Meg Flather Outbound PlaneDon’t Tell Mama, NYC, December 29, 2019Reviewed by Joel Benjamin Meg FlatherPhoto: Helane Blumfield Meg Flather is a quietly fierce singer. Her voice is large and expressive, and she used it to reveal herself to her audience at Don’t Tell Mama in her show Outbound Plane. She was accompanied both instrumentally and vocally by her equally fierce music director Tracy Stark, who enriched Flather’s performance and vice versa. “Open a New Window” (Jerry Herman) was the opener, sung not in trumpet mode as usual but more like a gentle violin as if she were convincing herself. (She later paid tribute to Herman with “Remember My Forgotten Man” (Al Dubin/Harry Warren). The underlying tone of the program was bittersweet. The eponymous “Outbound Plane” (Nanci Griffith/Tom Russell) was a mature, sensitive tale of love, and “Why Can’t I Forget Him?” (Jeffrey D. Harris/Judy Barton) was a quieter version of Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind.” She descended into agitated despondency—literately expressed—in the Richard Maltby, Jr./David Shire cry of desperation “Patterns,” followed soon after by a sardonic look at her time selling skin-care products on TV in “Keep the Customer Satisfied” (Paul Simon). “I’m a Little Bit Off” (Maltby/Shire) took her into a sudden unexpected love affair that threatened her sense of self-control. The sadness that came after the death of her mother led to “Like a Sunday,” a bittersweet song of remembrance and love that she, herself, wrote. Ben Pasek and Justin Paul’s “A Change in Me” brought back a sure note of optimism. The emotional arc of the set took Flather from agitated emotion to a final acceptance of her weird but positive view of life as she sang—“Cockeyed Optimist” (Rodgers/Hammerstein) with which she ended her program. It was wonderful to hear a mature program of songs that invited the audience into the life of a fine singer/actress without ever becoming soppy or uninteresting. Her director Lennie Watts has to be proud that he had a hand in creating Outbound Plane.” - Joel Benjamin

Cabaret Scenes

There is a famous saying that tells us that the lotus is a flower that blooms in the mud, and that the deeper and thicker the mud, the more beautiful the lotus blooms. In the final moments of her one-woman musical play OUTBOUND PLANE, Meg Flather compares the process of recovering from pain and failure and loss to being trapped in mud. The analogy immediately conjures images of the saying about the Lotus -- that is when one realizes that Meg Flather is the living, breathing, walking, talking embodiment of that philosophy. All the parts of Meg Flather make up the ideology of the Lotus and the Mud. She is the earth, and she is the water; together she makes the mud. And out of the mud has bloomed the blossom. Meg Flather has, herself, created that which makes her bloom so bright, so fresh, so replete of color, of fragrance, of peace and of tranquility. Meg Flather is everything that she, herself, needs to shine brightly in a world rife with the dingy and the dank. Meg Flather is everything. Outbound Plane is a cabaret show born out of the loss of Ms. Flather's mother. Contemplating that loss with her longtime collaborator, director Lennie Watts, Flather gathered up the pearls of wisdom Watts dropped at her feet and created a show about the losses that people suffer, and how they recover, the result being a perfect example of what cabaret should be, and could be, if every person setting foot on a nightclub stage were as brave as Meg Flather. It doesn't take a lot of bravery to do what Ms. Flather is doing in Outbound Plane - just bravery of the right sort; and a little bit of that bravery can go a long way toward entertaining, teaching, learning, and healing. It isn't that Outbound Plane is group therapy set to music, though, as with all perfect endings, the audience goes home healed from whatever ails them, without even knowing it, possibly without even knowing that they required healing. That's the beauty of Outbound Plane - it grabs you with entertainment value and slips in the profundities when you're not looking. Outbound Plane is not, as some might pre-conceive, a night of Meg Flather songs. Indeed, only one Flather song, the quietly epic "Like a Sunday," appears in the show. For the rest of her tremendous tale, Meg Flather has curated a special collection of songs that feel so personal that they MIGHT be Meg Flather songs...but they aren't. Opening the play with an astonishingly arranged "Open a New Window" and closing it with a heart-stoppingly earnest "Cockeyed Optimist," Ms. Flather fills this musical sandwich with an almost shockingly diverse smorgasbord of songs ranging from Menken & Rice to Joan Armatrading, from Natalie Merchant to Dubin & Warren. The experience is one akin to being in a gallery showroom where, every time you turn a corner, there is a piece of artwork you have loved all your life but had forgotten about until turning that corner, heaven-sent. With this compilation, Flather and Watts have chosen wisely, but they do not work as a duo, for there is the irrefutable necessity in this artistic family that is Tracy Stark. Tracy Stark has, as of late, appeared rather ubiquitous. One wonders how she does it, but that is a secret, perhaps, best left in the hands and the mind of the prodigy. Having seen several of Ms. Stark's shows this year, I can say, without question, that there is some special connection between she and Meg Flather. Like Sisters from another Mister, the two have a spark of light that illuminates every moment that they spend on the stage together. Never have I heard better arrangements or better piano playing out of Tracy Stark than when she shares a stage with Meg Flather. When Meg sings, Tracy is right beside her, allowing Meg to be right on top of the note the whole time. Flather never falters because she is safe in the knowledge that Stark is the musical wind beneath her wings; and when they sing together in harmony, one is reminded of the inimitable sounds once made by Cass and Michelle, or Agnetha and Anni-Frid. Theirs is one of those musical marriages one reads about in literature or hears about in documentary films about the great musicians throughout history. As for the show Outbound Plane itself, it is the kind of club act to which cabaret artists should aspire. Perfectly constructed, with prosaic storytelling superbly balanced inside and around the musical tales, Outbound Plane throws open that new window for the audience, and what they see inside is all of Meg Flather, from her history to the future, from the despair to the optimism, and always with an unshakable sense of humor. Flather's acting skills are as enviable as her singing voice is beautiful, and she doesn't ever skimp on either. No self-conscious dishonest modesty for Meg Flather - she is not only willing to go the distance with her performance level, she insists upon it. One can tell that this is an actress that should be given the Mount Everest of acting challenges, Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, because this is an actress willing to go there, where an actor needs to go to tell the story. Whatever the story being told, it can be promised and expected that Meg Flather is in for penny or pound. With Outbound Plane, Flather has created one of the most satisfying, gratifying, personal, professional, open, honest, friendly and loving cabaret plays available for audiences with discerning tastes. At just under an hour it is an exciting and exceptional journey - but this writer wishes, sincerely, that it could be developed into a show long enough to be mounted somewhere as a one-woman play. It is an endeavor worthy of the time and effort that would be required to make it a reality. During that moment when the artist introduces their musical director, Meg Flather said of Tracy Stark, "She's pretty much all I need... and then some. Well. Meg Flather's pretty much all we need. And then some. Outbound Plane has concluded its' shows for 2019 (well... most shows have, haven't they?) and future performances will be announced on Broadwayworld. Find Meg Flather online at her Website” - Stephen Mosher

