Cabaret

Interview with
DC ANDERSON

by Jonathan Frank

Cabaret artist ... musical theater performer ... producer of CDs and events; DC Anderson is definitely a man of many hats. Few people are as devoted to spreading the gospel of Cabaret as is DC. I caught up with DC while he was in Seattle during the tour of Martin Guerre.

Jonathan:  Welcome to Talkin' Broadway, DC. My, but you are having a busy couple of months. You are currently on tour with Martin Guerre, which will be closing in Los Angeles, and in March you have some projects of your own.

DC:  It's only appropriate, since March is Cabaret month. On March 5th I've organized two shows at The Cinegrill in Los Angeles, which I modeled after Donald Smith's wonderful Cabaret Convention shows. They will be on March 5th, one at 3pm and one at 7pm. Both are $10 and there is no drink minimum. It's a great way to get people into the cabaret world, since it's a good price and exposes the audience to a lot of talented singers and singer/songwriters.

J:  What is the line-up this year?

DC:  I'll be performing at the 3pm show, along with Marie Cain, Albert Hague and Renee Orin, Ritt Henn, Lorraina Marro, Kate Peters, Lisa Richard, and Wyn Wilson. At 7pm, Eileen Barnett, Michele Brourman, Karen Benjamin and Alan Chapman, Charles Cermele, Anne Kerry Ford, Christian Nova, Lindy Robbins, Teresa Tudury, Suzy Williams and Roy Zimmerman will be performing.

J:  It's too bad that I'm not in town when it happens, since there are a number of people I'm not familiar with and would like to see.

DC:  I'm also doing my own show at The Gardenia, on Monday March 6th in LA. I'm doing an early show at 7pm and then Wyn Wilson will be performing at 9pm.

J:  What's the show called?

DC:  It's always "One Damn Thing After Another!" (laughing)

J:  That's a good title!

DC Anderson
Song Clip Click for
"I'm Getting Mad"
in RealAudio
DC:  I started doing cabaret in 1983 and I've always called it that. My shows are usually a mix of songs that I've done before, four or five new songs, and a few songs that have dropped out my show and it's time to bring back. I tried to do a theme show once, and I discovered that when I go looking for songs to fit a theme, I end up singing songs that I don't necessarily feel a burning desire to sing. Since there are so many songs out there that I have to sing, to put them on the back burner while I search for something that has to do with 'crabcakes' for instance ... (laughs) I just find that it's too hard.

J:  Is it going to be just you and piano at The Gardenia?

DC:  Piano and bass. And I think that Kim Baxter and my sister, Claudia, will join me on two songs. I love to sing harmonies with people, so whenever I'm in LA I like to sing with my sister, who is an excellent singer. And maybe David Holliday will come in so we can sing some quartet numbers.

J:  What is on your plate after that?

DC:  I am very much into expanding cabaret's visibility with the public. I think that the biggest problem facing cabaret is that there is no real support in the national media. That's because when you only want 60, 70, 80, 100 people in the room, you're not going to be spending a ton of money to advertise the show in the newspaper. And if you're not advertising in their publication, then their question is "why should we cover it?"

One of the ways I thought about expanding cabaret's visibility is by getting Cabaret into the libraries. I've picked 30 CDs that I want to get as a collection into fifty libraries by the end of this year. They include Julie Wilson, Barbara Cook, Andrea Marcovicci, and Tom Andersen. I want to get one library in each state to accept the CDs as a collection and keep them in circulation until at least the end of 2001. I'm currently raising money for the project, and I figure it will cost about $20,000.

J:  Where can somebody get more information on this, if they want to make a donation?

DC:  On my website, www.dcanderson.net.

J:  I didn't realize until this past Christmas that you produced the Cabaret Noel CD. That was a major undertaking.

DC:  That probably was the most favorite thing that I have done in my life. The people that I met and got to work with were incredible. My only regret is that the only way to get that album is to contact Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS directly, so a lot of people don't know how to get it.

J:  I don't think it was even advertised this Christmas in their catalogue, which is odd, because it's such a great set of CDs. I went through the liner notes this year for the first time since I got them, and I was amazed at how many people are on it that I now know either personally, or through their work. You got a lot of people who are biggies on Broadway or in Cabaret to participate.

DC:  There were 22 songs on it that had never been recorded before or were written especially for the album. Kander and Ebb included one of their party songs, for instance, and there's even a cut song from Gypsy.

J:  Have you thought about releasing a songbook?

DC:  I'd love to, but the rights and royalties are huge to try and figure out. On the one hand, I love producing, but on the other hand, it takes away from my performing time. But it was an exciting project to work on. And I love holiday music, which is why I'm so involved with the Holiday Cabaret shows.

J:  Tell me more about that.

DC:  Holiday Cabaret started about five years ago in a living room setting. It was me, Karen Benjamin and Alan Chapman. Do you know them?

J:  Yes. I met them three years ago at the Cabaret by the Books series at the Beverly Hills Library, and I've had lots of fun singing his songs. Didn't you do Phantom of the Opera in Los Angeles with Karen?

DC:  Yes. The three of us came up with this idea of doing an event to benefit children's charities, in which people would come to a show and the price of admission would be an unwrapped toy, which we would deliver to a local charity. We did it in a living room for two years, and had about 50 people come, and we thought that we should expand for the third year, so of all things we moved to a 1450 seat house, the Alex Theatre in Glendale! We also started talking to people in other cities to do Holiday Cabaret shows as well. It had a dual purpose: to benefit children at the holidays, and also to spread the word about cabaret and get some of these artists known in their hometowns. We also try to get new Christmas songs written for each show.

