A self-professed romantic, Doug Williford spends a good deal of his time living in the past through his love for cabaret. He enjoys hanging out in a small club, sipping a strong drink, and listening to a great vocalist belt out songs that turn your insides out. Problem: There is no such club in Miami. That may change if Williford and his partner in arts Ellen Wedner have their way. On Friday the vocalist, who starred with Polly Bergen in a concert version of Stephen Sondheim's Company a few years ago on Miami Beach, begins the first of two weekends performing in his solo revue This Moment. It's his third local cabaret show, and certainly not his last. He and Wedner hope to attract other artists to the form, becoming the catalyst to one day launch a space that caters exclusively to cabaret acts and fans of the music. Driving downtown for a gig, Williford spoke to New Times for a few moments from a cell phone.
NT: What attracts you to cabaret?
DW: It's grown-up entertainment. As a performer I like the storytelling aspect of it, taking people on a ride for an hour and fifteen minutes. It's an art that's lost.
What qualities are necessary for a good cabaret singer?
A good storyteller for one, someone who can keep things simple because part of the key to it is connecting one on one with a small audience, just you and the little audience and a piano in the dark.
What prevents Miami from having a thriving cabaret scene?
There aren't that many spaces that are permanent. Hotels just aren't set up for this any more, so you have to steal space from what's being used for conferences, and you have to bring in a piano, which costs. In the long run, it only makes it feasible if it's a place that's set up for cabaret, or a small room for live music.
Why use songs by Sondheim, Porter, Gershwin, and Bucchino for this show?
The idea of every moment is important; there are so many songs that deal with that. Stephen Sondheim and John Bucchino and a couple of others write about very specific moments. Like when you've broken up with someone and they've kicked you out, and you've gone to the bar and you've sat down, and you've ordered a martini and it's not quite there. I really like that about their storytelling, about being able to take me to where they are at that moment.
So this won't be a show about love?
No, it's not. There's a chapter that has to do with moments of being in love, but it's also about moments in my life, and moments that are important to us all, and moments that aren't important at all but are not to be missed.