Ask A Cabaret Question Wednesday At McElrath Cabaret–Bouncing Back After Disappointment? Join Us!

The great composer, singer known for his perfect pitch, pianist, trumpet player and bon vivant Joe Bushkin.  I enjoy his voice, piano playing, and stage presence.  Over the course of his marvelous musical career, he recorded with Billie Holliday and worked briefly with Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman as well as with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, at which time he wrote the hit song “Oh, Look At Me Now” with Johnny DeVries.  He performed on Broadway as an actor/pianist in The Rat Race by Garson Kanin.  He also performed in New York City clubs such as The Little Club, The Embers, the St. Regis Hotel, and more.  He has selections included in the three-disc anthology called The Erteguns’ New York: New York Cabaret Music.  There is a wonderful website that gives information about Mr. Bushkin, who died in 2004, which includes a partial album list and music samples, along with a great video with introduction by Judy Garland–not to be missed!


Wednesday is the day of the week when we at McElrath Cabaret will post a cabaret 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:  How do you bounce back after a disappointment in cabaret performance?


Performers don’t always talk about this much, but it is something that everyone faces at one time or another in their cabaret careers.  And it may not be disappointment in an actual performance so much as not getting the gig that you were hoping to get.

We’ve all likely been through the situation where you go in and audition, either for an acting part or for a booker, and they say thank you and you leave.  And that’s the last you ever hear from them again.  Or you call a booker on the phone, and after explaining what you have to offer, they say they’ll get back to you.  With the same result.

It can be very frustrating knowing that you have a lot to offer, and yet not having the opportunities to show to an audience what you can do.  We know all the stories of famous performers and entertainers over the years who were at the top of their careers and yet succumbed to alcohol and drug abuse to deaden the pain most often felt from rejection, either real or perceived by them, or some type of career disappointment, and that certainly still goes on today.

But let’s say that we want to be active in this cabaret performance milieu for the long-term, and we don’t want to drink or drug ourselves to an early grave.  Then what?

There are a couple of ideas that I have seen or read about that help me deal with disappointment, and maybe you will find them of assistance.  One is from someone who created a video about actor auditions (for the life of me, I cannot remember who it was or have a link to it–if you know, please let me know in the comments so I can credit them properly.)  He basically said that after an audition, the thing you want to say to yourself is “Next.”  In other words, drop your thoughts about the audition you just did, and move on to the next aspect of moving forward in your cabaret career.  It can be hard to do, especially if the audition opportunities for cabaret are few in number; however, you can set and work on goals for yourself.  Work on your voice and becoming a better, more trained and versatile singer.  Learn ways to breakdown and act your songs more effectively.  Learn more songs, to build your repertoire.  Work on putting together your next show–you can never have too many prepared and ready to go, so that you will be ready for any performance situation.  Learn about other performers and what they are currently working on, and go see some shows.

I find that I am human and I will get mad after a disappointing situation.  I will wallow in self pity for a while.  It is okay to feel all that.  But after that, I think the key is to move forward in some way, any way that you have control over, to move forward with your cabaret career.  Take a risk–try to open up a new venue to cabaret performance where you live and perform, for example.  I just read in Donald Smith’s recent obituary that he spent five long years trying to get the Algonquin Hotel to utilize the Oak Room for cabaret shows, and he stuck with it, and eventually it became one of the top rooms in New York City (that is now scheduled to close.  Shame on you, Algonquin Hotel–what a loss.)

There is another story that I have read in a Judy Garland biography, and Richard Burton was also known to have done this as well.  Right before they had to go on stage and face a potentially scary situation for themselves, (“What if the audience doesn’t like me?  What if I screw up and forget my words?”  etc.), they would peek out at the audience while waiting in the wings to go on and say to the audience (in their mind and never spoken aloud!)  ”Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.”  It wasn’t that they didn’t love their audiences–they very much did–but they needed to be in control of that situation at that moment, and basically give themselves the freedom to acknowledge that they did not need the audience’s approval in order to be valid humans, or even valid entertainers.  When they were free of that need, they could open themselves to give to the audience the performances that were so remarkable and memorable, and the audiences loved them and they loved the audiences.  Also keep in mind that even the very famous cabaret performers started out somewhere, and every one of them faced certain types of performance rejections, didn’t get the jobs that they wanted, at one time or another along the way.  But they stuck with it, and finally reached their goals, and often exceeded their initial hopes and dreams for where their careers would go.  Very few of them started at the top, but had to work their way up.

Jack Plotnick, a wonderful actor, has a website that includes a series of great videos and online lessons to help actors (and really all entertainers, including cabaret singers) deal with the mental aspects of performance in a healthy way.  I am not affiliated with Mr. Plotnick in any way, but I love his work and have found some very good tips in his video and online series in terms of dealing with performance disappointments of all kinds and fear in performance, and I recommend you check them out.


So those are some tips that I use to deal with disappointment in terms of cabaret performance and opportunities–what about you?  How do you deal with performance disappointments?  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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