2015 Best Solo or Cabaret Performance Nominee: Sing Out! A Cabaret (July 2015) (Featuring Kimberly Moller, Cody Ingram, J. Parker Eldridge, and Amanda Casale)

Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series. 

NOTE: If you were nominated for a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com.

Kimberly Moller, Cody Ingram, J. Parker Eldridge, and Amanda Casale were a sincere pleasure and delight to see and hear in the monthly Sing Out! Cabaret at Club Cafe in Boston.  While many performers can select and perform songs worthy of our attention, these four performers rose above the rest because of the specificity of their choices, their engaging presence and conversation throughout the evening, and their superior vocal and performing talents. Their commitment to raising the bar with each song and their support for each other made the evening an award-worthy event. In their Interviews, they each tell us about how they selected their cabaret set-lists, their Miscast roles (readers' favorite question), and what they would have done if they had won the Powerball lottery!

Hi, all! This is one of our biggest Interviews to date, and we are so delighted to welcome such a warm and fun bunch.  Can you start by telling us a little bit about each of yourselves?

Kimberly Moller

Kimberly Moller

Kimberly Moller (KM): I’m from Palo Alto, California, and I grew up with jazz piano and voice lessons. I studied opera and classical singing at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, and then I ventured east for my Masters and Performance Diploma in Voice at Boston University. I have a studio of about 30 students privately, and with Concord Conservatory and New England Conservatory Prep, who are each doing their own high school shows and competitions; these students are starting to get into top musical theater college programs in the country - I’m very proud of them!

I’ve taught musical theater styles for a while and decided I needed to branch out in my performing and be able to perform what I teach to really grow and learn as a teacher and in my own singing. I’m now pursuing an MFA in Musical Theater to teach at the collegiate level and see how I can market myself as an artist in new ways!

Cody Ingram (CI): I am originally from Rancho Cucamonga, California, and I grew up doing a lot of things outside. I was always trying to learn some new sport or activity, as long as it involved running around, jumping, or climbing I wanted to do it. I was part of a swim team when I was younger and I skateboarded for 8 years. From there I transitioned into snowboarding and surfing. I started singing when I was 4 and stopped singing at the age of 13.

Cody Ingram

Cody Ingram

I started up again when I was in my senior year of high school when I transitioned from straight acting into musical theater. The Wizard of Oz was the first musical I did and I was in the ensemble where I had, like, seven costume changes. When I went to college, I opted for community college and trained as a member of the internationally-known Citrus Singers. There, I was trained in tap, jazz, ballet along with vocal and performance technique. After a year of training, I felt the need to serve and enlisted in the United States Coast Guard where I served 4.5 years active duty.

I am now a full time student, Firefighter and EMT, and I am pursuing a career in the Fire Service or Law Enforcement.

J. Parker eldridge

J. Parker eldridge

J. Parker Eldridge (JPE): I was born and raised in Westborough, Massachusetts, where I was heavily involved in music and theater.  After going to Crane School of Music and Gordon College for my degrees in Music Education, I have been a choral and theater director in the Belmont and Weston Public Schools for the past 13 years. I am also a Co-Founder and the Executive Director of Flyleaf Theater Company in Berlin, Massachusetts.

Amanda Casale (Photo Credit: Adam Dalton Blake).

Amanda Casale (Photo Credit: Adam Dalton Blake).

Amanda Casale (AC):  Born and raised in Massachusetts, I very happily reside in Acton.   I attended Tufts University for college and Harvard University for graduate school, earning my B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Mathematics, and my Masters in Statistics.  I’ve been working at MIT Lincoln Laboratory for the last seven years by day, and, by night, I try to dabble in all things theatre.  Proud supporter of the STEM to STEAM conversion!

How did you select your songs for the Sing Out! A Cabaret?  Did you have a narrative that you wanted to tell through these songs?

KM: This was a real chance to enjoy telling stories in a casual, but hip, downtown setting through different characters and indulge in a night of sharing some of my favorite American composer songs like Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch over Me” to those as current as “The Beauty Is” by Adam Guettel (from The Light in the Piazza).

