How cool would this be for Cabaret.

On Saturday, I hinted at an idea I had for the Cabaret sub-culture of New York City.  You ready for it?

Now that I’ve built it up like an Edsel, I’m certain to disappoint (remember that when pre-pressing your shows), but here goes regardless.

In this week’s giveaway you came up with 50+ ideas for cabaret shows by Broadway artists.  50+! And when I scrolled through them one by one, it started to feel like a catalog . . . or a brochure . . . for a giant, super-sized, city-wide, Cabaret Festival.

What if there was a NYMF or a Fringe but just for cabaret?  I’m talking 50, 100 or MORE (since the production elements and performance spaces are easier to find) productions of 1 hour cabaret shows by known and unknown names in a two to three week period.

I know what some of you are thinking . . . there is one!  Or two.  And it’s true.  Town Hall produces one every October, and The Mabel Mercer Foundation hosts one as well (read this article about the competition between the two) . . . but both are one venue, both feature “shows” with many, many artists rather than focusing on just one artist, both are high-end and focus on established names, and most importantly, I had never heard of either before doing research for this blog.

What I’m pitching is not that.  I’m talking Edinburgh but for Cabaret, with today’s and tomorrow’s best from all over the world coming to this city and showing us what they’ve got.   A fringe festival for cabaret.  Lower the threshold for admission and increase the number of people participating.  If the cabaret market is challenged (as the article above indicates) then gather thy numbers, friends, for in them there is strength.

So how’d I do?

It’s not the most revolutionary idea, obviously.  Or the most exciting.  In fact, it’s fairly simple.

But actual revolutions usually are.

They just take a sh*t ton of work and a lot of passionate people behind them.


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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  • Tom Lapke says:

    This is an interesting idea. What i think would be even better is to make each show a double billing in which you pair unknowns with more established artists as opening acts, thus giving them some real exposure.

  • Sierra Rein says:

    Cabaret always seems to have a bad reputation, even when it features so much Broadway and Popular Music material. But there are so many good performers and new interpretations of music in a cabaret setting; I think a Cabaret Festival/Fringe-ish show would highlight the best and open the public’s eyes to what the best Cabaret has to offer!

  • I think this is a FANTASTIC idea! I am a Cabaret Performer and I produce and host the “Music at the Mansion” series. We would love to offer our space as part of a festival like this! Please keep me posted…


  • Cara says:

    I love the idea!

  • Kaylie says:

    No point in reinventing the wheel. Australia has a HUGE cabaret festival every year:

  • Ken:

    Excellent idea! I’d be eager to hear how the vetting process for this might work // how you would pare down the hundreds of singers doing typical cabaret material and isolate the smaller number of polished cabaret “acts” you would invite to perform.

  • Matthew Carey says:

    Ken, we think this is such a good idea that we’ve actually been running a Cabaret Fringe Festival in Adelaide, South Australia for the past six years.
    Adelaide is home to the world’s largest cabaret festival. The Adelaide Cabaret Festival is a curated program featuring international artists (incl. main stage acts such as Kristin Chenoweth & Idina Menzel) and artists known around Australia.
    The Cabaret Fringe follows the model used in Edinburgh and also here in Adelaide for the fringe festival that runs parallel to our more ‘generic’ arts festival. The Cabaret Fringe Festival uses the open access model where anyone can sign up to produce their own show and be part of the program. It provides an excellent opportunity for local emerging artists to have their shows exposed to an audience who come to the festival looking for something fresh and new. The festival marketing lends strength to the otherwise tough job of marketing a small budget cabaret show and the festival environment generates an audience who wouldn’t ordinarily patronise cabaret on a regular basis.

    You might to have a look at to see what the festival looked like this year.

  • Mel says:

    Adelaide, South Australia has a thriving Cabaret Fringe, primarily showcasing local acts. Very successful. This year there were over 300 acts I think.

  • Torben says:

    Hi Ken and all,

    We produce the Adelaide Cabaret Festival at the Adelaide Festival Centre through the month of June each year. It’s exactly what you suggest. This year we topped 50 artists including as Opening weekend headliner – Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel as closing weekend headliner. Other artists from the US included Lady Rizo, Joey Arias, Cassandra Wilson along with a number of other internationals and the best Australia cabaret performers. Check out for more information.

