Photo Credit: Matt Baker
“Anywhere We Are”
Don’t Tell Mama
Sat, Oct 12th @ 7:00 pm
Thur, Nov 7th @ 7:00 pm
Sun, Dec 15th @ 4:00 pm
Tues, Dec 17th @ 7:00 pm
Multi-award winner Julie Reyburn takes the stage in a triumphant return to Cabaret after a taking several years off to raise her family. I had the pleasure of attending her opening night at Don’t Tell Mama and interview her on her long awaited return.
Julie, I saw your show, Anywhere We Are, opening night and I have to say, it is one of the bests shows that I have seen all year. It was smart, funny, poignant, beautifully sung and man, what great charts!
Thanks so much Sue! It was so special to have you in the audience that night to share it with us. We have known each other for so long and I felt very blessed to have you and many other singer friends there.
I know our mutual, beloved mentor Julie Wilson told you years ago to take the time to enjoy raising your children and that you can always come back…so why now? What prompted this triumphant return with a new solo show?
I think the easiest answer is I have something to say. The idea for this show has been floating around in my head for over three years and the universe and schedules finally aligned to allow space for it to come together.
Since you’ve been on this “extended maternity leave,” how are your children? And, how is motherhood? Have the kids enriched your life in terms of bringing new “stuff” to your singing?
The children are thriving. They are each unique and amazing in their own way. Being their parent is the greatest gift because they are teaching me what I need to learn. What I learn I then bring to my art. It affects my art without me even realizing it sometimes.
Tell us about this title? There is a political theme to the show but not what people might think. The theme of generational unconventional woman is fascinating. What made you choose this theme as your comeback show?
We are living through a unique and challenging time. Women are leading, they are breadwinners, politicians, activists, advocates and what interests me is looking back at how generations of women before us were also leading but within the social context of their time. The women I talk about in the show shaped who I am, who my mother is…it’s all cyclical. I turned 50 this year and the goal was to do what I love with a journey that spoke to my heart and mind, with the hope that the journey is universal enough for an audience to identify with. Anywhere We Are (Nichole Nordeman) is the title of one of the songs in the show. Mark brought this song to me late in the process and we loved it. His friend James Eden played it for him and said, “I think Julie would sound great on this”. For me it sums up life itself. Anywhere I am I am good because I am alive and showing up for my life. Some days that is the best any of us can do and it’s important to speak up and speak out.
While I know that you have been singing over these past years, how have you kept that incredible instrument of yours in such shape? Do you study weekly?
Bill Zeffiro has been my voice teacher for the past 10 years. I go to him every two weeks. My voice is the one constant in my life. It has been with me since I was very young. It’s a blessing and it’s my responsibility to keep it in shape and to keep learning. Bill’s lessons are my vocal workout. A gift I give to myself. I have gratitude and love for Bill. I also have special people in my life who give me opportunities to perform and keep my skills in shape like Phil Geoffrey Bond, Stephen Hanks, Marquee Five and Lennie Watts who let me perform days after I gave birth to my son Jude! LOL
You, Mark Janas and Ritt Henn were a team prior to your sabbatical but you’ve added 2 marvelous people to “Team Julie” – David Ballard on vocals and flute and the incredible Billie Roe in her directorial debut. Tell us about this.
Mark was very patient with me all these years! LOL. He went off and did amazing projects with Kathleen Turner and Len Cariou and those two experiences have brought a new dimension to his arrangements and music directing that I am benefiting from. It’s awesome. Ritt has been my bass player since 2002. It was a given that he would be a part of this. Ritt has been with us since the beginning. I approached Billie in January of this year because instinctively I knew I needed a woman director. Luckily, she was looking to direct so I caught her at the right time! I knew I needed a fellow female who understood where I was coming from. Who lived it. She is a mother; she is a dynamic amazing performer and she speaks truth to power. I knew she would elevate my vision to where it needed to be and hold me accountable to that vision. I wanted to take some risks and challenge myself. I wanted to grow with this show. David was a late addition to the show. The original person, Jarrod Cafaro was no longer available and Mark and I both thought of David at the same time. The plus was that he also played flute…I had no idea he played flute! It is such a beautiful texture and addition to the show! We are lucky to have him.
Talk to us about your process…when you and Billie and Mark met, how did your team work? Did you have a general idea of what this show would be and the tunes you would sing or was it a different process? Did the show “morph” in any way that was surprising to you?