For me, this was an exploration of classic Golden Age repertoire and the freshness of musical theater in a digital age. Cody and I wanted to do a few duets together from the hit TV series and Marilyn-Monroe-inspired-musical Smash (“Mr. and Mrs. Smith”), featuring Cody as Joe DaMaggio and myself as Marilyn (because why not?), and the raw and hip Hit-List rival musical in the show (“Rewrite this story”), as well as a solo for Marilyn “Secondhand White Baby Grand” (dedicated to my very own new baby grand named Victor Borge).

We also wanted to showcase a few tunes from our crazy awesome production of Xanadu - which is what brought us to Justin McCoubry’s Cabaret (Sing Out!) scene in the first place.

CI: I chose all the songs that I wanted to sing and really enjoyed singing. My favorite shows have always been ones with characters that have a deep, dark past or are trying to redeem themselves in some way. Some of the songs I chose were ones I have sung before but I wanted to do something new with them this time; I wanted to push myself as an artist.

My first set compromised of “Lets Start Tomorrow Tonight” from Smash, “Don’t Walk Away” from Xanadu, “What Do I Need With Love” from Thoroughly Modern Mille, followed by my absolute favorite, “Nobody Needs To Know” from The Last Five Years. I had a blast singing these songs however my second set was my favorite to perform.

My second set comprised of “Giants In The Sky” from Into The Woods, “Losing My Mind” from Follies, “Dancing Through Life” from Wicked, and “Santa Fe” from Newsies. The best part of the night was being able to share the stage with my wonderful, talented, and beyond-supportive girlfriend, Kimberly Moller. Not only do we share a love of performing, but we got to spend this past summer playing Sonny Malone and Kira in Xanadu.

JPE: There was no particular narrative that I had in mind when selecting the repertoire; they were just songs that I was familiar with, like to sing, and, in some cases, were part of roles that I had played in the past.

AC:  I deliberately divided my set into a “comfy” half and a more exploratory half – I’m a firm believer in always giving your best performance, but to also make sure you learn something new at every opportunity.  With that in mind, I started my first set with “Love Look Away” from Flower Drum Song, which was the very first song I ever sang in voice lessons, followed by “I Know Him So Well” from Chess, which my sister Samantha and I had sung at several venues together already.  Who better to make you feel comfortable on stage than a sibling, right?

Amanda Casale as Jo in Little Women: The Musical.

Amanda Casale as Jo in Little Women: The Musical.

My voice teacher and my sister were my prime inspirations when I started singing, so it felt like a natural place to start.  A few songs later, entering into the second half of my set, I chose two duets I had never performed before: the first with my sister again (“What is This Feeling” from Wicked, which was probably my favorite song of the night), and the second with my talented friend Cristhian Mancinas-Garcia (“One Second and a Million Miles” from Bridges of Madison County, and I’m not ashamed to admit he totally stole that song!).  

I closed that second set with “Come to Your Senses” from tick . . . tick . . . boom! in remembrance of my dear friend Ken Orben, who continues to remain a song in my heart day in and day out.  Each of us was then asked to close the night with a “grand finale” number, and I chose “Astonishing” from Little Women: The Musical.  I’ve played Jo twice, and it is by far my favorite theatrical role there is.

How would you describe each other’s voices?  Let’s have the girls comment on each other, and the guys comment on each other.

KM (about AC): Amanda is a beautiful actress and an honest communicator. Her voice is like a rich blend of warmth and bright, bold qualities that pierce you emotionally - there is an instant connection from her when you are in the audience. It’s heart. That’s what it is. I loved the duets with her sister and Cristhian (Bridges of Madison County was a great choice to explore!), and her “I Can Do Better Than That” from The Last Five Years was one of my favorites.

I do have to say that “Astonishing” (from Little Women) really rocked my world! You could see her ease and commitment to the character which really wowed us in her final song.

CI (about JPE):  When I first saw John, I had no idea what his sound was going to be like, I had never meant him before. As soon as I heard him start to sing, it was such a beautiful and round tone that I couldn’t stop listening. His voice has such a calming effect that you want to just hear more and more.

