Kevin On Kabaret - Men of August
Recently, in scanning the schedules to see what is upcoming in the clubs, I was surprised to see Adam Sank performing in a cabaret act entitled, "Mama, I Want to Sing Showtunes: A One 'Mo Show" at the Duplex. Adam Sank, the gay stand-up comic?
"Actually, I grew up doing musical theater from a very young age," Sank told me. "I was in 'South Pacific' at age eight, I was young Patrick in 'Mame' when I was ten, and I was a newsboy in 'Working' when I was eleven. That was always the dream, that I would be a singing actor on Broadway."
However, when Sank was in college, he realized he had never actually trained for such a career, and seeing his contemporary musical theater stars in action, he didn't feel quite up to snuff. "It wasn't until over ten years later that I started going to Rose's Turn and started to sing with Michael Isaacs at the piano." Isaacs serves as musical director in the new show.
One-man show with music
Describing the show, Sank says, "This is more a one-man show with music. There are five songs in the show-three of which I sing-and snippets of others."
"There's a part of the show when I sing 'Corner of the Sky' from Pippin, one of the first songs I ever learned," he said. "I do get nervous because it's an iconic song and I'm not supposed to be funny."
Sank further explained, "Stand-up is all about not getting too serious-if you can get them to laugh, you are safe. Maria Gentile, who directs, kept telling me to stop making a joke." He paused. "It paid off. People I've known since high school have told me they cried a few times during the show."
I asked him if this points to new directions for his career. "I've always been up for anything," he said. "If someone sees me in this and wants to cast me in a dramatic role in a straight play or film or television show, I'm all for it. Theater has always been my first love."
"Where everything connects for me is in the writing," he continued. "Funny or serious, it all comes down to telling a story, and this is a complete story with a throughline."
During the show, Adam re-tells one of his very first jokes, when he announced to his mother that he was quitting his day job to be a comedian. That was back in September 2003, and he's been headlining around the country and appearing on radio and television ever since.
Sank acknowledges that the world of stand-up has changed since he's been doing it. "I missed the comedy boom by about fifteen years," he said. "In the late '80s, everybody was getting sitcom deals. I don't think those days will ever come back."
He notes that the market was oversaturated back then, and now there are thousands in New York alone trying to make it in stand-up.
"Making it big in stand-up today is like winning the lottery," Sank said. "But you can make a living at it if you are willing to hustle and go on the road. And now, even though there isn't as much stand-up on television, there is a lot of opportunity for punditry. I was on all ten episodes of VH1's 'I Love the 2000s'!"
There are also unique challenges to being a gay stand-up comic. "Gay men aren't particularly fans of stand-up. We want to have sex with men, but we want to see women on the stage."
Adam Sank reprises his cabaret one-man show this month at The Duplex on Thursdays, August 14 and 21. I will be there, to see and hear the evolution of this multi-talented man. . . .
First show in a decade
When I was coming up through the cabaret ranks in the '90s, one of the most respected and talented male singers on the scene was Tom Andersen, a young man with a shimmering tenor voice who could sing almost any style and was also an award-winning songwriter. In all, he won five Bistro and five MAC Awards, and most recently won a Nightlife Award for his country-flavored trio show with Scott Coulter and Tim Di Pasqua.
Andersen is now returning with his first solo show in almost a decade. I wondered where he had been and why he had dropped off the scene.
"Actually, I was doing some gigs out of town, which pay more money, and I've been consistent with writing music," Andersen told me in a long, friendly chat by phone. "But I did need to take a step back from all of it and start asking some questions about what was next and what I wanted to still do." During that time, he purchased a co-op and is now in a good relationship.
"When I came to town in 1991, I hit the ground running. By the time I was making my third CD, I felt like I was pushing this whole machine up a hill by myself," he said. "I needed to take a break."
Recently, he's been working on a new musical, Simply Sinclair, with James Followell and enjoying the collaboration, so he decided to do another show. "With this show, I wanted to feel comfortable in my own skin with every song choice. And I wanted to tiptoe back in, so I wanted to go back to Mama's. I like not having the pressure of having to do the next big thing."
One of Andersen's best-known original songs is "Yard Sale," a sad, wistful AIDS-themed song that has been recorded by several artists, and won a MAC Award. "I wrote it because I had to, and it led to a lot of other opportunities," he said.
The new show will have some original songs, some Broadway, some country, and two songs from the new musical he has written with Followell (also music director for the show). "I like to try a lot of things and collaborate with a lot of people, " Andersen said. "I'm hard to pigeonhole."
Andersen admitted that he hadn't even been out to the clubs to see shows in quite some time. "I don't know a lot of the names now, but there is always going to be the new person coming up with the dream. People come and go. In that regard, things are pretty much the same."
He did, however, notice that there seemed to be fewer mid-level clubs, as well as the rise of the internet. "I'm actually grateful for that," he said. "I did a lot of demos and I've been able to post some things on YouTube. It's a way to put stuff out there, to let it live and breathe and see if it gets discovered."
Andersen turned reflective. "I don't know how much longer I'll be in New York. In my gut, I want to make sure I get everything I want out of it. Did I do everything I wanted to do?"
Tom Andersen. A cabaret classic, in a rare solo appearance. Catch him this month, August 9th and 16th at Don't Tell Mama. . . .
Sings on the side
Sometimes life isn't fair, like when someone possesses so much talent in such diverse areas. And so it is with Andrew Suvalsky, CEO of his highly successful interior design firm, Andrew Suvalsky Designs, for which he's guested on several television shows.
Oh yeah, he sings on the side. Not merely a hobby, he's recorded a couple of CDs and won a Bistro Award a few years ago as jazz vocalist.
Well, Suvalsky has just released a new single, and it shows another exciting departure-the pop anthem. "The Curtain" is now available for download.
I didn't see any upcoming shows advertised on his website just yet, but likely something is brewing. Oh, and he looks like he could be a soap opera star too, and is one of the nicest guys in the biz.
Seriously, Suvalsky, enough is enough. But you just keep doing your many things and I'll keep tuning in. I've been a fan ever since you walked into Rose's Turn and blew us away all those years ago . . .
And now, Kev's faves: Ruth Carlin is back with her tribute to Judy Collins, at the Duplex on August 14 . . . Broadway's young Matt Doyle ('Spring Awakening,' 'Bye Bye Birdie,' 'The Book of Mormon') goes solo at 54 Below on the 15th and 16th . . . Tanya Moberly is back with her wonderful "I Love New York Songwriters" show, at Don't Tell Mama on August 19 . . . Jazzy John Minnock of Boston is back at the Metropolitan Room on August 9 . . . the phenomenal Gabrielle Stravelli returns to the same club on the 13th . . . and best friends and megatalents Jim Caruso and Billy Stritch team up for a show at Birdland on August 11 . . . finally, the exciting and unpredictable Pia Zadora is at the Metropolitan Room, various times, August 5-10. To think, August used to be the slow month!
If that's not enough, well, look around on your own. There is plenty more! Until next month . . . I'll see you over cocktails.