Sally Mayes brings her cabaret concert to Milford Arts Council
For Sally Mayes, life indeed is a cabaret.
Born and raised in East Texas, she got her start as a singer in Houston but moved east to pursue a career in show business, nabbing her first Broadway show within three months in Cy Coleman’s “Welcome to the Club.” She has been burning up stages even since, on the Great White Way, off-Broadway and around the country in theaters and on the cabaret circuit. She scored a Tony nomination for her performance in the 1993 revival of “She Loves Me” and has appeared in “Urban Cowboy” and “Steel Magnolias.” Her nightclub shows have earned high marks coast to coast and she has been nominated for 12 Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs (MAC) awards.
In recent years, she has become selective about what shows she will do but as she sings in one of her many memorable performances, “I’m Still Here.” She will perform a cabaret-style show of stories and songs at the Milford Arts Council on March 7.
“It’s been a good life, my husband is a Broadway bassist and I have a grown son now and we live up here [Cortland Manor, N.Y.],” she said. “I am winding down a bit. I don’t work as much as I used to. I have a new rule that I’m only going to do jobs that I really want to do, in places I really want to view, with people I really wanna work with. And so that has kind of stood me well the last few years.”
Blessed with a larger-than-life personality, a can-do attitude and a great voice that can belt out powerful torch songs and caress the most delicate of notes, Mayes says Milford’s audience should expect a night of fun. Attendees will also be treated to a range of music from country to pop with a dash of theater and comedy thrown into the mix. “I do a lot of different things. Hopefully you’ll laugh, maybe you’ll cry a bit and before the evening is over maybe we’ll all have learned something together. I am a big storyteller, I like to tell stories,” she said.
Storytelling is at the heart of her shows and she likes to say that all her songs are stories. “All songs are stories to a certain extent but I am really drawn to those where I get to play characters and get to the meat of the human condition,” she said. Among her favorite stories or bits she does on stage are a woman in grief, counseling another woman who deals with the breakup of her relationships by going shopping, and a real estate agent with a really big secret.
Mayes demurs when asked to choose a favorite composer to perform songs by. “I love every composer that I’m working on. If I’m working with Jerry Herman, I want to do a Jerry Herman song,” she said, adding that she feels the same way about Cy Coleman and Dar Williams.
Although she is only performing selectively, she is as busy as ever. “I’ve been writing my own show, which looks like we’re going to be doing down at the Alley Theatre in Houston next year. That’s a different hat and I’m enjoying that,” she said. “I also have a show that’s in development right now in New York so we’ll see what happens with that. I didn’t write this one but I have a feeling it’s going to go.”
Mayes also recently did a one-woman play about I Love Lucy’s Vivian Vance titled “Sidekicked.” “That was really fun. I try to find things that interest me now.” She will also return to Texas this spring for a show titled “Pure Country” at Theatre Under the Stars.
Performing live has always been a passion from theater to doing her own shows. “I love doing theater, I love the discipline of theater and bringing someone else’s viewpoint and somebody else’s ideas to life. That’s your role as an actor,” she said. “I enjoy doing that but sometimes I have my own vision and my own things I want to say and so I started doing cabaret. I got to share my vision of what it should be and so I started out doing that and it’s just been sort of something that has sustained me through the years.”
The Milford Arts Council is at 40 Railroad Avenue inside a repurposed train station. For more information, visit milfordarts.org.