"Call Me Adam" chats with award winning performer, director, and teacher Gretchen Reinhagen about her upcoming show Listen To The Music: The Songs Of My 70's at The Duplex in NYC (61 Christopher Street at 7th Avenue) from March 13-23. To make a reservation call 212-255-5438.
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My parents! I’ve had many influences over the years, and I’m a fan of a LOT of artists, but it definitely started at home. My parents were (and are) both performers – my dad's a singer and my mom was a dancer. And they act, and direct and produce, and all that great stuff. I remember always wishing I could have the grace of my mother. She’s a lovely woman on stage and off. But, my brother and sister got more of her dancing abilities, while I was always more like Dad. That was just fine, as he’s a charismatic entertainer with a great voice, and I was happy to be anything like him. Of course – that wasn’t always easy! But I’m beyond grateful for the gifts they’ve given me.
2. From March 13-23, you are going to be performing your show "Listen to the Music: The Songs of My 70s" at The Duplex in NYC. What made you want to create a show of this musical genre? Why do you think this music have such an influence on you? For starters, I was born in 1970 (and this is the last decade in which I’m going to admit that…) and I’ve always loved this period of music. It was my introduction to music, which is my first love, so that alone makes this period of musical history very special to me, but it remains a favorite of mine for a number of reasons, one of which is its diversity. In no other decade do you have so many different genres of music vying for center stage. Some of these genres were always around, but in the 70s you had folk and soul enjoying the same level of commercial success as pop and rock, plus funk, disco, and so on. I find it fascinating. I’ve always been diverse in my musical tastes. So this fits my Gemini personality well!
3. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing this show? This show is very personal for me. Not only are we playing great music, but we’re also digging into my earliest memories and experiences. My hope is that A) since there are so many well-known songs in the show, people will enjoy revisiting this music and their own memories of the times and songs, and B) folks might know me just a little bit better. Above all else – I just hope people are entertained! That in itself is enough!
4. Why is The Duplex the perfect venue for your show? I’ve worked at many clubs in town – all great experiences – different shows fit different rooms. With the Duplex, not only is it a great place to work with an incredibly caring, artistic and professional atmosphere, but it also has a very groovy, downtown vibe going on, which is a perfect fit for this show, and this music.
5. How did you come to work with Barry Kleinbort as your director and Andrew Sotomayor as your Musical Director? What has been the best part about collaborating with them? This might be the toughest question – well the second part anyway – because I’ve had the privilege of working with so many great musicians and directors! I’ve been fortunate to have many rewarding collaborations, and this one has been no exception.
I first met Barry Kleinbort in 2006 when I treated myself to a (life changing) week at the Perry Mansfield Performing Arts School studying the art of cabaret with some incredible artists and teachers, one of whom was Barry. I didn’t know him at all, but after one class I knew he was the guy for me. He’s since directed several of my shows. He even directed my wedding! He’s also become one of my dearest friends. I call him the man in my life, and that he is. I trust him with so much more than just my artistry.
Andrew, I met just this past year, so it still has that shiny "new relationship" feel. Love that! And him! I directed a debut show for Bennett Silverstein, and Andrew was the musical director. I’m always a little nervous walking into a new collaboration, and we didn’t know each other at all, so it was like a blind date. But after one rehearsal we clicked, and we had a great time working together on Bennett’s show. For my show, it just ended up being the right place and time, because I was in need of someone available for these March dates, and he and I wanted to work together again, so it all fell into place. He’s brought a fresh perspective to my work, because he comes from a different background, and quite frankly a different decade. He and Barry really hit it off as well, so from day 1 in the rehearsal studio, this show just started to take off.
When we did this show in December at Urban Stages, my good friend Tracy Stark sat in at the piano, and she brings a different experience and groove altogether, which I absolutely love. With this show, I’ve gotten to work with dear friends, each with a different set of experiences and sensibilities, and that kind of evolution to the show, and fluidity to the artistic ideas being passed around, has made this a very memorable ride for me.