broadwayworld.com

Meg Flather & Friends A Cabaret Sisterhood Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, September 14, 2019 Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes A concert of songs written by the witty and wise Meg Flather (pictured), involving a group of extraordinary women (including music director Tracy Stark, who adjusted to each of the varied singers’ styles with no apparent effort), made for quite a remarkable show. Usually in such events a few of the performers will seem to be not on the same level as the others; here, there wasn’t a single weak link in the ensemble. Flather, beyond her obvious talents, displayed a knack for pairing the singers and the songs, basing her choices on personality and voice to express the theme of each number. The evening was made richer by the wide variety of performers: “the most important fact about this show is my intent to be inclusive. I wanted women of different levels of cabaret success to come other and support each together through song.” Mission accomplished. Creative consultant Lennie Watts’ light hand helped to shape the program into a smoothly running flow of compositions built around specific themes, ranging from “love in secret” to “mothers and daughters.” Kicking off the program was earth mother Sally Darling, who offered the very positive “Only See You.” Among the highlights that followed were Heather Villaescusa and Lisa Viggiano blending their voices beautifully on “It’s About Time”; Laurie Krauz revealing operatic passion and a voice to match with “What Only We Can Know”; and Those Girls offering a hysterically desperate and sour “Like Me,” including a clever reference to a well-known Broadway quintet (the last two had additional music by John Mettam). Some of the most moving songs were in the section dealing with Flather’s relationship with her mother. “On the Second Floor” and “Like a Sunday” gave a chance for Corinna Sowers Adler, Elizabeth Nucci, Sue Matsuki, and Deborah Stone (who provided lovely support on guitar), to pay tribute to maternal love. Also adding a glow to the program were Celia Berk, Lucille Carr-Kaffashan, Helane Blumfeld, Mary Sue Daniels, Kathy Kaefer, Becca Kidwell, Lina Koutrakas, Rosemary Loar, and Deborah Zecher. Bringing the show to a climax, appropriately, was the other earth mother of the day, Natalie Douglas, who led the company in “We Are as Strong,” a celebration of the theme of the day—sisterhood.” - Bart Greenberg

