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Spotlight on Cabaret: Sometimes What You Need Is in Your Own Back Yard

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

By Tracy Adams

The line between jazz singing and cabaret singing is often fine, blurred, and crossed—with frequently spectacular results that delight Chicagoland listeners. Chicago Jazz Magazine is thrilled to partner with Chicago Cabaret Professionals via the monthly column/calendar, “Spotlight on Cabaret.”

L to R: Board Secretary Cindy Firing and husband/CCP volunteer Alex Magno, Joan Curto, Beckie & Tom

Shortly after the pandemic darkened live performance venues, the Auditorium Theatre asked Chicago cabaret star Joan Curto to put together a show for its newly imagined At Home With the Auditorium series of weekly livestream performances. Curto was delighted to oblige. And it started her thinking about what else she could do to support the suddenly shut down cabaret community and its many talented inhabitants.

She was still thinking about that days later when, while watering her garden, she looked around her yard and thought, “Well, why not do something here?” So she got to work organizing performers, digesting Illinois Department of Public Health COVID guidelines, sourcing sound equipment, and spreading the word among cabaret devotees. And Club Curto was born!

Her back yard has provided a perfect setting for singers and audience members alike. Who wouldn’t want to relax by a pool and be serenaded by some of Chicago’s best vocal assets? Singers gotta sing, and while most would be glad at this juncture to share their vocal talents from a closet or bathroom, why would anyone pass on the chance to do so in such a lovely outdoor venue? It might not be Ravinia, but the sightlines are better and the commute much easier.

The advent of fall is shutting down what has become a monthly series, and Curto is already thinking about what she will host come spring. She never had an interest in being a club owner, but she is interested in trying new things. That, combined with the ability to provide performers an opportunity to get back to it—and, by the way, generate some much-needed income—will probably keep her in this game for a while as the health crisis stretches on without a clear end in sight.

What does Curto see herself doing next? Although she has produced cabaret shows in venues as small as Davenport’s and as large as the Auditorium Theatre, she wants to continue to grow her producing resume. She plans to continue to explore a broader array of musical styles, blending cabaret with jazz with Broadway with pop and anything else that appeals to her love of lyrics. When she has the space in her schedule, she’ll return to auditioning for musicals where she began. “And maybe someday I’ll learn how to read music.” But as long as current conditions prevail, she’ll keep creating, keep on making beautiful music, and keep her back yard open for artists and friends. And we sincerely thank her for that.

Keep up with the latest in Chicago cabaret news:


Tracy Adams has spent more than four decades on stages of every kind, from intimate cabarets to large auditoriums, hotel restaurants to European cathedrals. For seven years, he was the restaurant writer for Gay Chicago Magazine. He spends his days as a training manager for an accounting firm. All of these endeavors reflect his personal mission in life, which is to help people grow.

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