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Jewish Journal

Cabaret Couple Hits Carnegie Hall

by Michael Aushenker

November 30, 2000 | 7:00 pm

It seems as if it were just yesterday that Karen Benjamin and Alan Chapman opened their CD, "Songs of Life, Love & Antelopes," with "Marriage is Easy," their self-deprecating nod to their own showbiz marital bliss. Come Dec. 14, they'll be opening for Michael Feinstein at Carnegie Hall.

For those not in the know, Benjamin & Chapman have been playing the cabaret circuit for years, performing a handful of standards, as well as original compositions penned by Chapman that hem along the kind of wry satirical turf inhabited by lounge lizards such as Dave Frishberg. His songs include titles such as "Everybody Wants to Be Sondheim," and "I Dreamed I Was Barbara Bush."

"He was my professor of music at Occidental College," said Benjamin of how she met Chapman in 1979. Kindred spirits, Chapman and Benjamin turned their mutual interest in cabaret into a coffeehouse act. Their friendship deepened following Benjamin's graduation, and today they live in the Miracle Mile district with their kids, Jake, 6, and Molly, 4.

You've heard of torch singers -- call Chapman a "torch songwriter," carrying the torch of musical cabaret. "I try to keep abreast of Broadway shows," said the entertainer, who recently staged a children's opera based on another colorful duo, "Rocky & Bullwinkle." A big fan of the likes of Gershwin, Porter and Kern, Chapman lamented the dearth of true songwriting in this day and age: "I just haven't heard the next Rodgers and Hammerstein. I haven't really heard the next great thing. I think all of us are trying to write it, though."

The couple are no strangers to the local Jewish community. Past gigs have included performances for various divisions of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Jewish Television Network and Temple Beth Am. On Dec. 9, they will perform at the Jewish Vocational Services gala, taking place at the Skirball Cultural Center, before high-tailing it to their Carnegie Hall engagement.

But it is this weekend's Dec. 3 performance, as part of the NoHo "A Holiday Cabaret" festival, where the couple plan to exercise a few new numbers, both seasonal and topical, such as "It's Christmas and We're Jewish" and "Let's Put a Mezuzah on the White House."

Karen Benjamin & Alan Chapman will perform at "A Holiday Cabaret" at the El Portal Center for the Arts, Sun., Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. in North Hollywood. For tickets, call (818) 508-4200. For more information on Benjamin & Chapman appearances, go to www.oxy.edu/~chapman/upcoming.html

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