Barbara and Scott
The Two of Clubs

An Interview With Vicki Clark With Comments By Peter Sachon: Director And Directee

Peter Sachon
Peter Sachon
Photo: Michael Timmons
When you get the chance to interview the Tony Award winning Vicki Clark and one of the hottest musicians in town, cellist Peter Sachon (whom Ms. Clark is directing in a unique cabaret event), you don't pass up the opportunity. The show they are collaborating on will be at Birdland at 7 PM on November 6th. It's called Peter Sachon: Strings Attached. Here's what they have to say ...

When asked how they met, Ms. Clark recalled, "Peter Sachon and I met in a rehearsal room at the Intiman Theater in Seattle Washington where we were both working on the world premiere of The Light in the Piazza.
Victoria Clark
Victoria Clark
Ted Sperling, our music director, had asked both Peter and Christian Hebel, the violinist, to come out to Seattle to see the last two weeks of rehearsal and to see the process. In that production, directed by Craig Lucas, all the musicians (playing piano, harp, cello, violin, and bass) were on stage with the actors, and were part of the action. They became part of Florence and had newspapers to read, cigarettes to smoke, and or course Adam Guettel's enchanting music to play, and we related to them. It was truly magical. During the orchestra read-through of the score with the actors, my son (then age eight) started listening to the musicians, seated on the floor next to the piano and Ted. When I looked over a few minutes later, he had slid across the floor closer to Peter. By the end of the night he was right next to the cello, studying the sound, and watching Peter's every move. That night, he announced he wanted to take cello lessons with Peter."

Peter Sachon is a much-in-demand cellist. We just saw him last night playing for Audra McDonald for the opening night of the American Songbook Series at Lincoln Center. He has made a name for himself most notably with The Cello Project at Symphony Space. His reputation is such that famous composers, like Stephen Schwartz, for instance, are writing pieces for him. Not only a gifted cellist, but a charismatic performer, he has been cajoled into putting on a show of his own at Birdland. It was producer Michael Estwanik who had the inspired idea to ask Vicki Clark to direct Sachon's show.

Clark understands Sachon's appeal because she saw it through her son (who is, indeed, taking cello lessons from the master). Most importantly, as a singer, she understood how this cellist connects both with the music and with an audience. She said, "He mesmerizes us, and draws us in closer to the music than we ever dreamed we would be. In a strange way he lives the music, he acts the music, much as a singer acts his or her songs. And when Peter plays the cello, it sings. There is a kind of unity between thought and music in the same way that a singer works. I always thought what a waste it was burying Peter down in an orchestra pit because he is so interesting to watch. In a way, he teaches us how to listen. By watching him, we learn how to use our other senses in a more instinctive and integrated way. And that is what we wish to give the audience in Peter's show at Birdland: access to Peter, to the way he thinks about music and how he communicates that to an audience."

Peter promises an eclectic show that will include popular, modern and classic music. And there will be some things that you don't often see in a cabaret show. "How many people really hear a cello?" he wondered aloud. "We're going to try something different. At one point during the show we're going to turn off the lights. The idea is to hear what the cello really sounds like all alone and in the moment. I think it will surprise people." What else can we expect? He promises "Duet with Accordion and Cello" by Andrew Lippa. "You can also expect Vicki Clark to sing one song a vocalese piece written by Stephen Schwartz for the cello and a voice."

Curious about the differences between directing a cabaret artist and a cellist in a nightclub setting, we asked Ms. Clark to describe what she discovered in the process of helping to put Peter's show together. She said, "There are some differences between directing an evening of cello music, and a typical cabaret. First of all, the cellist's world is not mobile in the way we think of actors and singers being able to move. The mobility is in the movement of the bowing arm, and the swaying of the body of the cello, and of course in the variety of the music. The imagination moves, and yet the instrument stays basically in one place. (Although Peter will be moving too; you have to come to find out how.) Secondly, there will be very little text. The imagination will provide context and memory. But, since Peter works in such an imagistic and emotional way, I am working with him the same way I work with actors. My job is to keep the evening simple and to get out of Peter's way. He is an expressive and versatile musician, and he speaks beautifully and articulately about the ways all kinds and styles of music affect him, and this night at Birdland will add up if folks just allow themselves the pleasure of listening to the world through Peter's ears."

3 ½ Stars: Stacey Kent: Love and the Lyric at Feinstein's at the Regency

Adorable and charming, Stacey Kent is a sweetheart of a jazz singer. She comes out and starts singing and you instantly like her. She has an unpretentious style and a pixie-like appeal that is very winning. She also sings some pretty great songs like "I Got Lost in His Arms," "Come Rain or Come Shine," and "I've Grown Accustomed to His Face," among other standards. The trouble comes as the show goes on; she doesn't have a lot of dynamic range, so as different as "A Sleepin' Bee" is from "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," the songs start to blend together at least insofar as the sound of her voice is concerned; it doesn't vary that much. True, songs are sometimes pretty, sometimes cute, and sometimes peppy and fun. But it's all on the surface. There is nothing at stake.

We should add one more thing that we've said in earlier reviews: as gifted as her husband/saxophonist Jim Tomlinson might be, he doesn't relate to his wife on stage nearly so much as she relates to him. His lack of affect tends to undercut her obviously tender feelings. In fact, it makes him look bad to be so cool in the face of her obvious warmth. The two of them could take a lesson from Cleo Laine and her husband/musician John Dankworth; they relate to each other with wit and affection.

-- Barbara and Scott Siegel

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