Nightclub act

A nightclub act is a production, usually of nightclub music or comedy, designed for performance at a nightclub, a type of drinking establishment, by a nightclub performer such as a nightclub singer or nightclub dancer, whose performance may also be referred to as a nightclub act. A scheduled performance, such as a wedding gig, is a club date.[1]

Acts may resemble revues and, "a good part of the music heard in nightclubs is standard popular song (jazz standards and the so-called Great American Songbook) and theater music repertoire...comedy songs, novelty songs, and the occasional torch song."[1] "Cabaret, literally, is a subset of nightclub performance...In actual modern usage the terms 'nightclub' and 'cabaret' are virtually interchangeable."[1][lower-alpha 1]

What distinguishes stage performance in a nightclub or club date setting is the breaking down of the "fourth wall," the invisible barrier between audience and performer that separates their realities. The audience's disbelief doesn't have to be suspended for more than the length of a song.[1]

The role of the female nightclub singer occurs frequently in fiction: books, movies, television, and even songs; she may serve as temptress, kidnapping or abuse victim, femme fatale, gangster moll, prostitute, or as a double agent. Due to censorship, nightclub singer was and is often used to replace a prostitute's character in adaptations of books to movies.

Nightclub acts were more common in the past, as modern nightclubs have moved towards dance music, DJs, and rave like environments. However, musicians such as David Bowie and Madonna have played nightclub singers in music videos and live performances. In New York City, since 1985, successful, enduring, or innovative cabaret acts have been honored by the annual Bistro Awards.[3]


Nightclub performers include:

Performers at the 500 Club, one of the most popular nightclubs on the East Coast, included Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Martin and Lewis, the Will Mastin Trio, Jimmy Durante, Eartha Kitt, Sophie Tucker, the Jackie Paris Trio, Milton Berle, Nat King Cole, and Liberace, among many others.[12][13][14][15][16]

See also


  1. Cabaret is derived from tavern probably from Middle Dutch cambret. The word cabaret came to mean "a restaurant or night club" by 1912.[2]


  1. Church , Joseph (2015). Music Direction for the Stage: A View from the Podium, p.57-8. Oxford University. ISBN 9780199993413.
  2. "Cabaret". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
  3. Hall, Kevin Scott. "@ the 2010 Bistro Awards". Edge magazine, April 15, 2010
  4. Dean Martin on IMDb (Personal Quotes)
  5. "Dean Martin", "Dean Martin entered the nightclub circuit and landed a contract with MCA to sing in New York City."
  6. "Bio",
  7. Carnes, Mark C.; ed. (2005). American National Biography: Supplement 2, p.364. Oxford University. ISBN 9780195222029. "In the late 1950s Martin became a fixture in Las Vegas, often performing at the Sands nightclub.
  8. Clarke, Andra D. and Denton-Drew, Regina (2015). Ciro's: Nightclub of the Stars, p.95. Arcadia. ISBN 9781467133791.
  9. Schechter, Scott and Stritch, Billy (2004). The Liza Minnelli Scrapbook, p.16. Citadel. ISBN 9780806526119. "In September 1965, Liza Minnelli performed her first nightclub act."
  10. Gallick, Sarah and Maier, Nicholas (2003). Divinely Decadent - Liza Minnelli: The Drugs, the Sex & the Truth Behind Her Bizarre Marriage, p.37. American Media. ISBN 9781885840042.
  11. Ilson, Carol (1989). Harold Prince: A Director's Journey, p.139. Hal Leonard. ISBN 9780879102968.
  12. Sokolic, William H. (29 October 1992). "At The Sands, High Rollers To Help Re-create A.c.'s Legendary 500 Club: The 50th Anniversary Of The Club Will Be Celebrated". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  13. "Atlantic City Offers Stars". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 4 May 1955. p. 13.
  14. "Watch, Or No, Prices Are Up". Billboard: 60. 18 July 1953.
  15. "Music: As Written". Billboard: 36. 3 July 1948.
  16. McShane, Larry (7 November 1989). "Mr. TV at 80 no longer wears a dress". The Daytona Beach News-Journal. p. 9A.

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