LIFE IS A CABARET, N'EST-CE PAS ?

French-born Royer establishes a performing career in the Bay State
By Lenny Megliola

Middlesex News - Sunday, July 5, 1998SUBDURY-It wasn't exactly the career move Annie Royer had in mind.
"My first love was theater, I was always in theater," says Subdury resident Royer. "I'm an exhibitionist. I always did shows in school. Drama and comedy. I loved it. I did a lot of dancing, too. The music. The dancing. The acting. This life was calling me."
It was the 1980s, in her native Paris. The career was going so well Royer hired an agent. She landed parts in TV shows, in films, and did commercials.
And then in 1990 her husband landed a high-paying job in the States. "I wasn't happy to leave," says the 18-year-old Royer, "but I knew I'd do something here. But when I came to the United States, I was completely lost." She took English lessons at Waltham High School and never came up the show business dream. "But the only parts I got were French accent ones, and they weren't paying jobs."
She kept banging on doors looking for work. When the Big Apple musical company auditioned hopefuls at the Lenox Hotel, Royer was there. "The guy asked me what I was going to sing. I said something from 'My Fair Lady'. He laughed. I said, 'Why are you laughing?'"
It was her accent.
But not all was lost. "The manager of the hotel asked me if I knew a lot of songs," says Royer. "I said yes, but it was not true. I sang 'Frère Jacques.' I made it funny. The manager said sing one more. I sang 'La Vie En Rose,' (" A Happy Life ")
"The manager said, 'You're perfect for cabaret.' I said, 'Yes.'"
Royer went out and found a piano player, brushed up on Broadway tunes and went back to the Lenox for another audition. "I sand three songs. They were happy." A month later, she was performing at the hotel. "It was my first appearance in Boston singing cabaret." It was 1994, four years after she'd landed.
Royer knows how to jazz up a show, and what better platform than cabaret to do so? "I wasn't really that good of a singer, but my acting background helped a lot. My voice is really from France. People weren't really used to that kind of voice."
But Royer had style, stage presence and her pulchritude didn't hurt. "People liked my legs," she says. "I realized cabaret was the way to go." Still, nobody was knocking her down with job offers. "I did open mike. That helped me try things on different audiences. Then I decided to work on the music part. I took lessons at Berklee."
Hooking up with some talented musicians, Royer worked at Cambridge's Kendall Café for a couple of years. "But I found I had to sell myself." She kept looking for work at popular rooms. She updated her resume, had new publicity photos shot, kept working the phones, the contacts. In Paris, she might have been flying by now. Here, she was still pulling teeth.
Royer took her show around New England and to Florida and upstate New York. "Then, I met some people, found some jobs around here," Royer says. She did First Nights in Newburyport and Quincy and took her cabaret act to The French Library and Cultural Center on Boston's Marlborough Street, where she'll return July 10.
It's been a long haul, but Annie Royer's catching on. "I'm working all the time now," she says, after bookings at Ryles in Inman Square and Sculler's the popular jazz spot across from the Charles. Last Dec.27, Royer sold out the Regatta Bar. She was a July gig at Boston's Meridien Hotel.
But don't look for her on July 14 unless you're in Paris. That's where Royer will be, performing on Bastille Day.
"I dance, I make some jokes, I make the people in the audience sing and I sit in their laps," says Royer. "They like that".
Finally, Royer has garnered a local reputation, a following and the selling of her act isn't such a grind anymore.
"I'm not a shy person," she admits. "I'm a tough woman. You have to fight for everything in this life. It's a hard career."
And the future? There's a chance for a record label deal in New York. "I want to be ready" says Annie Royer. "I like to be busy."

© 2002 Annie Royer, French Cabaret Production