Cabaret With Karen

By Solange Reyner

Get comfy with Karen Akers as she performs in the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Cabaret & Cocktail Series January 21st through the 24th. Akers, a broadway regular, was in the original cast of “Nine.” We caught up with the New Yorker before she hits the stage on Thursday.

  • Tell us about this Cabaret series.

Karen: I love this show. It gives me a chance to give a party and nobody understood better how to enjoy a party better than Cole Porter. He had incredible wit and an incredibly inspired way with words. I told someone I must have been on drugs to put together a show with so many of these intricate, witty lyrics, but they’re great fun and they’re fun for the audience to hear.

  • What steps do you take to prep yourself for your performance?

Karen: I don’t drink when I’m working because alcohol is really dehydrating. I eat well, I meditate every morning. I do Chinese exercises to develop inner strength. Surely you don’t want my vitamin regimen. There’s a huge physical component. Even more so, there’s a larger mental component and that’s where the focus comes in – especially with this show. This show is a tightrope act with the lyrics, along with pacing yourself. It’s really well packed. It’s rich, but very relaxing for the audience.

  • Anything new we can expect?

Karen: There’s one gorgeous song that I discovered in New York. I was up at a friend’s house and I asked him to let me look through some things and I found this song, “Where Have You Been,” and I just fell head over heels in love with it and I don’t think many people know it so it’s kind of exciting to bring something like that.

  • We know you’ve performed at the White House. Tell us what that was like?

Those were interesting. The first time may have been a small private dinner for Queen Sirikit of Thailand and that was quite wonderful because I needed to be talked into going. I was worried about going to the White House. [Ronald] Reagan was President, and I certainly didn’t see eye to eye with him on policies. My great friend told me to go. He said ‘It’s our house, its not his.’ So I did go. The other two times were with President Bush senior – a state dinner for Prime Minister Lee of Singapore and the other was a dinner for Lech Walesa of Poland. I don’t think I sang very well that night because I was way too concerned about introducing my songs in Polish.

  • You performed on the original cast of “Nine,” which is now a major motion picture. Have you had a chance to see it and what do you think of it? 

Karen: I saw it recently and I had a very emotional reaction probably because I spent more than a year of my life involved with the show. There were performances that I adored – certainly Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard – I still feel married to Guido Contini so I did not buy Daniel Day-Lewis as a Latin. He came across as this marvelous, wiry bundle of angst and feeling, but without the Latin charm and ego, hutzpah and presence and the conviction that he’s god’s gift to women. I never felt that, and I felt all of that with Raul on stage. So I felt that something of the heart was missing. I could see he wanted it to be there, but as I said I’m the wrong person to ask.

  • How was it working with Woody Allen?

Karen: I was a little intimidated. He was very dear and funny the first time we met. He doesn’t particularly like meeting people, and I had been warned. I was rather quiet, and trying to think of something to say that wouldn’t upset him so I said ‘Have you ever heard me sing?’ and he said ‘No, Is there a problem?’ which I thought was hilarious and I’ve liked him ever since. The Purple Rose of Cairo – he loves that film, and that’s the one I did with him.


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