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Singer Mark William met with Cabaret Hotspot contributing correspondent Aron Bederson at the Actors Temple on 47th st in the refurbished lower level accompanied by his manager Preston Ridge. William is scheduled to perform his show “Come Croon With Me” at The Actors Temple on November 18th (7:30 pm) as a benefit for the Synagogue.
I asked William about his musical training and he told me he was surrounded by music even before he was born. His mother was a professional pianist, and he joked “I was in pit orchestras in the womb.” He went to Ohio Northern University for Music Education and musical theatre. However, his initial training was as a dancer. He attended dance classes for which his mother played piano. And, being an “ADD kid,” as he describes it, he would dance and spin on the dance floor. He was soon enrolled in dance class were he trained in all forms, but his first love is tap which he often incorporates into his performances. One of the items on his bucket list he said is to get to dance with Dick Van Dyke.
As we discussed William’s vocal training and how he developed his vocal style he said he began training his voice classically in 7th grade and continued all through college. While he enjoyed singing classical arias, he was also attracted to the songs of Sinatra and the other “crooners” that he pays tribute to in his shows. An excellent story teller, William shared this moment in his musical development: the summer before he graduated from college, his mother got him a set of three Sinatra CD’s which he listened to back to back on a 25 minute commute to a show he was doing. “I fell in love with him” he said. Sinatra was the first and later came Steve Lawrence, John Gary, Jack Jones, so many people.- -” I created my own version of their style.” William also mentioned inspirational figures Peter Allen, Jerry Herman, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer. He told me he likes to take “inspiration from the past and make it his own.”
A turning point in his life came at the end of college when he was about to take a job as a substitute choral education teacher. He knew that he would love the work and the students and once he stepped into that world there would be no turning back. If he was going to be a performer-now was the time in his life to try it. One night while attending a Chita Rivera performance, he met his current manager Preston Ridge through a series of mutual acquaintances. The relationship clicked and Mark left teaching behind. He is now a consistent presence in musical theater and one of cabaret’s new stars. Ridges commented at one point that William has a magical combination of his fresh young looks with the deep sound “that comes out of him and heart!”
Mark was recently in a production of “Young Frankenstein” at the Walnut Street Theatre where he had a featured dance role. William mentioned “how cool” it was to be working with director Jack Abbot on the production who had worked with many of William’s idols from an earlier era such as Ann Miller. William also sang at the recent Cabaret Convention and is doing a one night concert of the musical “Over Here” that the Andrew Sisters made famous on Nov 11th at the Triad Theatre. He performs the benefit for The Actors Temple on Nov 18th and on Nov. 22 he premiers his new show “Mark William Feeling Good” at the Green Room 42 where he will celebrate the release of his new CD “Come Croon With Me.” He then takes off to perform both of his shows on a cruise ship sailing from Rio to Uruguay on Azamara an Australian line.
I asked William about the process he goes through creating a show, William mentioned that he enjoys arranging the sequence of songs in a show to keep the evening moving. Trying it out in front of an audience he concluded will reveal what works and what does not. In terms of his approach to connecting with his audience William said he just “picks material he really loves and communicates the text.” At one point in his career he included “guest stars” in his shows but came to realize that “he is enough.” From the response he has been getting from audiences and critics, he certainly is.