Ask A Cabaret Question Wednesday At McElrath Cabaret–Boas? Join Us!


A wonderful nightclub entertainer who started as the woman who originated the Charleston on Broadway and then after a serious accident shifted her focus to singing–the always entertaining Mae Barnes.  This song is included in a wonderful three-cassette anthology called The Erteguns’ New York: New York Cabaret Music, put together by the Ertegun Brothers, who were executives of Atlantic Records.  (I love this collection so much–it is my go-to music for when I work out on the treadmill! And the liner notes are worth the price of the set in itself.)  The reference of “Topsy” relates to the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin, where Topsy is the slave girl who is “transformed” by Eva’s love.  Ms. Barnes took standard melodies and lyrics and peps them up; she herself said that “I took the rhythm from my dancing and put it in my songs.”  She performed at the New York historic nightclubs the Blue Angel and Bon Soir in the 40s and 50s.


Wednesday is the day of the week when we at McElrath Cabaret will post a cabaret blog question for the consideration of our readers.


The questions will have something to do with cabaret, in all its many aspects. The question may take the form of a poll, to which we encourage you to respond, or it may be a question posed to the cabaret community, to which you can leave your response in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

We encourage you to send us any cabaret question that you have that you would like us to pose to the group! You can leave a question in the comments section below, or you can email it to us at kjandathenacabaret [at] Just fill in the [at] with the @ symbol—we need to foil the spam bots, don’cha know.


Today’s question is this:  Where do you find boas that don’t fall apart?  (Where else would you find this question for real except on a cabaret blog–cabaret where the clothes of the performers are kept on??)


Okay, so this is my boa story.  I love the things, and I like to use them for certain songs that lend themselves to that kind of ornamentation and prop whenever I can.  I have a feather one that is kind of a thin one that I purchased inexpensively–around $10–at a dancewear store.  It is terrible–everytime I use it, it sheds feathers like crazy.  I have also seen some for sale at JoAnn Fabrics, but they were of a similar–not great–quality.  In years past I was cast in a production of Jerry’s Girls (such a great show–why isn’t it produced very often?  The songs are wonderful, and it is such a fun musical review of Jerry Herman’s works.  If you live out in an area where theatre composers are not known, I think part of the problem is the name of the show–no one knows who Jerry is.  If you’re in New York, people would be lining up immediately to buy tickets for it.  But I digress . . .)  I was in Jerry’s Girls, and I got to sing “Song on the Sand,” wearing a gorgeous pink silk evening gown–really old heavy silk that you can’t even buy anymore but that flows and drapes so beautifully–with long white gloves and a wonderful, thick white feather boa.  Really an amazing costume piece, and I have dreamed of it ever since.

As I have thought about it after the experience, I don’t want to harm any birds in order to create clothing.  Now my quest is for a lovely plush boa made from artificial, manmade materials.  You would think you could find such things, but I’m not having much luck.  I contacted Display and Costume in Seattle, and spoke with the costume department.  The only imitation boa they offer is green, and made from colored organza fabric.  It’s pretty, but not the right color for me.  This led me to look up organza boas, and here I hit the jackpot.  They are plush and beautiful, but not cheap.  Da Neena offers them from $85-$250.  Too expensive for me, so then I thought I’d see if there are how-to instructions for making these yourself online, and indeed, there are.  (This apparently falls under the burlesque category, but they work for cabaret performance as well.)  I like this idea–if you can sew a bit, you can purchase the fabric in any color you like to match or contrast your clothing and make it yourself for a fraction of the cost of purchased ones!  (I now have a new project to work on!)  But I am still curious if there are artificial feather boas that look like feather boas, rather than fabric ones?  If you know, or know a costumer who knows, please leave a comment below!

Also, boas are the kind of thing that are difficult to purchase online without first seeing and feeling them for yourself to determine the quality, so if you have a personal recommendation of an online source, I would be thrilled.

So this is why I am asking–where do you go to purchase quality boas that do not fall apart and are made from artificial materials?  Do you make your own, and if so, using what types of techniques and materials?  I truly look forward to your comments, and any help or suggestions you have on this topic!  We value each of our readers very much, and hope to entertain you and give you a place to come and learn more about cabaret.  

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Weekly Post Lineup At McElrath Cabaret:

Mondays:  Cabaret Soiree Cabaret Blog Link Party

Tuesdays:  Cabaret Tip Tuesday

Wednesdays:  Ask A Cabaret Question

Thursdays:  Featured Cabaret Blog, Website, Performer

Fridays:  Cabaret Through Time


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About Athena at McElrath Cabaret

Athena McElrath is an entertainer with a love for theatre and singing. She enjoys delving in the area of historical cabaret, researching the singers and clubs that were in business from before 1920 to the present, in New York and beyond.
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