The few books on Cabaret are usually about lyrics, albums with photographs or on the history of the genre. Gary Williams’ new book Cabaret Secrets is a guide on the art of cabaret performing for professionals, wannabes and those that simply share an interest. The writer could not be a more fitting person to bring together this much-needed how-to manual. He is an accomplished working artist, who has done concerts as a soloist for BBC programs, performed for Royals, played the West End and several cabaret venues, and has headlined many cruise ship entertainment programs. In a methodical, easy to read and to remember way, this handy book lists sixteen small chapters, or secrets, on how to develop an idea for a cabaret show from its genesis, all the way through presentation.
The first six chapters discuss the nature of the business, how the performer prepares, and his relationship with the audience. In the rest of the book, the writer offers practical advice: how the artist interacts with the other professionals involved in the show; how to dress and make up; how to record a CD; how to use social media and how to get an agent. In the last chapter, (provocatively entitled “Simon Cowell is Not Your Friend,”) he rightfully defends all the thousands of entertainers working in cabaret shows or on cruise ships around the world, against Cowell’s dismissive description of an act as “too cabaret” or “too cruise ship.”
The book is supplemented by a good size glossary of theatrical and musical terms as well as an appendix with systematic analysis of four live performances.
To illustrate his points, with full sincerity, Williams offers examples from his own career and, having done a fair amount of research, the lives and careers of other performers. He has also included quotes and opinions from today’s leading names of the international cabaret stage, sharing extracts of wisdom from their celebrated careers.
The act of cabaret is neither fluid nor light entertainment – it just looks like it is. The end result involves intense preparation and hard work, and it follows rules. In this easy, fun, finished-in-one-go book, young performers can have their wish for guidance come true while mature artists will wonder how much easier things could have gone had they had Williams book when they were starting out. This is simply essential reading for upcoming and professional cabaret performers.
Review by Thanasis Kalantzis for Cabaret Scenes