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Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience, with a Veteran of Broadway

By Fredric Dannen

On a winter’s day in early 1961, the Broadway ambitions of a 17-year-old girl with the stage name of Maxine Foster were nearly crushed. A voice major at Juilliard, she had been selected for the first national tour of The Sound of Music. However, the choreographer, Joe Layton, discovered she was not an experienced dancer, and in the role of Liesl Von Trapp, singing “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” Foster had difficulty with the steps. “So the next day,” the singer recalls, “I come to rehearsal, and see all these girls who look like me, and could dance. I started crying. I figured I was going to get replaced.” What saved her was the composer, Richard Rodgers, who liked her voice. Rodgers wrote an extra chorus of “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” so the young woman could forgo the tricky dance routine.

Songs of Innocence/Songs of Experience
Thu, Jan 19, 7pm
Fri, Jan 20, 7pm
San Miguel Playhouse, Av. Independencia 82
Tickets are 200 pesos
Sale at Galeria Ensueños, Mesones 57, daily except Tuesdays

Foster is known today as Maxine Graboyes, and the singer is a recent resident of San Miguel. Although she officially retired from the entertainment business some years back—other career highlights included a recording contract, club engagements in her native Philadelphia, and a period as a voice teacher—Graboyes has been waiting for the right opportunity to showcase her talent in her new city of residence. On January 19 and 20, Graboyes will headline a cabaret show at the San Miguel Playhouse. Called “Songs of Innocence/Songs of Experience”—a sly reference to the poem collection by William Blake—the show will include Graboyes’ handpicked collaborators: vocalist/pianist Susan Varcoe, pianist Lorelei Capell, and New York theater performer Mary Dillon.

Divided evenly into two parts, the first half program consists of songs of a trusting, romantic, wide-eyed, and ingenuous nature— “innocent” songs—such as the Rodgers and Hammerstein standard “A Wonderful Guy,” Jule Styne’s “Never Never Land,” and numbers by Irving Berlin, Frank Loesser, Christine Lavin, Elton John, and others. The second half program features “experienced” songs—worldly, sophisticated, streetwise, and hard-bitten—such as Cole Porter’s “Always True to You in My Fashion,” Sonny Burke’s “Black Coffee,” and works by Stephen Sondheim, David Yazbek, the Gershwins, and other songwriters.

Graboyes says she is delighted with the rest of her cast. Pianist Lorelei Capell, a Chicago native, was a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and taught piano at DePaul University. Pianist and vocalist Susan Varcoe, from Alberta, Canada, is a trained classical singer, jazz enthusiast, and former chief répétiteur for the Calgary Opera. Mary Dillon, from New York, is “a wonderful singer and consummate actress,” in the words of two-time Tony-winner Helen Gallagher.

Songs of Innocence/Songs of Experience will be performed Thursday, January 19, and Friday, January 20, at 7pm at the San Miguel Playhouse, Av. Independencia 82. Tickets are 200 pesos, on sale at Galeria Ensueños, Mesones 57, daily except Tuesdays, between 10:30am and 2:30pm; or at the theater an hour before show time. The theater has reserved seating, secure parking, and taxi concierge service.


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