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Singer Woods happy to give audience what it wants in Pittsburgh stop

| Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, 6:34 p.m.
Jeremy Daniel
Carol Woods, a cabaret singer who also has played Matron 'Mama' Morton in 'Chicago.'
Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Carol Woods

Sometimes location seems as important as the show a performer is doing.

Singer Carol Woods chuckles when she talks about a schedule that will take her from a performance of “Chicago” in that city March 2, to Pittsburgh the next day for a cabaret show, then to Florida March 4 for “Chicago” again.

Hectic?

“It will be warm in Sarasota,” she says with a laugh, “I'll be happy.”

Woods, well known as Matron “Mama” Morton in “Chicago,” will be showing off another side of her work March 3 at the Cabaret at Theater Square, Downtown. Her cabaret act, which brings the Broadway and stage star down to a personal level, features her accompanied only by pianist Barry Levitt.

He has nearly as long a list of credentials as she does, being a veteran arranger, musical director, accompanist and conductor of stage shows, TV and concerts.

Of course, it is only fitting that Woods would be accompanied by someone whose skills are so varied. Her talents go the same way. Besides “Chicago,” she has been in Stephen Sondheim's “Follies,” “Smokey Joe's Cafe,” and “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” She also is well known for a show-stopping version of “Let It Be” at the 50th Grammy Awards in 2008.

She has been on TV shows such as “Law and Order” and “The Good Wife” and done her solo show in cabaret settings as well as in New York City's Carnegie Hall.

Woods says she enjoys facing challenges.

“Whatever it calls for is what I do,” she says. “I try to give the audience what it asks for.”

She says her work as a singer goes back to being in gospel churches as a child in the Jamaica area of New York City and then hitting what was known as the “chittlin' circuit” of black clubs.

“It was a little different,” she admits to the changes she encountered. “But it was still singing.”

Her success over the years has put her in the position to choose her jobs now, she says. “If it is something I would rather not do, I don't do it.”

In 2010, she says she thought she was through doing “Chicago” and considered herself “retired,” she says. But the producers of a touring company talked her into rejoining the show later that year.

“(Retirement) didn't last very long,” she says with a laugh.

She feels comfortable back with the show, but also enjoys getting the chance to do her solo shows.

“It gives the audience a chance to see me instead of ‘Mama' Morton,” she says.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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