Kick-ass singer returns to Feinstein's for another 'Shift'
by David-Elijah Nahmod
Cabaret performer Carly Ozard, whose well-received tribute to her idol Bette Midler brought down the house at Feinstein's at the Nikko last year, returns to the scene of her past triumph with More Shift Happens. This time around the diva will sing songs and share stories of her life in show business.
"Several years ago I did Shift Happens, obviously a play on words Shit Happens," Ozard said in our interview. "It's about the bigger picture. We are all focused on the next big step in our personal lives; that role, that promotion, that baby... and then something huge comes along and shakes everything up and you're left with either a mess or a lot of perspective or both. This yoyo's back and forth between a budding professional musical theater actress who also cares about the world around her."
Ozard offered a few choice nuggets of what she'll be sharing when More Shift Happens comes to Feinstein's on August 18.
"The first half of the show is my own personal Chorus Line hell," she explained. "My auditions, the growth I experienced, the connections, the life lessons. Then, the second half is traveling while becoming a more expansive entertainer."
As Ozard grew both as a performer and as a person, she experienced a number of very personal shifts which continue to steer the course of her life.
"I don't want to give away the shifts. It's more pivotal if you see it live!" she said.
As we previously noted when we last chatted with Ozard, the Divine Bette Midler remains one of the strongest musical and personal influences in Ozard's life. As a survivor of childhood bullying, she turned to Miss M's music for solace, and to Midler's personality for strength.
"Bette is everything I want to be," Ozard explains, "if I could be it in my own way. She honors the old tradition while introducing it in a new, unique fresh way. That's cabaret, with a budget. I want that. I wish that being a singer could be enough."
She also shared a very personal bullying tale.
"I had this stalker who literally didn't think I should prevail onstage or off because of my weight struggles," she recalls. "He was obsessed with letting me know in every way he could and it was invasive, slanderous and caused me a great deal of trauma. For the longest time, I felt like I had to be fat and successful in order to prove him wrong. I needed to be fat and successful in order for his comments that a fat person couldn't be successful to not be true. He held me hostage for years."
photo: Stacy Sullivan
"What I learned from the saga and the trauma was that going onstage today, you are the size that you are today, and if you have something to sing or say, you can't apologize for how you look or how you sound," she said. "If you're going to present yourself, regardless of how badly you feel about the way you look, if you go onstage, you need to be you, confidently, without any apologies."
These experiences helped to shape the direction of Ozard's life. Though not gay herself, she is a vocal and powerful ally of the LGBT community. But don't call her straight!
"I don't identify as straight," Ozard said. "My orientation is heterosexual, but on the genderqueer spectrum, I'm actually agender, also known as neutrois, or someone who doesn't identify as either gender."
She clarified by explaining that she moves between the genders.
"I yoyo. I do drag," she explains. "I express myself through the eyes, ears and being as if I were a gay man in a dress. Because I truly am a gay man inside this female shell."
Labels she does not identify with have often followed.
"People mis-label me all the time," she added. "They call me a fag hag or a straight ally. I have never felt like a conventionally straight woman for as long as I've been alive on this planet. I never knew there was a queer spectrum. I only thought there was gay or straight. I was straight in my attraction to men, but the rest of me is as queer as they come."
And so it will be the genderqueer and awesomely talented who steps into the spotlight at Feinstein's for this latest show. Fans of composers J.D. Souther, Elton John, Stephen Schwartz, Leanne Womack and Leonard Cohen will have a chance to hear Ozard put her own unique stamp on a number of iconic tunes. She'll be doing a meet and greet after the show.
And to fledgling performers, Ozard offers some sage advice.
"Remember that if you're getting standing ovations or getting asked back for rehire, you're doing a good job," she says. "Respect your fellow performers, especially the ones who are working a lot harder than you are, and strive to get to the level they are at with as much humility and grace and individuality as you can. Let the cheering and the applause be your validation."