Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.


Georges Seurat’s Sideshow
at The Met


Taking as its focus one of its more engaging masterpieces, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has organized a thematic exhibition that offers a unique historical context for appreciating the tradition and allure of the enchanting Circus Sideshow (Parade de cirque) (1887-88) by the French Post-Impressionist Georges Seurat (1859-91).

Georges Seurat, Pierrot and Colombine, ca. 1886–88

Joined by a remarkable group of seventeen related works by the artist that illuminates the lineage of the motif in Seurat’s inimitable conté crayon drawings, the exhibition explores the fascination the subject held for other 19th century artists from the influential 19th century caricaturist Honoré Daumier, whose caricatures lampooned the changing political climate in 19th century France, to a young Pablo Picasso at the fin de siècle. More than 100 works are on loan ranging from drawings, prints, vintage posters, illustrated journals and musical instruments that vividly depict traveling circuses and fairs of the period. One of the many viewing pleasures is the whiff of Parisian joie de vivre and the city’s bustling art scene.

Georges Seurat, Trombonist, 1887–88

Seurat worked on Circus Sideshow for six years and it represents one of a half dozen figurative paintings he produced. The artist is known for his draftsmanship seen in the painting’s precise geometric shapes, as well as his innovative use of pointillism (brush strokes of dots) and divisionism (separating and dividing color), techniques he developed leading to the Neo-Impressionist era.

Honoré Daumier, The Sideshow (La Parade), ca. 1865–66

Circus Sideshow details the purchase of tickets and the attendant Parade, a come-on or sideshow featuring groups of Saltimbangues (circus performers) and rousing music as free entertainment. Customers are expected to queue up the stairs to the box office. On the makeshift stage under the glow of nine twinkling gaslights, five musicians, a ringmaster and clown play to the assembled crowd of onlookers whose assorted hats add a wry and rhythmic note to the foreground of this austere nocturnal painting, the only nighttime composition Seurat produced before his untimely death at 31.

Fernand Pelez, Grimaces and Misery—The Saltimbanques, 1888

Among the Seurats on display are three surviving preparatory studies for Circus Sideshow and a suite of five drawings of cafe society singers. The other Seurat painting is the small version of “Models” (Poseuses) 1887-88, in which the artist reverses direction rendering daylight, flesh and a moment of relaxation. The larger version resides in the Barnes Collection and debuted with Circus Sideshow in the 1888 Salon des Indépendants.

Jean-François Raffaëlli, Les Saltimbanques-L’Orchestre en parade, 1884

Other highlights: Rembrandt’s dry painted Christ Presented To the People (1655); a first-time showing in the U.S. of Fernand Pelez’s monumental Grimaces and Misery—The Saltimbanques (Petit Palais, Paris), which was presented at the Salon of 1888, at the same time as Seurat’s brooding masterpiece debuted at the Salon des Indépendants. And catch such favorites as Pierre Bonnard, Lucien Pissarro, Emile Bernard, and the American Maurice Pendergast, among others.

Kudos must go to historian and guest curator Richard Thomas professor of Fine Arts at the University of Edinburgh and the Met’s Susan Alysin Stein, curator of Nineteenth Century European Paintings in the Department of European Paintings for the brilliant installation and fine catalogue.

Through May 29, 2017, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 

Images (in order):

Opening Image:
Georges Seurat
Circus Sideshow (Parade de cirque), 1887–88
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Bequest of Stephen C. Clark, 1960

Georges Seurat
Pierrot and Colombine, ca. 1886–88
Kasama Nichido Museum of Art

Georges Seurat
Trombonist, 1887–88
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Henry P. McIlhenny Collection in memory of
Frances P. McIlhenny, 1986

Honoré Daumier
The Sideshow (La Parade), ca. 1865–66
Private collection

Fernand Pelez (French, 1848–1913)
Grimaces and Misery—The Saltimbanques, 1888
Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris
Collection Dutuit

Jean-François Raffaëlli (French, 1850–1924)
Saltimbanques—The Sideshow Orchestra
(Les Saltimbanques—L’Orchestre en parade), ca. 1884
Private collection

Carmen Cusack: Cabaret Debut at Feinsteins/54Below


If you liked Steve Martin/Edie Brickell’s Bright Star, you’ll love this evening, which boasts a great many numbers performed in and cut from that show. (You even get to sing along to “Sun is Gonna Shine.”) It was the role of a lifetime for the talented Carmen Cusack. Though already a veteran, with much of her stage time garnered in London, the performer’s actual life experience was close enough to the character of Alice Murphy she couldn’t initially sing certain lyrics without crying. The southern accent and inflection are quite real, subjugated elsewhere it seems, with focus.

Taking the path of least resistance on her initial outing, Cusack offers selections from musicals in which she’s appeared including Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Ragtime, Parade, and Wicked. This last, featuring a duet with guest Katie Rose Clark,  Glinda to her Elphaba, arrived a tear-stained, love fest reunion. (Clark is an engaging actress/singer) Like most of the rest of the evening, each and every one of these choices is an 11:00 o’clock number, showcasing that soaring voice and remarkable control.


James Shelton’s 1950 “Lilac Wine”…Sweet and heady/Like my love… emerges a welcome exception. Elongated, cottony notes sail just above the lightest, shimmering cymbal (Dean Sharenow) and thrum, thrum bass (Alex Eckhardt.) Also in this vein is the traditional “Wayfaring Stranger” enhanced by Martha McDonnell’s extraordinary fiddle and Joe Jung’s fine guitar.

Cusack is deeply invested. Music courses through her lithe body compelling movement – arms rise and descend, palms open or fist, eyes close- savoring; her head snaps back, the right leg pumps or stamps…nothing occurs without palpable stimulus. Massaging of notes, slip/slide octave changes, gospel roots and the yodel style she particularly utilized in Bright Star are signatures. “Stop” (Sam Brown/Gregg Sutton/Bruce Brody), apparently “a huge hit in the UK,” is serious R & B. The artist gets her teeth into it with cool ferocity.


As herself, Cusack is loosey goosey on stage, right down to what I can only call backyard clothes, seeming lack of make-up and untamed hair- incomprehensible in a theater professional. She alas shares few stories about her experience. I say alas, because those we do hear- like that of her Phantom of the Opera audition and warm personal background on two of her own compositions, is charming. The better of the latter, “Middle Lane,” is a pensive and prettily told short story about boon companions in London. Cusack accompanies herself on acoustic guitar.

The evening ends with Phil Hanesroth’s “Story”: All of these lines across my face/Tell you the story of who I am…But these stories don’t mean anything/When you’ve got no one to tell them to/It’s true… I was made for you…Verses are quiet reflections, choruses, funky, foot-tappin’ and BIG. “This is for you honey,” she calls out to her husband across the room. Everyone leaves smiling.

The band is crackerjack.

Photos by Maryann Lopinto

Carmen Cusack at Feinstein’s 54Below
Anthony De Angeles- MD/Piano
Dean Sharenow- Drums, Joe Jung-Guitar, Alex Eckhardt- Bass, Martha McDonnell-Fiddle
August 14 and 16- Call for WAIT LIST