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Tori Scott

‘You have to create your own opportunities’: An interview with Tori Scott

15 December 2017 Katie Da Cunha Lewin

Tori Scott started out in musical theatre, training at the Boston Conservatory. After a fortuitous evening out - which she describes in this interview - Scott moved into cabaret. Now a regular of the cabaret scene in New York, performing at across venues in the city, Scott brings her show to the Zedel in London this December.

London Calling: Thank you very much for talking to London Calling. Can I start by asking you about your show?
 
Tori Scott: Vodka is the Reason for the Season is a festive musical journey consisting of embarrassing stories, both past and present, involving dealing with family during this stressful time of year, being single during the holidays, and drinking too much vodka. I combine these stories with songs from many genres - and not only Christmas music. It’s also a really good excuse for me to belt out a tune from 'Jesus Christ Superstar'!
 
LC: You’ve combined autobiography with music in this show, why did you want to try out this format? How did the show come about?  
 
TS: The format stems from a common cabaret format of story into song but I have enjoyed finding my own spin on it. This particular show has evolved in New York City over the past couple of years at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater. The title stems from a saying I used to hear a lot growing up around very religious people in Texas: “Jesus is the reason for the Season”. So, I decided to play with that phrase and not sugarcoat the Christmas season. I also really love vodka. I like doing a Christmas show that isn’t all about the “joy of the season”. I want to be honest about how ridiculous it has become and how stressful it can be to deal with family, especially when politics or religion come up. I think the stories are all very relatable which makes it even more enjoyable for the audience.

LC: What other projects are you working on at the moment?
 
TS: I’m bringing my show Thirsty! to the Vault Festival in London in March! I’m really looking forward to that. I did Thirsty at Live at Zedel back in July and it was really well received. I really enjoy performing for London audiences so it’s thrilling to have these two projects lined up!


Image credit: Still from her show 'Thirsty!'

LC: What’s your favourite song to sing live?
 
TS: I cannot possibly pick one song that is my favorite ever, but if I had to choose in Vodka is the Reason for the Season, it would be a toss up between Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ - because who doesn’t love singing Madonna? - and ‘Hard Candy Christmas’. Dolly Parton is famous for singing that song. It’s from the movie ‘Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’ which is one of my favorite movies about prostitutes!

LC: How did you get a start in cabaret?
 
TS: It was a vodka induced accident! About 8 years ago, I went to see a friend of mine who had just started bartending at a new gay bar in Manhattan. After several vodka sodas, my friend mentioned that the manager of the bar was looking for talent and asked if I wanted to perform in the upstairs venue. I had, at the time, recently graduated from a conservatory program where I studied musical theatre, but I had never done a cabaret before and I didn’t have a show prepared. But, I was quite drunk, feeling very confident, and agreed on the spot to do a show in 4 weeks. When I woke up the next morning, I called one of my best friends in a panic to help me put it together. Then, I found another friend to play the piano. And today, I still work with the same two people as my co-writer and musical director. After a couple of years playing in gay bars, I finally found a permanent home in downtown Manhattan at Joe’s Pub at The Public. It took one drunken promise to set me on this path and I’ll forever be grateful to vodka for convincing me to say yes.

LC: What first attracted you to cabaret?
 
TS: It was a chance for me to create my own performance opportunity! I think that’s the key as a performer. You can’t wait around for someone to cast you. You have to create your own opportunities. Cabaret for me started out as a fluke, but it didn’t take me long to realize that this was something I was good at doing. This was a way to be fulfilled creatively and to sing the songs I wanted to sing and talk about the things I wanted to talk about...and eventually it became a real path for me as an artist. Cabaret has opened up so many doors for me. I chose what my path was going to be as a performer and that’s made all the difference.

LC: Are there particular performers or venues that you would recommend to a cabaret novice?
 
TS: Yes. Me. Live at Zedel December 18, 19 and 22!

LC: As we are a website interested in all things culture, I wondered if there was anything in London you were looking forward to catching whilst you were here?
 
TS: I am very excited to be in London at Christmastime. I’m thinking of going to Carols by Candelight at Royal Albert Hall. I’m looking forward to Borough Market this time of year.  And, I’m seeing my first panto, Dick Whittington, at the London Palladium!

Tori Scott: Vodka is the Reason for the Season is at Live at Zedel. Tickets £20.
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