Cabaret fave Mary Cleere Haran is greatly admired for the unfailingly witty and informative patter that sparks her performances, but let's not forget that the lady can also sing in a rich, creamy alto that hearkens back to the sounds of the great pop singers of the mid-20th Century. That's just what she'll be doing at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on Saturday, January 27.
"The title of the show is I Love Lyrics -- and I do," says Haran. "We have two performances at NJPAC, and they're both sold out, which is great. I've been doing this program for a while but, of course, I add and subtract." So, whose lyrics will she revel in this time around? "Larry Hart, of course. Dorothy Fields, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter. I love Al Dubin and Leo Robin. And I'm a great fan of Irving Berlin; he was Larry Hart's favorite lyricist, which is interesting."
Haran had an emotionally rough period a few years back when she was divorced from Joe Gilford, son of the late, great actor Jack Gilford. But she's doing fine now, and so is her son, Jake. "He's 15, and he's doing stand-up comedy," she says. "I tell him to try to keep it clean. He talks about his birds -- he has five cockatiels -- and a lot of his material is about the gentrification of Park Slope, where we live. Jake's very good at comedy, but sometimes he gets tired of it. He says everything in his life turns into a joke and he just can't handle it."
As for Jake's mom, she's keeping herself busy. Every Monday night, Haran hosts a variety show with her good pal, composer/musical director Debra Barsha, in the Night and Day Room at the Biscuit Barbecue restaurant in Park Slope. The guest list thus far has been impressive, to say the least: "We've had Michael Feinstein, Rupert Holmes, Terry Jones from Monty Python, Tim Gunn from Project Runway, and Tituss Burgess, who's going to be playing Sebastian in The Little Mermaid. Coming up, we have Dale Soules, who stands by for Mary Louise Wilson in Grey Gardens. We're also going to have Steve Buscemi and John Ventimiglia, who plays Artie on The Sopranos. Some of those Italian guys can really sing!"
In addition, Haran is very much looking forward to singing at the Bay Street Theatre's winter benefit gala on February 26 at the Rainbow Room. "I love Bay Street," she says of the well regarded Sag Harbor theater. "The first time I worked there was in a kooky play by Charles Busch called Home Fires, which became Swingtime Canteen; I played the part that was later played by Alison Fraser, and then by Charles."
She's happy to return to one of her favorite venues, as well. "The Rainbow Room is such a great place to perform," she enthuses. "When I was doing my Rodgers and Hart tribute at Rainbow & Stars, I got to sing with the band in the Rainbow Room between shows. I felt like I was in a screwball comedy, racing through the kitchen to get from one room to the other. It was so much fun!"
While surfing YouTube, there's a good chance that you will come across a video clip of Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda in Wicked, trilling in high soprano tones as she floats to the stage of the Gershwin Theatre. But though this sort of bootleg content often turns up on the site, it is entirely illegal.
"A lot of stuff that goes up on YouTube infringes on intellectual property rights, because the footage is taken without the knowledge or consent of the performers," says Maria Somma, a spokesperson for Actors' Equity Association. "We have a tape and film representative whose responsibility is to do daily sweeps of YouTube and other sites and get them to remove bootleg videos. We also hear from our members when they come across illegal clips. But what happens is that the material is removed and then it can pop up again several days or weeks later. For example, Wicked is really popular on YouTube."
The site also assures posters that they risk being banned from YouTube permanently if they don't follow the rules: "Anytime we become aware that a video or any part of a video on our site infringes the copyrights of a third party, we will take it down from the site. We are required to do so by law. If you repeatedly post infringing content, your account will be terminated." However, none of this has stopped the frequent posting of illegal material.
Concern over the violation of artists' rights is not limited to Equity; but while the actors' union cannot sanction bootleg video clips of performances by its members, the situation is quite different when it comes to music rights. "YouTube has applied for a license under our consent degree," says Chris Amenita, a senior vice president at ASCAP [the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers]. "Now we're at the point where we're beginning to discuss the terms and conditions for that license. We act as agents of the copyright owners, and there are certain guidelines that we need to follow and maintain."
The idea is that, not unlike a cabaret venue, a nightclub, or a radio station, YouTube will pay a regular monthly or annual fee for a blanket license to all of the thousands of songs controlled by ASCAP. This would make the content legal as far as that organization is concerned -- but, as Amenita is quick to point out, "There's a multitude of copyright owners that YouTube would need to seek agreement with. Other unions don't have the ability to issue a blanket license. They do it on a work-by-work basis, and that can be very difficult."
YouTube's new owner, Google, is planning to make a stricter effort to remove illegal material. But this may be just the tip of the iceberg. "As technology advances," says Maria Somma, "it's going to make things easier for bootleggers and illegal videographers, so we try to stay as close to the cutting edge as possible in order to protect our membership. It's a very big problem, and there are a lot of layers to it."