JPE (about CI): Cody has a beautiful voice.  Giant range, rich timbre, and very versatile in that it is the type of instrument that could easily play a variety of roles and characters.

AC (about KM):  When you first see Kimberly, you think “oh she’s pretty and petite, I bet she has a sweet little sound to her”… right before she opens her mouth and the sound cascades you into the next room.  

She sang several beautiful soprano classical numbers that really showed off her vocal training.  I always love watching someone put what is clearly so much effort into singing, yet make it look effortless.  And then, all of a sudden, Kimberly decided she was a belter and all bets were off on that, too.  

My favorite piece of the night was her rendition of “That’ll Show Him” from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.  Girl, if you haven’t played Philia yet, get on it – it was perfect!  Someone cast her TODAY!

What do you think makes a successful cabaret?  Solo performance or concert?  What mistakes do you think some people make?

KM: I love to feel like I’m closer to the artist than in the context of a show. You really get a personal sense of why they do what they do. Hearing stories and reasons why they are choosing certain songs are part of the night, and the artist feels like they can take risks in this environment - it’s a looser feel than a seated theater. I’ve been in opera for a while, and it seems like you are expected to write program notes and stand a certain way, sing certain arias, all depending on what you think the informed audience wants to hear from your “fach.” This kind of show just breaks all those barriers down and gives the artist a chance to communicate more intimately. I think it’s a mistake to only explain the plot and not your connection to the song in a cabaret.

CI:  There are many things that make a cabaret a solid performance. It all starts with the creative vision of how the show should go. If you start with that vision, then you are going to have a solid foundation. The main goal should be to connect with people through our art form of music. Music is a universal language that everyone can understand.

Cody Ingram as Sonny Malone in Moonstruck Theater Company's Xanadu (Photo Credit: Christopher Brousseau).

Cody Ingram as Sonny Malone in Moonstruck Theater Company's Xanadu (Photo Credit: Christopher Brousseau).

I would take a group cabaret over a solo performance because you get to work with other amazing artists that each brings something unique and different to the show. Solo performances are fun, but the audience only gets to see one interpretation, one performer. However, with multiple artists, the audience gets to experience so many things in one night. I would say the greatest mistake people make is focusing so much on what songs they want to sing without keeping in mind that it’s a performance for the audience, not just you. Choosing the right venue and time to do it also brings in a different person at different times.

JPE: A successful performance in general requires knowledge of the repertoire to be performed, confidence in what and how you present that repertoire, and simply everyone doing their job to the best of their abilities.

AC:  I think it’s very easy to lose the heart of a piece when it’s a part of a cabaret or concert versus in a full production.  In a full production, your character has developed along the way and you have felt every feeling and motivator you need to drive your song.  A concert/cabaret lacks that progression leading in to your piece.  For that reason, I think it’s important to have a story or an emotion behind every song you choose.  Even if it’s only for those few seconds in between songs, remind yourself why you love performing, why you love the piece, and why it means something to you.  The audience deserves to know why you love something and you deserve to inform them.  I think it’s easy for a performer to want to vocally impress and spotlight his/herself and forget the true emotion behind what they are doing.  There’s a reason we all perform and/or watch others perform – so find it and hold onto it!

Miscast!! What are some roles that you would love to play, but, because of age, race, gender, etc., you might never play?

KM: Men: Jack Kelly (Newsies), Elder Price (The Book of Mormon), Frankie Valli (Jersey Boys), etc., and, of course, shows like Rent or In the Heights or Hamilton, and Rosie in Bye Bye Birdie, Anita in West Side Story.

Kimberly Moller as Kira and Cody Ingram as Sonny Malone in Moonstruck Theater Company's Xanadu (Photo Credit: Christopher Brousseau). 

Kimberly Moller as Kira and Cody Ingram as Sonny Malone in Moonstruck Theater Company's Xanadu (Photo Credit: Christopher Brousseau). 

