Yanna Avis is a magical person blessed with equal parts physical beauty and inner beauty. The kind of woman who reminds you of an elegance that has been lost in modern society but a kindness and intelligence that is very much present. I have known Yanna for years and witnessed her navigate the sophisticated politics of international crowds in multiple languages without losing the everyday realness that would inspire her to hold an in depth conversation with someone who might be working at one of the many social events her busy schedule allows. Her audience has included Liza Minnelli, John Guare, Arlene Dahl, authors such as Dominick Dunne and legendary socialites such as Daisy Soros, Pat Buckley, Ivana Trump, Nan Kempner, Taki Theorocopulos, Carolyne Roehm and legendary record executive Clive Davis. Or you may find politicos such as Vernon Jordan or fashion royalty's Mary McFadden, Carolina & Reinaldo Herrera and actual royalty Princess Firyal of Jordan. It is only fitting that this Renaissance Lady would title her latest cabaret show at 54 Below "Make Some Magic." I sat down with "La Chantouze" to find out a little more about what drives her in this mission to entertain, inspire and bewitch...
EP -- First let me start by asking about training and development. How did you begin this journey and what have been your influences?
YA -- I started my artistic endeavor as an actress; I studied at the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in Paris. Do not laugh, with a minor in Jean Racine Berenice tragedy! From that moment, my stage career began: First the classics (Moliere, Shakespeare, etc) in various productions, then "Boeing-Boeing" by Marc Camoletti in which I played "Janet" the American stewardess. In 1991, the play was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most performed French play throughout the world. The Broadway production included Gina Gershon in said part. Following this success, I got the part of the young American starlet in John Guare's "House of Blue Leaves" or in French "Le Pape, New York". Mr. Guare came to my last performance of "Make Some Magic" in April and that was magic! He had not seen me on stage since I was his young ingenue in Paris.
My influences? All the Hollywood golden age movies currently referenced by Lana Del Rey and the others. Of course, the goddess La Dietrich!
EP -- I am a big fan of Julie London and cannot help but see parallels of an artist who has been able to maintain a feminine profile but exude a strength in her determination to create. How has being an attractive person either helped or hurt your craft?
YA -- I cannot resist quoting Marilyn Monroe's famous line in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"..."You men are funny; you don't marry a girl because she is pretty, but doesn't it help?"
EP -- Who is your audience and how do you see yourself growing to broaden this base?
YA -- When I began it was mostly my friends; then they brought their friends and my audience grew. That is where the challenge lies, introducing strangers to know me and luring them into my shows...the best reward!
EP -- Why is it important to you that a new audience become fans of your style of entertainment?
YA -- Unfortunately, Cabaret is not "ala mode" anymore. It belongs to an era when people loved glamour and would go for a night cap to listen to music. But don't forget the Avis motto: "We Try Harder" and I shall. Cabaret is a true passion for the actress I was born to be.
EP -- When you are in front of an audience do you ever experience stage fright or have moments of insecurity?
YA -- Oh, do I ever! This will never change but at the same time it makes your adrenaline rise and this gives you tremendous energy.
EP -- You previously stated that your show continues to develop and grow. How so?
YA -- Is it not that the more you do something you love, the better you become? There is so much to explore in great lyrics.
EP -- I have always thought your shows were the perfect evening of entertainment; I have brought work colleagues, dates and family. Can you explain a little of how you plan a show?
YA -- I am an entertainer and the best way to explain it would be the lines I wrote for one of my albums: L'amour, toujours L'amour...
"It seems like a long way from the theatre stage of Paris to the cabaret scene of New York and yet...it came along as the most natural road for me to take and an inevitable challenge. I feel cabaret is a form of theatre with music. The songs I choose are like little plays about love, tenderness, despair and rapture. Strangers crowded together in the dark...I look into their eyes, I caress their hearts with love words and at times, I touch souls. No matter where, no matter when and no matter what the language the feeling is always the same. So here's to love, here's to the moment, here's to all the foolish hearts...like mine."
EP -- For readers that are unfamiliar with your work; where do they go to find out more about you and what homework should they do before attending your show?
YA -- No homework please, except perhaps a quick French lesson. I have a website yannaavis.com as well as a professional FB and twitter.
EP -- You consider yourself a cabaret performer. In your opinion, what is the current state of cabaret and where does this genre fit into today's prepackaged mega concerts?
YA -- It could very well be just my illusion to believe the genre still fits into the 21st century...
EP -- On a personal note, who are your heroes in entertainment past or present and how do you relate?
YA -- If I answer this question, I will sound like an old movie since I am a hopeless romantic!
EP -- Lastly, what does the future hold for Yanna? Give us a peak into your crystal ball...
YA -- If you have one, cheri, please tell me!!!!
EP -- Absolument!!!
Yanna performs "Make Some Magic" Thursday, June 18th at 9:30PM at 54 Below
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