Ask A Cabaret Question Wednesday At McElrath Cabaret–What Are Actable Song Lyrics? Join the Conversation!

Welcome to McElrath Cabaret!  We hope you enjoy our cabaret blog.  If you like this post, Like us on FacebookFollow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our blog via email–thank you!  

We appreciate your support.

A little Barbara Van Orden for your cabaret Wednesday.  Learn more about Ms. Orden at her fabulous website, as well as in The Persian Room Presents by Patty Farmer.  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: What are actable song lyrics?


If you have done a lot of singing, this may seem a pretty basic question, but for those who are starting out in cabaret performance, it is a crucial point to a successful rendition.


In a nutshell, I think actable lyrics are this:  As a cabaret entertainer, you want to use material, in our case song lyrics, that tell a story.  That is the primary consideration.  You also want lyrics that evoke an emotion in the audience, based on how you present the story in the lyrics.  The lyrics must speak to you as well in some way in which you can relate and connect.

This is why the American Songbook is such a perennial favorite for material for cabaret entertainers.  The brilliant lyricists, in just a very few words, take the listener on a journey in a story that the lyrics tell.  It might be a journey of romance, of heartbreak and the pain that goes along with that, or it might be a funny story, or any number of stories that bring up emotions and feelings in the listeners.

Here are some examples of great actable songs:

  • Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?
  • Down In the Depths (On The Ninetieth Floor)
  • Our Love Is Here To Stay
  • Serenade In Blue
  • Always

I’ve barely scratched the surface–there are so many more.  This is where the fun of putting together a cabaret show comes in–you get to decide what kinds of stories you want to tell through the songs that you choose to sing, and you get to plan a whole hour of storytelling in song such that the audience feels a variety of different emotions and can connect with those lyrics due to what you have caused them to feel.  It’s a symbiotic relationship among the entertainer, the material and the audience, and it requires all three to make cabaret work.


So what are lyrics that are actable for use in a cabaret performance?  What songs do you use in your cabaret sets that tell stories that your audience really likes?  I truly look forward to your joining the conversation with 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.


Till next time, 


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 cabaret 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


Print Friendly

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.
This entry was posted in Cabaret entertainer, Cabaret performance, cabaret performers, Cabaret Questions, Cabaret shows, Cabaret Song Selection, cabaret songs, music, Saloon Singers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.