Cabaret Tip Tuesday At McElrath Cabaret: Keep It Simple–Join Us!


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Cabaret entertainer and big band singer from the 1930s and 40s–Thelma Carpenter.  According to the notes from YouTube, this video is from “11/16/48 NYC. WPIX-TV – EDDIE CONDON FLOOR SHOW”.  Johnny Mercer also speaks at the beginning of the video.  Thelma Carpenter is mentioned in Intimate Nights by James Gavin, there is an overview on Wikipedia, and she also has a listing on IMDB–she is remembered for her role as Miss One, the good witch from the movie The Wiz.  There are several listings for Thelma Carpenter on YouTube as well– Enjoy!


Welcome to Cabaret Tip Tuesday at McElrath Cabaret, where we offer cabaret performance tips to help you put together a great performance at your next show!


Today I’m thinking about singing as a cabaret entertainer, so my tip for you today is this:  Keep it simple.


What this means is this:  When you have gone to the trouble of ferreting out the perfect song with a lyric that tells a story that only you can tell, do not mess up your glorious acting moment by deciding to go into vocal gymnastics.   If a lyric is truly wonderful, you can be open to the audience and let the story flow out of you.  You do not need to resort to vocal gimmicks to pull off the emotion in the song–you are always enough, and if you keep your vocal performance simple, sticking with the melody as written mostly, you telling the story will shine through, because there is nothing to compete with it.  If you feel the need to embellish the music, ask yourself why.  Is it because the lyrics are repetitive?  This means you need to come up with another, different acting choice at that moment, to show another level of meaning in the lyrics.  This gives a performance a great deal of depth and subtlety.  Are you feeling insecure about something–maybe it’s a high or low note for your vocal range, which is causing you stress and making you feel like you’ll need the prop of a vocal gimmick to see you through the moment?  Never be afraid to change the key so that every note sounds good in your vocal range–then you don’t have to worry, and can spend your precious time on stage actually telling the story and entertaining the audience.


I think that this is what I like best about Thelma Carpenter’s interpretation of “Come Rain or Come Shine.”  Everybody in the world has sung that song–what more can a performer bring to it?  But what makes her rendition so lovely is that she is presenting it in a genuine fashion–she is solid on the notes and clean, no vocal gimmicks, and so what you, as the listener can focus on, are the amazing lyrics and her acting choices in her phrasing and breath.  I like that, a lot.


Hope these Tuesday cabaret tips help–let us know what other topics you’d like to see us cover here, and we’ll do our best to work through them!


Are you preparing some songs now for an upcoming show? How do you like to work on your lyric interpretation?  Leave us a note in the comments below—we always love to hear from our readers!


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


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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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2 Responses to Cabaret Tip Tuesday At McElrath Cabaret: Keep It Simple–Join Us!

  1. Lisa Smith says:

    Excellent reminder…you are always so full of great advice…LOVE IT! :-)