With the difficult times we are facing at the moment, it is the perfect time to try something new whilst you are forced to stay indoors and over the next couple of weeks we are interviewing acts that are putting on everything from projects to lessons. Today, we are talking to Jenni who has held a Musical Theatre Cabaret every week of lockdown! With raving reviews, I had to find out more about it.
Hello there tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hi, I’m Jenni Winter. I’m an entertainer- a pianist, singer, actress and improviser. Plus I do a lot of teaching and workshop leading too. Over the last couple of years I’ve started hosting and curating Musical Theatre Cabaret nights around Newcastle Upon Tyne, initially at Prohibition Bar and most recently at Northern Stage. I’m crazy about playing the piano, so I play for the cabarets, as well as when I’m teaching singing, and whenever a local band, wedding or improv troupe will have me! I’m a regular pianist with Spontaneous Wrecks and School Of Improv, and a Sometimes- Understudy for The Suggestibles. I love making people feel good about themselves, which I aim to do through teaching classes and workshops, and also through performing.
Tell us all about the project that you are bringing to the online world at the moment?
I’m bringing a weekly Musical Theatre Cabaret to the world at the moment, via facebook Live. The cabaret has a very relaxed feel and really at the heart of it is the audience. I play the piano and sing a range of songs from popular musicals each week, having taken requests throughout the week. I play much of the Great 5 American Song Book Composers: George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Rodgers and Hart. But there’s also often requests for Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz and Andrew Lloyd Webber; and material from shows such as Blood Brothers, Les Mis, Rent; and more contemporary shows including Hamilton, Kinky Boots and Book of Mormon.
I also throw some jazz, blues and the occasional Tom Waits and Nick Cave for good measure!
There are also some shows which have become favourites among the audience- almost every week there is a request for something from Little Shop of Horrors, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Grease and Some Like It Hot.
Each week the cabaret has an extremely loose theme, but mostly it’s a lovely relaxed evening of me at the piano, playing and singing everyone’s favourite hits, plus a few less well known numbers. There’s often a rendition of happy birthday for one of our fans too.
I’m joined by Maurice who reads out the audience’s comments at regular intervals throughout the show. These range from comments on the music, to entries into our fun, silly, interactive, (optional) weekly activity. Every week Maurice invites the audience to join in our weekly silly task. This usually takes the form of asking them to change one word or letter in a musical or song, to make it fit a specific topic. Examples of this have been:
Change a word or letter in a musical to make it scary (“the Gravest Showman”); or lto make it animal related (“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream Goat”); or to make it lockdown related (“ Dreamboats and Sweatpants”).
This is huge fun, and of course completely optional!
What I have found from these weekly tasks though is how lovely our audience is! The audience members chat and comment on each other’s comments, and there is absolutely no competition. We have created a really lovely, supportive community where everyone is welcome.
What times does it run throughout the day? how much does it cost , what platform etc?
9pm, every Sunday evening, live on www.facebook.com/musicaltheatrecabaret
I also upload the videos to YouTube Musical Theatre Cabaret channel every Monday morning
How much does it cost?
It is completely free for everyone to attend, and everyone is welcome! I do have a page people can donate to if they feel they can, but the most important thing is that everyone feels welcome, and if they can’t afford to donate they MUST continue to come to and enjoy the show! www.ko-fi.com/jenniwintercabaret
What platform is it on?
Currently it is live streamed via facebook, and this will be extended to twitter within the next couple of weeks. I also upload the videos to YouTube for Musical Theatre fans who don’t use social media
How was the project formed?
The project was formed early on in lockdown. Last year I devised and performed a solo show as part of my Masters at Northumbria University and I always intended to develop a solo cabaret, to go along side my regular cabaret nights (which feature a brilliant cast of singers). This seemed the obvious time to bite the bullet and give it a go! It soon developed a fantastic audience made up of regulars and people who drop in and out, and while many audience members tell me the cabaret means a lot to them; equally it means a lot to me. Performing is my passion, and I am so, so lucky that I get to do this every week! The comments and the likes and hearts from the audience throughout the show really help to give it an *almost* live feeling. I am so grateful to the audience- this show really wouldn’t work without them. The weekly quiz/ task is now such an enjoyable part of the show, even though it started as just a little extra thing for fun!
How long has it been going on?
I have performed 15 cabarets now! There has been one a week almost since the start of lockdown, plus an extra cabaret early on after Sunday night technical difficulties.
With everything happening in the world at the moment, why is it so important to have activities like yours available?
This cabaret show really brings people together and gives them a chance to connect. There are people from all around the world joining us each week, chatting and interacting in the comments. It is a chance for people to connect, plus the music and songs are good! I play and sing requests every week, which often have real importance for people, and the cabaret is a chance to enjoy some of the best writing of the last 100 years of showtunes, performed and delivered with passion and flair! The reviews capture some of essence of the show, and why it is important:
Andy Chandler: “Completely wonderful music, brilliantly performed. The Cabaret is a place for fun, friendliness and inclusion. It will make you smile your pants off. Jenni is a marvel!”
Jon Farthing: “Wonderful Sunday night fun from the talented Miss Winter and the ‘unique’ Maurice. Great songs and they somehow manage to make you feel like you’re at a live gig. Lots of fun in the comments too with questions and games set up and some of their favourites being read out throughout the show. So good it Almost makes me not want lockdown to end!”
Ann Honey: “This has been the highlight of lockdown – I look forward to it every week! Lots of fun and fabulous music – what’s not to like!!
Peter Evans: “Wonderful evenings of fabulous singing and piano playing by Jenni Winter, interwoven with banter and punning games devised and MCed by ‘Maurice’. The range is classical and modern, the performance brilliant, the evening a must for all Musicals lovers!”
Matthew Bratton: “The musical cabaret nights are fantastic, fun and intimate! Jenni is brilliant. During the pandemic – the online cabarets have been fabulous and so funny!! Love tuning in every weekend.”
Anne Marie: “A wonderful amount of music and silliness on a Sunday! Jenni is insanely talented. We look forward to it all week.”
What can people expect over the next few weeks from your project?
Over the next few weeks we are hoping to update our streaming software so that we can add a logo and fancy graphics, and most importantly to be able to live stream via twitter and Instagram as well as facebook, so that non facebook users can also enjoy the cabaret. Other than that people can expect beautifully played showtunes, both uptempo showstoppers and moving ballads, plus more quizzes and opportunities for audience interaction.
One suggestion has been to introduce a Zoom Green Room so that if audience members want to, they can watch the show while chatting to other audience members in a place they can actually see each other! Watch this space!
If people want to find out more about you on social media where shall they visit?
Finally why should people get involved?
People should get involved because this is a lovely way to end the week. A mixture of beautiful and toe tapping music; very silly banter; a fantastic, supportive community who enjoy each other’s comments and jokes, without judgement or competition; and very easy to get to! The cabaret takes place in your own front room via the internet, it’s free, and you end your week smiling and singing, knowing you are part of a wonderful community.