August 1, 2016
A savvy cabaret performer recently referred to what an audience sees as “stage pictures.”
I think the term is apt. What you look like—hair, makeup, clothing—is only part of this. Are you standing front and center or does material (or the size of the stage) dictate moving?
You should know when the microphone needs to come out of the stand. If the tune is catchy, is your body subtly in sync, does it bounce a bit? If it’s romantic, do you sway a little or, at least, soften? If it’s flirty, do your hips and/or shoulders move? If it’s infectious, do you dance a few steps, turn, or snap your fingers? (Choreography is unnecessary.) Much of this will happen organically, but be aware. If you’re rigid when the audience wants you to move, impact diminishes.
Is the song reflective or melancholy? Leaning against the piano, placing an arm there, or perching on a stool works here. Women should be certain skirts are sufficiently long to allow this. In a seated position, just the raising of a hand affects. Watch your posture.
Is a lyric or rhythm provocative? You might want to sit atop the piano, give us a little bump ‘n’ grind or a come-hither gesture. Does your show contain a duet during which it would make sense for you to share the piano bench or interact with a musician?
Putting hands in your pockets only works if the song is easy/insouciant or theatrically anxious. Otherwise, you’re likely detracting from emotion. Alternatively, arms should extend only when it seems as if feelings cannot be contained. There’s something amiss if this happens again and again.
To whom are you singing, i. e., where’s your focus? The answer, nine times out of ten should be “us,” but there are exceptions. The “message” may be directed at someone invisible in the room; a lyric might emerge introspectively. Of course, there are exceptions.
Every “picture” should appear natural. Think of it as collaborating with the material. Lyrics rule. Ask someone to observe.