WEEKEND — A Peninsula songbird takes Parisian flight onto the theater stage starting tonight

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

SEE RELATED STORY today — "Absurdist The Maids staged only four times in Port Angeles starting tonight": http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20140530/NEWS/305309967




PORT ANGELES — A Hammond organ fell on her foot. She had to move out of her house, then move again.

Fortunately she found a new job, which she loves.

And “I got bitten with the bug again, big time.”

That would be the theater bug.

Sarah Shea, known across the North Olympic Peninsula as a jazz songbird, is appearing in “The Maids,” a wicked comedy set in Paris, this weekend only.

Hold on now. There's more.

In the midst of all this, the singer is embarking on a fundraising campaign for her sophomore CD, “Second Time Around,” on the GoFundMe.com crowdfunding site.

Via a short video at www.gofundme.com/sarahshea, she hopes to raise $12,500 for production of the album this summer.

The video, which saturates the screen to the strains of “Fever,” includes short interviews with Shea about how she first found jazz and what inspires her now, years into her musical career.

This next record is a long-delayed follow-up to Shea's 2011 debut “The Nearness of You,” a collection of standards including “Summertime,” “Cry Me a River” and “I've Got You Under My Skin.”

One of the tracks on the new album will be “Everything Happens to Me,” which, let's face it, fits. The past six months have been eventful for Shea.

In January, she decided to move out of the house she'd shared with her former partner. While rearranging things in the basement, that electronic organ landed on her foot, causing severe pain and nerve damage.

Days later nonetheless, she and Vern Hestand co-hosted Snowgrass, the annual benefit concert for First Step Family Support Center in Port Angeles.

And Shea continued booking gigs at venues around Clallam County, performing with Chez Jazz, her combo featuring Al Harris and Craig Buhler.

She hobbled around the stages, but did just fine, thank you.

“My foot wasn't singing,” she quipped, so of course she kept bringing her music — from a repertoire exceeding 150 songs — to places such as the Nourish restaurant and Wind Rose Cellars in Sequim.

Early this spring, Shea found additional work as assistant activities director at Sherwood Assisted Living in Sequim. She leads exercises and games with the elderly residents, whom she has come to adore.

And Shea, who grew up in Sequim, moved around throughout the past few months, to at last find a place that suits her.

Between hauling boxes, working and gigging, she was cast in “Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits” at the Port Angeles Community Playhouse. She was thrilled to be in the show, which also starred her mother, Olivia Shea — but had to drop out.

Community theater is a volunteer endeavor, and “Broadway's” performances conflicted with her paying jobs.

Then something entirely different came up.

Director Jim Guthrie invited her to audition for “The Maids,” the dark comedy by Jean Genet. Would she like to play the Madame, quarry of the would-be murderous maids?

Oh, yes.

And as rehearsals progressed, Shea found she relished the challenge of a straight play, something she hasn't done in a long time.

Her most recent theater roles have been in musicals: in “A Cabaret,” a revue last winter, and the Port Angeles Light Opera Association's “South Pacific” in summer 2012.

“Sarah has added a lot to ['The Maids'], because her character is such a contrast to the other two,” Guthrie said.

“She's fun to work with. She listens to what you say, and like all good actresses, she brings something of her own to it.”

“The Maids” has just four performances: 7:30 tonight and Saturday night plus 2 p.m. matinees both Saturday and Sunday at the Port Angeles Community Playhouse, 1235 E. Lauridsen Blvd.

It's a second-stage production with admission by donation.

Next week, Shea will accept another invitation, this time as a singer.

She'll join the Peninsula College Vocal Jazz Ensemble in “Jazz for Oso,” a benefit concert at Olympic Cellars, 255410 U.S. Highway 101, on Thursday, June 5.

The 7 p.m. event is the work of Vocal Jazz director Elaine Gardner-Morales and Olympic Cellars co-owner Lisa Martin, who wanted to host a fundraiser for the Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation, provider of relief for families and businesses affected by the March 22 mudslide in Oso.

Admission will be free with donations encouraged.

Shea will continue working and singing through the summer, all while raising money online for “Second Time Around.”

With this record, she hopes to push her own boundaries, sing new songs not heard in her club gigs — and interpret at least one classic.

“Ain't No Sunshine (When He's Gone)” and “Over the Rainbow” are of the songs she's planning. And Buhler, who plays saxophone, flute and clarinet alongside the singer, has seen her rendition of the latter bring tears to listeners' eyes.

As a performer, Shea is, in a word, “unpredictable,” said Buhler.

A veteran bandleader, he first got to know Shea after inviting her to sing with the Stardust Dance Band.

That didn't last, though. Buhler said she's better suited to a small jazz combo, with her warm low notes and silken highs.

“I have to be on my toes, because my job is to have a musical dialogue with her,” he added.

“She and I have developed a repartee, but I never know what she's going to say.

“She improvises. She develops the song. . . . She has this beautiful tone. And she sings in tune, which is rare.

“Sarah is not a blues shouter,” Buhler said.

“She does ballads like nobody else I've ever worked with.”

Meantime, with the GoFundMe.com campaign, Shea has plenty on her plate. She plans to add more videos and song downloads as the CD project progresses.

So how does she keep from going a little crazy?

“Who said I'm not?” Shea said with a smile.

Seriously, she is adding one more thing.

“I've also been teaching myself guitar for the past month,” she said.

“I can already play a few songs.”

Last modified: May 30. 2014 9:02AM
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