Cabaret Hotline Online is an independent website with more than 7,400 pages of news, information and stories on cabaret, owned and maintained by Stu Hamstra. CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE is not affiliated with any club or organization. It is totally supported through advertising and membership donations. This blog is an extension of the website and newsletter.


"His eye is on the sparrow...."

Saturday, December 13, 2008


CCP (Chicago Cabaret Professionals) and DRURY LANE WATER TOWER PLACE (175 East Chestnut Street, Chicago, IL - 312-642-2000) announces the last of five new Musical Mondays concerts, held monthly through December. On Monday December 15th at 7:30 pm the show is "CHICAGO HOLIDAY: Celebrating the Season", with a wonderfully diverse group of cabaret artists, we present to you a delightful variety of classic holiday hits and memorable moments. The show will feature Elizabeth Doyle, Rob Dorn, John Eskola, Tim Hairston, KT McCammond, Alma Mendoza, Sami Scott, Carolyn Wehner and Carol Weston. Musical direction by Joshua Stephen Kartes. Directed by Rob Dorn. Tickets are $25 and are on sale now by calling the Box Office at 312-642-2000 or visiting .

Friday, December 12, 2008


I got such a cute holiday card today I decided to share it - and decided to add any more clever/cute/inspirational/appropriate cards to the page if and as they come in (jpg or gif via e-mail). Check it out!

These are a few of my favorite cards .... of 2009!




I have been getting a lot of responses to my article in the newsletter and on the website a few weeks ago regarding the current state of cabaret and the need for action on the part of all to support this art form.

One person reminded me of the time when live entertainment venues were closing all over town, with the owners converting their clubs to discos - even THE DUPLEX was converted to a disco for a few years. Fortunately that period was short lived, but the number of live entertainment venues never recovered to its former numbers. Then there was the "comedy club conversion" - venue owners discovered that they could do away with a lot of staff and expense by simply setting a mic in front of a brick wall and a simple spotlight, and get the comic-want-to-be's to fill their rooms by requiring them to bring a minimum number of paying guests in order to get a chance to perform. A lot of this still goes on today - ever notice the kids in the Times Square area handing out discount fliers for this comedy club or that one? The fliers are marked with the comic's code and he is credited with how many actually show up and pay the cover. CAROLINES started out as a cabaret room!

Another e-mail writer blames the clubs and club owners for allowing anyone - good or bad - to present a show as long as they can fill the room. Folks attending a cabaret show for the first time are "turned off" to cabaret when they get suckered into these events by their friends and family.

Or take this one: The so-called major clubs have become dominated by big names from TV, film or Broadway (many of whom are not even known as vocalists), and there is no longer an incentive for cabaret performers to strive to "move up" since they feel they are locked in to the middle-tier rooms. So they get discouraged and drop out of the cabaret scene. And the whole of cabaret is left with lesser skilled and lesser experienced performers.

Here's another complaint: No one seems to set any guidelines for cover charges any more. One could usually get an indication of the skill level of a performer by the cover charge, but it seems like performers are free to charge whatever cover they wish - with debut, inexperienced performers sometimes putting on shows in the $25-$30 range. This creates some real anger and disappointment on the part of the person who feels he didn't get decent value for his cover fee, and all of cabaret gets tainted. And is a $60 to $150 cover (and usually accompanied by a $40 to $60 minimum) seem realistic for a 55 minute show?

The same could be said of the progressively higher minimums charged by the venues and the steadily increasing price of drinks. Some clubs seem to be taking their pricing cues from the "posh" celebrity clubs catering to the "stretched white Hummer" crowd.

Another complaint I have heard is the practice of clubs to cancel a show and still charge a fee if there are less than a certain number of reservations on the book (lately that number has climbed to 15 in some instances). The performer is left holding the bag - absorbing all the costs of creating, producing, advertising and staffing a show, while the venue is in a win-win situation. The musicians usually need to be paid whether there is a show or not, and the cost of arrangements, post cards, fliers, posters, is money down the drain. As one person wrote me, this means the good performer trying to build a career is frightened off, while to lesser performer with a rich benefactor/spouse and a lot of similarly wealthy friends gets the good dates. This drags down the quality of the art.

And - a little closer to home - one person felt that the cabaret reviews he found often bore no resemblance to the quality of the actual show. He felt there was a reluctance on the part of publications/websites to give a bad review of a bad show. And this, coupled with the raves of friends and relatives on the message boards and yahoo/google group mailings, often led to high expectations and total disappointment.

It is interesting to note that not one e-mail was received blaming the recent apparent drop in cabaret attendance on the economy! Maybe that was a foregone conclusion, but interesting just the same.

More comments anyone? I'm listening.