J:  Maybe next year Seattle can finally join the list. I've been trying, but it's hard to find a space to commit here.

You were a swing in Phantom, right?

DC:  Actually, I was Monsieur Reyer for four and a half years in Los Angeles. He's the guy in the box that prompts the chorus and the divas. He's like the coach. Then after it closed, I was working at Taco Bell ...

J:  Seriously?

DC:  Yeah! You think that after doing something like Phantom of the Opera and have a production contract, that "I'm in! I've made it!" And then two years later, you're working at Taco Bell! So I got this call saying "Would you be interested in coming back to Phantom?" When I flew to Washington DC, I was surprised to see that the contract had the word 'swing' on it ... I had always thought that being a swing would be the most difficult thing to do and that I could never do it. But there I am, in Washington DC, Taco Bell behind me, hopefully a nice theatre paycheck in front of me, so I said "yes."

J:  Now a swing basically fills in for whatever part is needed, correct?

DC:  You are covering minor roles, right. I had to learn 13 parts. In Phantom it's not that difficult, because the chorus isn't on that much. And the other parts, like Andre, who is one of the managers, are very specific so it's hard to get them confused. I lucked out there, and did that for another two years. It's fun; it's like performing in your own back yard ... "Tonight I'm the auctioneer! Tomorrow I'm Monsieur Reyer ... then I'll be this guy!" But the problem with swinging is that you are in your head a lot, because you can't rely on musical or visual cues; you're always thinking, "where is this guy now?" So you think in the third person too much.

J:  It was fun hearing you sing with your 'Broadway voice' in Martin Guerre. I'm used to hearing you in your cabaret voice, which is a nice light tenor, and there you are, belting out with this big baritone voice!

DC:  I'm really a baritone. Everybody thinks I'm a tenor because my speaking voice is higher. And I'm lucky because I have a range that I can use for cabaret which I can't use in theater. I started out as an opera singer; that's how I trained. And then I realized that the only time that I liked singing opera is when I was singing in English, because I don't understand why I would sing in a foreign language in front of English speaking people. I couldn't figure that out. Yeah, some people would say, "oh, it's all about the beauty of the tone ... "

J:  Not when you're singing in German!

DC:  Yeah! But tone and notes can only take you so far. I've been to cabaret shows where the performer has had an incredible voice, but after ten minutes of them not really communicating to me, I start glazing. And that is what happens to me with opera. I was at Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory in Ohio studying opera, and I would have to sneak out of my practice room and see who was wandering about before I could sing any other kinds of music, because it was frowned upon. So I realized that my heart wasn't into opera, it was more into musical theatre.

J:  Have you been on Broadway?

DC:  Yes, with Phantom in 98-99. I did Reyer most of the time, and played the auctioneer and Le Fevre a few times

J:  How did you get involved with Martin Guerre?

DC:  I just went in and auditioned. I thought I would never get it, because I botched the dance call completely, but they said I had a good P.Q - peasant quotient! It ends April 8th, so who knows what goes on from there. I love doing musical theatre, and it gives me the chance to afford to do cabaret. See, that's the thing about cabaret that is frustrating: you need to have money to do it, and it's rare for that money to come from cabaret. You have to have money to put on a show, to produce CDs, to do advertising, to get arrangements, to pay for accompanists ... when people say there is no money in Cabaret, I say, "yes there is, if you are a music director or pianist, there's all sorts of money to be made!"

I used to think that that should be a problem, because you are always hearing "if you're not making money doing it, then why are you bothering?" Well, because I love it! I've gone out there and gone "this is it; there's only ten people here, this is the last time ever!" And then two songs into the show, you're thinking, "OK ... when's the next one!" So that just says it's an assignment from God for me; that's what cabaret is!

J:  You have two CDs out now, and a new one will be coming out in July, right?

DC:  Right.

J:  Do you know what's going to be on it?

DC:  I have recorded about five songs for it.

J:  Out of how many?!? You have about the longest CDs in Cabaret! You also have the most eclectic mix of songs on your CDs and in your shows. You are one of the few people I know that give equal time to standards and to pop/folk type songs. Most focus on one or the other.

DC:  I remember in Home Ec 101 that if you are presenting a meal to someone and you want them to eat all of it, mix the colors and textures. You don't just put macaroni and cheese, corn and yellow squash on a plate and expect people to eat it all. You have to include other textures and colors. And I see a cabaret show in that way. I don't want to hand them just a plate of macaroni and cheese (laughs) I want to put something else on there!

J:  And you write as well. My two favorite songs from your Box under the Bed CD were ones written by you. I especially love, "I'm Getting Mad," which is the song I'm including with the review.

DC:  Really? I started writing because it's so hard to find comedy songs. Everybody writes ballads. Those two songs on the Box under the Bed CD are the first ones that I wrote. I wrote "I'm Getting Mad" in 15 minutes. It was after an event where I wore a new outfit, and as the evening went by I thought I was just looking better and better in it; it got to the point where I looked in the mirror and was expecting to see Tom Cruise!

J:  Are you going to be including a lot of your own compositions on the new CD?

DC:  Yeah. It's going to be another long CD (laughs) just because there is so much that I want to record, and there is some trio stuff with Claudia and Kim that I want to record. Also stuff that I have done at Cabaret Conventions that have gone over well that I haven't recorded yet.

J:  Well, I can't wait to hear it!

DC:  Thanks!


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