On Friday October 28th at Don’t Tell Mama, a classic Italian beauty whose diminutive stature belies a big personality, solid sense of timing, humor and at times a big brassy voice, hit the stage. Is she one of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of New Jersey?” No, but she could be! Coming from a typical Italian background, which of course is anything but typical, the show’s stories and patter are very much centered about her, her family and her life. Of course, there’s the requisite craziness, zaniness and required dysfunction that comes along with that for Italians and most ethnic groups. I generally do not like the “here’s all about me” style of cabaret act, unless the person is either legendary or famous enough to get away with it with great stories to tell. Fortunately for Josephine Peacock, her presence and story are interesting enough to capture your attention. She certainly caught the attention of the audience there for this show, which was obviously packed with family and friends who, from their reactions, hold her stories like family legends. Part of the fun was watching her room full of Gumbas and Gumadas react to the show.
The material she covered was well chosen and the act was well directed by Lennie Watts, who kept it moving and paced. As always, Musical Director Steven Ray Watkins put together great musical arrangements which were backed by Donna Kelly on drums and Ted Stafford on bass. Particularly interesting was his handling of the opener “Get On Your Feet” (words and music by John DeFaria, Clay Ostwald and George Casas) and “Show Off” from the Drowsy Chaperone (words and music by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison). Rounding out the sound were her backup singers Rachel Hanser and Heather Villaescusa, whose harmony, solid all the way through, was particularly tight on “A New Day Has Come” (words and music by Stephen Moccio and Aldo Nova). Interestingly enough, on one song, “Anyway” (words and music by Martina McBride, Brad Warren & Brett Warren), Mrs. Peacock’s vocals showed her voice with a style and timbre very reminiscent of Dolly Parton.
Of course, part of her story was that she had given up her earlier performance career to make money as a CPA, to get married and to raise a family. She’s returning to the cabaret stage to get back to the thing that she loves most – singing and performing. Be an artist or make a living? Tough that it should have to be that way. It’s a choice that is unfortunately made by many because of the lack of financial support and respect for what the arts bring to our American, yes, American Culture. I have one request for those people returning to the cabaret stage after having taken the road to have sustainable careers – donate to an arts charity so maybe those future performers faced with the quandary of making that decision might be able to pursue their true dream. Mrs. Peacock, who might have made it in the business, now gives back by singing at church and has adopted and raised two children. Not easy work either and I admire her for it and look forward to finding out more about her in her next show.