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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Exclusive Q&A: When Buddy Beaverhausen Met Gretchen Reinhagen

Gretchen Reinhagen is an accomplished cabaret artist who has a Bistro, MAC and Nightlife Award. She will bring back a trio of her shows under the umbrella title of Reinhagen Redux to the Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street, NYC April 1st, and in May and June. Here's my interview with Gretchen who was on her toes, clever, candid and an overall fabulous interviewee. Enjoy! [Note: no image today due to computer glitches. Check back tomorrow, as I wanted to get the Q&A up today. Apologies to Ms Reinhagen.]

Buddy Beaverhausen: You'll be returning to the Metropolitan Room, as your show's title implies. for the third time in Reinhagen Redux, a series of three shows. The first is on April 1st. I expect to among the audience. What can you divulge about what we might anticipate that evening?
Gretchen Reinhagen: Yes, I’m thrilled to be returning to the Metropolitan Room! I’ve always enjoyed playing that room, and I have friends there that are like family to me. It’s nice to be able to create in a space with people who support me.  As for the show itself, while I won’t give away too much, I will say that it’s gotten a bit of a facelift since its premiere six years ago! It’s the same show at it’s core, with all the same great music (and maybe a couple of additions) but it really feels like the grown-up version of the show.  We’re all a few years older, and that much wiser! Except for me. Each year I seem to know less.  But the rest of my fabulous all-girl band – they’re amazing! Each and every one of them is an exceptional musician and a beautiful woman.  I love singing with them.  As the show is called “Almost Blue” it of course has a bluesy theme, but only “almost”! All of the songs either have a bluesy groove set to them, or have blue somewhere within the song itself, and of course we have a couple of traditional 12-bar blues.  Maybe one number that’s slightly blue... like I said – the grownup version of the show!

BB 2010. What was it like to win a MAC, Bistro and Nightlife Award for your tribute to the great Kaye Ballard all in that same year?
GR The triple crown! It was exhilarating and rewarding on so many levels. That show is very special to me, and it was the show I was most afraid to do, because it was so important to me. It really took me a couple of years to get it on its feet, so to then receive such an incredible response from audiences, and all of the recognition, was incredibly validating. The moments I remember the most are each a bit different. For the Nightlife Award, I was notified via email, and I happened to be awake and checking my email at 5AM that day. I was sitting by myself at my desk, jumping up and down (quietly) at 5AM. I was completely overjoyed.  So, of course, I woke my partner up! She was thrilled for me, and got up and celebrated with me by making me a cup of coffee, and then she went back to bed.  It was 5AM!  The Bistro Award moment was actually the incredibly lovely introduction given to me by Klea Blackhurst.  I think she’s exceptional, and I was so honored and thrilled to be introduced by her and by her very kind words. I remember feeling completely visible in that moment, and that’s not something I always feel.  And for the MAC Award, it wasn’t actually hearing my name as the winner – it was the moment right before – the moment they read my name on the list of nominees and the entire packed house roared with applause.  That was the moment I felt like a winner.  That’s a moment that still chokes me up.  

BB "Special Kaye" will be part of the series May 4th. I'd love to be at that. What can you tell us about the third show in the series on June 7th?
GR The third show, “Listen to the Music: The Songs of My 70s,” is actually the most personal of all the shows. While the music spans popular hits from across the decade, the show itself focuses on my early years and the songs that were my introduction to music itself.  Each song is something that highlights both what I experienced then, and how I see it now, all these years later.  The show was my opportunity to dig into my own personal roots, but it’s also just a fun show of some classic 70s music.  And June 7th happens to be my birthday.  So what better time to do this particular show!

BB I understand your father had a band and played at a nightclub in Cape Cod. What kind of music did you grow up listening to and what music influenced you most?
GR My dad actually played several nightclubs when I was a kid.  My dad is a wonderful musician with a great voice, so he was absolutely my first musical influence.  We focus on that a bit in the 70s show.  In addition to the great pop and rock hits that his band was playing, we were also big Broadway fans in my house so I was learning, and falling in love with show tunes at an early age.  So, my musicals tastes as a kid ranged from Bread to Barbra Streisand! And a whole lot in between.

BB You moved to California to teach music. What made you decide to go west?
GR My whole family actually relocated to the west coast.  It was somewhat of a coincidence at first.  I had an aunt living in LA and she had invited me to come out and spend some time with her.  At about the time I decided to go ahead and do that, my dad got a new job in Southern California, so we basically all ended up out there at the same time.  I ended up finishing college in L.A. and then stayed for another 10 years teaching and performing before moving to New York.  The rest of my family is still in California.

