Ask A Cabaret Question Wednesday At McElrath Cabaret–How Do You Create The Perfect Medley? Join Us!

Singer Sandy Stewart, with a tune from 1963–”My Coloring Book,” by Kander and Ebb.

And Sandy’s son, Bill Charlap, playing “I’ve Just Seen Her.”

These two talented entertainers work together, with performances at the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel as well as at last year’s New York Cabaret Convention.  You will find out more about the duo at this website, as well as several You Tube videos featuring them in individual performances.  They have an album out called “Love Is Here To Stay.”  Enjoy!


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 create the perfect medley?


We used a medley at the end of our last show, entitled “From Broadway To Hollywood:  A Celebration Of Song.”  Nineteen-plus songs in less than eight minutes.  In order to do something like that, you have to have someone who can do the arranging for you, because it’s a ton of work to come up with a piece that long.  Happily, for us, that person is KJ, who is a wonderful composer and arranger, so it worked out well for us.

The songs needed to fit together in a way that made sense when you went from one to another.  Sometimes he would sing one snippet of a song, and bounce it back to me for the next one, sometimes we sang in duet, other times we’d each sing two or three song snips in a row.

It is very creative–there is no one right way to put together a great medley.  For us, because we use humor in our act, it also had to have funny moments.  And it had to tie into our show’s theme.

We sat down, in the early stages, and thought about songs that we hadn’t yet included in our act, but wanted to, yet didn’t have enough time for complete renditions of them all.  Some of those songs made it into the medley.  Next, you need a way to tie the song snips together.  We used the model of the last word from the previous snip leading into the first word of the next snip.  You must know all your lyrics to all the songs you are considering, so make sure you have all the sheet music available in order to do this type of medley.

Once you figure out which song snips work together lyrically, your arranger then has to go in to create the music that works for all of them.  If you can keep songs in the same keys from song to song, it makes it a lot easier, but not always possible, depending upon your vocal ranges.  The music style for each song needs to be different as well, so it helps the audience to recognize the changes from one song to the next.

Once you have your songs and your music, prepare to work it slowly at first, and work out the bugs.  Work out your acting choices so the audience sees as well as hears what the song lyrics mean.  Record yourself, so you can play it back and hear what it sounds like, and make any adjustments that you want.  Once everything is worked out, then rehearse it until you can do it in your sleep.  Then you’ll be ready to present it to the audience.

We were also inspired by looking at the masters of entertainment performing medleys.  Of course, I have mentioned Ethel Merman and Mary Martin in this blog post, and you can’t really find a better medley performance than this.  Judy Garland is another master of this art form, and used medleys with great success when she sang with other guests on her television show or in concert.


So how do you create the perfect medley? What steps do you take in the process?  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.


If you like this post, Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our blog via email–thank you!  We appreciate your support.


ps–The Cabaret Soiree Link Party is still going strong–you can visit anytime to click on the links and see what others have posted, or you can share your own recent cabaret blog or now website link from now through Thursday.  Link is below.


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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