Shana Farr, a self-described ‘dreamer’ performed a revelatory dream-themed new cabaret show at the historic Players Club opposite Gramercy Park on May 8, 2019. With the effortless accompaniment of long-time music director and pianist, Jon Weber, Farr incorporated an extensive selection of pieces ranging from Bernstein to Disney, Forster to Sondheim – with a loving focus on Rogers and Hammerstein II.
Farr noted that cabaret is a form in which the performer need not adhere to a composer’s intentions or musical convention; it is a forum for sharing one’s personal visions. Unlike her earlier tribute shows, this evening was devoted to sharing Farr’s perspective. Through aspirational dreams, trampled dreams, restored and revived dreams, Farr traces her path to the present and a hopeful future. The theme and resulting structure are somewhat contrived but seem faithfully to reflect Farr’s own reserve and tight control. She nonetheless conveys a sense of warmth and vulnerability, and makes the connections between her history and musical choices believable and motivating.
Farr was the oldest of three girls growing up in Missouri. Her music teacher grandmother schooled her in Rodgers and Hammerstein, and we were treated to a lovely rendition of “Out of My Dreams” (Oklahoma!). A high school trip to New York at 15 with the drama club introduced her to Broadway and awakened her musical aspirations. An early marriage to her high school sweetheart brought her to the big city where she and her husband realized their dreams were different; they divorced. She said the pain of the broken marriage helped her tap into the emotions of the songs she sings. Two versions of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” told that tale – one from Moulin Rouge and the other from Green Day.
After a few years of heavy partying ala Sex-and-the-City, Farr was confronted by her roommate with what she was doing to herself. She returned to her parental home for some weeks and found her roots, as well as a Rogers and Hammerstein song book in the bench of her grandmother’s piano, and revived her dream of performing. She went out on her own in the jewelry design business (one has to eat) and started auditioning for performance opportunities – gaining operatic and stage roles, and an equity card. As she became familiar with cabaret and its interpretive freedom, she claimed that as her métier.
Just as Farr was acclimating herself to the fact that she would not likely wed again, nor have children, she made a new friend who, despite having a grown daughter, was pleased to start a new family with Farr – and did. She sang of watching her son asleep, her “Beautiful Dreamer.” This is a Stephen Foster tune rarely performed now – but Farr gave it meaning that brought it to life. “Children Will Listen” (Into the Woods) followed and set up the final three numbers, all passionately delivered – “Heroes and Dreamers” (by Larry Kerchner, in attendance), “Still Dream” (The Guardians), and “Dream with Me” (Leonard Bernstein).
The audience, including a number of cabaret cognoscenti, gave the show a warm and loving reception, and Farr. And Weber reciprocated. The show is not currently scheduled for a repeat performance but more about Farr can be found at her website.
Photos by Fred R. Cohen. Visit his website.