On Sunday, December 7th, EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN, on the Radio over WBAI 99.5 FM and on the Internet at, usually heard from 9:00 to 11:00 pm and hosted by David Kenney, will feature of music of Frank Sinatra at Reprise Records. Some of the songs that will be played: "It Was A Very Good Year", "Send In The Clowns", "My Way", "Strangers In The Night", "Summer Wind", "Fly Me To The Moon", "I Love My Wife", "Mack The Knife", "Something Stupid", "How Insensitive", "Me & My Shadow", "That's Life", "Here's To The Band", "Theme from New York, New York", "The Last Dance " and More.

HELP SUPPORT WBAI-FM & EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN ! Call 212-209-2950 with your pledge during this broadcast. For your pledge of $50 David will send you: KENNEY'S KHRISTMAS GRAB BAG which includes 2 CDs (great stocking stuffers) and a one year membership to WBAI.

Each week David presents the usual blend of big-band jazz, swing, standards, showtunes, contemporary cabaret and celebrity interviews plus MEGA-MEDLEY MADNESS. For more information contact: You are also invited to e-mail your comments and suggestions for future shows. You can listen to past shows at any time by going to the WBAI Archives. For more information, see .

WBAI is a listener supported radio station - commercial free. Which means it can broadcast viewpoints from all over without fear of sponsor censorship. David's show plays "our kind of music" - and there aren't many stations doing that anymore, especially in the NYC area. The continuation of this show depends totally on the support of people who enjoy big-band, jazz, swing, standards, showtunes, contemporary cabaret and celebrity interviews. That's your cue to phone in with your pledge.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


At THE WEST BANK CAFE/LAURIE BEECHMAN THEATER (407 West 42nd Street, NYC - 212-695-6909 on Fridays at 10:30 pm, Brandon Cutrell & Alysha Umphress host AFTER PARTY, a free-wheeling open-mic with guest stars from Broadway and Cabaret, Ray Fellman at the piano and others serving up drinks and taking turns at the mic. Guest performers from Broadway, off-Broadway and cabaret drop by each week to sing, chat and join in the fun. No cover, no minimum. Singer/dancers invited at all times - you can hang out at the bar, at a table or even on stage. On Friday, December 12th THE AFTER PARTY will feature performances by Tony Award Nominee & Prayer For My Enemy's Jonathan Groff; TV's Third Watch's & Prayer For My Enemy's Skipp Sudduth; Hairspray's Charlotte Crossleyand the Larry King Orchestra's Larry King. Also in attendance will be the cast of Prayer For My Enemy including Tony Award Winner Victoria Clark Tony Award Winner Michelle Pawk Theatre Award Winner Cassie Beck and Zachary Booth - with Avenue Q's Mark Hartmann at the piano.


New York's only Singing Santa & Mrs. Claus are doing a Charity Cabaret at UNCLE CHARLIE'S (139 East 45th Street 2nd Floor, NYC - 212-661-9097) 8:00 pm tonight, December 11th. Paul Vincentt, a professional Santa for over 15 years, and Beth Sacks, a professional Mrs Claus who has worked for several harities, are performing in a show called "Claus with a Cause" at the regular Thursday night no cover "Cabaret Fever" show, hosted each week by singer/pianist David Pellegrene. 

Its a toydrive and fund raiser for CHILDREN OF PARENTS WITH AIDS a wonderful charity thyat deserves all of our support. So often, families affected or infected with HIV spend so much on medical care and medicine for those infected that the children go without. No child should ever wake up on Christmas day with nothing from Santa. Bring a new unwrapped toy to Uncle Charlies and see a fun cabaret with the Clauses, Afterwards you will have a chance to take a picture with the jolly Elves. All proceeds go to CHILDREN OF PARENTS WITH AIDS.



Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Salon Secretary Peter Napolitano reports that there will be NO SALON this SUNDAY, DECEMBER 14th.  But be of good cheer!  He also reports that THE ALGONQUIN SALON, hosted by Mark Janas in the lobby of the historic Algonquin Hotel,  will return on SUNDAY, DECEMBER 21st, from 7 to 10PM, as they put their own special twist on the Holiday season with "MERRY SOLSTICE!", in honor of the fact that the Winter Solstice falls on that date.  Of course, the Salon will also be celebrating Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus and any other holiday you want to sing about. Special co-hosts on the 21st will be The Definitely Dickens Holiday Carolers, a wonderful a capella quartet mostly comprised of Salon regulars.  You are invited to join them for an evening of yuletide words and music with our warm, welcoming Salon family. No cover.