Cabaret Scenes

  My Mother taught me to respect women, to value their strength, their intelligence and the immense value of their contribution to the world, and I've spent five decades watching the ongoing rise of female power, and one of the beautiful sights in the world is women bonding together, offering one another the sisterly hand of support. It is a description that evades, but a force that pervades, that of the Sisterhood of women, and a lucky full house of cabaret-goers caught a fine example of it over the weekend at Don't Tell Mama, when some of the great female artists of their community gathered to showcase the works of one of the preeminent songwriters of the industry, Meg Flather. For a long time people have sung the music of Ms. Flather, a winner of multiple awards for her work as a singer/songwriter, and, like those awards, Flather had amassed a collection of friends who will do anything for her, and who will do anything to sing a Flather song. So, when Sally Darling insisted that there be a show of Meg Flather songs performed by the Cabaret Sisterhood, 25 women said YES(!) to the suggestion and the show Meg Flather Songs: A Cabaret Sisterhood was born. When you hear the phrase Standing Room Only, it's usually a slight exaggeration - there can usually be found a lone chair, a stool at the back of the room, a 4x4 space of floor where you can plant your feet. This was not the case at Don't Tell Mama on Saturday: this show was authentically Standing Room Only, as members of the cabaret world packed The Original Room to hear the likes of Lina Koutrakos, Karen Oberlin and Lisa Viggiano raise their strong female voices in strong female songs. The afternoon was, admittedly, ballad-heavy, but Ms. Flather is a musical storyteller, and the art of telling a story through song frequently relies on the ballad format, particularly when dealing with emotions and extremely personal stories like the decline of a loved ones' health due to dementia. It was, therefore, entirely acceptable that much of the entertainment was slower and quieter in nature. The key to not losing your audience to an unexpected nap in situations such as this is the perfect arranged marriage of artist to material, and Ms. Flather (assisted greatly by Lennie Watts, the creative consultant on this performance, and musical director Tracy Stark) meticulously positioned the participating musical artists to ensure that every match was one made in heaven. When Sally Darling opened the show with "Only See You" it was a performance of such powerful presence that all in the room ignored their food and drink until she was finished, and when Karen Oberlin dropped into the emotional pocket to sing "Mistress Waltz", it was pure musical monologuing. Duets from Heather Villaescusa & Lisa Viggiano ("It's About Time") and Helane Blumfield & Mary Sue Daniels ("Downstream") abounded with chemistry and pure joy, while three-part harmonies and an amazing connection made Lucille Carr-Kaffashan, Rosemary Loar and Tracy Stark's "My Heaven" a little bit of paradise.. Out and out comedy came from Becca Kidwell with "Too Intense for You" and THOSE GIRLS with an extremely topical "Like Me", while Deborah Zecher gave open vulnerability with "He Shares Me With a Lot" and Kathy Kaefer enchanted with the modern-day lullaby "Cause I Do". Particularly exciting were Laurie Krauz's deep, rich, emotional ranges during "What Only We Can Know" and Lina Koutrakos' sly, sexy and sleek stylings on "September Man" - both women plunge to the depths in different ways and break the surface, sufficiently bringing home the power of Flather's lyrics, and everyone felt all the feels when Celia Berk delivered a lovely "Hold On Tight", Corinna Sowers Adler & Elizabeth Nucci sang "On The Second Floor", and Deborah Stone and Sue Matsuki performed "Like a Sunday" -- all songs about Flather's journey with her mother's dementia. Ending the show on a strong and optimistic note, Ms. Flather was joined onstage by Earth Mother, Godmother, Activist, Leader, Champion, Warrior and best friend to everybody in the cabaret community, Natalie Douglas, for "We Are As Strong", which featured every woman's voice, as they gathered in the audience, singing along with the twosome onstage to announce something that this writer has known, all along: that the women are here, that they are unified, effective, and powerful, that there is hope, and that they are going to change the world. In the days following this show, I had questions for Meg Flather about her work, so I reached out to her with some questions. This interview has been edited for space and content. Meg, was this the first time that this set was performed by these women? On July 14th, the same set was performed but the cast slightly changes. So what's great is there's a chunk cast and then, depending on other peoples' availability, I've given other women an opportunity. This concert was Sally Darling's idea, is that right? What happened is I would love to give Lisa Viggiano credit, too. Lisa and I became very, very close the year of 2017. Josephine Sanges, Lisa Viggiano, Celia Berk, Sally Darling and I (all MAC award nominees in the same category that year) formed a show called "Together", and because of that show, we really bonded and became very close friends. And she volunteered that she was a fan of my writing and I was so blown away by that because my writing is primarily for folk-pop, folk-rock music. She said "You really need to incorporate it more in the cabaret world" and I volunteered to her that one of my dreams has always been to create an evening of women and Inclusiveness - of different ranges, different levels of experience, and different levels of success in the cabaret community, coming together and supporting each other and singing from where they were. She was at me to do something like this, but it was Sally Darling... this spring she said to me "You REALLY need to do it!" and when SHE says you REALLY need to do it, and you need to do it NOW... I basically went home and that night emailed Sidney Myer and channeled the right women. Will there be an encore? Oh YES! October 6th at 4. And November 2nd at 5. I know that there are some songs on here that deal with your mother's dementia... Yes. There's a lot of isolation and silent suffering that goes on, and I think that's why I write about it so much. In my case, I was very lucky because my mother's dementia manifested in a way... At different stages she had different moods, of course, the early stages she was a little more feisty and I had to work harder at giving her the help, and helping her to receive the help. Ultimately what happened to my mother, Becky, is she became so emotionally and physically available and it was a tremendous opportunity for me -- intimacy and healing with her... she's always been the love of my life, even my husband understands that. And in many ways I feel like I was born to do the last eight years of care ... it was 2009 when we started seeing signs, and then I moved her into my building in 2010, and she passed away in 2018. She became the sweetest, happiest, most calm little girl, and was so grateful for the bubble we created for her. It was interesting to see that through the dementia she no longer remembered that she was a widow, she no longer realized she had a daughter with special needs, she didn't know Trump had been elected (much laughter), she didn't know that her two dearest friends and her brother and her maid of honor had all passed away. So there was this interesting...I saw the beauty in the disease because of who my mother was in her life - she was that woman who carried everyone on her back. She was the Type A personality, workaholic, putting herself through school at night, giving and giving and giving and giving, had tremendous deprivation issues, and then through the dementia, all that turned around. She was eating and she was loving and she was receiving. And as long as she had her Turner Classic Movies she was happy. So I had her down the hall in a studio apartment with wonderful caregivers that cared for her the way they wished they cared for their own mothers, cause they were from all over the world - an extraordinary melting pot of women. So mom had lots of different foods and traditions, caregiving from India to Mexico to Poland to Jamaica. The best thing is I got to get part of her daily life, and as someone who didn't have children, it was the ultimate healing because I had a daughter. I had a daughter for eight years and that was my mother. So I wrote the songs about what she taught me. The final song, that Celia performed, "Hold On Tight" was based on a moment when I went in and I was all worked up about something, and I was trying to conceal it. And she had a moment of clarity. She just put her hand on my face and gave me a look like "What's wrong?" and when she did that, the caregiver, Grace from Poland, said "Oh, Meggie! Window open! Window open!" and I knew in that moment to cancel my day and to stay put and be with her because the window was open, and she was available. She taught me to stretch time. She taught me to stay in the moment. I was that person with the three-year plan, the six-year plan, the ten-year plan. I have no friggin' plan now. I have learned the art of staying in the moment because she taught me, she demanded that I learn that. So that song is about going to THEIR world, and how, when you go to their world, you deepen your world. On the Second Floor" is all about the early stages, when she first moved on the second floor of our building - and the panic attack of "what have I done?" I remember when I moved her in, she was pretty independent in her old apartment, but by moving her into my building, she completely changed. She turned to me and I said "Ok Mom, enjoy your new apartment and enjoy your day" and she said, "You can't leave me alone." That's when I realized "Oh my god, what have I done?" When you move them, they drop. That was all about the first year of moving her in, but then again, what she taught me. It's all about how her dementia, even in the early stages, gave me this purpose. What's ironic is that within weeks of moving her in, I got the biggest job of my career, and having to care for her and be on top of her care, neutralized the anxiety of the job, the pressure of the job, and it was a sort of a gift because I considered the real job was her. So it helped me have more confidence at work and be less desperate for affirmation and attention. Because I almost treated my work with Mom as my job, and then my career as my survival job. Like a Sunday" is my song about losing her and my experience with grief. It's interesting when you lose somebody who's gone through a very long hard disease and they're ready to go. Because it is a blessing. But it's still your mother, and it's still your favorite person, and you are left behind. And so I wanted to write her a song because she deserves it and I talk about how the missing of her feels like a Sunday. That melancholy day before school starts, that melancholy day before vacation ends. And how I'm willing to feel that feeling for her all the time; and I want to feel it all the time. Because that's how we stay connected. Meg Flather Songs: A Cabaret Sisterhood plays Don't Tell Mama October 6th at 4. And November 2nd at 5. For tickets visit the Don't Tell Mama Cabaret Calendar at Website Learn more about Meg Flather by visiting her Website BWW Review: MEG FLATHER SONGS A CABARET