Each show comes together differently. This time I deliberately took my time. It meant we were a bit crunched at the end, but this show needed to be authentic and each song had to fit organically into the theme. We were scheduled to do this show in April, but Mark was busy, my family was busy, and I just knew we needed to wait. Tanya (Moberly) was lovely and she helped me book the show for October. If we had done this in April, it wouldn’t be the show we have now. Funny how that works sometimes. I had a bit more living to do to get to where we are now. Some of the songs came quickly. Some didn’t come till late August. What surprised me was the addition of David’s flute playing and how we were able to bring elements of theatricality to the show that I didn’t originally envision. It was so exciting because it became the show I always wanted to do. Like a culmination of my twenty years in cabaret. Mark and I would work on chunks of the show and then meet with Billie who would help shape it. The three of us worked to put the songs in the right order and then with Billie I crafted the patter to support the journey. Billie is a dramaturg and her eye for character, through line and arc is amazing.
Mark’s arrangements are another “star” of the show. How did some of these wonderful ideas come to be? Your version of Blackbird is astounding…who thought of this?
Mark knows my voice and the limits of my voice very well. He knows what keys work best. Knows what I can handle. Mark and I have a blast putting arrangements together. Very often we will have the same thought and then turn to one another and BAM. It’s uncanny. Blackbird is a rework of an arrangement we did back in 2002. Originally it was in response to the one-year anniversary of 9/11. Hence the chant like sound. This time Mark made some specific edits and streamlined the overall arrangement to where it’s a totally different experience. Very often Mark will take some ideas we have in rehearsal and then spin gold and bring an arrangement back to the next rehearsal that blows my mind. That happened a lot with this show! Mark is quick to point out that most of the songs in this show are played with the original arrangement, but he added bass, flute and backup vocals in such a creative way that it brings new life to the song.
Who are some of your vocal influences and how have they shaped your singing history and process?
My parents are big influences on me. They were my first music teachers. We sang together and then during school; my Father and I sang all the time. I love all types of singers. The more authentic the better, like Bonnie Raitt, Audra MacDonald, Linda Ronstadt, Rosemary Clooney, Marin Mazzie, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Patti LuPone. I could go on and on. I have learned so much from this list of singers; being true to yourself, be bold, take risks with your art, be yourself, don’t let the world define who you are as an artist…I will always remember Julie Wilson telling me to keep singing no matter what and to always say yes.
How did it feel to step back on that stage and sing again in a show of your own creation?
For the first time in my performing career, when I hit the stage last Saturday night, I let go. I had no judgments, no control, no preconceived notions. I allowed myself to be me. It was thrilling and healing. Very healing. I just trusted my process, my musicians and my ability. Having all that love in the room though was so amazing. I felt lifted. As I left the room, I looked at Sidney Meyer and said, “I just totally surprised myself”. Thank Goodness I can still surprise myself. After all this time.
Talk to us about your career off-stage, and how that very important work effected this show (if it did).
I am the Director of Risk Management for the American Jewish World Service (AJWS). I’ve been here a little over a year coming from Planned Parenthood Federation of America where I was the Senior Director of Enterprise Risk Management. AJWS is a nonprofit working internationally on human rights issues. From land, water climate justice to LGBTQ rights, civil political rights, and ending child marriage, AJWS partners with grantees in 19 different countries around the world. I’ve worked in the nonprofit world for almost 20 years now from AIDS vaccine research to reproductive health care to international human rights. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to Africa, Europe and Latin America to see the work on the ground and the people doing that work. It gives you a different perspective that you bring to every part of your life. And yes, often the leaders of this work are unconventional women who despite all challenges; economic, political, health, or education, still manage to change the world.
What would you like the Cabaret industry and community to know about you now?
I’m still here! LOL. I’ve missed everyone and can’t wait to jump back in and get reacquainted with the community that has made my life richer in so many ways.
Is there anything else that you would like to say that I may not have asked you?
We added another performance date! For those who can’t make it this Saturday and don’t want to wait until December, please come on Thursday November 7th at 7:00 pm in the Original Room!
Here is the rest of Julie’s show run…DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW! Welcome back Julie!
Saturday, October 12th @ 7:00 pm
Thursday, November 7th @ 7:00 pm
Sunday, December 15th @ 4:00 pm
Tuesday, December 17th @ 7:00 pm
Don’t Tell Mama – 343 West 46th Street (Between 8th & 9th)
Reservations: 212-757-0788 (Call after 4:00 pm) or on line at:
www.DontTellMamanyc.com – (NOTE: Mama’s only takes cash!)