02 November 2015
Ryan G. Hinds is one of Toronto’s most beloved cabaret performers. From his glittering one-man Fringe show Starry Notions to the absurd and exuberant disco ballet he created for SummerWorks, Hinds lit up our summer with his own unique brand of star power.
Now, as he takes his latest show #KanderAndEbb on the road, we’re asking Hinds to give My Theatre (New York) a heads up about what’s coming their way.
Give us a two-sentence pitch for your upcoming cabaret #KanderAndEbb.
#KanderAndEbb explores the dark, romantic, gritty, glamorous, funny, and sexy music of the legendary songwriters John Kander and Fred Ebb. From Kiss of the Spider Woman to Zorba, from The Visit to The Rink, their songs are the blackest coffee with the sweetest sugar…and I promise to add a dash of spice!
What inspired this piece?
As a longtime K & E fan, I was always frustrated that their admittedly brilliant work on Cabaret and Chicago overshadowed everything else. There’s way more than showbiz metaphors in their songs; because of the wide range of material they’ve written, it’s the blood and guts I’m interested in, not just the razzle dazzle. Not wanting to sing the same songs everyone else does, my goal was to sing only the songs I connect on a personal level with. Case in point: the Kiss of the Spider Woman medley! Having Chita Rivera as a mentor figure over a number of years has allowed me many special K & E moments, but some of the most special were getting to watch up close the development of Spider Woman from its out-of-town try out in Toronto, to winning Tonys on Broadway, to its hugely successful national tour. I wanted to put that whole experience into a personal context to explain how it shaped my theatre sensibilities and at the same time give a public acknowledgement of what an important person Chita has been in my life. The medley definitely reflects that in a fabulous, tender, dramatic way and is a nod to the type of songs that are Kander & Ebb at their best.
Walk us through the development & rehearsal process.
I spent a long time going over Kander and Ebb’s 50 year career: cast recordings, tv specials, films, cut songs, specialty material, and winnowing it down to the songs I felt best “sat” in my voice (both vocally and dramatically). I also looked at what factoids deserved to be shared: funny stories about how they wrote a particular number or the way it connected to my own life. Creating the show through my residency at Buddies in Bad Times meant I had time to really put a lot of effort into that research & writing and try out material on its feet before an audience to see if they worked or not. Buddies isn’t specifically devoted to music theatre, but from the first performance we were lucky to have quite savvy audience members…so I give Buddies enormous credit for allowing me to develop this show in the perfect environment. Their residency program is truly a gift for artists!
The show has already played Toronto and Montreal. How are you preparing for New York audiences?
Because Don’t Tell Mama is literally in the heart of New York and surrounded by ‘Broadway’, there’s a rhythm and energy that we need to match. There’s very little that a New York audience hasn’t seen before, but we are coming in with some really surprising and original moments (and I guarantee you will never hear music from Steel Pier the same way again!). In Toronto, a young theatre student said he felt like he just opened a gift and couldn’t wait to discover more about K & E and then in Montreal, a woman came to me after the show with tears in her eyes saying she had never been to New York, but felt that the show finally took her to Broadway. Getting ready for NYC has been guided by those two observations: I want to both surprise people and give them a real theatrical experience.
How does #KanderAndEbb compare to your previous work?
It’s absolutely the most “musical theatre”-y show I’ve ever done; there are no detours into pop or rock that might distract from the fact that John Kander and Fred Ebb devoted their lives to creating theatre music. Also, unlike Starry Notions or much of my other cabaret work, there’s an obvious cohesion to this show because of the specific focus. The cool thing is that the show isn’t a museum piece or a “best of” show….the songs are presented in a fresh and fun way with unique context.
Where and when is the show playing? How can we buy tickets?
#KanderAndEbb is at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46th Street at 8 PM! Tickets are $10, visit the website or call (212) 757-0788 for tickets, and they’re also be available at the door.