…with butterflies in my tummy. As soon as the lights came up…there it was…I was “home”.
I was, of course, worried about my patter but here’s the thing to you all…YOU wrote this! You know what the story is and why you are saying what you’re saying between these two tunes so…just talk! Tell us, in your own words and energy YOUR story. It really is as simple as that. Yes, we write it all out formally and try to memorize it, but any good Director will tell you (and believe me Lina did and now I do this with my clients) to just talk. If you forget a line…keep going…no one in that room knows what you are going to say. They will never know you forgot a line or didn’t stay on script. I would warn you though to try to stay within the parameters of what you and your team laid down as your script. This way you won’t wonder off and ramble. Focus on hitting your cue line to the band so that they know when to start playing but how you get there is just a conversation with the nice people in front of you.
Gregory sent me a little pep email this morning saying, “You’ve got this. I’ve got your back. Let’s just have fun!” This is part of our performance ritual that I cherish. A few other friends did the same. I went and got my hair done but when I was told having my make up done would be $125 plus tip I was like, “Um, no! I WILL get these damn eyelashes on somehow!” Then I realized that the more I feel like me, the better I sing. What I bring to stage is Sue…not the hair, outfit or eyelashes so…just be Sue…do what I do. Nerves or not, ultimately, my “job” is to entertain. My friend Gretchen Reinhagen (who came to the show) once directed one of my shows and she had me talk-sing a complete walk-through of my entire program so that’s what I did today. Sage advice and, trust me, nothing shows you where you have to focus more energy than this exercise. It also reinforces that you are prepared. I highly recommend this technique. Remember practice makes progress.
I was also told that reviewers would be attending my show tonight, so I had that to mull over all day as well. Normally, as a performer and now as a Director, I usually ask the press to wait for at least one show before coming in to review so that the show can get some “legs” and stage time. Due to the fact that this show is only once a month, going up again in October and November, I felt like I needed the press (hopefully it’s positive) to use to help promote the run of the show so I decided that I can do this. I WANT this show to be review-worthy (every show should be) and it added a bit of other energy to my afternoon prep creating a mindset of, “You are 30+ years in this business. You are trained to deliver every time you step on stage so make this show feel, look and sound like you’ve been doing it for 6 months.
Guess what? This show was supposed to debut at The Beach in March of 2019 but, as we all know, we were all inside then. In essence though, all the work and classes and prep and Zoom performances I did during Covid did actually give this show “legs” because I worked on this material in class for almost 2 years! It better be review-worthy! (She says anxiously as she awaits the reviews to be posted!) LOL!
There was yet another concern in that this show called, “This Broad’s Way” is a real departure for me…show tunes! What?! Me?! We did take liberties of course on arrangements and some of the tunes have become standards but most are definitely not songs I’d ever be cast to sing, and they are all pretty must all performed totally out of context of the show. Would this hit with my peeps? Would they “get” that this was the show concept and that the Cabaret show is happening around the concept? It seems like they did but again, who knows. You present your program and it’s now time to receive the feedback, tweak the show if you have to, study where you may have flubbed and get psyched to do it all again! I’m psyched to do it all again!
I offer these insights because we’re all coming back with our first show. Heck, most of my audience tonight have shows booked over the next few months. I suspect that you will all have these same pre-show worries, jitters and concerns but I’m telling you…you’ve got this! And, I promise you that if Cabaret is your joy and your happy place, you’re gonna kill it! Embrace the pre-show nerves and channel them into your work.
Feeling so much gratitude…good-night!