I’d love to do a role like Elphaba (Wicked) - but I’m not sure I’m that kind of belter, and I just fit more of the G(a)linda stereotype. It’s probably better - all that green make up can’t be good for your pores. If there was one role I likely would never be cast in with Cody, it’s that. But do I wish we could sing “As Long as You’re Mine.” He’d be a perfect Fiyero.

Bucket list musicals for the two of us are: The Last Five Years, The Light in the Piazza, Bonnie and Clyde, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Into the Woods, West Side Story, Candide, Guys and Dolls, Crazy for You, Carousel, Newsies, etc. I could go all day!

CI:  I would love to play Eponine (from Les Miserables) just so I could belt out “On My Own.” In a parallel universe, it would be awesome to play Elphaba in Wicked. Other roles that I would die to play are Sweeney Todd (in Sweeney Todd), Raoul or the Phantom (The Phantom of the Opera), and Frankie Valli (in Jersey Boys). I also gravitate towards darker characters that require deep research for the character. I think it would be hilarious in our next cabaret if Kim and I switched roles and sang “As Long As You’re Mine” (from Wicked).

My deepest performing desire is to play Jack Kelly in Newsies (because . . . Newsies), Jamie in The Last Five Years, Leo Bloom in The Producers, Anthony in Sweeney Todd, and Elder Price in The Book of Mormon

J. Parker Eldridge in Flyleaf Theatre Company's tick . . . tick . . . boom!  

J. Parker Eldridge in Flyleaf Theatre Company's tick . . . tick . . . boom!  

JPE: I most often cast as the romantic in shows; nobody sees me as a “bad guy” on stage.  I would love to play one at some point.  I also wouldn’t mind singing some of Coalhouse’s songs (from Ragtime), too!

AC:  I won’t even get that particular – I would love to play some general tough-cookie, edgy, or dark role.  I’m your typical cookie-cutter blonde so I’m always the Roxie before the Velma (Chicago), the Maggie before the Val (A Chorus Line), the Emma before the Lucy (Jekyll & Hyde), the Anne before the Petra (A Little Night Music) – you get it.  

I totally appreciate that everyone has their own individual look and I appreciate the opportunities as well as the hindrances that one’s look brings to the table, but someday I’d love to get a little scared and take a risk!  I had about ten minutes’ worth of a “dark conversion” when I played Louise in Gypsy, and that role made me realize how much I would love to step outside my comfort zone again.

How do you relax?  What are some of your guilty pleasures?

KM: I really enjoy cooking and reading, but I do enjoy few binge-watching TV shows on my own time (during holiday breaks and student vacation periods). I also like being active and trying new kinds of working out - right now I’m doing a jazz cardio class and Crossfit with Cody.

CI:  CrossFit, CrossFit, and more CrossFit (haha!). Seriously, I am a huge fitness guy and working out as has always been my stress relief and the thing that I do for fun. I am also a CrossFit Coach, and helping and training people on how to move more efficiently is a deep passion of mine.

I will also read anything about nutrition or mobility or politics. I am a bit of nerd when it comes to that stuff.

JPE: Reading, driving, cooking, and binge-watching.  Never fails!

AC:  If I can’t be in Disney World, theatre is definitely how I relax; I’m an extreme extrovert so being at a rehearsal and working on something with a group of people is my happiest place.  On my own, I’d have to say running.  My guilty pleasures are The Big Bang Theory and Once Upon a Time… I have such a crush on Captain Hook.  And Sheldon Cooper.

If you had won the Powerball lottery, what would you have done with the money?  What would you do first?

KM: Pay off my damn student loans. Have a fund for an, ahem, wedding. I’d love to pay off parents mortgage and travel with them - they never took their honeymoon. I might actually get to own property someday if this happened - however, there would need to be something that gives back to the arts community - apart from supporting all my local arts organizations….maybe open my own performing arts school with scholarships for students who can’t afford lessons.

CI:  I would pay off Kim’s student loans, and donate most of it to either Wounded Warrior Project, or another charity for veterans.

JPE: Pay bills first, and then buy Flyleaf Theatre Company its own performance venue!

