Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Royal Escape!

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are surrounded by their Bridesmaids and Page Boys (which included Prince George and Princess Charlotte) in The Green Drawing Room of Windsor Castle. Photograph by Alexi Lubomirski.
The Royal Wedding.  I Really Don't Care if Meghan and Harry Enjoyed It — I Needed the Escape!!! Also — Seth Sikes Soars Again at Feinstein's 54/Below.   
by Denis Ferrara

“IT IS such a happiness when good people get together — and they always do.” ― Jane Austen

My — wasn’t Jane, underneath her realism about the position of women of her time — the eternal optimist?
I THOUGHT of this quote toward the end of my marathon watching all aspects of the wedding of Meghan and Harry. (The ceremony itself, the various specials about the bride and groom, about Diana, the Duchess of Windsor and all things royal, good and bad.) 

I hadn’t intended to.  I don’t think I watched ten minutes of William and Kate’s nuptials.  But that was seven years ago.  And while the world is always a messed-up place and it’s easy to be depressed about this or that, one way or another, I really felt a need to escape — the latest royal wedlock coming 48 hours after the terrible school shooting event in Texas.

I could have binged on something else, but I didn’t feel like being drawn into hours of reading subtitles about that poor child or woman or nice guy found washed up a the dank shore someplace, as various neurotics try to solve the crime.

So I watched a lot of Meghan and Harry, and the utterly ridiculous news people reporting the event.  I came away knowing a great deal more about Ms. Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, than I knew before. Her acting career was benignly inconsequential; her charity endeavors were admirable. (I’d kept track of Harry for the basest of reasons. He is, after all — as the gossip site DListed refers to him — Hot Prince Ginge.)   I’d recently been rather horrified by a big magazine piece about the nuptials which referred to the union as “doomed.” I wished the pair well in reaction to that.  I meant it, but after 24 hours of deep dish Meghan and Harry, I wish them well more genuinely, not just as a “see what a nicer person I am!”
They do seem like good people, and barring some horrific tragedy, have little to worry about in terms of ever “ruling” the Brits.  Or, more precisely, being the goodwill figureheads of an archaic way of life.  They can be far freer in attitude and deed than William and Kate, have more fun, do bigger good deeds in a naughty world, and even wait a beat before instantly supplying “heirs and spares.”  The heirs and spares of Meghan and Harry will be even further removed from royal responsibility, and less pressured. They will never be “normal” exactly, or know want, but even that we can’t be sure of. 

The world is in great flux now.  Not just America where we insist on being hysterical every single day about the man in the High Castle — uh, I mean, in the White House.   I believe civilization is at a turning point, probably not for the better.  But the worst is some time away.  By then I hope I and all I love will be partying at that big after-hours bar in the sky. (Harps, clouds and an abstentious disposition is NOT my idea of heaven.) 
So Kate and William and Meghan and Harry — known in the U.K. as the Fab Four, often joining forces and charities — will have a good deal of time for happiness and “giving back.”

The very best part of the wedding coverage were the frequent shots of Meghan’s mom in the church, her face aglow, brimming with love and pride — and no doubt a good deal of “WTF?”

I don’t know how many people were really interested in the royal wedding.  Polls indicated not so much.  The media insists we are, that we must be!  This is a lingering hangover from the spectacle of Diana’s marriage to Charles, and the epic nature of her life and tragic death.  Nothing’s ever been as big, or as vital to royal family change as Diana’s mess and majesty.  (Had she been the obedient mannequin required back then, adhering to the hypocritical strictures of “The Firm,” for sure Harry would never have married Meghan, and even William and Kate might not have gone down the aisle.)   
So, while I don’t believe in fairy tales, or happily-all-the-time-for-ever-after (this despite, or perhaps because of my own 43-year relationship) I lost myself for a while watching pretty people take solemn vows, badly dressed guests and news anchors/commentators whose stupidity amused me for one day.  (Most have proven themselves fit for nothing more taxing than noting that Oprah Winfrey wore a “church hat” rather than a bizarre little Brit Fascinator. Even CNN’s Don Lemon was sort of bearable, crooked purple bow tie and all.)

