Julie Wilson, the legendary cabaret star, said of herself in a recent interview, "I'm an old standard, I just keep going." And she does! This ageless, timeless and elegant chanteuse who gets better with each passing year comes to Boston for two shows at Scullar's Jazz Club in Cambridge on March 24 and 25, as part of their very exciting cabaret series and as part of March Cabaret Month in Boston.
Wilson's long and illustrious career both on the Broadway stage, on tour and particularly in the cabaret world has garnered her numerous awards and across-the-board raves. Critics and audiences agree, for as Stephen Holden wrote in The New York Times, "...Ms. Wilson's art is an emotional balancing act in which the follies of the past are weighed against the wisdom of the present in a way that conveys a remarkable sense of a life being remembered and lived at the same time."
In a recent interview, I asked Julie Wilson ("Call me Julie, darling."), what makes a cabaret artist great--what makes people come back time and time again? Cabaret has to grow from "a deep-rooted seed" inside the performer, she replied in her deliciously husky voice. "There has to be a flame, a passion. You must be willing to say whatever is in your gut, your head, your heart."
Equally at home singing sexy torch songs, hilariously funny tunes and/or classics from the Great American Songbook, Wilson teamed with the Smith Street Society Jazz Band for a joyous Evening of Dixieland at her last Algonquin gig in New York. She says she delighted in getting down and dirty, vamping in "I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jellyroll," "Louisville Lou" and "Hard-Hearted Hanna," and even included the classic "When the Saints Come Marching In" in her set.
Talking to Wilson, one can't help but to also be touched by her humanity, her humility and her willingness to share her life's experiences. She told me a wonderful story about one of her early gigs as a singer at Mother Kelley's in Miami, where she performed for seven months, seven nights a week. "I knew the audience didn't want the girl next door and that this was a great opportunity to develop a unique style and find material that clicked, so the audience would shut up," she said. "And if I didn't nail them, they'd nail me!"
She's been nailing them ever since.