Lucky for us, she is bringing her original interpretations of standards as well as contemporary fare to 54 Below on May 30th.
Rose recently chatted with The Improper about what she has in store for the snazzy nightclub’s audience, as well as the eclectic road that led her to the spotlight.
The Improper: What is in store for us when we see your show at 54 Below on May 30th? You’re following in some big footsteps on that stage!
Rose: The only footsteps that I’m thinking about in my life are the footsteps of Liza Minnelli. It’s very much a Broadway space where a lot of cabaret performers have been coming, but I don’t hold myself to that. I actually do something that’s different. I have a small big band with three horns, a piano, a bass, drums, and an electric guitar. The emphasis of the show is on the experience of being entertained, and joining me in the party that I throw.
It isn’t a huge stage so you can’t dance too much, but I always manage to wiggle whenever I can. I’m going to have two backup boys, and they’ll certainly move! There will be songs that are going to be on my upcoming album, and I’m going to sing some songs that over the course of my career have thrilled audiences. The set list is really aimed to make people identify with me and tap their toes. I’m a middle child, and middle children are people pleasers.
IM: One aspect of your persona that sets you apart from the rest is your penchant for humor. How did you discover that you are a funny person?
Rose: In the second grade I was able to mimic all of my teachers and make everyone in my class laugh. I would also make everyone in my family laugh. My family also watched movie musicals in my living room. My dad was a teacher so we had a movie camera, and it was before there were VCRs, if you can imagine such a time. During the reel changes I would reenact whatever I had just seen in the movie. I would always choose the funniest moments to perform. It seemed to be the best currency for communication that I had, and it would feel really good to make other people laugh.
IM: Do you do impressions of celebrities?
Rose: I don’t mimic celebrities. I mimic family members, especially if they’re not there. I certainly mimic ex-boyfriends. I don’t ever have a goal to be mean, so the mimicry would only be in a good-natured way.
IM: Your 2010 album Swingin’ From the Hip includes the song “Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive”. How do you accentuate the positive in yourself?
Rose: I always look for the punch line. For me, that’s the key to being alive. I almost have what I call “Laugh-at-things Tourrette’s Syndrome.” At funerals and in the face of tragedy, I have to try not to go there. I can’t control it. When you are incapable of not thinking of funny things, you end up accentuating the positive because everything is positive and funny.
Also, in this stage of my life I don’t get down on myself about the things that I’m bad at. I have discovered that people are much more interested in focusing on what you can do nicely… and I mean this as a performer, and in everyday life as well. I used to be so hung up that someone might have a better voice, someone might dance better, someone might do any number of things better…. I realized that through the conviction of your attitude and your energy, you can really influence your listener just by being your unique self.
IM: You have said that gay men and false eyelashes made you who you are today. How did that come about?
Rose: That really has to do with the transformation of the self into something that’s larger than the self. A pair of false eyelashes literally transform your face into something bigger than it is. Your eyes are bigger, they’re completely related to the 40s and the 50s and the 60s, so they feel immediately glamorous. The experience of not being Isabel Rose, but being the Isabel Rose wearing false eyelashes, makes me a different person.
It’s like how some writers write under a pen name and it gives them freedom. Ever since I discovered them in college it gave me a healthy place to put my personality that wants to be larger than life. If you don’t find the right place for it, you’ll just annoy everyone you know. Also, I had never met a gay man until I went off to college. When I finally met gay men who were campy, I understood that there was a whole cultural scene around some of the things that were a part of my personality because of how I was raised.
IM: With whom would you most like to collaborate?
Rose: I’m dying to do a show with Michael Buble. He is so nice, so self-deprecating, and so funny. When you listen to his music, you know that he’s not taking life too seriously. He personifies that Rat Pack/Vegas light-heartedness. I’ve always wanted to work with anyone from the cast of Saturday Night Live. I dream of being on SNL. That would be like winning the Oscar.
IM: You have said that your shows are about movement and a journey. Where would you like your own journey to take you next?
Rose: That would be Radio City. I love those old curtains, they look like frosting on cake. You want to lick them, it’s just glamorous. Though I have to admit to you, I once saw Tina Turner at Radio City Music Hall, and I asked them to make the volume lower. It was too loud to me, so it was distorting the sound. It was really hard to hear! (Laughs) I’d love to perform at Radio City, but they would really have to make sure the sound levels are working for me. I think Carnegie Hall would be just fine.
IM: Tell The Improper readers something that no one else would know about you.
Rose: I hate raisins and peas (laughs). Everyone who reads my blog and my Web site knows one secret that I have, which is that I have nine and a half toes. You’ll have to go to my blog and read my blog entry titled “Nine and a Half.” Also, I really have to have peanut m&m’s. It’s psychological now, they have become my drug. I have a friend who always yuks my yum, and says the only good m&m’s are the ones without peanuts…I don’t know if we can be friends anymore.
To read Ms. Rose’s blog or to learn more about her work, visit www.IsabelRose.com. To purchase tickets to her concert at 54 Below, visit www.54Below.com.