BB I understand you still teach voice in NYC. Tell us a little something about that.
GR I absolutely love teaching.  I maintain a small studio where I’m able to be a bit selective.  The majority of my students are cabaret artists and they come from all different backgrounds and levels of interest and many of them simply sing for the sheer love of it.  I find each of them inspiring and I get such joy and satisfaction from having the opportunity to guide them to their own power and their own voice.  I often see myself as a facilitator because I’m really helping them to discover what’s already there.  As for my technique, I studied with Judith Farris, who was a protégé of the late Keith Davis who was one of the top voice teachers in New York, particularly for Broadway singers, for many years.  It’s a technique that works – that makes sense – and that above all else is accessible to all levels of singers.  I love being able to pass that on and to watch my students soar.

BB When you're not performing and/or teaching, what do you like to do to relax?
GR I crash! Big time! I’m constantly on the go, so when I have a day to do nothing, I pretty much do nothing.  My favorite guilty pleasures are bad movies.  I’m not really sure why, but I can spend an entire afternoon finding all the 2-star films on TV!

BB You assayed the title role in Annie onstage as a child and then played Miss Hannigan in productions as an adult. How did this role reversal suit you and was there anything you learned about switching roles as it were?
GR I think I was a much better Hannigan, and I’m not sure what that says about me....  I remember, while playing Annie, that I was terrified of the actress playing Hannigan.  Years later, I remember I had a young voice student who was afraid of me because she saw me as Miss Hannigan.  So it all came full circle. (I did finally manage to win that student over.) One of the things I loved about playing Hannigan, actually, happened the second time I did the role.  The artistic director at the theater asked me about making her a bit more likeable and at the time I wasn’t really sure what that meant.  She’s the villain! But I began to see the different layers of the woman herself, and the hardships she’d endured and suddenly she came to life for me in an entirely new way.  I really love playing the role.  I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  I don’t think I’ll do the title role again any time soon....

BB I see, in your resume, you've been in multiple stage musical productions internationally, including playing Janis Joplin in Beehive! What have been some of your happiest experiences?
GR Too many to list! I loved playing Janis Joplin.  She’s one of my favorites and I really fell in love with her and her music because of that production.  I’m still a huge Janis Joplin fan.  Nancy in “Oliver!” was another favorite role and I got to do it a couple of times.  And many other roles that were very special to me.  I love getting to play strong women, and I’ve been fortunate to play a few.  I think that’s what draws me to artists like Kaye Ballard as well.  But in terms of happiest experiences – it’s a toss-up.  The work itself is often thrilling and always valuable on some level, but the process of creating the show, the relationships that are forged, all the little moments that go into the work – that’s where the true magic lies for me.  It still does – even in cabaret.  The show itself is thrilling.  The work along the way, goes deep into your heart.  That’s the part of the process I live for.

BB Any nightmare productions you found yourself in? Anybody so difficult to work with you'd turn down a role if you found out you'd have to deal with that person again?
GR Well I’m still friendly with some of the people from some of those nightmare productions, so I’ll spare the innocent.  I’ve done my share of bad shows.  In some cases, it was just an unsalvageable script, and in other cases, personalities clashed and made the work challenging, but I’d like to think I’d work with any of them again.  I’ve walked away from every show having gained something worthwhile, and I do think we continue to grow both as artists and as human beings, so I’d be curious to try again with some of those artists.  I know I’m a different person, so I’m sure they are too!

BB I see Tracy Stark will be the musical director of "Almost Blue" in April. Coincidentally, I'll be interviewing her ahead of her Lesley Gore tribute in May (at 54 Below). I understand the cast for that hasn't been put together yet. Any chance you might be a part of that?
GR I’m not a part of that production, but I do hope to be in the audience! Tracy is a beautiful artist with an amazing heart, and she truly loved Lesley Gore.  I have no doubt the show will be nothing less than spectacular.

BB  Any last shout-outs and, in particular, to my blog's international LGBT fans?
GR Go see live music! Risk and love and create and be who you are.  A lot of people have helped make that a reality for me.  Thank you to anyone taking the time to read this!!! Thank you to the amazing people – the friends, the colleagues, the artists who help me create – particularly for this series.  There are a lot of people involved with this series!!! Richard Skipper, Joseph Macchia, Bernie and Joanne Furshpan, Barry Kleinbort, Tracy Stark, David Gaines, Andrew David Sotomayor, Donna Kelly, Lisa Brigantino, Tom Hubbard, Heidi Weyhmueller, Karen Mack, and my beautiful wife Deborah Meyers who puts up with the constant running of lyrics, and never misses a show.  I’ve got A LOT of love in my life.  I’m a very lucky girl. And thank you so much for letting me be a part of your blog, and for your wonderful questions! Really looking forward to seeing you at the show.

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