Interview by Stephen Hanks
It may not be like getting a gift on every one of the 12 Days of Christmas, but for cabaret and musical theater lovers, the 4th Annual Urban Stages "Winter Rhythms" series-presented over a dozen straight nights at the not-for-profit's Off-Broadway theatre on 259 West 30th Street-could be the closest thing to opening a daily present by the tree. From December 4-15, more than 80 singers and actors will perform in an eclectic mix of more than 20 shows, with all the proceeds from ticket sales dedicated to the Urban Stages "On Tour Outreach Program"-celebrating its 20th anniversary this season-that brings more than 300 free multicultural theater and music programs to elementary and middle school age children and their families in libraries and schools throughout NYC five boroughs.
Two years ago, Urban Stages Artistic Director Frances Hill brought in MAC and Bistro award-winning director, lyricist and producer Peter Napolitano to produce the Winter Rhythms program and broaden the scope of it's musical offerings. Last year's opening night program featured a tribute to cabaret producer icon Donald Smith, which was his last public appearance before he died three months later. This year, celebrated cabaret entertainer and Tony nominee Karen Akers will open the Series on Tuesday, December 4 with her acclaimed tribute show Anything Goes: Karen Akers Sings Cole Porter (with musical direction by Don Rebic).
(For a complete list of this year's Winter Rhythms shows and performers go to http://bit.ly/U2swKz)
BroadwayWorld.com Cabaret Columnist Stephen Hanks recently caught up with the new Sol Hurok of Urban Stages to learn how Napolitano has helped Winter Rhythms evolve and to get some insights into this year's program.
Stephen Hanks: Peter, you've had so much on your plate the past few years, what with directing cabaret shows and developing and writing lyrics for your own musicals. Now you're producing your second successive Winter Rhythms Series for Urban Stages. How did you happen to get involved?
Peter Napolitano: Well, a few years ago Frances Hill decided she wanted to do a program in December to raise money for the Outreach Program. The first two years the Series was called "Cabaret Nights" and primarily featured cabaret shows. I went to a few of the shows in 2009 and became more familiar with Urban Stages because I work on many cabaret shows with [Musical Director] Barry Levitt, who in Spring 2010 was the MD for an Urban Stages show called "Langston in Harlem." When Urban Stages was putting their 2010 Winter show list together, I was directing Janice Hall's cabaret tribute to Marlene Dietrich, which was getting great reviews, and Barry recommended that Frances add Janice's show.
SH: And then Hall's show ended up in the February 2011 Urban Stages tribute shows to four legendary singers. Is that what led to you getting more involved with Winter Rhythms?