One of the hardest things to come up with in the cabaret world is an act. Many times what passes for cabaret are really audition songs placed together or a series of songs that represent the singer’s career, meager though it may be. What a pleasure then to encounter a real, honest-to-goodness act, thought out, choreographed, but made to seem spontaneous. Such an act was the one presented at Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal on October 15 starring Sarah Orr and Valerie Rachelle.
The two ladies met in their early 20s and both had dreams of making it on Broadway. Then life happened, including miscarriage, babies, infertility, alcoholism, and just plain sex. Sarah wanted to save herself for marriage but had trouble finding a straight man, so she says. She gained prominence as “Ginger Snap” in the plus-size girl group the Glamazons who gained celebrity by finishing in the top eight on America’s Got Talent. Sarah also has a great sense of humor and a wonderful, powerful voice. Her notoriety was not merely for being a large woman, but for having a fun personality and true talent.
Valerie Rachelle went to a private conservatory and got a BFA in acting and an MFA in directing. Though she has performed at many theatres throughout the West her main job now is director/choreographer; in fact, she put together this act.
The two ladies told their personal stories through song and humor, often risqué. It was nice to hear women speaking out honestly about their sexuality. They took songs from Broadway shows but changed the words to tell their story. Valerie was very funny having a “Harry Meets Sally” moment with her college date whom she described as well endowed. Sarah, in contrast, was very moving talking about her cancer and her attempts to have children. The song “Broadway and I” was based on “The Wizard and I” fromWicked. Sarah scored with her touching rendition of William Finn’s “Sailing,” using the song to share her sadness of losing a child. Mainly, however, the act was a triumph, and very very funny. And, oh yes, both the women can sing.
The Sirens performed at Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal on October 15. I hope to see more of them.