It ain't over 'til the thin lady sings
We saw this show at the Austin Theater Company in south Austin. All singing
and dancing. Samples of black music from early to modern times, African
chants through gospel to Rock & Roll. Terrific show, all songs, fantastic
The play has been around for years. Nominated for a Tony when it was in New
York. Unfortunately there is no recording of the local production due to
copyright problems. There is a CD of the Broadway cast with part the music.
The show has been in many cities, but it's not a touring company. It's
usually done with rep players. Here there were five singers. Two black
men, one big round baritone, one tall skinny bass. A black woman, Nell
Carter shaped; and two white women, one large one small. The most
surprising is the tiny white woman. Five foot nothing, thin, compact,
thirty-five give or take, who, when she opens her mouth, out comes this
amazing sound, this huge rhinoceros of a voice that you'd expect from a
refrigerator-shaped opera diva. Not that high and pure but powerful and
soulful. She does several numbers as the slinky femme fatale, "Fever" for
instance. Holy bananas, it ain't over till the thin lady sings.
One of the local professional theaters mounted a production of Cabaret this
spring, and it was wonderful. (If you have never seen the movie Cabaret,
then run, do not walk, to your local Blockbuster or equivalent and rent it
now. This is a *great* movie. It won a whole shelf full of Oscars in its
year: best actor, best actress, best director, and five others. It is
funny, moving, and horrifying all at the same time.)
In Austin, few things are done quite straight, and this play was no
exception. For instance, in typical Austin gender-bending fashion, the role
of the Emcee was played by a woman. Not just any woman, but the same one I
wrote about in "It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues," the best singer in town, at
least that I have seen. Her costumes were slightly different from the
usual. Black leather bra, thong with a dollar sign on the front for the
song "Money Makes the World Go Around," things like that. Her powerful
voice and ironic humor made the play. For a local theater group outside New
York, a terrific production. We saw it twice.
The theater, in case any of you ever get here, is the Zachary Scott Theater
("The Zach"). It has two venues, the big one a thrust stage that seats
maybe two hundred, the other around about half that size. Very nice place.
We saw it twice. The first time we were way up top, last row, but center so
we could see well. It's a small theater so there really aren't any bad
seats. The second time our seats are in the first row. We went with
another couple, friends, and they were seated at a table on the stage.
People at the stage tables tend to get involved in the production. For
instance, the dancing girls kept sitting on his lap and shaking their boobs
in his face. Later the emcee danced with her and got a mite fresh, how
The amazing singer from "It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues" and the Emcee from
"Cabaret" were both a local luminary named Suzanne Abbott. We keep running
into her on-stage and off. We bumped into her at another play, "Omnium
Gatherum," and spoke briefly. She was in the audience that time, not the
cast. Then Bev and a friend coming in from New York ran into her at the
airport the day before we all saw her in "Cabaret" the first time. And
last, we went to see her at the Zach Scott Theater again in a one-woman show
of mostly her own songs. And we ended up sitting between Suzanne's mother
and brother on the one side and sister on the other. We talked to her
mother for a while during the intermission and then traded seats so they
could all sit together.
Small town after all.