Kitchenettes find zesty recipe for cabaret-shtick success

There's a reason Linda Kosut and Lua Hadar call their popular local cabaret act the Kitchenettes: much of their personal and artistic friendship revolves around food.

"She cooks, I eat," says Kosut, pointing to her friend and musical comrade, Hadar.

Considering that one of Hadar's great-grandparents was a shochet, a ritual slaughterer, and that Kosut's grandmother was an ace challah baker, it's clear the Kitchenettes owe much to the Eastern European Jewish traditions they both inherited.

Only now, they've embellished with a feather boa or two.

The Kitchenettes (including singer Erykah Raines and musical director/pianist Barry Lloyd) bring a healthy dose of Yiddish-flavored divahood to the Bay Area cabaret scene.

These days, they can be found taking over the Bolivian restaurant/club Pena PachaMama on the first Thursday of the month, presenting their new show "Come and Get It," which they describe as "a sumptuous medley of songs about food, love and lust."

They don sequins and aprons, they vamp and flirt, and they croon Gershwin, Rodgers and Porter in perfect harmony.

Just for good measure, they throw in a few Jewish haiku poems, too (favorite so far: "Her lips near my ear/Aunt Sadie whispers the name/of her friend's disease").

The net result is a lighthearted evening of song.

So how did a couple of nice Jewish girls from New York end up singing at a Bolivian restaurant?

As the old saw goes, "Practice, practice, practice."

The two readily credit their musical parents and shtetl-bred grandparents for their artistic leanings and moxie.

Hadar was a Broadway baby, earning a degree in theater, studying opera and living the artist's life. Kosut grew up with an equal appreciation of rock 'n' roll and Yiddish folk tunes. She was a dedicated habitue of Greenwich Village nightclubs, dividing her life between music and a business career.

When both moved from New York to the Bay Area some years ago, they met at the home of a mutual acquaintance. By then, Hadar had begun living in a Potrero Hill artist's colony: apartment upstairs, fully functional theater downstairs.

Both discovered a mutual love of cabaret-style music, and they'd frequently hold all-night jam sessions with their musician friends. In January 2000, the two were singing in the kitchen during a party when someone — they're not sure who — cried out, "Hey, it's the Kitchenettes!"

"That was the seed," says Kosut, who then began more serious rehearsals with Hadar, an accompanist and a third singer. Finally, the group felt the time for the big premiere had come.

"In 2001, I decided what I wanted for my birthday was to sing at the Plush Room," recalls Kosut. "We got the booking and decided to debut the Kitchenettes then."

They called the show "Dine: where food and lust burst into song," which compared a five-course meal to a love relationship. The show sold out, and led to many further bookings that year.

When their original third member moved to New York, they kept the Kitchenettes going as a duo, developing their next show together with Lloyd as their musical director.

"We called it 'It's My Party,'" notes Hadar. "It was our personal response to Sept. 11. The subtitle was 'A Cabaret Soufflé in the Key of Now,' and it was all about living life to your fullest, living your dream now. If not now, when?"

The Kitchenettes have performed in Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Provincetown, Mass., Reno, Las Vegas, Tahoe and of course, all over the Bay Area.

As their reputation grew, the Kitchenettes branched out, becoming homegrown impresarios. In addition to their own concerts, Kosut and Hadar produce a monthly salon at the Thickhouse Theater (that's the downstairs theater in Hadar's condo complex). The aim of ThickTuesdays is to continue the cabaret tradition, giving a variety of performers an opportunity to work out material for an audience of peers and true-blue fans.

Meanwhile, the Kitchenettes are planning shows in New York and London, as well as an appearance at a cabaret festival presented by the Centro Culturale Teatro Camuno in Lombardy, Italy.

In the course of establishing the Kitchenettes, the duo became best of friends. Says Hadar, "People often ask us if we're sisters. A lot of that comes through our Jewishness."

Adds Kosut, "We're ready to take off. The songs are exciting and fun, we have a fabulous time, and if we're having fun, then everyone's having fun."

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.