Written by Gary Williams
January 27, 2016
Reviewed by Helen Theophanous for Cabaret Scenes
A treasure chest dripping with glittering gems of cabaret secrets!
With so many superlative comments made by the most respected names in cabaret, such as Michael Feinstein, who describes the book as a “secret weapon,” it may seem that this excellent book of guidance on cabaret performance needs no further review.
Anyone with a desire to entertain and to get it right should immediately become acquainted with this fount of cabaret wisdom which deserves to be brought to the widest audience of aspiring performers. Singer Gary Williams has reached the peak of his career, working all over the world with the best orchestras, and his Frank Sinatra shows sell out well in advance. His success is due not only to his talent, but also to years of hard work during which time he learned the lessons, sometimes the hard way! In his show he even jokes in a play on words that he was once assaulted…by a salt cellar thrown by an audience member.
Such reminiscences are encouraging to those new to cabaret and the solid advice in Cabaret Secrets is given from Williams’ own vast experience. Always happy to help artists and generous with his time, he often wrote guidance notes for those who asked for his help. Eventually, it became clear that he should write this book.
Follow the advice of the sixteen “secrets” and, with a lot of hard work, you will be prepared for stardom. Williams has examined the key elements required for success and gives examples of how the best cabaret performers appear so effortlessly to display sincerity, and make it all look so natural.
Preparation is everything and Williams’ book gives advice on constructing a successful set list template and preparing suitable patter. Everything from arrangements and band parts to how to protect the voice is covered.
Amusing anecdotes illustrate the perils of bad time-keeping and the risk of missing a cruise ship departure which Williams, as a cruise ship headline entertainer, knows all too well.
Do you know how to talk to your musicians? Are your arrangements good enough? Are you certain that the trumpet part you have will do for tenor sax? Do you want disco lights suddenly flashing on madly during a romantic ballad? How about a blackout in the middle of your best number? Read the section about communicating with your musicians and lighting technician, and the helpful glossary of technical terms, and you will avoid such pitfalls.
Have you planned a sensational quick costume change but never rehearsed it? When you have read Williams’ hysterical account of his battle with unyielding velcro as the stage lights went up, you will think twice about that idea!
Building an audience base, constructing a press kit, finding a director and approaching agents are all covered, along with a myriad of other cabaret secrets which make this book indispensable for anyone who has the desire to perform or who has a germ of an idea to develop into a cabaret. Packed with practical advice and far too much to relate here, Cabaret Secrets should be on the reading list of every musical theater course. It is also a very enjoyable read as Williams is generous in sharing not only his insight and experience, but also many amusing tales of near disasters encountered on his learning curve to success.
Armed with this “secret weapon,” much time and expense will be saved for those embarking on the journey to cabaret performer.
Since publication, Gary Williams has added a series of podcast interviews with theater professionals, which continue to add to the invaluable information in this excellent book.
For more about the free podcasts visit cabaretsecrets.com.