SISTERHOOD Brings Powerful Women to Don't Tell Mama My Mother taught me to respect women, to value their strength, their intelligence and the immense value of their contribution to the world, and I've spent five decades watching the ongoing rise of female power, and one of the beautiful sights in the world is women bonding together, offering one another the sisterly hand of support. It is a description that evades, but a force that pervades, that of the Sisterhood of women, and a lucky full house of cabaret-goers caught a fine example of it over the weekend at Don't Tell Mama, when some of the great female artists of their community gathered to showcase the works of one of the preeminent songwriters of the industry, Meg Flather. For a long time people have sung the music of Ms. Flather, a winner of multiple awards for her work as a singer/songwriter, and, like those awards, Flather had amassed a collection of friends who will do anything for her, and who will do anything to sing a Flather song. So, when Sally Darling insisted that there be a show of Meg Flather songs performed by the Cabaret Sisterhood, 25 women said YES(!) to the suggestion and the show Meg Flather Songs: A Cabaret Sisterhood was born.When you hear the phrase Standing Room Only, it's usually a slight exaggeration - there can usually be found a lone chair, a stool at the back of the room, a 4x4 space of floor where you can plant your feet. This was not the case at Don't Tell Mama on Saturday: this show was authentically Standing Room Only, as members of the cabaret world packed The Original Room to hear the likes of Lina Koutrakos, Karen Oberlin and Lisa Viggiano raise their strong female voices in strong female songs. The afternoon was, admittedly, ballad-heavy, but Ms. Flather is a musical storyteller, and the art of telling a story through song frequently relies on the ballad format, particularly when dealing with emotions and extremely personal stories like the decline of a loved ones' health due to dementia. It was, therefore, entirely acceptable that much of the entertainment was slower and quieter in nature. The key to not losing your audience to an unexpected nap in situations such as this is the perfect arranged marriage of artist to material, and Ms. Flather (assisted greatly by Lennie Watts, the creative consultant on this performance, and musical director Tracy Stark) meticulously positioned the participating musical artists to ensure that every match was one made in heaven. When Sally Darling opened the show with "Only See You" it was a performance of such powerful presence that all in the room ignored their food and drink until she was finished, and when Karen Oberlin dropped into the emotional pocket to sing "Mistress Waltz", it was pure musical monologuing. Duets from Heather Villaescusa & Lisa Viggiano ("It's About Time") and Helane Blumfield & Mary Sue Daniels ("Downstream") abounded with chemistry and pure joy, while three-part harmonies and an amazing connection made Lucille Carr-Kaffashan, Rosemary Loar and Tracy Stark's "My Heaven" a little bit of paradise.. Out and out comedy came from Becca Kidwell with "Too Intense for You" and THOSE GIRLS with an extremely topical "Like Me", while Deborah Zecher gave open vulnerability with "He Shares Me With a Lot" and Kathy Kaefer enchanted with the modern-day lullaby "Cause I Do".Particularly exciting were Laurie Krauz's deep, rich, emotional ranges during "What Only We Can Know" and Lina Koutrakos' sly, sexy and sleek stylings on "September Man" - both women plunge to the depths in different ways and break the surface, sufficiently bringing home the power of Flather's lyrics, and everyone felt all the feels when Celia Berk delivered a lovely "Hold On Tight", Corinna Sowers Adler & Elizabeth Nucci sang "On The Second Floor", and Deborah Stone and Sue Matsuki performed "Like a Sunday" -- all songs about Flather's journey with her mother's dementia. Ending the show on a strong and optimistic note, Ms. Flather was joined onstage by Earth Mother, Godmother, Activist, Leader, Champion, Warrior and best friend to everybody in the cabaret community, Natalie Douglas, for "We Are As Strong", which featured every woman's voice, as they gathered in the audience, singing along with the twosome onstage to announce something that this writer has known, all along: that the women are here, that they are unified, effective, and powerful, that there is hope, and that they are going to change the world.In the days following this show, I had questions for Meg Flather about her work, so I reached out to her with some questions. This interview has been edited for space and content.Meg, was this the first time that this set was performed by these women?On July 14th, the same set was performed but the cast slightly changes. So what's great is there's a chunk cast and then, depending on other peoples' availability, I've given other women an opportunity.This concert was Sally Darling's idea, is that right?What happened is I would love to give Lisa Viggiano credit, too. Lisa and I became very, very close the year of 2017. Josephine Sanges, Lisa Viggiano, Celia Berk, Sally Darling and I (all MAC award nominees in the same category that year) formed a show called "Together", and because of that show, we really bonded and became very close friends. And she volunteered that she was a fan of my writing and I was so blown away by that because my writing is primarily for folk-pop, folk-rock music. She said "You really need to incorporate it more in the cabaret world" and I volunteered to her that one of my dreams has always been to create an evening of women and Inclusiveness - of different ranges, different levels of experience, and different levels of success in the cabaret community, coming together and supporting each other and singing from where they were. She was at me to do something like this, but it was Sally Darling... this spring she said to me "You REALLY need to do it!" and when SHE says you REALLY need to do it, and you need to do it NOW... I basically went home and that night emailed Sidney Myer and channeled the right women.Will there be an encore?Oh YES! October 6th at 4. And November 2nd at 5.I know that there are some songs on here that deal with your mother's dementia...Yes. There's a lot of isolation and silent suffering that goes on, and I think that's why I write about it so much. In my case, I was very lucky because my mother's dementia manifested in a way... At different stages she had different moods, of course, the early stages she was a little more feisty and I had to work harder at giving her the help, and helping her to receive the help. Ultimately what happened to my mother, Becky, is she became so emotionally and physically available and it was a tremendous opportunity for me -- intimacy and healing with her... she's always been the love of my life, even my husband understands that. And in many ways I feel like I was born to do the last eight years of care ... it was 2009 when we started seeing signs, and then I moved her into my building in 2010, and she passed away in 2018. She became the sweetest, happiest, most calm little girl, and was so grateful for the bubble we created for her. It was interesting to see that through the dementia she no longer remembered that she was a widow, she no longer realized she had a daughter with special needs, she didn't know Trump had been elected (much laughter), she didn't know that her two dearest friends and her brother and her maid of honor had all passed away. So there was this interesting...I saw the beauty in the disease because of who my mother was in her life - she was that woman who carried everyone on her back. She was the Type A personality, workaholic, putting herself through school at night, giving and giving and giving and giving, had tremendous deprivation issues, and then through the dementia, all that turned around. She was eating and she was loving and she was receiving. And as long as she had her Turner Classic Movies she was happy. So I had her down the hall in a studio apartment with wonderful caregivers that cared for her the way they wished they cared for their own mothers, cause they were from all over the world - an extraordinary melting pot of women. So mom had lots of different foods and traditions, caregiving from India to Mexico to Poland to Jamaica. The best thing is I got to get part of her daily life, and as someone who didn't have children, it was the ultimate healing because I had a daughter. I had a daughter for eight years and that was my mother.So I wrote the songs about what she taught me. The final song, that Celia performed, "Hold On Tight" was based on a moment when I went in and I was all worked up about something, and I was trying to conceal it. And she had a moment of clarity. She just put her hand on my face and gave me a look like "What's wrong?" and when she did that, the caregiver, Grace from Poland, said "Oh, Meggie! Window open! Window open!" and I knew in that moment to cancel my day and to stay put and be with her because the window was open, and she was available. She taught me to stretch time. She taught me to stay in the moment. I was that person with the three-year plan, the six-year plan, the ten-year plan. I have no friggin' plan now. I have learned the art of staying in the moment because she taught me, she demanded that I learn that. So that song is about going to THEIR world, and how, when you go to their world, you deepen your world."On the Second Floor" is all about the early stages, when she first moved on the second floor of our building - and the panic attack of "what have I done?" I remember when I moved her in, she was pretty independent in her old apartment, but by moving her into my building, she completely changed. She turned to me and I said "Ok Mom, enjoy your new apartment and enjoy your day" and she said, "You can't leave me alone." That's when I realized "Oh my god, what have I done?" When you move them, they drop. That was all about the first year of moving her in, but then again, what she taught me. It's all about how her dementia, even in the early stages, gave me this purpose. What's ironic is that within weeks of moving her in, I got the biggest job of my career, and having to care for her and be on top of her care, neutralized the anxiety of the job, the pressure of the job, and it was a sort of a gift because I considered the real job was her. So it helped me have more confidence at work and be less desperate for affirmation and attention. Because I almost treated my work with Mom as my job, and then my career as my survival job."Like a Sunday" is my song about losing her and my experience with grief. It's interesting when you lose somebody who's gone through a very long hard disease and they're ready to go. Because it is a blessing. But it's still your mother, and it's still your favorite person, and you are left behind. And so I wanted to write her a song because she deserves it and I talk about how the missing of her feels like a Sunday. That melancholy day before school starts, that melancholy day before vacation ends. And how I'm willing to feel that feeling for her all the time; and I want to feel it all the time. Because that's how we stay connected.Meg Flather Songs: A Cabaret Sisterhood plays Don't Tell Mama October 6th at 4. And November 2nd at 5. For tickets visit the Don't Tell Mama Cabaret Calendar at WebsiteLearn more about Meg Flather by visiting her Website” - Stephen Mosher

