Nicky Gayner: Empty Nest

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Nicky Gayner

Empty Nest

The Pheasantry, London, U.K., February 10, 2015

Reviewed by Mychelle Colleary for Cabaret Scenes

Nicky-Gayner-Empty-Nest-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212Nicky Gayner is a housewife with grown children who has decided to give singing a go (or another go anyway), hence the show’s title Empty Nest. This title and concept would be enough to send New York audiences screaming in the other direction… “No, not another vanity show to give cabaret a bad name!” This housewife is also well connected to the London theater world via her doctor husband… oh, and she is a patron the London Festival of Cabaret, and a genuinely nice person.

This could have been Emperor’s-New-Clothes bad, and no one would likely have been willing to say that if it were not quite up to par.

Thankfully, however, Gayner’s very first cabaret show is more than just a respectable attempt—it is a solid offering. She can sing, perfectly in tune and with pleasing nuances, from soft and sultry to country twangy and show tune belt-y. She is fetching and her natural charm comes across in song as well as in her autobiographical anecdotes of motherhood (the mundane, the funny, and the tear-jerker).

This polished debut isn’t by accident, but by careful planning and attention to craft. Gayner has done all the right things to prepare for this debut: attended the Cabaret Conference at Yale University and The Singer’s Cabaret Workshop (Paul L.

Martin) in London; studied with BBC award-winning jazz vocalist Anita Wardell; assembled a top-notch, well-respected group of collaborators who specialize in the genre of cabaret (Sarah-Louise Young as director, arrangements by Michael Roulston, with Sam Michael as musical director and pianist); and decided on a topic to which she and her audience could easily relate. Gayner also previewed the show at U.

K. cabaret’s “baptism of fire,” the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, summer 2014.

Song selections were smart and varied, such as lesser-known jazz standards and musical theatre repertoire including works by Sondheim, Landesman & Wallace, Kander & Ebb, and Maltby & Shire. Each seemed carefully chosen to highlight significant moments in her experience as a mother and served to facilitate the mostly chronological narrative. Not perfect, not super splashy, but an audience-friendly, solid, heart-warming and entertaining evening of well delivered songs and stories.

Of course, this subject matter is near and dear to Gayner’s heart, as she unapologetically states she choose motherhood as her life’s priority. It will be interesting to see what her sophomore offering will bring, and the next topic she’ll explore as she emerges from the role of Empty Nest mother to full-fledged singer/performer.

Mychelle Colleary

Mychelle Colleary (native Californian, honorary New Yorker and now Londoner) graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from San Jose State University. Her first professional acting role was at 18 and she worked in theater for two years before attending University. As a jazz vocalist, Mychelle has performed internationally and has shared the stage with greats such as Carl Anderson, Clare Fischer and Bobby McFerrin. She currently divides her time between project management (design & communications) and being on a stage or in an audience. From musical theater to classical to folk rock to jazz to cabaret, Mychelle brings her collective professional experience and insight to reviewing.