St. Louis actress returns home for “Cabaret at the J”

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Sharon Hunter. Credit: Sharon Hunter

Dan Buffa, Special to the Jewish Light

Sharon Hunter has done it all. The St. Louis native is a veteran actress, singer, producer, and director– and this month, she will put all of those tools and experience to great use in a new cabaret show at the New Jewish Theatre.

Cabaret at the J: A Little Song, A Little Dance, A Little Seltzer Down Your Pants!will feature Hunter and St. Louis native Eric Williams at the Jewish Community Center’s Wool Studio Theater at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 18 and 2 p.m. Dec. 19.

The Jewish Light had the chance to exchange a few questions with Hunter, who has performed and directed plays in St. Louis and New York City for many years. The current artistic director and producer at Moonstone Theater company, she also worked off-Broadway for 10 years, acting and directing many shows during that time. But the local theater scene undoubtedly knows her talents the best, as she has sung in a wide variety of musical genres all over St. Louis. Hunter performed a one-person cabaret show in New York and also released her debut album in 2014.

In a conversation that hung around past accomplishments and future endeavors, Hunter talked about NJT’s  upcoming cabaret show and what’s on the horizon.

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What can audiences expect from the NJT cabaret Dec. 18 and 19?

Eric Williams will handle a lot of the comedy of the evening and I will be singing a variety of songs from the silver screen that became popular during Hollywood’s heyday. We have the wonderful accompanist Ron McGowan on piano who is on the faculty at Webster Conservatory.

What’s one thing you’ve learned from those 10 years Off Broadway to Moonstone Theatre now?

I am very fortunate to be doing what I love in my hometown. I am so grateful for everything I learned working in NYC in both theater and the cabaret scene. I spent five years producing, directing and acting for the Estrogenius Festival at Manhattan Theatre Source, which was a rich learning experience. Now I am able to bring those skills to producing and directing theater in St. Louis. I love what I do, and my dream was to be the artistic director of a theater company.

We are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with and I have been blessed to work with amazing performers and designers here since launching Moonstone Theatre. Our first production, Jake’s Women by Neil Simon, was very well received by critics and audiences alike. I am so proud of that and all who were involved.

The new show promises song and comedy, a refreshing combo for the times. Can you talk about the craft required in striking a nice balance between humor and music? 

We need to enjoy a good night of comedy and music more now than ever. People are ready to laugh. Especially when they can hear songs that make them smile and that evoke memories of good times when seeing a movie or musical. Fortunately, we have songs written by brilliant composers that make us laugh. I love doing comedy and it comes easy to me. I was in a production at New Jewish Theatre a few years ago playing Sarah Jackman in “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.” That is still one of my favorite experiences.

Stephen Sondheim created many legendary plays in the theater. Which one of his works sits closest to you?

There are two roles I have always wanted to play. Desiree in “A Little Night Music” because I know and understand her so well. And as a comic tour de force, I would love to play Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd.”

You’ve done it all: acting, directing, singing, producing. What important advice would you give to an aspiring young actor? 

Do what you love and keep working at it. It is incredibly important to continue to learn your craft and improve your skills, even if you have been doing this for a long time. The more skills you have the more you can say yes when opportunities present themselves. I have continued to study and try new things and I realize the more I know, then the more I can bring to the table.

Also, you must be fearless. Put yourself out there and see what you’re good at. Remember to always be cooperative, kind and a team player. It should always be about the work and what you create together. Working hard and having fun are essential to a great theatrical experience on stage and off.

Lastly and most important: pastrami or corned beef sandwich?

A nice pastrami on rye with swiss cheese and a little spicy mustard…