AC:  The first thing I would do is call my parents.  And give them whatever they want.  They’ve earned it.

What is one song lyric that speaks to you at this point in your life?

KM: As an artist that reinvents and tries to move with change however stubborn my thought of destiny is: “Only heaven knows how glory goes, what each of us was meant to be, in the starlight, that is what we are--I can see so far.” - Floyd Collins (Adam Guettel)

Cody Ingram as Sonny Malone in Moonstruck Theater Company's Xanadu (Photo Credit: Christopher Brousseau). 

Cody Ingram as Sonny Malone in Moonstruck Theater Company's Xanadu (Photo Credit: Christopher Brousseau). 

CI:  “California dreams here we come, Romeo is calling for Juliet, Ready, set get ready let’s go. Anywhere say the word and I’m already there Run away with me.” (“Run Away With Me,” The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown).

JPE: This is a tricky question but, as a Sondheim-lyric obsessee, I really love the text to “Finishing the Hat” from Sunday in the Park with George.

AC:  To quote my finale number: “I may be small but I’ve got giant plans to shine as brightly as the sun.”

What is the most fulfilling thing that you have done in your personal or professional life? Why?

KM: Becoming a teacher. I love sharing in the healing transformation and confidence that song brings.

CI: I have had the amazing opportunity to have jobs that really have fulfilled me. Serving my country in the United States Coast Guard has been, by far, the most rewarding career I have had so far. Service is the most important thing to me when it comes to a career. 

JPE: Creating Flyleaf Theater Company with Amanda.  Having my own theater company was a dream of mine and, together, we developed a very unique venue for small-cast plays and musicals, concerts, and workshops.  It has become very successful and fulfilling!

AC:  If I told you, it wouldn’t be as fulfilling.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be, and why?  What would you do with it?  Would you have a cape?

KM: Capes are bad news. I’d have instantaneous healing powers. The world needs it.

CI:  Being able to heal instantaneously is definitely up there. I would have to say having the ability to read peoples’ feelings to know exactly how to help them in that moment.

I wouldn’t have a cape; I would have Spider-Man’s ability to shoot webs and crawl on walls, and the cape would always be getting the way.

JPE: Being able to play any song in any key on request on the piano from memory.  Though this may not seem like a superpower to many, it is to me.  I am amazed by the people who can do this.  And, of course, I would have a cape.

AC:  Can I swap the cape for wings?!  Any superpower… I’d love the ability to freeze time.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

KM: I have things brewing in ‘musicaltheaterland’ that I can’t announce just yet.

I can tell you I’m singing a few classical engagements around town soon: In March 2016, I’m the soprano soloist for Annelies, a cantata about Anne Frank by James Whitborn with Polymnia Choral Society, and, in April 2016, I’ll be singing Haydn’s Nelson Mass with Plymouth Festival Chorus as their soprano soloist. Info is available at www.kimberlymoller.com, along with my voice studio information!

CI:  As of right now, I do not have any upcoming projects, musical theatre-wise.  I am currently serving my community as a Call Firefighter/EMT, and I will begin employment with Fall Ambulance Company, along with coaching CrossFit at my gym.

JPE: For the first time in 13 years, I’m taking some time off!!!!!

AC:  I will be playing Kathy in Weston Friendly Society’s March 2016 production of Company, immediately followed by playing Annette in the world premiere of The Maid, in the Common Room, with the Fiance at the Flyleaf Theater Company the following weekend.  

I will then be joined by the amazing (x2!) Joshua Wright and Ryan O’Reilly in a concert version of tick . . . tick . . . Boom! via the MIT Artists Beyond the Desk organization.

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

KM: Please continue to support the arts in our beloved city. Also, support our youth in the arts - attend and buy tickets for music and dance recitals to show your support, concerts and shows, a cappella - they are the future!

CI:  No matter what people seem to say, the arts are vital to the development of our society and our youth. Keep arts in the schools and in the community. Thank you to ArtsImpulse for taking the time to learn more about us, and to all artists who make this such an amazing medium to work in.

AC:  Thank you so much for supporting the arts and this amazing community!