broadwayworld.com

At this time of her life (“now post-menopausal and proud of it”), Meg Flather is clearly reassessing her past mistakes and triumphs along with her current and future options. In her dazzling recent (and future) show at Don’t Tell Mama, Outbound Plane (directed by Lennie Watts), she not only repurposed 14 songs of wide variety and from different eras—with the considerable help of music director Tracy Stark–to tell us her story, she allowed and encouraged us in the audience to think lovingly about our own timelines and life events, both good and not so great. Her opening number, Jerry Herman’s “Open a New Window,” was in more ways than one a case in point. Beautifully sung with a drastically slowed-down tempo (and a deliberately different note here and there, but no switch in lyrics), Flather fleshed out her comedic opening anecdote. In 1998 she had left a marriage, with three antiques, two cats and one portrait, to land in a walkup “litter box” of an apartment without a proper window, determined not to live alone. In drastic need of an attitude adjustment, she put ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” on her boom-box and proceeded to dance around her tiny flat. She didn’t replicate the dancing in this show, nor did she sing the song, but instead offered a wilder arm-waving suggestion of dance than would be good for most cabaret acts, but was entirely effective here in conveying a brushing away of past doubts and cobwebs, as well as her fear of flying solo for the first time. The show’s title song, “Outbound Plane” (Nanci Griffith, Tom Russell), similarly set up the inevitability of involuntary separation throughout our lives, with its lyric “If love won’t fly on its own free will/It’s gonna catch that outbound plane.” Flather’s caramel-warm encore, the very familiar “Cockeyed Optimist” (Rodgers & Hammerstein), in a statelier tempo than the more usual near-jingle rendition, gave us the sense of the inner strength that allowed her to successfully reposition herself in the first place. Flather’s flawlessly chosen set drew on thirteen composers or teams. Only Maltby & Shire got two outings here: “Patterns” and “I’m a Little Bit Off.” the titles alone self-descriptions of the moods the songs convey. Other standouts included a profoundly felt version of Joan Armatrading’s “Me Myself I” and a solid offering of the most apropos “A Change in Me” (Alan Menken, Tim Rice). Throughout her set, Flather plumbed lyrics even more intensely than she had before, most especially on “Why Can’t I Forget?” (Jeffrey D. Harris, Judy Barron). Yet, “the purpose of the whole show,” she said, was her new song, “Like a Sunday,” which she had composed especially for it. Her mother’s recent death occasioned this most thoughtful rumination on those “necessary endings and failures that in time will take you where you need to go.” These lyrics also again made us aware of the limitations of our own seasons on earth, and of how we stay connected—or disconnect—while we’re here. Outbound Plane Don’t Tell Mama – July 28, August 25, December 29 Urban Stages Winter Rhythms — December 15 At this time of her life (“now post-menopausal and proud of it”), Meg Flather is clearly reassessing her past mistakes and triumphs along with her current and future options. In her dazzling recent (and future) show at Don’t Tell Mama, Outbound Plane (directed by Lennie Watts), she not only repurposed 14 songs of wide variety and from different eras—with the considerable help of music director Tracy Stark–to tell us her story, she allowed and encouraged us in the audience to think lovingly about our own timelines and life events, both good and not so great. Her opening number, Jerry Herman’s “Open a New Window,” was in more ways than one a case in point. Beautifully sung with a drastically slowed-down tempo (and a deliberately different note here and there, but no switch in lyrics), Flather fleshed out her comedic opening anecdote. In 1998 she had left a marriage, with three antiques, two cats and one portrait, to land in a walkup “litter box” of an apartment without a proper window, determined not to live alone. In drastic need of an attitude adjustment, she put ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” on her boom-box and proceeded to dance around her tiny flat. She didn’t replicate the dancing in this show, nor did she sing the song, but instead offered a wilder arm-waving suggestion of dance than would be good for most cabaret acts, but was entirely effective here in conveying a brushing away of past doubts and cobwebs, as well as her fear of flying solo for the first time. The show’s title song, “Outbound Plane” (Nanci Griffith, Tom Russell), similarly set up the inevitability of involuntary separation throughout our lives, with its lyric “If love won’t fly on its own free will/It’s gonna catch that outbound plane.” Flather’s caramel-warm encore, the very familiar “Cockeyed Optimist” (Rodgers & Hammerstein), in a statelier tempo than the more usual near-jingle rendition, gave us the sense of the inner strength that allowed her to successfully reposition herself in the first place. Flather’s flawlessly chosen set drew on thirteen composers or teams. Only Maltby & Shire got two outings here: “Patterns” and “I’m a Little Bit Off.” the titles alone self-descriptions of the moods the songs convey. Other standouts included a profoundly felt version of Joan Armatrading’s “Me Myself I” and a solid offering of the most apropos “A Change in Me” (Alan Menken, Tim Rice). Throughout her set, Flather plumbed lyrics even more intensely than she had before, most especially on “Why Can’t I Forget?” (Jeffrey D. Harris, Judy Barron). Yet, “the purpose of the whole show,” she said, was her new song, “Like a Sunday,” which she had composed especially for it. Her mother’s recent death occasioned this most thoughtful rumination on those “necessary endings and failures that in time will take you where you need to go.” These lyrics also again made us aware of the limitations of our own seasons on earth, and of how we stay connected—or disconnect—while we’re here. Outbound PlaneDon’t Tell Mama – July 28, August 25, December 29 Urban Stages Winter Rhythms — December 15” - Robert Windeler

