Edd Clark to premiere first solo show at Don’t Tell Mama

by Kevin Scott Hall

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday May 8, 2008

With more than two decades in opera, theater and even cabaret under his belt, Edd Clark is currently preparing to open his first solo show at the famed Don't Tell Mama in Midtown later this month.

"I've only done that collaboration thing in cabaret and I wanted to try my chops on my own," Clark said in a recent interview with EDGE New York. "Fortunately, I do have a wonderful other half at the piano."

That other half is Paul Stephan. He musically directs the show and arranges the songs. And Stephan has been Clark's real-life partner for 27 years. They met at the University of Utah where Clark was getting a master's in music education and Stephan was earning his graduate degree in musical theater writing and directing.

While acknowledging the partnership has helped in terms of mutual support for challenging performing careers and taking turns balancing artistic careers with corporate jobs, Clark said he and Stephan have pretty strong opinions.

"We agreed to disagree on everything," Clark said. "That's one of the secrets."

Clark began his performing career as an opera singer.

"I did the whole German audition thing and had an agent who was sending me out," he related. "But there came a certain point where everyone wanted a big voice and I don't have a big voice."

He and Stephan created the New York Opera Group. It produced a few shows per year at the 18th Street Playhouse during the late 1980s. The company premiered a few productions and had some well-known stars, such as Barbara DeMaio and Nick Park, on its stage.

"It was a great experience, but it either had to get bigger or we had to quit," Clark explained. "I was starting to get out of town jobs and Paul couldn't do it by himself."

Soon after, he began to get musical theater jobs in "Man of la Mancha," "Sweeney Todd," "Camelot," "Hello Dolly" and other shows with more frequency. He toured both nationally and internationally with the latter. But Clark eventually drifted out of the business after he became a graphic designer for Prudential Investments in Newark.

"Someone offered me a job with a salary that was too good to pass up," Clark said.

This position came at a good time. Stephen's coaching and musical accompanying career were on the rise. And it allowed Clark to pursue cabaret on the side.

"Performing is the best gig around."

"I love the intimacy of the people in a cabaret club," Clark said. "I like that connection, being able to see them."

What started as Clark and friends Bill Brooks and Steven Tharp sitting around saying "We should do something together" eventually evolved into "Three Tenors in Search of an Act." They booked it for two shows at Don't Tell Mama in 2005. They were about to leave it at that when booking manager Sidney Myer requested more shows because of patron's overwhelmingly positive response. The trio went on to do several more shows that year. They eventually won a Bistro Award for their effort.

"It turned out to be way bigger than we thought it would be," Clark said.

He teamed up with award-winning vocalist Sue Matsuki last December for several shows and a CD, "Sue and Edd's Fabulous Christmas." Their collaboration was up for a MAC Award earlier this month, and Matsuki praised Clark.

"Working with Edd on that project was one of the best working experiences I've ever had." she said.

Clark acknowledged that the CD came out rather late in the season, so they are set to give it a bigger push in 2008. They already have shows lined up at the Metropolitan Club and the Barnes & Noble at Lincoln Center.

For his first solo act, Clark calls his show "Romantic Notions," going the popular route of love-themed shows.

"Paul and I basically narrowed the song list down to ones that seem to come at love from an angle, some viewpoint," he said.

Clark cites such diverse tunes as the Heisler and Goldrich comic gem "The Morning After (Leave)", a medley of Sondheim's "Marry Me a Little" and "Nobody Has Ever Loved Me," and Kern's "The Folks That Live on the Hill" as proof of songs that will showcase the diverse angles of love.

He hopes that, like "Three Tenors . . .," the interest will carry the show beyond its first two outings. But for now, Clark is enjoying the moment.

"Performing is the best gig around," he said.

Edd Clark appears at Don't Tell Mama, 343 W. 46th St., on Tuesday, May 13, at 7 p.m., and Friday, May 16, at 7 p.m. Call (212) 757-0788 for reservations. $10 cover with a two drink minimum.

Kevin Scott Hall is the author of Off the Charts! (2010, iUniverse) and the memoir, A Quarter Inch from My Heart (2014, Wisdom Moon).