This is a really fun interview with the winner of this year’s Don’t Tell Mama’s Next Big Act, Lynda Rodolitz. She was very candid in her responses about the contest, why she entered, and what it takes to win!
Congratulations on winning Don’t Tell Mama’s Next Big Act! Tell me why you entered this contest.
“Quite honestly, I never would have thought of entering because I didn’t think I could win – I don’t have a posse of 20 year olds who would come every week to vote for me so it seemed futile. But Lennie Watts (the creator of this series) suggested it would build visibility for me for the show I was scheduled to do in October. Also, I had a “deep bench” of great arrangements from my last show “Lynda Rodolitz is Off Her Rocker,” a 2016 MAC Award nominee in the musical comedy category and from the Arrangement Experience classes I’ve taken with Lennie and Steven Ray Watkins, who music directed my show, and was playing for the contest so he’d know my songs. So, “What the hell!”, I thought a few weeks at most…”
What was the best part of competing? And the worst part?
“Lots of things were great about it – the challenge of winning over an audience; being part of the excitement in a group of very friendly, welcoming but fiercely talented folks; performing every week. But, in truth, the best part was that after a few weeks, when my name was announced as the next performer, people clapped and cheered and wow! It was an amazing feeling to walk on stage to that welcome. Other people’s friends enjoyed my songs. What I was doing was noticed and liked. What more can a performer ask for?”
It’s amazing, isn’t it? I have gone to some of these competition type events to give my support to one singer and I ended up voting for the 3 people each week I thought were the best that night and not just for my friend. So, I guess you can actually win by winning over the audience as you clearly did Lynda!
“The worst part was the idea of competing with these nice folks. And that all too familiar total organ shutdown sensation during the wait. Because the house was so packed every week – what great audiences! – we all had to crowd into that small bathroom hallway at Mama’s whether there were 26 of us or 5, and we couldn’t hear much of the performances or the critiques. So, you waited there or in the bar.”
Would you recommend entering a contest like this and, if so, what is your best advice or helpful hints for someone considering entering next year?
“Yes, definitely. You could win! Or, as was the case with many of the new singers, you get to practice and usually get very pointed feedback about your work. And everyone grew and became stronger performers. And everyone got seen by new people. There’s little to lose if you have a good attitude about who you are and why you’re there. But be prepared, take it seriously. Know your material and what you want to show and tell about yourself. Be ready to perform at your highest level every week.”
What kind of person should maybe not consider doing a contest like this?
“What can I say – someone who puts ego before art. Someone who hasn’t figured out who they are as a performer or cared about learning to communicate with an audience. Everyone loves a pretty voice, but a story teller, an honest communicator, is who everyone wants to hear for an hour…”
I couldn’t agree more! Do you think that winning has, in any way, bumped up your name recognition and notoriety in the community?
“Fingers crossed although it has been fun to be congratulated by friends in the cabaret community wherever I’ve run into them. And, when I was in synagogue for the High Holidays, it was kind of surprising but cool for those Facebook friends to come over and congratulate me. But my show, per contest rules, has been postponed until February, so will folks remember? Will the seats be filled by fans? I’ll keep you posted.”
We will get those dates up for you as soon as you have them. What is your goal in Cabaret and how do you think you could capitalize on this award to help you achieve those goals?
“My deep, down dream would be for someone to see me in a cabaret show and say, “Hey, wanna be in a Broadway show?” I love the collaborative experience of doing a play or musical. In fact, after my preliminary night performance, someone did speak to me about a project he was doing. He was legit as they come and we’ve been in touch; nothing has come of it yet, but why say no to a project. It could happen …
Otherwise, I’d be happy to do my shows to sold out houses and be asked to participate in other people’s shows as a guest. Again, there’s no way to know how this award will make a difference, but it’s better than not winning! Oh, and you can be sure the words “2018 Mama’s Next Big Act Winner” will be on the card for my new show.”
True to your wish above, I just booked you for my Annual Urban Stages “People You Should Know Show” so, anyone wanting to see you, keep Tuesday, December 18th at 7:00 open!
So…was doing the contest fun or stressful or both? How so?
“Both, of course. As per what I wrote above, plus the stress of staying rested and healthy for the entire run and learning the new songs I had to learn. That Disney song killed me…it had a short list but my brain just short circuited around it! I actually used a paper for a prop – like I was reading the list – and read the list. The fun part? I won! I might have had a different response if I hadn’t, but then you wouldn’t have asked. And performing for such a lively, eager to be pleased, audience was a hoot.”
What were your prizes for winning?
“Ooh – very nice! $1,500 towards a new show; Frank Dain to design my card and poster and ad materials; said poster goes up on the wall in Mama’s back lobby; the Heron’s Landing week long singers retreat in June and – drum roll – an Instant Pot! I’m already receiving tips and recipes from owners of a pot and I promise I‘ll figure it out one of these days.”
Leave it to Lennie to make a household appliance part of the prize package…very funny! Now, tell us a bit about you and your singing background?
“I’m old enough, and a native Brooklyn girl, so I got to see the original versions of most of the Golden Age of Broadway musicals. Fortunately, my parents loved going to musicals. And I spent many, many afternoons in our basement singing along to original cast albums. But it never entered my mind that I could do anything like that; there was a very different set of expectations for me. It was my secret world. I worshiped Imogene Coca and Ethel Merman – those not traditionally perfect beauties who could knock your socks off with their talent. And then, hello Barbra Streisand! But many things came along the way and I followed many paths.
In my 30’s I started to pursue acting and singing, and much to my delight and amazement people started to say, “Yes”. I studied acting and singing – had a great voice coach who encouraged me on and directed my first cabaret show in the early 80’s – “Songs and Snappy Patter.” I was part of an experimental theater company that did original musicals for many years, I did stand-up for 5 years, I did some small films. I set my sights kind of low, but I was happy to be able to perform a lot. I lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico for 9 years when I thought I had given up performing but the bug hit me again and I came back to NYC. For reasons I can’t explain there was not a groundswell of parts for older “ethnic looking” women so I found cabaret, and eventually found Lennie Watts and the MAC world and Don’t Tell Mama.”
And they all found YOU dear Lynda! So, what’s next for you? Tell us about this new show you are working on for February. How can our readers find you?
“Before the contest, I had dates in October for my new show “Animal Magnetism” but it’s been moved to February at Don’t Tell Mama. I’m still waiting to get the dates approved. I’m hoping to get my YouTube presence more organized this Fall but my show from 2013 – “Mature Love Songs” – is posted there and some songs from the last show. I’m kind of low tech but I have a friend who will help drag me into the 21st century. You can be sure I’ll be back in touch when it’s time to tell folks about the show!”
Thank you so much for your time Lynda. Congratulations again winning this year’s Mama’s Next Big Act. Cabaret Hot Spot wishes you every success!
Mark your calendars to see this amazing woman in her new show as follows:
SUNDAYS, FEBRUARY 10th & 24th @ 3:00 pm
WEDNESDAYS, FEBRUARY 13th & 27th @ 7:00 pm
DON’T TELL MAMA – 343 West 46th Street
Reservations: 212-757-0788 (after 4pm) or www.donttellmamanyc.com