Bistro Awards

A Conversation with Meg Flatherand her Cabaret Sisterhood July 7, 2019 Meg Flather Meg Flather has made a name for herself in cabaret as a performer and songwriter. On July 14 and September 14 at 4:00 pm at NYC’s Don’t Tell Mama, she gathers fellow singers in a performance of her sings for A Cabaret Sisterhood. Tracy Stark is MD and Lennie Watts is creative consultant. We have asked the singers to tell us what it means to them to be a part of this show and what drew them to the song they will be presenting. Before we get to that, here’s a bit about Meg and our conversation with her. Meg Flather is a two-time Bistro Award winner, three-time MAC Award Winner, and five-time Broadway World nominee. As a singer/songwriter, she has released seven CDs of her original music and has written and recorded songs for independent films, Off Broadway, and on behalf of HIV/AIDS, 9/11, Alzheimer’s, Autism, and suicide awareness. She has also been a featured performer for The Gay Men’s Health Crisis at New York’s historic Webster Hall, the Vermont Film Festival, the Tribeca Film Festival, and to benefit the 2013 victims of Typhoon Yolanda at the Philippine Consulate in NYC. Meg made her Mabel Mercer Cabaret Convention debut at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater on October 9, 2018. She is a member of SAG/AFTRA & AEA, and after years serving as a Brand Ambassador for five International skincare brands on all home shopping networks in North America and Australia, Meg released her autobiography, Home Shopping Diva…Lessons, Lyrics and Lipstick available on Amazon. Her new show, Outbound Plane opens at Don’t Tell Mama on July 28 at 5 pm. What was the spark that brought this show to life?I have had this quiet dream of sitting in a dark theater and hearing my cabaret “sisters” sing my songs for some time now. While walking Sally Darling to a taxi, I shared this quiet dream with her. She basically made me do it. “You go home and email Sidney Myer for show dates right now!” (Who doesn’t do what Sally Darling says?) I did it. In 48 hours I had two dates, my musical director (Tracy Stark), my creative consultant (Lennie Watts), a cast of 27 women, and a beautiful postcard designed by Helane Blumfield. A perfect example of when something is “right” it flows and comes easily. (I must add that Lisa Viggiano has been pushing me to do this since we became friends in November, 2016! It took our Sally to make me do it!) How did you select the singers?Several of the singers had already covered my songs in their shows. (The greatest compliment of all. Thank you!) The other singers were artists that I had worked closely with in group shows and who have expressed personal interest in my songs. Each choice was very personal. The hard part of this project was dealing with the fact that I could not ask every woman I love in cabaret to sing my songs. These “firsts” were already fans of my tunes and made that fact clear. That is why they were chosen for this maiden voyage. How did you decide who should sing what?This was completely channeled. I think the Sally Darling “fairy dust” was still at work. I came home from her strong instruction and created a list on my phone. I could not type fast enough. I heard the songs and the specific voices in my head. It really was that easy.  At a rehearsal, Lennie Watts turned to me and basically said, “Great casting, Meg.” I am most proud of this fact. Each song fits each singer like a custom-sewn gown. What to you hope a show like this does for songwriters?I hope this show inspires others to create opportunities that are inclusive. Blending a cast of those who are “well known” and “award-winning” with those who should be well known was my intent. The goal of this effort was to create community through my songs—a sisterhood. (Hence the title.) What do you hope the lasting effect of such a show has?In addition to creating community, I hope to expand the boundaries of cabaret. As a female contemporary songwriter, I believe if songs tell a story they are part of the American Songbook; relatives. Why not? Isn’t it always evolving? And now, a few words from the Cabaret Sisterhood! Corinna Sowers AdlerPhoto: Maryann Lopinto Corinna Sowers AdlerI am thrilled to be part of the Cabaret Sisterhood! My student, Elizabeth Nucci and I have been singing Meg’s song “On the Second Floor” for about a year and a half. It is part of my Second Stories show. I know that Meg wrote this song in tribute to her mother and what she was suffering through. But this song has taken on a new meaning for me as I connect it to my students and our voice studio, which happens to be on the second floor of the Oakside Bloomfield Cultural Center. I was alone in the studio, listening to Meg’s album, when I found myself so moved by the lyric about role reversals. I saw myself as a young singer walking into a beautiful old mansion (one that is incredibly similar to the one I now spend my days in teaching) to find the teacher that changed my life. I was struck by how the cycles and lessons of life seem to sometimes repeat themselves in such a beautiful serendipitous way. It is a joy to get to sing this song with Liz. Every time we perform it I am grateful to have been part of her life and her development as a performer and person. I don’t take lightly that responsibility, and Meg’s song reminds me that “her laughter let me in.” Celia BerkPhoto: John Rogers Celia BerkThe obvious thing that makes A Cabaret Sisterhood so special is that it’s an all-female cast singing the music of a female songwriter.  But anyone who knows Meg knows that what makes it so special is Meg herself. She honestly takes pleasure in seeing (and hearing) others shine. What better way to do that than by entrusting us with her songs? Josephine Sanges and I are each doing “Hold On Tight” on different days. It’s an anthem about moving forward and—as Michelle Obama would say—going high. Now doesn’t that sound like Meg??   Helane Blumfield Helane BlumfieldBeing a part of this show is a cabaret dream come true. To perform a Meg Flather song with my friend dear Mary Sue Daniels and to share the stage with so many women that inspire me is more than I could even image. Our song “Downstream” is about creating your own path and not listening to talk around you—a lesson we can all be reminded of. When thinking about what to write I looked up the definition of “sisterhood”: “an association, society, or community of women linked by a common interest.”  I am so grateful for this community and to be a part of our sisterhood. Thank you Meg Flather for including me in your journey. Lucille Carr-Kaffashan Lucille Carr-KaffashanI first met Meg in March, 2017 at the Bistro Awards show where we were both recognized for our work. As I left the stage and walked past her that evening, she whispered her congratulations along with a quick “you should check out my songs!” What an honor to have a songwriter immediately imagine you singing one of her beautiful songs! And, the rest is history. We became fast friends, and my admiration for her songwriting and performance skills have continued to grow. I was thrilled when she asked me to participate in the Cabaret Sisterhood showcase. Amazing songs and such accomplished women singers—what’s not to love? Meg asked me to sing “My Heaven (a song for Bonnie).” She described the event that triggered the idea for the song, and explained that Bonnie was a beloved caregiver for her mother during the final years of her life. For me, the song conveys a powerful message: that while others interpret heaven as a place to aspire to after death, heaven exists every day in our lives, especially in the kindness and care-taking of others. This song is an expression of Meg’s take on spirituality and a reminder to be grateful and in the moment. But, like all really good songs, there are layers and layers to be discovered over time. I find this song to be particularly poignant in our current socio-political environment as we consider the value of all lives, and the contributions, large and small, that all humans make. I am so happy to be singing it in this very special show. Mary Sue Daniels Mary Sue DanielsMeg Flather is such a beacon of light in the cabaret community, incredibly supportive of her colleagues and a powerful performer/songwriter. By offering her music and bringing us together in a creative nurturing environment, Meg is continuing to set a positive example for all of us to follow. I am singing a duet with Helane Blumfield. The song, “Downstream,” is about a time, even just a moment, when you realize that you can stop struggling and enjoy some peace and contentment in what you have already accomplished. The metaphor of swimming downstream, instead of fighting the current, is a great lesson. I am beyond grateful to be “in the ‘hood” with these excellent women. Sally Darling Sally DarlingMeg Flather is beautiful person, singer, songwriter. To be in a program of her songs with such a stellar company of singers seems incredible. And I have the joy of singing her appreciation and affirmation for all cabaret singers. It’s very special and I’m honored. Becca KidwellPhoto: Natasha Castillo Becca KidwellI’m singing “Too Intense For You.” I’m a very passionate person. I can spend hours talking about my favorite celebrities, TV shows, or philosophy, and not everyone is comfortable with that. What I like about the song is that it says, “this is who I am, if you can’t take it, just keep walking.” Lina Koutrakos Lina KoutrakosFirst of all, it’s Meg. Meg Flather. If there ever was a purer female heart I have yet to meet her. She is an Aquarian female so she is also a team player, a human’s human, and a woman. Put that all together and it screams SISTERHOOD. Bringing women together to sing her compositions is perfect and I can’t believe she hasn’t done it before this. (I do think she is on to something now, tho!) I am singing a song that is not really in my wheelhouse and I choose it for that reason. As Meg and her music always seem to inspire the best in us, I thought I should say “thank you” to this lady by stepping a bit out of my comfort zone and doing…well…better. I’m thrilled to be in the company of good women. Thanks, Meg, for gathering us! Laurie Krauz Laurie KrauzWe always say how thrilled we are to be part of a group show, but there is something extra special about this one. The Sisterhood we experience in cabaret for me is real and has become more so as the years have passed. I’m so honored to be part of this amazing cast of female vocalists. And SO privileged to have been asked to be in the “delivery room” when Meg births the babies of all of her creations. I know how personal these songs are for her—that’s what makes them so brilliant; they literally live and breathe life, every one of them. When Meg assigned “What Only We Can Know” to me she hit a home run. I’ve heard Meg sing a zillion times but I’d never heard “What Only We Can Know” and I fell instantly in love with the song. Meg is also the only human being to have sung this previously, so it’s pretty exciting to be the first non-Meg to sing it. The song is so brilliantly crafted. It allows me the opportunity to do what I love most when I sing: dig down deep to my soul and express through both lyric and music. The first time I had the opportunity to rehearse with Tracy Stark, it just took us to a musical/artistic/emotional place that I yearn for as an artist. I’ve heard a couple of the other numbers in rehearsal. Folks, this show will be one for the ages as both art and community. Sue MatsukiPhoto: Eric Stephen Jacobs Sue MatsukiI’ve known Meg for over 30 years and have always adored her. I also love her music. She writes from a place of an open heart and always moves me. The song Deborah Stone and I were assigned is “Like a Sunday” and it could not be a more perfect song for the two of us or for the blend of our voices (Who knew? We’ve never sung together before!) We decided to perform it with Deborah on guitar and vocals only (as Meg originally recorded it) because we felt it was how this song should be presented—purely. I’ll let Deborah speak for herself, but I think that we both “get” this song and are grateful that Meg asked us to be a part of what is going to be an extraordinary event. The singers on this bill are all family and yes, part of a huge sisterhood, so I could not be more proud and honored to be a part of this show. Tanya Moberly Tanya MoberlyMeg and I have been friends since 1991 when we did Company together (she was Marta, I was April), and I am thrilled to finally be performing one of her songs. It is going to be a spectacular event. Elizabeth Nucci Elizabeth NucciBeing part of A Cabaret Sisterhood means more than anyone can possibly know. Meg’s music has brought to light some of the most humbling, heartwarming, and loving messages that the world needs to hear. Her song “On the Second Floor,” written about a personal experience with her mother, speaks to me as a song of hope and love. The song tells the story of new beginnings and, for me, brings out my love of music. Getting to perform with my role model Corinna [Sowers Adler] is an added bonus, as we reminisce about our beginning together, and how we look forward to continue our journey.   Karen OberlinPhoto: Bill Westmoreland Karen OberlinThe moment I first got to have a full conversation with Meg Flather, I loved her. Plain and simple. She has a passion for women and a humanity she fearlessly shares with endless enthusiasm, and I think many people have a similar experience with her. She is also a constant, bottomless creative force. Just being in her company is inspiring! I LOVE her songs, and I’ve happily sung backup for a song of hers in the Stephen Hanks democratic fundraising events. I felt honored to be asked to find a song that I felt suited me, and the harmonic complexity of the song I chose perfectly, and organically, suited the lyrics. It was impossible to resist. There’s so much strength, bravery and TRUTH in her songs, just as there is in her singing. I’m very happy to say Tanya Moberly and I will be performing this special song on alternating nights, and I love sharing it with her. Josephine Sanges Josephine SangesMeg and I have often spoken about what life caring for an ailing parent is like. Worrying about what tomorrow will bring only serves to trouble our minds and hearts, making us fearful of what is to come. It can be a struggle to let go of all that fear and learn to live in the present moment. Meg wrote “Hold On Tight” as a reaction to a beautiful moment of clarity that she was able to experience with her mother, a moment when the “window had opened” just long enough so that she could receive her mother’s fullest expression of love. I’m honored to sing “Hold On Tight” for this special showcase of Meg’s songwriting and to share its inspiring message with all of you. Deborah Stone Deborah StoneI love Meg as a person and a talented and unique singer/songwriter. Her passion and warmth always come through—in her life and in her music. My first reaction to being invited to sing in this show was feeling deeply honored and validated as a performer. To have Meg really see me means a great deal. As for the song, Meg actually “assigned” our songs to us. I trusted her to know who should take on which of her songs, and did so with joy and enthusiasm. Sue Matsuki and I have become close friends, much to my delight, so doing a song together is the proverbial icing on the cake. I’m very happy about this whole experience. Heather VillaescusaPhoto: Greg Mills Heather VillaescusaI am so thrilled to be a part of this show. Meg is such an intricate part of the cabaret world and the heartbeat of what I find I love about cabaret. She is a constant supporter and to be a part of this show giving her songs a voice that is other than her own is truly a remarkable gift she has given us. Meg has called it “A Cabaret Sisterhood.” The cabaret community is filled with incredibly talented women from all walks of life, and I think it’s important that we embrace and support each other. By Meg pulling this together, embracing us, leads to a stronger sisterhood and support of each of our crafts. When she asked if I wanted to participate, it was an easy, “Yes.” And when she told me that it was a duet with Lisa Viggiano, it was a booming, “YES!” And when she told us the song she picked for us to share, I thought, “Of course that’s the one she chose for us.” Meg has an innate ability to see you for who you really are. Deborah Zecher Deborah ZecherI am thrilled to be part of this show for so many reasons. It means a great deal to be invited to sing one of Meg’s beautiful songs and to do so in company with singers I admire for their artistry and treasure for their friendship. I feel that Meg’s songs speak to our experiences as women but even more so, to our common humanity. Her gift is to give expression to the commonplace things we do and feel, and then raise those things to the extraordinary by the way she crafts words and melody together. I think that hearing Meg’s songbook in so many different voices will be amazing. I’ll be singing “He Shares Me with a Lot” which I also sang in my debut show a year ago. When I heard the song for the first time, I was instantly drawn to it because it spoke to me of how as a congregational rabbi for 32 years, my family—my husband and my children—had to share me with the demands of a growing and active synagogue. Meg addressed that reality so beautifully in the song. Since my circumstances were unique, she gave me permission to write several new verses that were specific to my life, which my phenomenal music director Tracy Stark masterfully crafted. For this show, I am honored to sing all of the original verses. A Cabaret SisterhoodJuly 14 at 4:00 pmDon’t Tell Mama343 W. 46th St., NYC212.757.0788www.donttellmamanyc.com

