Music Savaged By The Average Beast

Making Up Music 4:
Annie Hughes

(photo: Heather Sullivan)
by Your Diva, Robin Pastorio-Newman

This week in Making Up Music, New York Critics Choice Award-winning cabaret singer Annie Hughes empties her pockets and flags down a waiter. With a three-octave range and a keen understanding of when to avoid eye contact, Annie makes you look around for a piano to decorate. With you. But only - and I mean only - after you've called for tickets and show times.

ALTROK: Annie, you're a cabaret singer in New York City with an impressive string of rave reviews. In 2001, what's a cabaret singer? Are you bored senseless by Liza Minelli jokes?

Annie Hughes: I always love the one about how many Lizas it takes to screw in a lightbulb ...

What's a cabaret singer ... no one seems to know since no one can really define cabaret. It's a wide-open art form. The only prerequisite is no 4th wall - you have to connect directly with the audience.

ALTROK: How does one become a cabaret singer? You've plainly studied enough for three people. Do all three think the funny thoughts?

AH: No...one thinks the thoughts while the others giggle and pat her on the back.

Anyone can be a "cabaret singer" if they have enough bucks and buddies. To be a GOOD cabaret singer - that's another thing altogether and seems to be lost on many. But for most, it's just an expensive hobby. Kinda like singing for people in the shower of a large bathroom and charging extra for the seats to be down.

ALTROK: Do you prefer doing theater to doing your own show? If I could sing Pirate Jenny without fear of restraining orders, it'd be a tough call for me. Are you recording? Where can audiences adore you in person?

AH: Performing in cabaret, I'm the producer, director, arranger, writer - it's very challenging and gratifying. I rise and fall by my own vision. I love doing theater; there just isn't enough opportunity.

But just to accommodate my inability to choose between the two, I'll be messing with Sondheim in my next program at Judy's Chelsea (169 Eighth Ave, NYC) sometime after the New Year and in the studio putting together a new CD for release in the spring of aught-two.

ALTROK: What are you thinking when you're performing a song and you look right into the eyes of some drunken salesman?

AH: "Oh my god...I'm back in piano bar."

ALTROK: Just between us redheads, ever considered doing something else for a living? Doctor, lawyer, baseball card designer?

AH: It's like Woody Allen says: New York is the town where you can always get service in a restaurant by calling "Oh, Actor!" - If you're pursuing a performing career, you'll always be doing something else... A "Day Job"...while you wait for your big break. And you never have to honestly consider it. That way you can always say you're not really a doctor - you just play one on TV.

ALTROK: What kind of music sends you? Who - oo - oo - oo sends you, personally?

AH: To perform or to listen? I like to perform the unusual, the original and the obscure. I like songs that have a great story as well as a great melody - and something with an unexpected twist makes my day.

For my listening pleasure, I go with Sting, Bonnie, JT, Shawn...pretty much the antithesis of the type of material I perform.

ALTROK: John Hogland of Back Stage said you had both a coloratura AND a penchant. I'm jealous, of course. You're a one-woman vocabulary quiz! What's in your pockets right now?

AH: A dearth of cumquats.

ALTROK: Regular, menthol, or Life Savers?

AH: No, thanks...I'm full.

ALTROK: Say something funny, Annie.

AH: Don't think of them as chin hairs ... they're just ... stray eyebrows.

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