  • Michelle says:

    In Adelaide, South Australia, we not only have a Cabaret Festival which has been running for over a decade with huge national and international acts but it is also complimented by the Adelaide Cabaret Fringe Festival where locals and people from around the nation have the opportunity to register to perform their show in a number of venues around the city. Both brilliantly run and supported.

  • fran says:

    Where do I sign up?!

  • Paul Boylon says:

    Hi all,
    Eight years ago, I started and still run a cabaret venue and cocktail lounge called La Boheme in Adelaide, Australia, styled partly on Don’t Tell Mama in NYC. 6 years ago we started a Cabaret Fringe Festival, modelled on the Adelaide Fringe Festival (similar to Edinburgh Fringe) which has grown from 1 venue and 15 shows during June to 14 venues and up to 60 shows and over 200 artists and musicians being involved per year over the last few years. ALL ARTIST DRIVEN AND CABARET AUDIENCE SUPPORTED ! Adelaide is also home to the largest cabaret festival in the world , the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, this being the genesis point for all things Cabaret in Adelaide. Because of these performance platforms the artform of Cabaret is alive and well and growing exponetially in Adelaide.
    check out our website
    or facebook me if you want to chat about it.
    It is exiting to hear about your ideas and I would be more than willing to to help anyone out or be involved in any way!!!
    This could be the be the begining of a Cabaret Fringe Festival in many cities around the world.
    Paul Boylon
    Founder & Co Director
    Cabaret Fringe Festival

  • Billy-Christopher Maupin says:


  • Cheryl Palmour says:

    Sounds like a fabulous idea. Where can I send an audition dvd?

  • Adam says:

    Ken, I think it’s a great idea for many reasons.. I also think you have a “high class” problem.. Much like American idol.. It’s so easy to throw a show together (not a good one), that you may get over-whelming responses.. Operational nightmare! 🙂
    That being said… lots of fun, and a great opportunity.

  • Todd says:

    I love this idea as well. There will definitely be a “quality control” issue, there always is even with the best of festivals. I like the idea of pairing the big names with smaller ones. It would also be great to have different genres in appropriate types of venues. i.e the Broadway cabaret, the jazz cabaret, the late night, etc… Cabaret series are very popular at many theatres now to feature the vocal talents of regional performers. This festival idea would increase that region to the “Nth” degree.

  • Hillary Rollins says:

    Great – let’s do it! Let’s coordinate it with another, more mainstream festival, like the NAMT festival or something – the way the Fringe at Edinburgh is “fringe” to the mainstage festivals. That way they/we could cross-promote. And it could all be after-show-hours at various venues, including the theaters where the mainstage shows were. And your mainstage show ticket could get you in or buy you a drink or something like that at the cabaret show. I want to co-produce it (have a lot of cabaret producing experience) – who is on board? How do we coordinate? Let’s start a google docs or some way of pulling all of us together for a big e-meeting!

  • Bobby says:

    Ken, great idea. I am all for it and would love to be a coordinator/co-producer too. I have lots of experince coordinating festivals. Plus, casting and directing experience.

  • Gail BArtell says:

    We have a Cabaret Festival here in Orlando. Mad Cow Theatre (downtown Orlando) does a Cabaret Festival each spring featuring Bdwy. folks to local pros doing shows at lunch (they sell a boxed lunch with the ticket price so folks that work can see the lunch shows) and in the evenings as well. It runs about 10 days. Very successful!!!!

  • Leanne says:

    We also have a new festival “Short + Sweet Cabaret” starting in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, where each act is 10 mins long. It’s modelled on the already successful “Short + Sweet” play festival (you got it, 10 minute original plays)
    Yeah, love this idea of an international Cabaret festival with a mix of established and upcoming artists 🙂

  • Barb MAlley says:

    LOVE it! I’m going to Australia in 2015. Now I know how to choose the time of year. Do you think you could make this Fest happen in Manhattan by 2015? it’s exciting!!!
    xo BAM

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