Cabaret Scenes

Meg Flather and Lisa Viggiano #realjoy Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, December 30, 2018 Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes Lisa Viggiano (L) & Meg Flather Meg Flather, Lisa Viggiano, and music director Tracy Stark united to offer a delightful holiday show with an emphasis on the joy of the season. Under the skillful direction of Lennie Watts, the three ladies demonstrated a lovely chemistry as they moved through a well-chosen list of songs, both well-known and newly minted, that covered a wide range of moods and emotions. Both singers brought a marvelous specificity to their lyrics, shining new meanings on old songs such as Flather’s version of “My Favorite Things,” which featured some fresh phrasing that made the words seem very personal and full of discovery. Adding to the freshness of the show was the curious and surprising mix of one song with another, such as “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Hard Candy Christmas” or “Christmas Time Is Here” and “Stop Time,” which created new short stories for the audience to explore. Also adding a touch of uniqueness to the show were songs by two of the participants, Flather’s “Like a Sunday” and “Powder Blue” (written with Vicki Genfan), and Stark’s “Perfect Christmas”; about the latter saying she was “following in the tradition of Jews who write Christmas carols.” Individual shining moments included Viggiano’s comic highlight, “A Miracle for Christmas” (Ron Kaehler and David Friedman) about the more medicinal way of getting through the season, and Flather’s medley of songs from Mame, a moment of pure joy leading into an audience sing-along of “We Need a Little Christmas.” But then the entire evening was joy unrestrained.” - Bart Greenberg

Cabaret Scenes

 0 14  0 14 Last year vocalist Meg Flather wasn’t feeling festive around the holidays. “…and I texted this one (Lisa Viggiano) and she was feeling the same way.” Still, despite commercialism, domestic chaos, and a death in one family, the two were able to find joy and decided to do a show about it. Warm, full voices open with the title song (minus hashtag). We must be all right, they sing facing one another. Flather performs “My Favorite Things” like she means it. (Richard Rogers/Oscar Hammerstein; Rick Jensen-excellent arrangement.) The number takes on different meaning when delivered by a mature woman. Despite experience, simple pleasures achieve importance. The artist imbues it with substance. Meg Flather “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (Kim Gannon/Walter Kent) oddly sandwiches “Hard Candy Christmas” (Carol Hall). Viggiano’s voice effectively breaks during the first well known lyric epitomizing Norman Rockwell warmth. Flather credibly follows on its tail with a dark point of view… Fine and dandy/Lord it’s like a hard candy Christmas/I’m barely getting through tomorrow…Explain pairing those two. “A Miracle for Christmas” finds Viggiano extolling the emotional health benefits of Welbutrin, Lexipro, and Xanax during the holidays while removing pill bottles from a giant stocking hung at the side of the stage. Appearing bouncy and increasingly stoned, the performer (purposefully) misses a cue. “Hello! Lisa, you’re on stage,” Stark calls out. Droll. Flather offers “my own medication, a Jerry Herman medley” (from Mame). An exuberant “It’s Today!” soars through the room like a Disney wind. To the barricades! she seems to exhort, We can make this a happy time. Gestures are infectiously on point. “You all know this,” she declares, encouraging a sing-along “We Need a Little Christmas.” Most of us do, of course. Lisa Viggiano “Christmas Time is Here” is sweetly performed by Viggiano, hands at her sides, channeling feeling into the lyric. (Lee Mendelson/Vince Guaraldi from A Charlie Brown Christmas.) Richard Maltby/David Shire’s “Stop Time” from Big is invested with so much maternal emotion we know the artist has children. “I was born a wasp, raised by two very liberal Unitarians, Flather tells us. “ We really didn’t give the Virgin Mary much thought.” At 37, one of her mentors gifted the singer a rosary and image of Mary in classic powder blue. “You can talk to her about anything,” she was told. “Even boys.” Viggiano, on the other hand, grew up “surrounded by rosary beads.” The mother of a young boyfriend first gave her a Rosary, “….then told me where to find condoms.” Each to her own experience. “Powder Blue” (Meg Flather/Vicki Genfan) and “Meet Me at Mary’s Place” (Bruce Springsteen) follow. Tracy Stark weaves traditional carols into accompaniment making it a bit dense. During the second song, Viggiano’s vocal sounds like Lesley Gore, while Flather’s sustains her own robust alto with neatly vacillating octave. Turn it up, turn it up, turn it up…the collaborators gleefully sing. Stark’s own “Perfect Christmas” doesn’t hold up to previous efforts. Tracy Stark “During holiday season, we can’t help being aware of those no longer with us. This is the first Christmas without my mom,” Flather shares. “I got to thinking about things and missing her, so I wrote this.” In essence, “Like a Sunday” says, I don’t mind being melancholy for awhile if it means feeling closer to you. It’s respectful, loving, tender, grave. Dona nobis pacem, pacem… Shawn Colvin’s “Climb On” denotes the partners’ friendship, in fact, good will to men. Vocal arrangement is swell. The show closes with Jane Siberry’s “Calling All Angels” and Adolphe Adam’s’s classic “Holy Night.” Both arrive earnest. Lennie Watts’ direction is expressive without overtaking. Photos by Stephen HanksOpening: Lisa Viggiano, Meg Flather #Real JoyMeg Flather, Lisa ViggianoTracy Stark- MD/Piano/VocalsDirector-Lennie WattsDon’t Tell Mama   December 2, 2018 ” - Alix Cohen

