BFFs since their school days at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, Lindsay Lavin and Ilana Gabrielle make their return to the stage together at The Green Room 42, Broadway’s newest urban cabaret club, for a one-night-only revival of It’s a Man’s World. The show, which they debuted at Feinstein’s/54 Below in 2015, is comprised of a set list of songs originally sung and recorded by such popular male vocalists as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Prince, and Bruno Mars, but with themes and lyrics that are equally relevant for the women of today.
Backed by a rocking four-piece band (Director and Music Director Brandon James Gwinn, Tim Basom, Jeffrey Koch, and Aaron Drescher), with background vocals by Elliot Aguilar, Ryan Mac, and Todd Ritch, the powerhouse pair promises to bring a female perspective to the familiar hits, as they take on “MANsplainers, MANspreaders, MANipulators, and being a woman in a man’s world.”
I spoke with Lindsay and Ilana to get their ideas on the show, how it fits into their lives and careers, and how it relates to the latest developments in our current socio-political climate.
Deb: Why did you decide that the time was now right to bring It’s a Man’s World back to the cabaret stage?
Ilana: With everything that has happened socially and politically in the post-November-2016 era, we felt the show was even more apropos than it was when we first did it in 2015. Our rights as women are constantly being threatened and it is so important to take up space and to make our voices heard.
Lindsay: Exactly, whether it’s through song, art, or performance. It’s a Man’s World is a great platform to do just that, while taking back the narrative about what is acceptable for women to sing about versus what men get to sing about.
Have either of you been personally affected or empowered by the #MeToo movement?
Ilana: Unfortunately, I think all women understand the #MeToo movement in a very deep way. I know I do. That being said, I am so grateful that we are talking about these issues on a large scale and hopefully creating some positive change. In our show we tackle some of these themes, including street harassers, horrible dates, and the fear that comes with being a woman in America today.
Lindsay: I’ve absolutely been empowered by the #MeToo movement. It is so inspiring to see so many brave women come forward and tell their stories.
Have you made any changes to the set list since the show debuted at Feinstein’s/54 Below in 2015?
Ilana: Oh yes! A lot actually. We significantly developed the script over the last three years and have added a lot of the current socio-political issues we are facing today. Most of my songs have been changed and I’m VERY excited to explore the new material.
Lindsay: I am so excited to add two new solo songs to our set, as well as one new uplifting and beautiful duet with Ilana.
Have you seen any significant advancement in opportunities for women since then?
Ilana: Honestly, in a lot of ways it feels like we’ve taken some steps backwards in the last few years. There is a huge amount of anger and fear in our culture today and it is definitely palpable. Things like the women’s march in DC, which I attended with my mom, sister-in-law, and niece, give me a lot of hope that the pendulum will swing in the other direction someday soon.
Lindsay: I think the positive thing that has come out of the backward slide of the last few years is that people are using their anger to create positive change. It’s amazing to see the way women are rising up and supporting each other! ‘Cause who run the world? Girls!
Which song in the show can you relate to most?
Ilana: Currently, I’m really loving “Gorilla” by Bruno Mars. It’s all about the differences in the ways we handle and express women’s vs. men’s sexuality. Plus it’s the sexiest song ever written . . .
Lindsay: For me, it was a no-brainer to do a Beatles medley. The Beatles are so meaningful to me and my whole family. A show of men’s songs wouldn’t be complete without highlighting them!
What’s the best thing about performing in a cabaret venue?
Ilana: Getting to do it with my best friend! I think the blend of concert and theater creates a unique opportunity for storytelling through song.
Lindsay: The intimate size of the theater gives you the opportunity to really engage and to connect with the audience.
What do you enjoy most about working with each other?
Ilana: We were just talking about this the other night! Not only are we each other’s biggest fans and supporters, we have really open and honest communication artistically. We love sharing the stage, but we also love the time behind the scenes creating the show together.
Lindsay: It doesn’t get much better than working with Ilana! We complement each other so well and balance the responsibilities that come with self-producing a show. We love singing together and had almost too much fun writing our banter!
What has been the most valuable take-away from your training at Berklee?
Ilana: Berklee made me a great musician and honed my taste artistically. My time there taught me how to verbalize what I like and don’t like and introduced me to amazing collaborators to create with.
Lindsay: Berklee was the perfect place to learn everything there is to know about being a musician in the real world. Whether its working with a band, arranging music, or meeting like-minded people you can create a show with, all about being a woman in a man’s world. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to study there!
What’s been the most exciting and rewarding experience in your career to date?
Ilana: When I was playing Sophie in Mamma Mia!, I received a message from a man who had seen the show. He has Spina Bifida and restricted movement, but told me that I had him dancing in the aisle. The fact that I could affect someone’s life in that way was so moving and is the reason why I do this crazy career.
Lindsay: I had the amazing privilege to sing at Hillary Clinton’s birthday party with some incredible guests and performers!
What are your hopes for 2019?
Ilana: Continued success in my career, more chances to sing with my beautiful best friend, and a safer, more inclusive America.
Lindsay: Love, another beach vacation with my best friend, and lots of creative opportunities. Also, that the world will move forward in a positive way and we will see the results of our collective efforts.
Many thanks to both of you, for giving us a preview of what to expect in the new incarnation of It’s a Man’s World and what the show means to you!