Jazz at Noon continues on Wednesdays at ST. PETER'S CHURCH - LIVING ROOM (Lexington Avenue at 54th Street, NYC). This long-running series was created by Edmund Anderson and is now produced by Ronny Whyte. Next show is on Wednesday, December 10th at 1:00 pm with Boston's Lynne Jackson & Mike Palter performing a Birthday Tribute to Hoagy Carmichael. Performances are at 1:00 pm, $7 admission.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


2007 MAC BOD AWARD WINNER Seth Rudetsky's BROADWAY CHATTERBOX at DON'T TELL MAMA (343 West 46th Street, NYC - 212-757-0788 ) is usually presented on Thursdays at 6:00 pm. The show for Thursday, December 11th will feature as guest Haydn Gwynne, currently appearing in BILLY ELLIOT on Broadway. Seth's weekly interview show always features stars, soon-to-be stars and folks behind the scenes of the musical theater stage - for just a $10 cover - 2-drink minimum. Best of all, all proceeds from the cover go to BROADWAY CARES/EQUITY FIGHTS AIDS.


I haven't mentioned this of late, but there are a few more services we offer for free at CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE and one is our NYC CABARET BULLETIN SERVICE - you can sign up with your e-mail address (about 300 are signed up right now) and get e-mail notification of any last minute show schedule changes and/or cancellations in the NYC area, or other late-breaking cabaret news. Just click on the SUBSCRIBE FREE button at the top of every page and then on the NYC BULLETIN button on that page (The NYC PICKS service has been discontinued - I have to update the page).




Building a cabaret audience beyond family & friends is difficult and the real trick is to create more friends! Every show you present should, as a side goal, be an effort to know everyone in your audience personally. Instead of rushing off to the "dressing room" right after the show, make it a point to meet and greet every single member of the audience - and if they have been to a previous show, greet them by name and thank them for coming back. Takes some memory skills, but it is truly an effective technique.

And invest some time (and as it turns out, very little money) by getting involved with some of the open-mic and socializing opportunities. I'm not talking about piano bars - I mean events in your community where cabaret lovers and performers hang out. Here in NYC you can find and create new friends at such places as Trudi Mann's weekly Sunday Brunch at Butterfield 8, Mark Janus' weekly Salon at the Algonquin, Jennifer Wren's twice-monthly Big Night Out at Broadway Baby, Jim Caruso's Cast Party at Birdland, Brandon Cutrell's After Party at The Laurie Beechman, Joe Bachana's MetroJam at the Metropolitan Room - and I'm sure I left out several more. Boston's BACA used to have monthly open-mic nights (I'm no longer on their mailing list so I'm not sure if they continue), and Washington DCs DCCN has monthly open-mic as well.

Don't have such events in your community? Why not get together with some others and start one? Most of them are cover-free or have a small cover charge, and all of them give you an opportunity to network.




Cabaret fans in the west can catch up on the latest cabaret news - especially in the Los Angeles area, by subscribing to Les Michaels' "Life is a Cabaret" promotion list. I get some of my West Coast news items from Les - he handles promotional services and publicity too, with over 2000 on his mailing list. Check it out.


LML MUSIC is doing its part in the recession-busting business: a SPECIAL HOLIDAY SALE! For the rest of 2008 all CDs purchased on our website will be sold at a 40% discount!!! Just enter Promo Code DEC2008 upon check-out and you'll receive your discount.


Its time for another MEMBERS' CHOICE POLL, and this time we are inviting all 2008-2009 members to nominate their choices for the best performances/performers during the past year - from December 1, 2007 through November 30th, 2008. This is an INTERNATIONAL poll - not limited to the USA - not limited to the NYC club scene. The only rules are that the performance/performer be nominated by a current member and the nominating member must have attended the show of the performer nominated. The performer nominated does not need to be a 2008-2009 member of CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE (but, of course, that would be nice).

There are only 5 categories - Female & Male Vocalist, Female & Male Debut, and Musical and/or Comedy Duo or Group. These categories may be sub-divided if we receive a large number of nominees in a certain category (i.e. Female/Male Jazz, Female/Male Major, etc.)

There is a link to the Nominations Rules page on the home (index) page of the CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE website, and nominations need to be entered on the nominations form to be admissible. Nominations will be accepted until midnight, December 31st - the balloting will take place in January - the winners announced in February. REMEMBER: You must be a member to nominate and vote in this poll.

The MALE & FEMALE DEBUT winners will be invited to perform at our MARCH IS CABARET MONTH show on March 10th at THE LAURIE BEECHMAN THEATER.


More details on the CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE website.




