Perhaps Kander and Ebb said it best.
“What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play. Life is a cabaret.”
That musical advice is particularly apt in St. Louis, thanks to a vibrant cabaret scene, that includes an open mic night every month on the third Wednesday of the month at Sophie’s Artist Lounge in the .Zack building in Midtown St. Louis.
The Cabaret Project of St. Louis started the open mic night in 2012, as an offshoot of its annual St. Louis Cabaret Conference.
“All these singers were coming out of it, all these people were suddenly learning the art of song performance and how to do a song and how to make the lyrics live in public, but they had no place to go with it,” said Chuck Lavazzi, a Board Member of the Cabaret Project, and the host of the open mic night.
“Once they learned how to do this (at the conference) there was really no intermediate step between that and doing your own show,” he said.
Sometimes the open mic night draws a big crowd; other times it’s like performing in someone’s living room.
Either way, it usually feels like home, because the audience is largely other singers who come to try out new songs, freshen up their old act, or simply work on getting up the nerve to perform in public.
“It’s a space where you can make mistakes and nobody is going to laugh at you or make you feel weird,” said singer Mehgan Kirk.
Ken Haller is a regular at the open mic night and a fixture on the local cabaret scene as well as a member of the Cabaret Project board.
“It is the most accepting positive audience a performer can ever have,” Haller said.
“The only thing you have to have is the ability to sing, and sheet music,” Lavazzi said. “The way it works you come in here and give your music to (Music Director/pianist) Carol Schmidt, and you go over any aspect of it you are going to change and then you get up there and stand in front of the mic and sing.”
“I’ve been really impressed by a lot of people who come in here just off the street that I have never seen before, and they will get up there and really knock a song out of the park,” Lavazzi said, adding, “I am just bowled over and those are great moments that’s kind of what I live for.”
And if some of the moments are not so great, that’s okay too.
The Cabaret Project’s open mic night is not about showbusiness.
It’s about show-friendship.
If only life was a cabaret, old chum.