Dallas — Denise Lee’s third Dallas Cabaret Festival closes on Saturday with headliner T. Oliver Reid, doing his cabaret Drop Me Off in Harlem.
A native of North Carolina, Reid made his Broadway debut in the late ‘90s in the revival of Chicago, and his Broadway credits in the two decades since include revivals of La Cage aux Folles, Kiss Me Kate, Follies and Sunset Boulevard, as well as the original casts of After Midnight, The Wedding Singer and Sister Act. Currently, he’s playing the Storyteller in the Tony-winning revival of Once On This Island.
He found time to chat with TheaterJones about taking a break for the Cabaret Festival, what he’ll perform, and reactions on Tony night. You can buy his CD Do I Love You? through his website.
TheaterJones: At what age did you fall in love with singing and acting?
T. Oliver Reid: I’ve been singing since I was a child and my fourth grade guidance counselor asked me to audition for a local production of Shenandoah, which I was cast in. That started it all.
You're currently in the Tony-winning revival of Once On This Island. Did you work out a deal to take off this week for the Cabaret festival? How did Denise Lee get you for the headliner of the event?
I was already scheduled to be away from the show on vacation so the timing worked out beautifully! Denise simply asked and I said yes. We have mutual friends whose opinions I trust and they love her, so “yes” was the only answer.
Tell me about the reactions of the Once on This Island cast and creatives when the show was announced as the winner of the Best Revival of a Musical on Tony night.
We were all pleasantly surprised and shocked. My Fair Lady had swept the awards season but luckily the Tony voters loved our show and we became the not-so-sleepy sleeper hit!
You studied vocal performance. How did you start creating your own cabaret shows?
Several events made me take the leap into cabaret about seven years ago and creating my own shows has opened up a creative side of my brain that was lying dormant. The creation of cabaret evenings/shows allows the performer to truly be in control of every aspect of the show. At least for me, as I direct, star in and am very much a part of the musical arranging.
Tell me about the concept for Drop Me Off in Harlem.
It’s a bit of a walking tour of Harlem’s night clubs in 1934. I’m doing a bit of that show and mixing in some other moments, to give the Dallas audience a bit more of T. Oliver Reid!
Were there any numbers you had to cut that you really wanted in the show?
Always! I always start with about ten songs too many and then whittle down the show until it becomes what I want it to be; what I want the audience to feel.
You've won a Bistro Award and other awards—plus acclaim—for your cabaret. Is there a secret to a successful cabaret performance?
There’s no secret. Just put your all into it and be a storyteller of, hopefully, a story people want to hear. Cabaret is a very intimate look into a story and a person. Share both willingly.
Is there another cabaret/album concept you're working on?
Haha! There are about five albums I am working on. Do you know a nice producer type?
Are you looking forward to coming to Dallas?
Yes, I have several friends there and it’s a city I haven’t been to in a while. And I’m a southern boy at heart, [being from] North Carolina, so being in the south is always nice. And you have the mother ship Neiman Marcus!