Call Answered: Patricia Fitzpatrick: Provincetown CabaretFest May 29-June 2, 2019
Provincetown is my favorite place in the whole world! It has everything I love about life…beaches, delicious food, ice cream, and most of all arts & entertainment! Provincetown has truly become a destination for Broadway, Cabaret, Comedians, Film, and Television stars to perform. It’s also a place for those just starting out to get their feet wet. It truly is the most magical place in the world.
It is such an honor to have the opportunity to interview Patricia Fitzparick, the producer of Provincetown’s annual CabaretFest. Now in it’s 19th year, Patricia has been at the helm of it since 2015.
With over 40 cabaret performers, musicians and master class coaches, this year’s festival is slated to be the biggest yet! The theme of CabaretFest 2019 is the 1960s which will feature a wide variety of programming, centered around this decade, during which time saw the country enjoying Broadway hits, Mame, Cabaret and Camelot, alongside the Top 40 music of the Beatles, Carole King, Bob Dylan and Michel Legrand.
Some highlights from this year’s festival will be an Open Mic evening, exclusive private musical parties, eight star-studded solo Cabaret shows, a Variety Show (featuring all the performers in one showcase), a Q&A Panel Luncheon, Press Luncheon, Workshops, Celebrity Master Classes and a lavish Sunday Brunch Show, featuring the Brian Patton Trio and Special Guest star, Jeffrey Wright.
CabaretFest will take place at venues around Provincetown from May 29-June 2. Click here for tickets and programming schedule!
1. From May 29-June 2, you are producing the 19th Annual Provincetown CabaretFest. What are you looking forward to most about this year's festival? Seeing all the performers again. Each year we hold on to previous years’ favorites and add new performers. Every year is a wonderful foundation of past alumni and the “new kids on the block.” Each festival is half reunion and half new faces. The networking that takes place each year is my favorite result of this gathering of performers. I also look forward to seeing all the shows. However, my favorite show is the Sunday Brunch Show, when we see the candidates who study all week long with master class coaches present their selected song. It’s such a thrill to observe the transformation the coaching brings to their performances.
2. How did you decide on this year's performers? Throughout the year, we attend shows in NYC and Boston. Each time I see a performer who excites me, I make notes and collect their information. It is more a “gut” instinct. To be honest, I hire performers who grab me when they perform. I want to “feel” an emotion when they sing. When that happens, I invite them to next year’s festival. Thankfully, no one has ever declined to attend. The CabaretFest has earned a great reputation. Most singers want to perform in Provincetown.
3. What should audiences know in advance about CabaretFest? CabaretFest is unique. You can see over a dozen top shows all within walking distance at an average ticket cost of $25. The festival also provides workshops, Q&A Panel, Open Mic (open to everyone for free), private parties and Master Classes. The show spaces have an intimate night club atmosphere and the audiences feel a part of the show. PLUS, it’s a gorgeous resort town on the ocean. Paradise and music.
4. In addition to producing this year's festival, you are also performing in it, with your show Memories of the Playboy Club. What can you tell us about this specific show? Since we are celebrating the music of the 1960’s, I wanted to go back in time to my performances at the Detroit Playboy Club. It was a different time. It was a more constrained way of performing. You were “just the girl singer.” You didn’t have permission to talk to the audiences. However, it was a great training ground for any up-and-coming performer. The musicians were the best. Your audiences were filled with influential men. You could become a “star” overnight, back in those days.
5. What is one memory of the Playboy Club you have that you do not talk about in the show? The jazz trio I worked with took their union breaks in the alleyway next to the club. In those days, they smoked a lot of “mary jane” (which was their drug of choice). After each break the trio got better and I had to struggle to keep up with their jazz versions of standard songs. Not being sophisticated enough (I was in my early 20’s), I stayed “pure.” However, I learned how to sing with musicians whose mood changed as the evening went forward. Great training. I also learned that the dress they MADE me wear was as important to management as was the fact that I could sing! The Club was more about image and fantasy than talent.
6. How long does it take you to put the festival together each year? AHHH. That is the best question. We begin putting the next festival together, the minute the festival is over. The actual day-to-day planning takes at least five months. It isn’t hard to select the talent. The challenge is to secure the performance venues, talent housing, sponsors, caterers, travel arrangements, press coverage, design the ads, build the website and while doing all of that, keep your sanity, relationships and friends. It is a balancing act between performing cabaret and the business of producing cabaret.
7. What do you think about when you look at where you are now as compared to your first festival? Confidence. The first year we produced the festival we thought we knew what to do. After that festival  was over, the feedback we received from the audiences and the performers, was wonderful.
I also, sadly, think about the fact that my oldest son, Kevin McElligatt, had agreed to be the festival’s photographer (even though he had stage 4 cancer). Kevin photographed and attended every festival event. He passed away the day after the festival ended.
Every year when we produce the festival, I dedicate it to him – his courage and dedication. When I look at where the festival is now and how quickly it has grown, I believe it is due to that same spirit of dedication. Cabaret is a community. Everyone works together to make the festival happen and grow.
8. What initially made you want to produce a cabaret festival in Provincetown? When I was the Director of Tourism for the Town of Provincetown, John O’Neil came to me for a grant to produce the first Cabaret Festival. I was immediately drawn to this (new to me) form of entertainment. The festival was dropped after a few years. I vowed to bring it back. We added an education element that has grown every year. Master Classes by Marilyn Maye, Steve Ross, Jeff Harnar, Mark Nadler and this year, Sharon McNight. I wanted to see people learn the “art form” of Cabaret.
9. What are your future hopes for the festival? I hope the festival continues long after I am gone. I would like to see the master class candidates come back and produce their own one-hour show. Seeing the younger performers grow in their confidence, stage presence, song selection and appreciation for the lyrics, gives me the incentive to continue. We are in our fifth year of producing the CabaretFest and I’d like to see it be an International Festival in the next few years.
10. What are your favorite places to go to when you are in Provincetown? As the former Director of Tourism, I would recommend the participants walk the beaches, go on an Art’s Dune Tour in the National Seashore, take a Dolphin Fleet whale watch and enjoy dining at some of the best restaurants on Cape Cod. It is the sheer beauty of the Town that brings people back. Breathe the salt air and listen to live music.
More on Patricia:
Very much the moving light behind the resurrection and development of Cabaretfest, Patricia has many years in the music and cabaret industry. She also has a deep interest and history in Provincetown, having served as Tourism Director here for seven years and was instrumental in launching numerous revenue generating ideas within the town. Her heart is still truly with Provincetown and it’s future successes.