Last week, I was invited to a fantastic show at Tropics with Joe Posa as Joan Rivers (hilarious) and Scott Townsend as Cher who sang live just like the lady herself. The show was a riot; viper tongued one-liners, classic songs and a great atmosphere. After the show, I was chatting with my friend who happened to be the producer, Christopher L. Gjertsen, about how much I had enjoyed it and he explained he wanted to create an intimate cabaret feel. It worked, and it dawned on me for all the issues we have and the various concerns that could better the community, the one thing that we have down pat is entertainment!
Since I have been in Florida, I have seen some of the most fantastic shows and, remarkably, what makes them special is, regardless of venue, each and every performer I have seen treat their audiences like Broadway theatre-goers each and every time. Without a doubt, the cabaret shows here – from both drag queens to the lovely ladies and gentleman such as Debra Hampton, Jennifer McClain and Tony and Gloria, just off the top of my head – are far from amateur; they are incredibly talented professionals who have stayed and stuck by the community because of the incredible vibe that exists here in terms of appreciating their talent and entertainment.
If I were to list all of the fun cabaret acts I have seen in my time in Florida, I would undoubtedly forget someone and, for all my enjoyment, I don’t think I would want to be up against one of our beloved 6ft 5 drag queens in a dark alley! I will say this, though: South Florida has achieved a love and understanding for classic and contemporary shows that is worth celebrating.
The vision I always had of the kind of shows you see in bars was a tragic one. Someone on stage trying their best to engage with an audience that just doesn’t care … you know a lot like that Elkie Brook’s song Pearl’s a Singer, singing songs for the lost and the lonely at a beer stained table. Amazingly, that isn’t the case here. The audience may not pay directly to see the entertainer but, without a doubt, you can tell people have come to see them, to encourage them and I have no doubt that is why we have so many acts that have played and stayed with us here.
I have had the privilege of interviewing a few of our beloved cabaret entertainers and asking them why they hadn’t gone on to make CD’s or tour or try out for a reality show and they all shrugged in a generally semi-interested way, saying basically they were happy where they were. I had always thought this a bit odd, as they are all remarkably talented. Doesn’t the fame fortune and bright lights call them? Then I made a real mistake and decided it must be a case of a big fish in a small pond – they could be stars here as it’s a relatively small area of the world, but the critique of millions would be a daunting prospect for anyone. I remember interviewing one of our resident entertainers who thought the idea of a reality show was absurd. I remember her saying, basically we get judged and scrutinized everyday why go on TV to have it done by millions!
Watching the American Idol final the other day, I suddenly thought about the appeal of what I have seen here. Their shows are not just a four minute song belted out to shock America (though many of them have some pipes!), but a delight in jokes, songs and anecdotes, something you couldn’t convey to millions on a talent show and, quite frankly, wouldn’t want to. This is all the more special because their acts – their stories – are what make them so respected here. The simple fact is what they offer is either naturally suited to the community or tweaked to do so. If you have ever seen one of our entertainers, and I say ‘our’ because they are ours, then you can agree that the connection they ALL make with their audience is magical. I have heard many performers, local, national and global, say when they are on stage they come alive. The most magical thing I have seen here with the community is we support that, we revel in it as much as they do. More so than anywhere I have been, we appreciate what they do, not just with tips, but with requests, applause and, more importantly, with the love we show by making sure we go to their shows.
This week I urge you to see someone. They are all incredible and pretty much any night of the week there is someone there to listen to, watch and be entertained by. I often say one of the things I miss most about London is the culture, namely the theatre, and only recently have I come to realize that we have here a different kind of theatre, one that is just a little bit more special. Intimate venues with talented performers who I genuinely believe come to entertain us because they want to.
They respect, appreciate and enjoy being their most spectacular selves night after night within an arena in which they feel safe, understood and loved. We all want that ultimately, so go, get a cocktail, sit back and enjoy! Let them entertain you. Trust me, it’ll be as good for you as it is for them!
Alex Vaughn is the Editor-in-Chief of the Florida Agenda. He can be reached at editor@FloridaAgenda.com