Woman Around Town

I’ve been a fan of Meg Flather for many years.  I first encountered her as part of a duo called Leather & Flather, where she sang with singer/pianist Christian Daizey.  During my days as a technical director, I designed the lighting and sound for Four-te, a close-harmony vocal group with which she performed, and I worked on a couple of her solo shows at the Metropolitan Room.  But nothing could’ve prepared me for the sheer cabaret bliss of her most recent show, Back When We Were Beautiful, at Don’t Tell Mama Born in the Philippines, Flather eventually moved to New York City where she studied at the High School of Music and Art, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY.  She is a MAC and Backstage Bistro Award winner and a three-time nominee for the Broadway World Award.  In addition to her musical accomplishments, she’s also a Brand Ambassador for skincare lines sold on QVC, HSN, Shop NBC and more.  She’s known as the “Home Shopping Diva” and her 2001 show of the same name was called one of the Top Ten Cabaret Shows of the Year by critic Stephen Hanks. Back When We Were Beautiful is an exploration of women’s lives—story songs about women as they navigate the years.  Flather’s opening number, “Somewhere Only We Know” (Keane), contained a double message of sorts; on one hand, she seemed to be saying that these were stories women were uniquely qualified to tell, but on a deeper level, however, the song was about memory and the loss of youth.  Flather delivered lyrics like “I came across a fallen tree/I felt the branches of it looking at me/Is this the place we used to love?/Is this the place that I’ve been dreaming of?” very simply, her crystal clear alto unclouded by artifice.  Her tone was wistful and very real, setting the stage for an evening of beautiful honesty. With Suzanne Vega’s “Gypsy,” we delved into the subject of young love.  Flather’s emotional connection to the material was evident and it allowed her to dig deeply into the song and paint strong, visual pictures with the lyric and her vocals.  Flather is, of course, a wonderful singer, but also a tremendous actor.  Her renditions of songs like “Love at the Five and Dime” (Nanci Griffith), “Back to Before,” from Broadway’s Ragtime (Flaherty/Ahrens) and her devastating version of “Another Winter in a Summer Town,” from Scott Frankel and Micheal Korie’sGrey Gardens were imbued with such depth of feeling, it was clear that Flather was not just singing these songs, she was inhabiting them, and we, the audience, were transported into the worlds she was describing.  These were stunningly dramatic moments from a masterful performer! On the lighter side, Melanie’s classic “Brand New Key” was given a brand new interpretation.  In Flather’s hands it became a stalkerish song filled with mischievous mock anger and frustration.  We also heard “Dear Mr. Sellack” (Terre Roche), an amusing ditty about a woman asking for her waitressing job back after her dreams of fame have fallen through.  Al Dubin and Harry Warren’s “Keep Young and Beautiful” became a tongue-in-cheek, outdated tutorial, ending with Flather—ever the skincare pitch person—reminding us to “Exfoliate!”   And then there was the sardonic “I Love It When You Call Me Names” (Joan Armatrading), about a masochistic relationship between a “big woman and a short, short man/and he loves it when she beats his brains out.”  Each of these numbers showcased Flather’s ease with comedic moments, giving the evening a nice sense of balance. Flather was not alone onstage, of course.  She was accompanied beautifully by Musical Director Tracy Stark, who collaborated with her on many of the arrangements.  Something of a wonderful paradox, those arrangements were spare and focused, so as not to detract from Flather’s performance, yet occasionally clever and lush.  One of my favorite numbers was a fresh new take on Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard for the Money,” arranged as a ballad by Flather and John Mettam.  As adapted by Stark, the disco trappings were stripped away and the slower tempo revealed a poignancy in the lyric that made the song more powerful than the original.  In addition, Stark contributed lovely harmonies on several songs, adding yet more layers of color and texture.  And though he was not onstage physically, Director Lennie Watts’ presence was impressive.  He not only gave Flather fun bits of business, like her aggressive, stalky skating during “Brand New Key,” but he showed a subtle hand with the ballads as well.  During the more melancholy, introspective numbers he had Flather simply stand and look off into the distance, as if seeing the memories she was describing. I can’t remember the last time I saw a show as raw, honest and engrossing as Back When We Were Beautiful.  Through song, Meg Flather showed us her heart—her romantic heart, her playful heart, her broken heart and a heart that’s grown stronger with age and loss.  There was no dishonesty or pretense at all, and Flather wasn’t just singing these songs, she was living them!” - Michael Barbieri

nitelifeexchange.com

Meg Flather Back When We Were Beautiful Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, February 17, 2018 Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes Meg Flather’s Back When We Were Beautiful is one of the most creative, well-crafted, and courageously personal shows I’ve seen in some time. Her subject—women, pointedly including herself—is once again highly topical, the performer’s perspective piercingly lucid. Some songs familiar in other contexts arrive with radically reinterpreted meaning. What could spell disaster works to surprise and compels. Signature wry humor supports the piece like vertebrae. Wrenching parentheses catch one unaware. Flather’s attractive alto has gained tensile strength without losing an ounce of warmth or nuance. Key changes are fluid. Opening with young love, the vocalist shares Suzanne Vega’s “Gypsy,” apparently written when Vega was 18 as a gift to a young man with whom she was infatuated. In return, she received his bandana. Music rises and falls in waves. Flather sounds like ’60s folk—unfussy and authentic. The first of many appealing harmonies with music director/pianist Tracy Stark enhances. “For some of us, first love wasn’t mutual. Restraining orders were necessary.” Melanie’s “Brand New Key,” originally bubble-pop, is decidedly dark: “Well, I’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates/You’ve got a brand new key/I think that we should get together/And try them on to see…” could dramatically fit into Sweeney Todd. Flather mimes skating (with a vengeance) between verses. She refers to this as a stalker song. Stark’s echoing vocal back-up is cautionary. Speaking of which, wait till you hear what she’s done with “(I Love It When You) Call Me Names” (Joan Armatrading). A charming anecdote about the performer’s (inadvertent) early career in cosmetics prefaces Nanci Griffith’s “Love at the Five and Dime,” a plainspoken, iconically Middle-American tale. From innocence to middle age, the show’s title song (Matraca Berg) contains part wistful, part bitter musings of a woman who unearths old photos of her greatest love. Like most of us, she doesn’t like aging at all. Flather seamlessly speaks some lyrics, inhabiting the role. Later, 1933’s frothy “Keep Young and Beautiful” (Harry Warren/Al Dubin) erupts as an aggressive-verging-on-manic sales pitch. Listen carefully. Seductive advertising, she notes, contains implicit threat. Acting chops grow expansive for “Mr. Selleck” (Terre Roche) in which a feisty, failed performer desperately wants her waitressing job back. Flather dances in a circle, waving her arms as if a willing marionette, with spoken reference to glass ceilings bridges. A heart-wrenching “Back to Before” (Lynn Ahrens/Stephen Flaherty) is preceded by a candid and distressing story about her parents and grandparents. Flather palpably empties herself into the song, soaring without rasp or volume. Lavish piano underpins, but doesn’t overwhelm. This also occurs down the line with “Another Winter in a Summer Town” (Scott Frankel/Michael Korie) whose accompaniment might make you shudder: “…Yesterday’s dreams/ A faded bouquet/ Roses that died on the vine/ Yesterday seems more real than today/ It’s difficult drawing the line/ My season ended/ A long time ago…/ Longing increases when trees are bare, streets all but deserted, neighbors gone/ When there’s nothing to soften and distract.” Flather briefly IS that woman. “Out of all the great loves in a woman’s life, the most complicated, rich, and rewarding is the bond between mother and daughter…” Unexpectedly, the song chosen to express the artist’s feelings is Jerry Herman’s “My Best Girl,” sung by young Patrick to reassure his Auntie Mame at a low point. Its tender performance evokes tenderness, intimacy, and history. We close with one of Flather’s parents’ favorites, “Moon River” (Johnny Mercer/Henry Mancini), which she now perceives as the ever-flowing continuity of life. It arrives a song of hard-won faith. This has got to be one of music director/accompanist/vocalist Tracy Stark’s best efforts to date. Both musical and vocal arrangements are imaginative and collaborative. Back-up works splendidly. Director Lennie Watts—“Mr. Grant to my Mary Tyler Moore”—has encouraged Flather to loosen up and express herself more demonstrably without intruding on the minimalist approach that channels focus into lyrics. My single caveat is that Flather almost never looks at us. When she’s addressing the unseen or herself, this works, but there are at least two numbers that would benefit greatly from inescapable empathy. The show is extraordinary. The show is reprised at Don’t Tell Mama on March 15 at 7 pm.” - Alix Cohen

Cabaret Scenes