There are few movers-and-shakers in the Tampa Bay arts scene quite like Paul Wilborn and wife Eugenie Bondurant. We at American Stage are lucky and thrilled to host their American Songbook Series and Mr. Wilborn was kind enough to answer five burning questions to help promote this weekend’s Skylark: The Songs of Hoagy Carmichael & Johnny Mercer.
Can you give us the Paul Wilborn and Eugenie Bondurant origin story?
A Los Angeles based Associated Press reporter (Paul) and a beautiful actor (Eugenie) are invited to the same party in LA in 2002. They are engaged six months later. In 2003, they move back to Tampa (Paul’s hometown) so Paul can become the Creative Industries Manager for new Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio. Paul is asked by the Palladium Theater to do an American Songbook cabaret series. He tries out many female singers but doesn’t find the right match. Eugenie, who has never sung in public, takes over that role and quickly becomes the star of the show! When Paul is picked to be Executive Director of the Palladium, the cabaret series moves to American Stage.
You have been a great pioneer for cabaret in Tampa Bay, what do you think is so special about this particular genre of performance?
Cabaret is a marriage of music and theater. It’s not just a band playing songs. If we do our job right, the audience takes a journey with us, much like they do seeing a play. And I think in this digital, electronic world – there is a hunger for intimate live performance. That’s what we try to do. As a former journalist, I love telling stories. That’s why are shows are a mix of music and anecdotes. As for being a pioneer – we’ve built up a great following now, but being a pioneer meant playing to lots of small audiences early on.
There are probably some patrons who do not recognize Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer by name, as well as, others who look forward to being reintroduced to their work. What inspired you to pick these two artists and how … Read the rest