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Putting her energy into kids and cabaret

by Monica Nakamine
Boston Sunday Globe
MARCH 11, 2001
  Nina Vansuch  
A cabaret "oddball"

If she's not bringing the arts to children, then she's on stage doing what she does best -- cabaret.

Nina Vansuch, the 48-year-old director of two after-school arts programs, is a local cabaret artist. She loves her 18-year-old son, Matt, as well as the kids in the programs she runs. But when she's on stage, all eyes are on her and she can't help but feel like she's on a first date.

"I haven't done a solo show in about a year," said Vansuch, referring to her upcoming performance at Club Cafe in Boston on Tuesday. "I'm looking forward to it, but I'm nervous. I don't have a negative connotation because you need that edge of nervousness to get you through it. It's like a first date with someone you really like. You're giddy and excited about the possibilities. It's a good nervous."

The Boston Association of Cabaret Artists (BACA) has declared March Cabaret Month. Vansuch and many other local cabaret artists will be performing locally to provide the public with a taste of what cabaret is all about.

Vansuch has been told that she doesn't fit the mold of traditional cabaret performers with the fancy duds, all singing, all dancing. Dressed in simple black trousers and black shirt while on stage, she wants to be able to move around a lot, use the entire stage if she wants to.

Her one-woman shows are a mish-mash of stories from her past and her favorite songs from the 1950s and 1960s.

"I'm sort of an oddball in the cabaretworld," said Vansuch. "I'm a good singer, but I kind of mix things up a little bit. I'm not limited to one particular style."

But, she added, "my audience will laugh. They'll cry. And they won't be able to wait for the sequel."

Artistically, Vansuch said she is influenced by such entertainers as Doris Day, Chris Connor, June Christy, and Annie Ross. But she also draws from personal experiences that have deeply affected her.

She was raised by a father who was a strict Russian Orthodox priest and a schizophrenic mother, which translated into a difficult upbringing, she said. But, she added "Hard times make for good material, unfortunately."

In her shows, she will even recall random scenarios that are just plain funny.

"The way I learned about love was from my girlfriends and the radio," she said. "I thought sex was something that was given to you when you got married. You know how they say, `You can't have sex until you're married'?"

Although Vansuch loves to be in the spotlight, she's willing to share it by helping the children within her community find their voice through art. She heads up Chenex, a program out of Chenery Middle School, and the Burbank After-School Program, based in the Burbank Elementary, both in Belmont, where she lives.

"I love doing stuff with kids because when I was a kid, the arts saved my life," said Vansuch. "When I figured out that I could sing and act, it gave me an anchor. Whether kids end up performing as adults, those skills come in handy. For instance, a businessman needs presentation skills. I'm a big proponent and advocate of those kinds of things."

On Tuesday at 7 p.m, Vansuch will be performing "Judy, Judy, Judy" at Club Cafe, 209 Columbus Ave. in Boston. Tickets are $14. At 9 p.m., Vansuch will team up with Brian De Lorenzo and Erica Leopold for "Cabaret Impromptu: Where the Audience Picks Songs from a Hat." Combined with Vansuch's solo performance, tickets are $25.

Cabaret Impromptu will be repeated at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, March 20 and Tuesday, March 27. Call 232-1804 for further details.

Copyright © 2001 Boston Globe
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

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