Interview: James Beaman's Filter Is Off in LIVED EXPERIENCE at Triad Theater

The celebrated female impersonator is back for a return engagement of his very first show performed as himself

By: May. 21, 2024
Interview: James Beaman's Filter Is Off in LIVED EXPERIENCE at Triad Theater
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To kick off Pride Month, MAC & Bistro Award-winner James Beaman returns with his acclaimed one-man show on Saturday June 1, 7 pm at the Triad Theater on the Upper West Side. Beaman is older, wiser, with a song in his heart and his filter decidedly off! Celebrating 34 years in showbiz—including a decade as one of cabaret's finest female impersonators—Jamie brings his unique and tartly critical point of view on the cultural zeitgeist. BroadwayWorld's Stephen Mosher says, “Mr. Beaman has recreated an era when performers were called entertainers!”

We spoke about the upcoming show, during which the celebrated character actor will be performing his very first cabaret as himself, and what's coming up next for Beaman.

How would you describe your upcoming show?

Lived Experience harkens back to the nightclub acts and TV variety specials of another time, with lots of Peter Allen-inspired glitter!  I tap dance, sing saucy satirical songs, make a few flashy costume changes, and feature a music video, a retrospective of my career as Lauren Bacall and Marlene Dietrich way back when. I was a prominent female impersonator on the cabaret scene in the ‘90s, but this is my first nightclub act in over 20 years—and my first as myself, which is very scary and challenging for a character actor!  The cabaret stage is a wonderful place for unique individuals to tell unique stories. After the struggles and losses of the past four years since COVID lockdown, I decided to channel all of it into Lived Experience, following Carrie Fisher’s advice: take your broken heart, turn it into art.

I’m reunited with my long-time music director, the incredible David Maiocco (now the preeminent Liberace impersonator!), two of the best sidemen in NYC, Matt Scharfglass on bass and David Silliman on drums, and three ladies singing backups whose award-winning cabaret acts I’ve directed, each a diva in her own right: Goldie Dver, Alexandra de Suze and Sierra Rein! The set list features songs by Hamlisch, Coward, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and many more, including two selections from the hit West End musical, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.

What was the process of putting it together like?

It was an uphill battle!!  David Maiocco and his husband live in Connecticut, and with all of us juggling various part time survival jobs, getting together was a huge challenge.  We wound up creating all the arrangements and rehearsing the show (including multiple duets!) in the weeks leading up to the October premiere, over Zoom and in the few marathon sessions we managed at David’s house.  I wrote original satirical lyrics, went into PPI Recording here in the city and recorded my first ever track to accompany the music video at the center of the show, started an Indiegogo campaign to raise the money to do the show, and nearly went blind gluing rhinestones onto my show costumes!  Having grown up in a theatre family, this was the old classic Mickey and Judy story of “let’s put on a show!”

What are you most looking forward to about the show?

I’m looking forward to giving a better performance this time!  We were shot out of a canon last fall and it made for a fun, loose, and, thank goodness, successful evening—but this time I really want to nail it: the singing, the tap, remember all my words, and most importantly, connect completely with my audience—both the in house audience at the wonderful Triad Theater, and also with the live stream audience at home, which will be treated to a glorious six-camera live video production from Jon Furshpan and his team at Fursh Media.

What message would you like people to take away from the show?

We’re all still processing the trauma of the past few years, and our country and culture are angry, frustrated, and divided. People my age (I’m a Gen X-er) are wondering what our purpose is in this post COVID, post-MeToo, post-BLM world, and whether our personal lived experiences really matter. I’m here to say: THEY DO!  I also consider myself an “old-school” gay man, with all the humor, the flair and the strength developed over years of striving to be open and authentic in the world. We’re performing Lived Experience on the first day of Pride Month, and I want young LGBT+ people to hear from a queer elder just how fortunate they are; that I, and many others before me, paved the way for them to live their truth and truly have Pride in their community.

What have you been listening to lately?

I’m directing a new act for MAC winner and 2024 Female Vocalist nominee Goldie Dver, whose friendship with the great Anthony Newley has inspired her to do an evening of his songs. So I’m listening not only to a lot of Newley, but also the great singers who covered his songs, like Sammy Davis, Jr., Barbra Streisand, Diahann Carroll, and so many others. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Lived Experience is ever so slightly “unfiltered”—I poke fun at both sides of the political divide, our narcissistic celebrity culture, and the various miscreants who populate social media—but never fear, you can leave your triggers at home! The overall message is one of love and laughter, of embracing life no matter what comes, and sharing the common lived experiences that make up our lives.

What’s coming up next for you?

Well, as mentioned, I’m directing Goldie Dver’s new show, What a Man!, with music direction by Dan Pardo, opening in October.

On June 24, 7 pm at Don’t Tell Mama, Goldie and I will launch Sneak Peek, a monthly performer and songwriter lab where cabaret artists can try out new material, and cabaret fans can be the first to get a peek at the great new acts coming up! Our first session features some of this year’s amazing MAC Award and Bistro Award winners, including: Camille Diamond, Meg Flather, Jason Henderson, Karen Mack, Mardie Millit, Justin Dylan Nastro, Tracy Stark and our special guest, the Grammy Award winning songwriter, Julie Gold!

Tickets to see Lived Experience at the Triad Theater on June 1 at 7 pm are available here.

Tickets to see Lived Experience on live stream (June 1 at 7 pm EDT) are available here.

Tickets to see Sneak Peek at Don’t Tell Mama, on June 24 at 7 pm are available on Don’t Tell Mama’s website

(Header photo credit: Conor Weiss)


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