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Bucket List Cabaret, or How to Do Your Seventies
Sydney Weisman, an audience favorite at the Original Farmers Market’s Thursday Night Jazz, switches up the set list to ring out her 70th birthday.
Most Angelenos are all too familiar with the concept of loosely defined hyphenates: writer-director-producer, yoga teacher-blogger, and the prototypical actor-singer-waiter. But extracurricular bragging rights are of little interest to public relations maven and singer Sydney Weisman. “I had never shared the fact that I sang with anybody here in L.A. because we were building our PR business,” she says, referring to WHPR, the firm she heads with husband David Hamlin.
With her 60th birthday looming, Weisman developed an irrepressible itch to perform. “I thought, if I don’t sing out loud and work at it, I could lose my voice. That happens,” she says. “You use it or you lose it.”
To celebrate her big day and “show off a little,” Weisman entertained close friends with a living room performance that happened to catch the eye — and ear — of the marketing director for the original farmer’s market at Third and Fairfax. Over the last thirteen years, Weisman has become a regular showstopper at the market’s Thursday Night Jazz series.
“When you sing jazz, it’s much freer because all you’re doing is the music,” she explains. As much as she enjoys the casual showcases, Weisman decided to return to her cabaret roots for her 70th birthday this month. “When I’m on the bandstand, I have very little verbal interaction with the audience, but in cabaret, it’s all about the storytelling that goes with the music.”
Scripting Sydney Sings: Little Miss Broadway at 70 gave Weisman a chance to craft a fuller entertainment experience. Audiences this Saturday will be able to stretch out a bit more than the intimate crowd at her 60th. She and Hamlin have reserved Hoffman Hall at Westwood Presbyterian Church for a show that will benefit Home for Good. The nonprofit, which works to end chronic homelessness in L.A., is a long-time client of WHPR and close to the Weisman’s heart.
“This really means a lot, to be able to do this for them,” she says, her voice catching. “They’re killing themselves to change L.A.’s seemingly intractable problem of chronic homelessness. We’re the homeless capital of the country. That’s just shameful.”
Don’t expect a three-hour donation drive. “I don’t want people to get the impression I’m going to lecture about Home for Good. It’s all about the music.” Weisman has put careful thought into the evening’s set list, citing legendary singer-actress-voice coach (and hyphenate herself) Karen Morrow for her seeking out “luscious lyrics.”
“When I pick a song,” Weisman says, “the first thing I look at is the lyrics. It could be the prettiest melody you’ve ever heard, but if the lyrics don’t land, I don’t do the song.”
With its Home for Good tie-in and its status as a tribute to music of decades past, Sydney Sings is well-rooted in altruism. Weisman, however, has a much more light-hearted goal in mind for the evening: “I just hope we have a good party.”