Suddenly everyone seems to be talking about TV Variety Shows. First there was something called "Americas Got Talent" - I'm not sure if the title is grammatically correct but it is sort of catchy. I watch very little TV (except Law & Order reruns, and now something called NCIS) so I never actually watched the show. I missed Rosie O'Donnel's recent foray into the variety show scene, and quite honestly I have never actually figured out the appeal of "Ellen" - who, I see from the show plugs, has a variety-type show too. Now, this morning comes the announcement that Jay Leno - soon to be forced by contract to give up his late night "Tonight" show is signing a 10-year contract for a nightly Variety-style show on NBC for 10:00 pm. Not that it means he can now get to bed earlier - everything is on tape these days, and produced in the afternoon for broadcast later at night.

Will this "old-new" format work? Only time will tell. I hope so, because the old variety shows (Ed Sullivan, Red Buttons, Steve Allen, Carol Burnett, Sid Caeser, etc.) not only were very popular, they also catapulted to fame many of the cabaret performers of that era - a number who were playing in the DUPLEX, UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS, RENO SWEENEY and other clubs. In those days, producers were out and about night after night at the nightclubs, supper clubs and cabarets, hunting for talent to people the stages of these many (at that time NYC based) variety productions. And the crowds followed to the clubs, hoping to be able to proudly say later "I knew her when ...." about folks like Streisand, Rivers, Newhart, and more.

Here's hoping.



Monday, December 8, 2008


Yesterday was December 7th - Pearl Harbor Day - and I forgot all about it! This is the first time in all my years (69 and counting) that I didn't commemorate this date in some way or other! I was only 2 years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked, but the event was very much a part of my childhood - remembered each year much as September 11 is remembered these days.




I had the most curious thing happen again this past week. Curious, but not unusual. In fact, I am quite accustomed to it.

The twice-weekly newsletters have been running a bit long lately as I attempt to get all the news items about holiday shows included so that I can send out a set of listings tomorrow. So a few stories were postponed (I include 99% of the items received if they are "on topic.") I try to get all items into the newsletters and on the website at least 2 weeks - and most times three weeks - before the event date.

If you are running an ad, of course your item runs every issue, and if you are offering a discount it runs at least in every Thursday issue. And cabaret organization events and legitimate benefits that are cabaret related run every issue as well. And members get their item chosen as soon as space is available, usually right away. Then the others are added. I thinks this is about as fair of placement as possible. But nearly everything gets used (if you send a press release with missing information or that is so confusing it needs extensive rewriting it gets put in a "hold" file until I have time - and sometimes I simply don't have time). Oh yes, my new mantra: A FLIER IS NOT A PRESS RELEASE.

That all being said, I got two complaints after two issues in a row from a person who is not a member, not an advertiser, not offering a discount to members, not promoting an organization event, and not having a legitimate benefit, that a particular item hadn't run. I explained the system (as above) and promised it would be in the next issue - and it was.

I know he saw the item because no complaint came in - but it would have been nice if a little appreciation was shown in the form of a thank-you. But this is not the first time this has happened and won't be the last time either. I include dozens of news items in every issue and I get more "thank you's" from just regular readers than from performers when I include their releases. Curious.

I had to share.



Sunday, December 7, 2008


This blog is for your comments, thoughts and ideas - not just mine. Under each of my postings is the word COMMENT and if you click on that line a box opens up where you can post your reaction and thoughts on the post it is connected to. Now, I realize that to some degree I pick the subjects, but if you have a particular thought to express (like the posting below that quotes an e-mail I received about the state of cabaret) just send it in and if I deem it important (after all, I have to do something to entitle me to the role of editor), I will post it here for others to comment on.

There are a few postings on this blog already that I would love to hear your thoughts on.




I had an interesting experience last night - turned away at the door of a cabaret show! The performer promised to put me "on the list" but there apparently was a mixup somewhere. The line was out the door when I got there, and I patiently waited in line until I got to the host station only to be told that the show was completely sold out with a waiting list! My reservation was no where to be found. So, rather than pull a "diva act" and end up taking the seat of someone on the waiting list, I apologized to the rather harried reservations' gal and went back home.

So, maybe cabaret is not in such dire straits after all - or was I watching another phenomena take place? There appeared to be several people in the line in front of mr with what looked like one of those familiar "free pass" or "special discount" printouts clutched in their hands. Were ready-to-pay-full-cover customers but who hadn't made reservations placed on the waiting list while free-bees were being seated? No one would answer that question. And no one would even confirm that seats were offered on AE, TDF, or other organizations that help performers fill empty seats.

I always feel sorry for folks that pay the full cover to see their friends perform, who get seated next to folks who get a free ride and oft times have no interest in either the artist or the art. Could this practice be a turn-off to regular cabaret-goers? Can this be the reason many cabaret fans are abandoning the clubs and performers? I'm going to dig some more on this.

Unfortunately, this particular show only has one more performance left this year - and is on a night when I am already promised elsewhere. But if the performer can attract this big a crowd (even the deadbeats who won't pay a cover) I am sure the performer will be rebooked at a later date.