6. You are a Bistro, MAC, and Nightlife award winner. What does it mean to you to get this kind of recognition? The Triple Crown! Ha! I won these for another show which I’m very passionate about, Special Kaye: A Tribute to the Incomparable Kaye Ballard. The last one to be given out that year was the MAC Award, and I remember being so excited and going into the MAC Awards thinking…is this really happening? Winning prizes had never been my strong suit! It was exhilarating and rewarding on so many levels. The awards themselves were so validating and exciting, but the moments that really stand out to me are each a bit different. For the Nightlife Award, I was notified via email, and I happened to be awake and checking my email at 5AM that day. I was sitting by myself at my desk, jumping up and down (quietly) at 5AM. I was completely overjoyed. So, of course, I woke my partner up! She was thrilled for me, and got up and celebrated with me by making me a cup of coffee, and then she went back to bed. It was 5AM! The Bistro Award moment, was actually an incredibly lovely introduction given to me by Klea Blackhurst. I think she’s exceptional, and I was so honored and thrilled to be introduced by her and by her very kind words. I remember feeling completely visible in that moment, and that’s not something I always feel. And for the MAC Award, it wasn’t actually hearing my name as the winner – it was the moment right before – the moment they read my name on the list of nominees and the entire packed house roared with applause. That was the moment I felt like a winner. That’s a moment that still chokes me up.
And then last year- winning the MAC Award again, this time for directing, brought a whole new level of validation to my work. When I get overwhelmed (which happens often enough!) and I feel like giving it all up, these are the moments that remind me that there’s something to all this, and to hang in a little longer. That kind of recognition, even from myself, is priceless.
7. In addition to performing, you are also a teacher. What do you get from teaching your students that you don't get from performing on stage? It’s a very different responsibility. I teach voice, as well as cabaret performance workshops, and I also direct cabaret acts. They all work slightly different muscles, but in all cases the clients are the ones putting themselves on the line, and it’s my job to create a safe space for them to do that, or to help hone their technique or focus their ideas and their voice. I consider it a huge responsibility and I try to never forget that. The rewards for me are great. I have amazing clients and they all have a different sense of humor, a different set of life experiences, a different artistic expression, and I get to experience them all. And I get to experience their joy and passion. They remind me of why I love to sing.
8. What's the best advice you've ever received? Well – I get a LOT of advice! Sometimes unsolicited! Ha! But some of the best words have come from family and friends – like my dad telling me to hang in there, and someday I’ll be an overnight success! I love that! I also love the idea that we’re only in competition with ourselves. That’s a BIG one for me. Along those same lines – I once had a friend say to me, "Why worry about what other people think? You worrying about it isn’t going to change what they think?" I’ve come back to that one time and time and again.
9. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer/teacher? That I have a voice! That I have something to say – something valuable. I have to remind myself of that ALL the time.
10. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Flying! Who wouldn’t want to fly?
Gretchen Reinhagen won the 2013 MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) Award for directing. Additionally, she is multi-award winning artist, having received the coveted TRIPLE CROWN of cabaret awards by winning the 2010 Nightlife Award, Bistro Award and MAC Award for her show Special Kaye: A Tribute to the Incomparable Kaye Ballard, which has played around the country, including an Off-Broadway run at Urban Stages. In 2011 she was nominated for a MAC Award for Female Vocalist for her performance of Janis Joplin's iconic final Album, Pearl, and again in 2012 for her show Both Sides Now, which premiered at Urban Stages. She’s worked with some of the best names in Cabaret, including Karen Mason, Barry Kleinbort and Steve Ross to name a few. Former Back Stage and Citysearch critic, Roy Sander, said "Gretchen Reinhagen's shows are marked by intelligence, warmth, a lovely spirit of benevolence, and fine vocals. It is always a pleasure to spend an hour in her company."
As a director and a teacher, Gretchen has been praised for her ability to facilitate the best performance in each of her clients. Times Square Chronicles said "Cabaret award winner Gretchen Reinhagen is Diamond’s director and every single moment…was brilliant." BroadwayWorld.com named one of her 2012 shows "one of the best directed shows of the year."
Gretchen resides in New York, where she maintains a busy studio of voice students and directing clients, and also teaches a series of workshops in the Art of Cabaret. She holds a degree in Voice Performance from Pepperdine University.