When I heard about British satirist Melinda Hughes' new Weimar cabaret show Cheers Darling, an evening of songs about the special relationship between the UK and the US, I knew I had to call her to find out more. Much to my delight, Melinda answered and we got to chatting about politics, selfies, and Donald Trump.
Cheers Darling will play at The Metropolitan Room in NYC (34 West 22nd Street, between 5th & 6th Avenue) on Wednesday, January 18 at 7pm and Friday, January 20 at 9:30pm. Click here for tickets!
1. This January you will be premiering your new cabaret show Cheers Darling at The Metropolitan Room. It's an evening of songs about the special relationship between the UK and the US; the declining British Aristocracy, selfies, Brexit and Donald Trump’s non-stop tweeting. What are you looking forward to about debuting this new show? The US elections and the British referendum were great inspirations to write some fun songs and, whatever your political leanings, it is a great opportunity to present them in New York during such upheaval and change.
2. Your singing style is that of Weimar cabaret. In this post-election climate, how does today’s world relate to that of Weimar Berlin? There are some striking similarities: a general distrust of politics, feeding a wave of populism, but also a strong desire for individual freedom. I think some people today, like back then, feel disenfranchised and disconnected from the elite. This is reflected in a few Weimar songs such as "The Smart Set" about the upper classes who spend all their time shopping and gossiping, but also in "Das Lila Lied" ("The Lavender Song") which is considered to be the first ever gay protest anthem. They were both written by Mischa Spoliansky in the late '20s, but sound like they could have been written yesterday.
3. As an English girl in New York (you see what I did there), what similarities do you see between Brexit and our current political situation? Both countries seem to be retrenching into a nostalgic nationalism. It feels like our "special relationship" is still going strong! "Britannia waives the rules" is a song mocking old values of both countries and pokes fun at both of our cultures in equal measure. It always gets a laugh. Our Brexit song "If you’re gonna go, go" is sung as if it were the breakup of two lovers, in the style of a cheesy eighties rock ballad.
4. Living in these troubling times, how do you feel your show will help people? Well, it's certainly a ripe time for satire. President-elect Trump is the gift that keeps on giving, and I think we need to laugh now more than ever. Satirical songs are a great way of getting a point across without being too aggressive. Political satire was huge in Weimar Germany and later became the last outlet for freedom of speech. Humour really bonds like-minded people, so I hope that my audience will connect to the music and humour. History can sometimes repeat itself, and we can learn from it: I have written a song called "We’ve been here before" about how a woman (think of a Marlene Dietrich) would recount her highs and lows had she lived to be 150 years old.
5. We live in a world of selfies, what do you love about taking them and what annoys you about this style of picture taking? I’m not much of a solo selfie taker but I’ll always join in with friends. Some people seem more concerned about the selfie than the life they're in, which is what inspired my selfie song. My boyfriend and I were on a short holiday and we just couldn’t move for the amount of people taking selfies with 4 foot selfie sticks. It totally killed the ambiance, so I penned some lyrics about a holiday romance;
"the girl is so obsessed with taking selfies, she falls off the edge of a cliff to achieve that perfect angle."
It ends with the words:
"but I’ve never been a quitter,
I uploaded it to twitter
and I very quickly writta
caption that will make you titter,
"I’ve really fallen for this place,
6. Cheers Darling is coinciding with the inauguration of president elect Donald Trump. If Donald Trump came to your show, what would you want him to come away with after seeing your show? And what is one thing you would want to tell him? I would want him to come away with new ideas for his tweets. For instance, I would love him to tweet about my show. Something like: "She’s so unfunny and such a loser," then I'll know the show is a hit!
7. Was there one Donald Trump tweet, that inspired your song? If so, what was that tweet? If there wasn’t one, what has been your favorite tweet, Donald Trump has written? It was more the unfiltered stream of consciousness that inspired the song. But if I were to pick one, it would be the the New Years Eve tweet - which showed him to be such a sore winner. It may not be what is needed to bring the country back together.
8. What do you love about performing for American audiences? I love their positivity, their open-mindedness and their love for showmanship. There’s a great cabaret tradition in New York so the audience is ready to take that emotional journey. It means you can push the boundaries a little bit more. I toured a lot as an opera singer across the US and also found that backstage, on the technical side, there was a great "can do" attitude which is quite refreshing.
9. Since your show is called Cheers Darling, what is something you are celebrating in this New Year? My show is punctuated a little by the odd glass of champagne and a little cheers musical motif. We English always go back to saying "cheers," whether to commiserate or celebrate with someone and I always call people darling, especially if I've forgotten their name!
10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I’m going to stick religiously to my weekly Pilates, which cured me of chronic pain after a prolapsed disc, and I'm also going to meditate more. I started practicing many years ago while on tour in the US, and it helped me through all those late nights, early mornings and hours on the road.
Classically trained Melinda Hughes is a successful satirical cabaret performer who has sold out shows at The Pheasantry and Crazy Coqs Zedel in London among other venues around the world. She has written and performed with co-writer Jeremy Limb at numerous International Festivals and her CD Smoke and Noise (Nimbus) won critical acclaim in the US and UK leading her to appear on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio 4 with Barry Humphries. A graduate of The Royal College of Music, Melinda toured Europe for three years as the soloist to the famous violinist Andre Rieu. She has sung many lead operatic roles including Aida, Tosca and Madame Butterfly working in more than forty countries and will be appearing on the BBC4 Television series about Weimar Cabaret in summer 2017.