The nine-week Gaslight Cabaret series includes Marissa Mulder’s “The Songs of Tom Waits,” lauded by the New York Times as “the best of the season.”
St. Louisans who like to gorge themselves on entertainment may already indulge in movie marathons and TV binge-watching. Beginning Thursday, Feb. 20, they can also get their fill of cabaret performances.
St. Louis native and Broadway star Ken Page is first in the string of 13 singers and 21 shows of the nine-week-long Gaslight Cabaret Festival ending April 26. Known for his roles in “Cats,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “The Wiz,” Page brings his “Old, New, Borrowed and Blue” to the Gaslight Theater.
Next up, on Saturday, Feb. 22 is local crooner Tim Schall, with "1961: The Men were Mad and the Music was a-changin'.”
The lineup’s third offering has never been to St. Louis. But Marissa Mulder hits town with her band for a Feb. 27-March 1 performance following rave reviews in New York.
Last year, when Mulder, 29, debuted her new show featuring the music of songwriter and composer Tom Waits at New York City’s Metropolitan Room, she felt many emotions but one stood out: nervousness. New York Times reviewer Stephen Holden saw something else: a “quiet, agonized passion.” According to his review, her show’s “everything the genre can be but almost never is.”
“That was a thrill,” Mulder told St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon.
'Tomorrow' and the Day After
Growing up in Syracuse, Mulder lived just around the corner from her grandparents. As she accompanied her grandfather on long drives or performed “Annie’s” “Tomorrow” in her grandmother’s church revue -- her first big break -- the soundtrack of their close bond included Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Billy Eckstine.
Later, as an adult and with two songbook shows under her belt, Mulder followed a suggestion to consider a Tom Waits-themed show.
“He’s such a story teller and truth teller,” Mulder said. “But it was kind of scary for me because it was so different than anything I’d done before and a lot darker and more theatrical.”
One of her favorite Waits pieces is “Day After Tomorrow,” the saga of a soldier writing home from the battlefield of his yearning to come home. “I am not fighting for freedom, I am fighting for my life,” is among the lyrics.
“His ballads are so direct and so connected to the human condition and the real nitty-gritty of being human,” Mulder said.
Mulder’s departure from typical cabaret fare is a sign of the times but there will always be a place for the classical songbook, she said.
“That’s the beauty of cabaret; it can be anything you want,” she explained.
Mulder’s St. Louis performance is her biggest touring date yet. After the Gaslight Festival, she travels to the Adirondacks and Denver, among other places. She’s excited about her new opportunities in intimate performance.
“What I love about cabaret is a singer can be singing almost in a whisper and have the whole room in the palm off her hand,” Mulder said.
Gaslight Cabaret Festival
Where: Gaslight Theatre, 360 North Boyle Ave., 63108
When: Feb. 20-April 26
How much: $22-$40, packages available
Tickets/Information: Festival Facebook page ; St. Louis On The Air interviews