Being a music theatre star is one of the most demanding roles in show business. There is a three-tier criteria for the profession, which consists of being a singer, a dancer and an actress, although it’s a bonus when the stage performer can make audiences smile and laugh like Cecily Kate can. Her ability to make audiences laugh was purely accidental as she tells, “My first lead was in high school where I played Sarah Brown in ‘Guys and Dolls’. I slammed the Bible closed in a scene and the audience laughed. I had no intention of being funny at that moment. I stopped for a moment, looked out at the audience and thought, this is awesome. I want to do this forever,” and so began her journey.
Cecily Kate showed she had the right stuff to build a repertoire as a stage performer. She played Annina in “La Traviata” one year in New York City’s Central Park preceded by playing the character of Belle in the off Broadway production of “G & S Christmas Carol”. In 2005, she performed in the Broadway production of “It’s A Wonderful Life” acting alongside Judy Kuhn and Brian Mitchell. She explains why out of all the disciplines as a stage performer, she gravitated to singing the most. “I chose to be a singer because it makes people happy and I love that feeling.”
The experience in the dramatic arts exposed her to Broadway showtunes and operas whose musical content has become woven into America’s cultural fabric making the songs into industry standards and fan novelties. The experience inspired her to record her 2012 debut album Standards featuring a selection of melodies taken from the Great American Songbook, giving audiences a taste of her vocal prowess.
She reveals, “I had been singing this set in performances for over the past several years and it occurred to me that it would be really lovely to make a studio recording. I liked the idea of making these songs my own, having a record that I could be proud of, and also have something to share with friends, my family, my students, and fans, both at present and in the years to come. I received a lot of encouragement from the musicians who played on the album and my friends who shot the cover, but I was solely responsible for producing Standards. It is the achievement I am most proud of to date.” She adds, “I hope people smile while listening to Standards and that my voice does these wonderful songs justice.”
She shares, “I recorded Standards in a studio a couple blocks away from my apartment where Art Polemus has been recording for about fifty years. The arrangements were a collaborative effort between Brad Ross and myself. A few of the arrangements we used he had already created prior to our sessions, but most of the songs we arranged in rehearsal. I had a set song list and we went from there. I think the ending of ‘Where the Boys Are’ changed every time we practiced.”
Her rendition of “Where the Boys Are”, written by Howard Greenfield and Neil Sedaka for singer Connie Francis in 1957, is a tune Cecily Kate fondly refers to as “The perfect girl anthem.” Her co-producer Brad Ross assisted her in the song selection and recording and in building up her confidence as she describes, “I met Brad over ten years ago. He has been my coach since I moved to New York City. He is my biggest fan, and he knows my voice so well. Brad always says I am the best singer in New York City; of course, I know this isn’t true but it is always great to hear him say so.”
Also accompanying Cecily Kate on the recording is a cadre of gifted musicians including Chris Booner on acoustic double bass whom she praises. “Chris and I work together for our day jobs. He is an amazing bass player and is always giving me advice on everything from recording to how to play darts. I didn’t give him direction. He listened to me sing the song and then just started playing.”
On trumpet is Brian Pareschi whose solo parts on “My Funny Valentine”, a tune originally penned by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, display creative impulses that only a free spirited imagination could conjure up. She compliments, “Brian is a well-known trumpet player in the city who is also the arranger for Max Weinberg. I was very lucky to have him play on Standards. Brad had the idea to add trumpet and Brian improvised his solos. My favorite part of the album is how it begins with his trumpet solo.”
Another favorite part of the recording for Cecily Kate is her interpretation of the Celtic folk tune “How Are Things in Glocca Morra” written by Burton Lane and E. Y. Harburg. She notes, “My director Peter Palame introduced me to ‘How Are Things in Glocca Morra’. I work for him performing cabaret shows around the Tri-State area. I absolutely love this song. It falls perfectly in my comfort zone, which is musical theatre with a legit sound. Every time I sing it live, everyone sings a long. It is a crowd pleaser.”
Pleasing crowds is a top priority for Cecily Kate who remembers when she first tasted the nectar of performing in a big production. “My first Broadway credit was at Paper Mill playhouse. I was a nun in ‘The Sound of Music’. I was in a chorus of fifteen Broadway veterans. They showed me how to act onstage and off, how to take care of your voice and your body and the truth about how much of a sacrifice being a singer is. I also received my Equity card for that show. Everyone in the cast applauded me and welcomed me to the community. It was very inspiring.”
She cites, “I never danced ballet professionally.” Still, Cecily Kate developed the discipline needed to continue a duel regiment that keeps her body physically toned for stage shows while maintaining her vocal practices. She purports, “Singing in musicals requires you to learn how to dance well. I do consider them completely separate. I teach fifteen dance and voice classes a week here in New York. It keeps me in great shape. Being a dance teacher is as much a dream as singing on stage to me.”
Her music education at Indiana University prepared her for the journey she has embarked on to becoming a stage performer as she imparts, “Indiana University has one of the best music schools in the country. I trained to be an opera singer but after college I realized it was not where my heart was. It took two years to transition from a classical to a Broadway sound. I truly believe that if you begin with classical training you can learn to sing anything. It gives you a complete understanding of how to correctly use your instrument.”
As a singer and producer on her debut album Standards, Cecily Kate shows she is a well-rounded artist with the ability to make decisions and take direction. Possessing a three-tier talent as a singer, dancer, and actress, Cecily Kate’s girth as a stage performer is laudable. Her attributes complement one another with the added ability to lure audiences into making them smile.