Ask sultry cabaret singer and Naperville resident Joan Curto what she likes most about Valentine’s Day and she’ll tell you: “It’s a chance to tell someone you love them and an excuse to eat chocolate … good chocolate!”
Curto celebrated the holiday early this year when she gave a love-inspired performance in her show, “Nothin’ but Love” on Feb. 5 at the Skokie Theatre. Curto has been lauded time and again in the Chicago media for her vocal stylings and interpretations of songs from the likes of George Gershwin and Irving Berlin.
For those who aren’t familiar with cabaret, Curto is quick to note that it is a distinctly different than jazz, although both genres tend to sing much of the same material. Rather, it’s about the environment.
“Cabaret is performed in a listening room, where the performer and audience can share an intimacy with the music,” Curto said. “I also integrate stories, anecdotes and a lot of comedy.”
Davenport’s Piano Bar is Chicago’s only “true” cabaret room, she said, but there are many other excellent jazz, blues clubs and other places to experience the thrill of live music, something she is clearly passionate about.
Curto has been singing and performing her whole life. When her children were younger, she enjoyed practicing her craft through community theater. After finally listening to the prodding of a couple of friends who encouraged her to perform professionally, she decided to give it a try.
“Nothing makes me happier than to sing,” she said.
What inspires a gifted musician like Curto? It’s about the opportunity to tell a story through song and touch people with music and laughter, she said.
Her inspiration also is found in the songs themselves. She specifically cites Berlin’s touching ''How Deep is the Ocean'' and Don McLean’s, ''And I Love You So,'' both of which she’s recorded. Her musical influences include “old-time singers” like Rosemary Clooney and Ella Fitzgerald, but she also enjoys the new generation of performers like Michael Bublé.
What does a musician performing the classics listen to for fun? For an artist who grew up in an era of rock and roll, it’s probably not surprising that the Eagles, Tina Turner and Elvis Presely all have a place in Curto’s play list.
How does the cabaret singer plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day?
“We’re going to see a show in Chicago,” she said. “Oh, and did I mention the chocolate?”