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Interview: Catching Up With Amy Beth Williams

"Without a story it's just beautiful sound."

Interview: Catching Up With Amy Beth Williams One of the most respected and revered cabaret artists working in the industry today (and for several years), Amy Beth Williams recently took home a MAC Award for Best Female Vocalist in a hotly competetive race filled with talented women. This singing actress and renaissance woman has been a teacher and mentor to many, while showing, repeatedly, that those who teach can also do, and her last three shows on the New York stage have certainly proven that. In the year since the show business shutdown was lifted, alone, Williams has produced and presented two completely different shows. While enjoying the aftermarth of her recent MAC win and all the summertime activity of NYC, Amy Beth Williams was kind enough to spend a few minutes with Broadway World Cabaret, sharing her thoughts on her work as both artist and mentor.

This interview was conducted digitally and is reproduced with minor edits.

Amy Beth Williams, welcome to Broadway World!

Thank you Stephen! it's an honor to be here.

Since the reopening of the nightclubs in New York City, you have produced two new cabaret shows. Was that the product of having time on your hands during the lockdown?

The Leonard Cohen show was definitely a product of the lockdown - an evening featuring the words and music of Leonard Cohen had been in the back of my mind for a long time and being thrown into teaching online and having a lot of time to think brought it to the light. I had included a few of his songs in previous shows and somehow it was time to simply honor his work and have the words and music be the focal point. No theme, just the songs that I felt the world needed to hear. The other show A Thousand Beautiful Things was scheduled to be performed in June of 2020 and of course we all know that didn't happen! So it wasn't new - it was reborn once we were able to be back at Don't tell Mamas.

You just mentioned that your show BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY is a Leonard Cohen tribute show. Tell me about your relationship with that music and how it led to this club act.

Interview: Catching Up With Amy Beth Williams I have always loved the poetry and music of Leonard Cohen - since my college days. I've heard his words sung by so many different voices - and songs I discovered at 18 still resonate today and he is always current - no matter how long the songs have been in existence. I walked around the block everyday listening to his music and felt less lonely and afraid.

For that show, you had a special accompanist. I'd like to know more about that story.

My nephew, John Henry, yes! I am so blessed to have such a fine musician in my family and sharing many of the same musical sensibilities! He has played in some other shows as well but this was just the two of us. He and I seem to share the same musical tastes. So when we could meet, we met out on my mom's deck and vetted the songs we wanted to play. Its amazing to me that I am related to him!

Your follow-up show to BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY was A THOUSAND BEAUTIFUL THINGS and followed a completely different format than the Cohen tribute show. Do you follow a formula when creating a new act, or does each show develop in its own individual way?

When I create a new act there is no set format - the shape of the show grows out of the music that I wish to sing. Tanya Moberly, my director, and I brainstorm ideas until a quasi theme emerges and then we keep refining - adding and eliminating as we go - then, when lan Herman, my musical director, gets in the mix, more beauty is added and other things removed. But the music is the guide.

For your last three shows, you have had three rave reviews from three Broadway World Cabaret reporters. We all agree that we are all in awe of your skills as a storyteller. To what would you attribute those skills?

I am so grateful for the reviews! Sometimes it's easy to feel invisible, and I am so lucky to have had Broadway World come and hear me sing, and you make me feel that my work matters! I am so grateful. I am an actor who sings and the storytelling seems to be the reason I'm singing these songs in the first place. I create my own play with every show I create. Without a story it's just beautiful sound.

You are a teacher of performing at Wagner College who also performs. Do your students come to see your shows, and are they as starstruck by your work as our reviewers are?

My students do come to see me when they can - but so many of them are busy performing themselves, so it's tough. And expensive. But they do come and I always try to practice what I preach. I do think some of them are starstruck but for the most part they learn from what they see me do.

Your shows always have impeccable artwork. Do you have a philosophy on what ad art for a cabaret show should embody? And do you include that and other non-performance aspects of the business in your teachings?

Interview: Catching Up With Amy Beth Williams Artwork is so important and I've been lucky enough to have great help with that - I'm just sorry I didn't include my picture on the Leonard Cohen postcard or poster because noone knew it was me doing the singing, unless they came to the show or recognized my name. I don't really deal with that aspect of the business with my students - I just try to teach them how to do the work! To be quite honest Im still trying to get it right.

What kind of thoughts do you have regarding the changing times and the way they are reflected in the cabaret artform?

The changing times. I think we are all trying to get "Back to Before" a little bit, just to find our stability again. but the world is changing and I think every cabaret artist needs to remember that and allow it to help shape the art that we create.

Did you come to your work in cabaret through your own education in the arts, or were you inspired to the work through other artists to whose work you were exposed?

Interview: Catching Up With Amy Beth Williams i was always an actress and a singer, and once I was out of school and not in a play I created my own performances - I created a one woman show years ago at the end of my graduate work at Cornell and have continued to do so - I was so excited to devise my own play using music and words. And Cabaret is the place to keep doing that. And yes artists that I was exposed to help to shape me - Julie Wilson, and, more recently, Marilyn Maye, and early on the videos and music of Kate Bush.

You have been making Don't Tell Mama your cabaret home base. What is it about that particular venue that speaks so resonantly to you?

Don't Tell Mama is a home away from home and the heartbeat is Sidney Meyer and the staff! Ever since my first interview with him years ago, where he allowed me to do my first show there, I have felt that it is home.

Amy Beth Williams, thank you so much for visiting with Broadway World today. We really appreciate it and we all look forward to your next show.

I can't wait to do another show! A Thousand Beautiful Things is coming back in the next few months and Great Ladies Great Songs as well -Thank you for all that you do for this crazy cabaret community - we are truly blessed to have you! Thank you Stephen!

Read the Brady Schwind review of Amy Beth Williams HERE.

Read the Bobby Patrick review of Amy Beth Williams HERE.

Read the Stephen Mosher review of Amy Beth Williams HERE.

Visit the Amy Beth Williams website HERE.

Visit the Don't Tell Mama website HERE.


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