Cabaret


Roslyn Kind: At Home on Stage, Back Home in NYC April 28

by Rob Lester

Roslyn Kind
Roslyn Kind
It's easy to feel at home with singer Roslyn Kind, as we chat about her life and career and her April 28 concert in Brooklyn, before May dates in New Jersey and Rhode Island. She's relaxed and friendly, bubbly, down-to-earth, sounding youthful and sincere like the girl next door, as if calling casually from right next door, even though we are on opposite coasts. She's lived in California for some years now, and in recent times (after a hiatus) has played such venues there as the Catalina Jazz Club in L.A. and the RRazz Room in San Francisco. I knew she'd been in Manhattan numerous times. I met her briefly at one of her cabaret shows in my pre-reviewer days, and in recent times she's performed with her friend Michael Feinstein ("He's like extended family—I adore him"). So I was surprised to learn she had not set foot in the neighboring borough of Brooklyn in decades. Unlike her sister—Barbra Streisand—Roz always thought she would be a math teacher, even though she did sing and dance around the house when she wasn't practicing long division. With time, her love of performing won out.

Accepting the booking at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts (Walt Whitman Theatre) at Brooklyn College, accompanied on grand piano by musical director David Snyder, "this has started my mind going," she tells me. "It's funny the things you remember—the knishes ... " and her voice tinged with calm, cozy nostalgia blends into her ready laugh. Memories have been rushing back. "I've been blogging on an 'I grew up in Brooklyn' website" and finding people who had the same teachers and sharing memories of the neighborhood ... it's stores and restaurants and where the pickles in the barrel were located ("inside the appetizing store").

Roslyn had her green eyes firmly on show business while in high school, wasting literally no time once she graduated, recording her 1969 debut album Give Me You for RCA Victor Records the very day of her graduation. Its title song was written by Larry Grossman and Hal Hackady, whose first Broadway show, Minnie's Boys, opened a few months later. When, a few years ago, I bought a second copy of that first album in a used record store, I found it was a promo copy with the press release, bio and photo still enclosed in the sleeve. I read her some quotes from it and ask if they're true. Amused that I'd stumbled on this, she admits that yes, she really did play a small accordion as a child ("but I never graduated to the full size one because my parents couldn't afford it!"). Another quote said she'd studied dancing with Luigi, the revered teacher/role model Liza Minnelli and others swear by. "Yes! Luigi!" she cries. "In my class there were all the 'gypsies' from the Broadway shows. And Richard Chamberlain stood right behind me. He was getting ready for Breakfast at Tiffany's," she says, referring to the stage musical that folded in previews. "And Luigi: his leg is still like an iron mass. Solid like a rock." And she breaks into the pop song with that title. Pop music is part of her act now, as it has been over the years, in addition to standards and theatre music. "I don't like to be pigeon-holed. I'm starting to do a few jazz pieces. I'm trying my wings at that."

Her theatre resume includes a stint in the rock and roll jukebox bio-musical, Leader of the Pack, William Finn's Elegies, and her recordings and in-person appearances are a mix of genres. So were her earliest nightclub acts. "My manager at the time ran the publishing company which represented this songwriting team. I'd see them around the office. He thought they would be right to put together my act. So, we had a meeting." The composer did her arrangements and the team wrote a haunting, introspective song for her, "Reflections," which she recorded on her second LP with studio-enhanced echo effects. The writers were making a name for themselves: Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire. Her reflections and recollections go on ...

"When I did my act at The Persian Room, we had a medley of songs with 'Sunday' in the titles, and one with songs from Promises, Promises and Hair." They are, of course, two shows that recently returned to Broadway, as she'd love to do herself. She found her way to the Great White Way in 1992 with 3 from Brooklyn, a revue with comedy and songs. A stickler for articles being accurate and people not being misquoted (not just herself), we discuss one published profile referencing her time in that show, calling it 2 from Brooklyn, as if the original title had been changed. She laughs the trilling, joyful giggle that peppers our talk: "As if someone forgot to show up one night!" she cracks. She recalls the Christmas Eve performance when "my puppy made his Broadway debut," sent out on stage with reindeer antlers on his head. "We didn't tell [comedian co-star/director/conceiver] Sal Richards we were going to do it. We really surprised him! The dog upstaged everyone."

In that show, she got to seriously focus on a different species, performing Stephen Schwartz's dramatic story-song "Meadowlark" written for The Baker's Wife. Her richly emotional version is on her CD and I ask if she'll be doing this number she first did 20 years ago in 3 from Brooklyn when she isin Brooklyn on April 28. "Oh, yes. It's my 11 O 'Clock number." Curious, I ask what her special connection might be to this dramatic piece about a married woman choosing to follow her heart and using a child's story of a bird torn between freedom and staying with the king who "loved her so." She explains, "It reminds me of the advice my grandmother gave me. She told me to 'Go after what you want—and not feel guilty.'" It stuck with her. Similarly, in singing Mame's "It's Today," she relates to the message of "letting go and grabbing onto life." For her, this is "an audience sharing song."

Communicating a message or story is crucial to her. "I like talking to my audiences. I like 'the connect.'" And she adds, "I like to look in their eyes. And I talk. I share some of my life." Roslyn, who describes herself as "a spiritual person," wants her shows and songs to "bring joy" and "sing what's in my heart," adding, "I want to raise people's spirits." She doesn't lose sight of the job to "make people happy, to forget about their troubles for a little while."

Fun is a definite goal, as expressed directly in the title song of another musical she was in: Show Me Where the Good Times Are. Though that one didn't get to Broadway as intended, she did have "good times" with her character. "I got to be a little sinister. It was actually very fun to play that. I had a Romanian number and two feathered costumes. I remember having to spit chicken feathers out of my mouth sometimes." She'd love to do another musical, "maybe a contemporary one; I'm a contemporary kind of gal," remarks Miss Kind with one more very musical laugh. But one older musical she'd love to do is one that first came out around the time she tasted her first professional applause: Applause, in the lead part of Eve Harrington: "From the moment I saw the show—10th row center—I saw myself in the part! "

Meanwhile, the singer who's equally at home on a small stage as she is with a symphony, or on TV on "The Nanny" or "The Ed Sullivan Show" or the cover of Cabaret Scenes magazine, is ready to return home to Brooklyn to sing. "It gets your adrenalin going. I was in a third grade show at PS 269 when I sang songs from Peter Pan, just as I did recently at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall, and remembering the old neighborhood has started me craving the taste of Lenny's Pizza."

For tickets/directions for the April 28 concert at Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at 8 pm, see www.brooklyncenteronline.org. Ms. Kind will perform May 12 in Mahwah, New Jersey, and May 23 in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, plus dates following in California. For further information on the artist and her career, visit www.RoslynKind.com.


Photo: Keith Munyan (courtesy of Jackie Stander)