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BWW Interview: Sharon McNight's Always BETWEEN A Never-ending List of Gigs & HOLIDAZE

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Sharon McNight will bring her strong vocals and hysterically outrageous irreverence to Feinstein’s At Vitello’s December 9th in SHARON McNIGHT: BETWEEN HOLIDAZE

BWW Interview: Sharon McNight's Always BETWEEN A Never-ending List of Gigs & HOLIDAZE

The very in-demand cabaret artist Sharon McNight will bring her strong vocals and hysterically outrageous irreverence to Feinstein's At Vitello's December 9th in Sharon McNight: BETWEEN HOLIDAZE, with musical direction from John Boswell.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Sharon!

I have seen you on stage in various venues in Los Angeles tearing up the stage with your A.MA.ZING vocals and crazy antics. What's your secret for maintaining those steel pipes of yours? Vocal Warm-ups? Shots of bourbon? A good night's sleep?

Breathing right. I played the flute in school and was in the band and orchestra. I didn't sing. In junior college, I tried out for GUYS AND DOLLS and sang "Bushel and a Peck" which my mother sang when I was a child. At the audition, I just opened my mouth, and a big voice came out. I wish I had a picture of the looks on their faces.

What can Feinstein's At Vitello's audiences expect to hear at your BETWEEN HOLIDAZE?

It's going to be a few of my 'type' Xmas songs and the audience favorites they have been requesting of me as I rarely appear in Los Angeles. I always have to laugh when they request a song I have never done.

How much of your cabaret acts are scripted as opposed to improvised? You're always lightning-quick on responding to an audience shoutout or request.

BWW Interview: Sharon McNight's Always BETWEEN A Never-ending List of Gigs & HOLIDAZE I know the direction of what I want to say, but it's not scripted unless I want to tell a joke. Timing is so very hard to teach.

You're played at Feinstein's At Vitello's a number of times (with Kritzerland and Mostly Musicals). What keeps you coming back there?

I'll play anywhere the piano is in tune and the check don't bounce.

You earned a masters in directing from San Francisco State. What did you originally want to be as a teenager? A director? Or an actress?

As an only child, I was given every lesson there was, starting with piano in the second grade, the flute, social dancing, ballet, tap, hula, and toe. I just loved performing.

Did you start earning a living first as a cabaret artist or as a director?

I wrote plays and directed children in them during summers in my hometown. It was part of a recreation program. Cabaret came way after teaching drama at City College and directing both stage and film.

You credit flute playing you learned while in the fourth grade to your big voice.

It's all in the breathing.

You have a unique credit in your resumé. You co-directed Behind the Green Door 2 in 1986 with the Mitchell Brothers. What did you learn from your first directing experience in adult film?

It was about safe sex which was extremely important and still is. Heterosexuals didn't think they could get the 'gay plague.'

You've played venues large and small all over. What was the most outrageous audience response you ever received? Thrown underwear? Over-boisterous drunks? Extended applause?

BWW Interview: Sharon McNight's Always BETWEEN A Never-ending List of Gigs & HOLIDAZE I always loved playing the Reno Gay Rodeo with my big band and back-up singers. Guys in expensive boots and hats who thought Milk came from a carton was the joke I always used. As to extended applause, the closing night of STARMITES because my entrance was so dramatic, the applause seemed endless.

With all the gin joints you're played, is there any that you haven't that you would love, love, love to triumph at?

I don't think triumph is the right word. Succeed is a better one. It's such a nice feeling when you 'go over' at Carnegie Hall.

Do you remember your reaction in 1989 to hearing about your Tony nomination for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for STARMITES?

Needless to say, I was honored. However, it was work making appearances at Tony events plus eight shows a week, and I did my cabaret act at Eighty-Eights.

How cool to have Al Hirschfeld memorialize you in STARMITES in his drawing?

I could see Al and his wife in the audience. That white beard was like a beacon. The cast wondered who was going to get the honors.

When did you realize you were good at impressions?

As a child, I always had an ear to mimic voices.

Who was the first you mastered? Mae West? Bette Davis?

My high school boyfriend did W.C. Fields, so naturally Mae West was first. I learned Bette years later from two of the best - Craig Russell and Michael Greer.

BWW Interview: Sharon McNight's Always BETWEEN A Never-ending List of Gigs & HOLIDAZE You not only 'impressed' Sophie Tucker, you also embodied her in RED HOT MAMA off-Broadway and regionally. What did you discover about Ms. Tucker that most people are unaware of?

She was married at eighteen, had a child, and left the child with her family in Hartford to go into show business in New York City. That's guts. Or stupidity.

What's a Sophie Tucker song you just love to sing?

"The Man I Love."

What did it mean to you to have your name engraved on the National AIDS Memorial in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park in 2019?

It was an honor, but it stirred up a lot of memories and images that I have tried to forget.

You've taught at San Francisco City College, Eugene O'Neill Center and the Cabaret Conference at Yale University. Do you find similarities in the goals of a teacher and a director?

Both are telling people what to do without telling people what to do. Both are based on trust and evidence you know what the hell you're doing.

What gives you greater gratification? Seeing a light bulb moment in a student? Receiving a standing ovation from an adoring audience? Watching your cast getting their props?

BWW Interview: Sharon McNight's Always BETWEEN A Never-ending List of Gigs & HOLIDAZE Light bulb moments are easy. Getting people who have been sitting to stand up to honor you is far greater.

What's in the near future for Sharon McNight? More cabaret bookings? Thursday, December 9th at Feinstein's At Vitello's, private parties, the 20th anniversary show of a San Francisco AIDS organization, a booster shot, and trying not to find the 35 pounds I lost during this pandemic.

Thank you again, Sharon! I look forward to being WOWed by you December 9th at Feinstein's At Vitello's.

For tickets for the live performance of BETWEEN HOLIDAZE December 9, 2021; log onto www.feinsteinsatvitellos.com


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