Oh, of course Jane Austen never married.  Perhaps that’s why she thought good people “always do” get together.  Although she also noted: “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.”
ABOUT four years ago, I went to see a cabaret performer named Seth Sikes, who was doing an evening of Judy Garland songs. Even given my strong admiration for Miss Garland I might have passed this up but for the insistence of Seth’s press rep, Scott Gorenstein, who assured me I was not going to be subjected to a drag show or a misguided person attempting to imitate Garland’s style. Scott also sent me some photos of Seth.  Well, at least it would be a visually pleasing evening!

Seth with two of his muses.
I went. I saw. I listened.  Sikes was no imitator/impersonator.  Yes, he sang Garland songs, but with no attempt to sound like her, only to project them with the bravado or intimacy each familiar tune required.  He told funny stories, and told them well.  He was at ease, if sometimes a bit self-deprecatingly nervous.  It was impossible not to be impressed and charmed. 

In the years since, Seth has tackled Garland again, Liza Minnelli, Bernadette Peters, Streisand. He has become more polished, without losing his genuine appeal, a better singer, an even more assured and witty storyteller.  It’s been a pleasure to watch him bloom.

Last week, Seth was back at Feinstein’s 54/Below, with a new Garland act, “The Songs That Got Away.”  This was a collection of tunes, not obscure but not always included in Garland retrospectives.  He opened big with “Gotta Have Me Go With You” the Arlen/Gershwin number that Judy herself opened big with in “A Star is Born.” (This is a great, upbeat kick-off for any cabaret performer!)

Sikes caressed and belted songs as disparate as “Look for the Silver Lining,” “This Could Be the Start of Something Big,” “You’re Nearer,” “Waiting for the Robert E. Lee” and “Just One of Those Things” (in which Sikes very cleverly incorporated aspects of Garland’s Palladium rendition of this Cole Porter number, one which was interspersed with an extremely funny tale of Garland’s crossing the Atlantic to London. Seth had his own tale.)

Seth also tackled “What Now My Love.”

As almost any Garland aficionado can tell you, by the time Judy was singing this song, composed in 1961, she had passed her vocal peak, and though she gave some rousing renditions, the final lyric ... ”only my last goodbyyyyyyeee ...” with the staggering big note at the end, was always a challenge to Garland — as indeed it was to other singers, often emerging as more of a scream than a well-sustained note.  But, Mr. Sikes not only nailed the hand-wringing melodrama of “What Now My Love,” he hit that final note right out of 54 Below and onto 8th Avenue. Impressive!  (Miss Garland herself would have been impressed, and then knocked him off the stage.)
The best part of this revue were Seth’s choices and renditions of songs Garland didn’t live to perform. (Who hasn’t among Judy fans thought over the years, “Oh, if only she could have sung this or that?”)  Sikes chose, among others, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “As if We Never Said Goodbye,” Stephen Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here” and another Sondheim classic, the exquisite “Losing My Mind.”  This in fact, was the show’s piece de resistance, and I dare say perhaps not even Garland could have delivered this song with the delicacy that Mr. Sikes managed.  (I await death by a thousand emails for that!)

He closed with Garland’s classic “San Francisco” — so rousingly and confidently performed that I went right home and dragged out the Carnegie Hall album. (The vinyl, of course!)  And with albums on my mind, I think it’s about time for Mr. Sikes to record.  Past time, actually.

Seth will next appear at Provincetown’s Crown & Anchor on July 24th.  Later this year, he’ll become a part of Feinstein’s/54 Below and Azamara Club Cruises — a boutique luxury cruise line.  He’ll be doing his stuff on the high seas.  So might I suggest a tribute to Cole Porter’s ocean liner musical, Anything Goes? This would offer Seth the opportunity to dive into “You’re the Top,” “All Through the Night,” “Anything Goes,” “Let’s Misbehave,” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.”
Amongst the clutter it's always convenient to have "Judy at Carnegie Hall" handy — when you're suddenly in the mood.   
Contact Denis here.