I read the New York Times Arts section on the off chance they’ll write about music I might find interesting. When that happens it’s usually perceptive and well-written. This week, I note two reviews for events I can’t even begin to imagine attending: Martha Plimpton and Tyne Daly doing Caberet shows.
The structuralist critics liked to talk about there only being two (or 36, or ???) different stories that are retold over and over. These two women’s shows are exactly the same story: Actor, past the prime earning years, trades on what’s left of their fame to draw a live audience to hear them sing. This shop-worn trope only occurs in New York City in the US — I’ve never lived or visited anywhere else where people pay good money to see B-list celebrity Cabaret. Who hires the musicians, commissions the arrangements, secures the venue? Do these women do it as a vanity project, does someone put up the money to indulge them, or is there still someone left in New York City that thinks this sort of thing is a good idea in which to invest thousands of dollars?
The reviews linked above seem to damn both with faint praise, exhibiting an unusual (for the Times) amount of charity, but giving readers very little to actually recommend the shows. Daly’s voice is described as ‘delicately brassy,’ which sounds like the worst of both worlds. Plimpton is described as having a ’serviceable, medium-sized voice,’ which is NYTimes Arts-speak for ‘don’t quit your day job.’
Perhaps I’m not being fair to either Plimpton or Daly — I have admired both actors on occasion, and who knows, maybe they can keep an audience enthralled with a few songs and some amusing anecdotes. But in the extremely unlikely event some successful actor is reading this post, let me warn you: Plenty of singers have turned to acting, and done OK for themselves, but I can’t think of one actor that has done the reverse and had things end well.
If someone tells you you’re multi-talented, the only sane response should be intense skepticism. Amongst the various human talents for performance, being able to act barely qualifies you for acting jobs. All effective singers are already actors, but in addition they have good voices and the can sing in tune. The converse doesn’t obtain — remembering lines, modulating your facial expression and hitting your mark has nothing to do with singing.
So don’t quit your day job.