Category: Category 1

Marnie Klar 

Mark Dundas Wood Review“Marnie Klar invigorates cabaret scene with pop/rock-oriented material”

Posted by Mark Dundas Wood, on May 22, 2013

When people think about cabaret, they probably tend to think about music from the “Great American Songbook” -specifically standards and show tunes written between about 1920 and 1965. There has, of course, been material written specifically for cabaret-style performers during the last several decades (for instance, by people like Amanda McBroom). But generally speaking, most listeners probably think of pop music influenced by rock and other contemporary genres (rhythm-and-blues, rap) to be outside the sphere of the cabaret club.Anyone who thinks that way should definitely think again. In the past few seasons, cabaret shows in New York have regularly presented tribute programs focusing on an array of very un-“Songbook”ish songwriters, including Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Leonard Cohen, and Tom Waits. Now we have Marnie Klar, a lovely young performer who just finished up a series of appearances at Don’t Tell Mama in a show called “Accidental Happiness” (directed by Tanya Moberly). Klar sang selections associated with such contemporary acts as Kelly Clarkson, Tori Amos, Radiohead, Fun, and Morissey. And she reinforced the idea that cabaret-style singers can utilize such songs in their acts without looking square, pretentious, or silly.

A tall, attractive young woman, Klar is an actress and former runway and print model. She has friendly presence and a wholesome and winning smile. But don’t let the sweet exterior deceive you. Klar can rock Especially when she sings in her formidable lower register, she’s a vocal force to be reckoned with.

Klar doesn’t present her material as though she were a “cover” singer in a noisy rock club. She reinterprets the songs, making us listen attentively and think of the material in fresh ways. At Don’t Tell Mama, she took Stephen Trask’s “Wig in a Box” (from Hedwig and the Angry Inch)-and stripped it of its association with transgender issues. Similarly, she reimagined her encore, Sting’s “Every Breath You Take,” deemphasizing the throbbing, threatening “you are being watched” sexual obsession that The Police brought out in the song. She created instead a mood of tender devotion.

She framed her program of songs with a highly personal “how I overcame adversity” narrative. (I won’t provide spoilers here, except to say that the title “Accidental Happiness” is a punny clue.) Including such a backstory worked all right-but it arguably wasn’t necessary. Her interpretations were charged with plenty of emotion and would have stood just fine on their own.


Jeff Cubeta
Jeff Cubeta
A handful of musicians-led by Klar’s talented musical director, Jeff Cubeta, on piano-provided support for the singer. (We also got to hear one of Cubeta’s original compositions, “I Want to Break Free,” sung mid-show.)

Sometimes Klar’s hand gestures seemed a bit tentative, but when she committed vocally to a song, she did so fully and robustly. For me, the best selections of the evening included a blazing interpretation of “Ain’t Got No/I Got Life” from the musical Hair and a moving performance of Regina Spektor’s “On the Radio.”

Marnie Klar has great potential as a cabaret singer. “Accidental Happiness” whetted my appetite for her music, and I look forward to hearing more from her in coming seasons.