15 February 2010

Cake, or It Takes a Village

I didn't realize until recently that I know a lot of people who know a lot about cake. But when it became clear that the 30 frosted cakes the run of Transport Group's BOYS IN THE BAND requires would be my problem, I began to assemble my small army of cake experts. A list of everyone who has been involved (I'm writing this on my blackberry during the show, so no links or images):

1) Katya Schapiro-baker and blogger. She answered my first panicked email on this subject with via gchat and made me realize that it IS possible to make 30 cakes, that you can reeze them before icing, and that some icings don't require refrigeration.

2) Peiyi Wong-set designer (asst on BOYS), roommate and former cookie lady assistant. She talked me through some practicalities and contacted her former boss (the aforementioned cookie lady) who lent me 4 cake pans (which Peiyi picked up). Also offered advice throughout this process.

3) The cookie lady-lady who makes cookies. See above.

4) Ali Marts-former college roommate, actress turned pastry chef, life saver. Ali made 18 cake rounds on a super tight budget (this is a non-profit we're dealing with). She also gave me a lesson in cake icing (as I have to ice the cakes at the space for every show).

5) Wendy Patten-BOYS PSM (I am the SM). Picked up 15 jars of icing from a Stop N Shop in White Plains. Will buy "nice cake" for gala opening

6) Susan Horowitz-Teacher. Help carry still warm plates to Ali's car today so I could get home in time to come to the theater for today's rehearsal/performance.

How it works: each night we use 1/2 a cake. During the 2nd act I frost the next day's cake as the current days cake is being consumed. The cake I frost during the show is comprised of the un-used half cake from the previous performance plus a frozen cake half. It. Has white vanilla frosting with green trim. Starting Wed it will also say "Happy Birthday" (or possibly even "Happy Birthday Harold").

Visit http://www.TransportGroup.org for ticket info so you can see these cakes (and the fabulous play around it).

08 February 2010

Best Night Ever

As a member of the ITBA, I frequently get comp offers to varied theatrical events.  I've seen shows like Fela!, Avenue Q and Oleanna, and been invited to much, much more.  However, nothing has (or likely ever will) top the sheer delight and euphoria that resulted from seeing Betty Buckley at Feinstein's.

First off, I had never been to Feinstein's before.  It's a place for bitches far classier--and 10-50 years older--than I, who can afford $99 prixe fixes that include a glass of Michael Feinstein's own brand of wine.  This is the type of place where the hostess says "Right this way, Mr. Butchko" before leading me to an amazingly comfortable rounded corner booth with the perfect view of the "stage".  I was almost afraid the night was going to peak before it started.  But no amount of hyperbole could really prepare me for what was to come.

It was definitely an cabaret evening.  That word, "cabaret", typically fills me with the same sort of unease that words like "song cycle" or "webisode" yield--I think of lugubrious, breathy, piano-heavy arrangements of songs that sound just fine they way they are "intended" to sound.  Ms. Buckley's set was indeed lugubrious, breathy and piano-heavy (though an excellent bassist and versatile percussion/reed player did wonders), but it was also absolutely thrilling.  Ms. Buckley is an excellent actress and was able to imbue each number with enough meaning to justify the decadent arrangements, so even though each song got a similar Buckley-treatment (small voiced/almost sing-speak versus that blossom into a strong if vulnerable belt), each song also felt like a new journey.

"Spoiler Alerts" about her song set to follow.  I so enjoyed being surprised that if you have even a faint inkling to go, I would skip this paragraph until you (a) see the show or it (b) closes.  She started off with a Rogers and Hart medley which included "I Could Write a Book", "This Can't Be Love" and a third song I cannot remember.  Nice and breezy, along the lines of what I expected.  She then sang a pairing of "We Kiss in a Shadow" and "I Have Dreamed".  The pairing and arrangement was quite inspired--both songs have never quite sustained my interested before, but in tandem (with the boring parts of each song jettisoned), it was lush and moving with Buckley's interpretation far more nuanced than I thought possible.  Then came the number that almost made me fall out of my seat: "Fine, Fine Line" from Avenue Q.  The song is such a lesson in catharsis in the first place.  Add to that Buckley's initial hesitation in hitting the high note in the "I don't think you even KNOW what you're looking for" section of the bridge, coupled with her triumphant belt by the end of the song.  I died.  What followed included a cute novelty number called "When I Belt", a sultry "Lazy Afternoon", a stirring and superbly acted Jacques Brel number (I think it was "Ne me quitte pas"...but it was in English), "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered", and a charming "You've Got Possibility", in addition to a few others I cannot recall.  The second time my heart stopped was her closing number: "Home" from THE WIZ.  Typically a riffing playground, it was nice to hear the melody stand up to the more subtle, but no less impassioned arrangement and performance Buckley performed.  For her encore, she sang "Memory", the song we knew she couldn't NOT sing.  It was as if I heard the song for the first time and was as much as my gay heart could possibly handle--if she had segued into "14 Dwight Ave, Natick Massachusetts", I literally would have gone into cardiac arrest.

I feel I should also give special mention to the exquisite sound system and their fantastic compact LED lights which highlighted Ms. Buckley's beauty while practically disappearing into the ceiling.  I want them in my living room (you know, for parties or times I want to do a really thorough PRETTYBELLE sing-a-long).

I had such a grand time that I was once again inspired to become disgustingly rich (or to date someone who is).  If you currently find yourself in such a position, then get thee to Feinstein's pronto!  Otherwise, envy me.