It has been a year that has been very unusual from the norm and with only a month until we say goodbye to 2020, we thought we would celebrate the last Show of The Week of the year by interviewing an act that is doing something very festive for December. On the 6th December, this Sunday, Jenni returns with her Musical Theatre Cabaret which you can watch live on Facebook from 9pm . I caught up with the musician to find out all about the celebrations she has in store.
Hello Jenni tell us three random facts about yourself!
1. I’ve always wanted to play Nancy in Oliver, and Lady Macbeth
2. I grew up in theatrical lodgings
3. I swim in the North Sea two mornings a week, at sunrise
Tell us all about the project that you are bringing to the online world at the moment?
I’m putting a show online, once a month, called Musical Theatre Cabaret. It’s on the first Sunday of the month, at 9pm, and lasts roughly an hour. I started doing them weekly right at the start of lockdown, and have done over 30 online cabarets now. They are now monthly, usually with a bit of a theme, the next one being the Christmas Cabaret.
It lasts about an hour and it’s a mixture of me chatting with the audience using comments they put in the chat, me at the piano playing and singing show tunes and jazz, and a silly game usually along the lines of “change a letter or word in a musical to make it…(today’s theme) related.” So far we’ve had themes hat have included food, espionage, science fiction, horror. It is a lot of fun and once you get started on the puns it’s hard to stop!the audience put their suggestions in the chat, and there’s no limit, many of our regulars like to keep going all night!
What times does it run throughout the day?
9pm until around 10.15pm
It is a Christmas show as well!!!! Will you be dressing up for the occasion?
Oh yes, I love a bit of festive glitter- maybe a few baubles and a bit of tinsel!
What about the songs?
There will definitely be a few festive favourites, such as White Christmas, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and maybe even some Wham! The whole evening won’t be just Christmas songs, there’ll be plenty of Musical Theatre and jazz/ blues repertoire in there too
What are your favourite Christmas songs to perform?
I absolutely love River by Joni Mitchell, and also Fairytale of New York. I won’t be performing it at the cabaret of course, but I do think it’s the best Christmas song ever! I also love Rockin Around the Christmas Tree, which I will be giving a bash!
What is the most underrated Christmas or theatre song and why?
I think River by Joni Mitchel really is a beautiful Christmas song. I’m also a fan of I Was Born On Christmas Day by Sarah Cracknell and Tim Burgess.
How much does it cost , what platform etc?
The show is completely free, and open to everyone. It is live streamed on facebook, and then uploaded to YouTube the next day for people who prefer not to use social media. There is a pay what you feel option, but really that’s only if you really, really can afford to throw something my way. The most important part of the cabaret is that it is a place for people to connect with each other and enjoy some silly cabaret theatre, being skint should absolutely not be a barrier to joining in! And even though we have a tremendous group of regular audience member, newcomers are always welcome!
How was the project formed?
I’ve worked for years as an audition pianist and singing teacher, and it kept occurring to me how much talent there was in the North East, with not that many opportunities for them to perform Musical Theatre professionally.
So at the beginning of 2019 I organised a couple of Musical Theatre Nights at the Prohibition Cabaret bar and Northern Stage. I mainly played the piano and invited others to sing, as there are so many super talented Musical Theatre singers in the region, and I wanted to give them a platform. Once lockdown began though it wasnt of course impossible to have the singers with me as we couldn’t perform together so I started singing as well. I do see myself as a pianist, but I really don’t see myself as a great singer, which is why the show is very much advertised as a piece of comedy/theatre and not as a concert!
I can’t wait to get back out in the real world and bring the real singers back. I know some of them are desperate to get back on stage too. There’s also something really special about accompanying a live singer. It’s a really magical relationship and to completely work the two of you are connected and in the moment together. I’m excited to get back to hosting and accompanying!
You have done a lot of these shows throughout the year, how has it been going so far?
It’s been great. I’ve had so much really lovely feedback from audience members, saying they really do look forward to the cabaret, and that it is a lovely way to end the week, connecting with others and listening to some showtunes and jazz! I know they love the pun tasks too
How do you rehearse for an online show?
Because it’s a musical show, I’m lucky in that I can rehearse all the songs whenever I have free time during the week leading up to the show. I don’t rehearse any of the chat (as you can probably tell!) It’s all improvised as I’m interacting with the audience via the comments they put in the chat. I’ll do a bit of prep in advance so I can talk about the composers and the shows the songs are from. And I’m also keeping up my Musical Theatre knowledge by watching the many classic musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood, that are currently on iplayer.
With everything happening in the world at the moment, why is it so important to have activities like yours available?
I think some of the key things about my show are that it is accessible to everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a walking musical theatre encyclopaedia or you’ve never see a show in your life, the show is inclusive and accessible to all. I’m very open and honest about my mistakes which I think puts the audience at ease. You certainly couldn’t accuse the show of being elitist. I celebrate all the comments the audience make, and I also celebrate the audience members who have said hi but aren’t joining in, and those who didn’t even feel like saying hi. There’s some lovely chat between audience members who may never have met in real life, they often put smiley faces by each other’s comments and also start their own mini chats together. Some weeks people have put in the comments they haven’t been well or have had a bad week, and immediately other audience members send them good wishes and support. It’s really lovely.
It’s free so anyone that uses face book can join us live, and it’s uploaded to YouTube the next day so people who aren’t on Facebook can also enjoy the show.
What are three things you have learnt about adapting to performing online?
Always check the technology way in advance (not at the last minute)
Schedule daily Facebook reminders at the start of the week, as there are so many live shows going out
Keep the show at the same time and day
Even when shows are back in theatres in the future will you be considering doing any more online content?
Yes, I will. Many people have asked me to keep going and the audience come from all over the UK and Spain. I’m based in the North East. I think about half the audience are North East based and would love a live show (they used to come to my life shows last year) so as soon as I can perform live I will. It will also mean that the singers can come back which will be brilliant. But the other half of my audience have been so amazing and loyal over the last 8 months that I certainly wouldn’t want to lose the great connection we’ve built up, so the online shows will definitely continue.
What can people expect over the next few weeks from your project?
The Christmas show is in Sunday the 6th December, and after that they will continue to be on the first Sunday of the month, at 9pm.
If people want to find out more about you on social media where shall they visit?
www.facebook.com/musicaltheatrecabaret (facebook) @musical16983011 (twitter) musicaltheatrecabaret (instagram) Musical Theatre Cabaret Jenni Winter (YouTube)
Finally why should people get involved?
Everyone should get involved because everyone is welcome! It’s a really lovely way to end the week, listening to some music, connecting with other people and (hopefully) having a good laugh. Most of the reviews on our Facebook page refer to how it’s a great way to end the week, it’s some light relief, a good way to just breathe and let go! I know many of our audience like to put the kids to bed, get into pyjamas, open the wine and sit back to enjoy the cabaret!
If you have a show that you want promoted in 2021, then drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – whether it is comedy, improv, music or theatre, on stage or online we want to hear from you! Show of the week returns early next year.