Two of Kansas City’s mature performers, Ray Zarr and Marilyn Wood, team on a regular basis to perform at local nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout the Kansas City area, providing residents with a song fest of memorable tunes and fond memories.
Each performer brings a different resume to their show. Zarr comes from the theatre world, while Wood comes from a singer/pianist background. Zarr performs in most of the local theatre venues in the Kansas City area, while Wood performs at restaurants and supper clubs. Together, they bring a long legacy of performing to each of their shows.
One of the regular gigs occurs at Village Shalom where they regularly entertain for about an hour at each performance. According to Zarr, the two compare notes and decide on a song list before each performance from their wealth of music from the great American songbook.
“I had known Ray for a long time,” Wood said. “At first, we didn’t communicate well, but as our collaborations multiplied, we learned to laugh and get along as good friends. We talk regularly and decide what kind of music each show gets.”
Zarr, who recently ended his run with a walk-on role in the Jerry Herman musical, “La Cage Aux Folles,” at one of Kansas City’s local community theatre venues, moved back to Kansas City several years ago after performing and teaching in theatres in the state of New York.
An actor, a singer, a performer, and a little bit of the dancer, Zarr is no secret to the Kansas City theatre going crowd. What they may not know, though, is that Zarr even work backstage in New York City at the Metropolitan Opera. He can tell great stories about the performers he met personally, and the real drama that took place behind the scenes at the infamous opera house.
“Besides Village Shalom, Marilyn and I perform at 16 to 17 different nursing homes and assisted living places in the Kansas City area,” Zarr said. “I have been doing this for about seven years with Marilyn Wood. We perform 45 minutes to an hour, depending on what the venue wants. Sometimes we do a masked ball, a Christmas show, a Hanukkah show, an Easter show and those are sometimes a little over an hour.”
Currently, Wood plays at Californos in the Westport area. It is a restaurant/bistro and bar featuring an assortment of soups, salads, grill, an entrees.
Marilyn played on ships for about 10 years and Bar Natasha for several years, Zarr said. She works private parties all over town as well.
“I met Ray when I played for Bar Natasha and it just opened in the late 80s,” Wood said. He would come in and we got acquainted. He was doing some singing around town in shows. We became friends quickly. We are like brother and sister. I perform every Tuesday at Village Shalom and also one Sunday each month,” Wood said.
“Ray and I do a lot of Broadway shows. We did a lot of music from ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ because that’s one of Ray’s best shows to perform.
“I graduated from Denver University and did my graduate work in New York City partly at City University there, Zarr said. “My first job in New York was for three year at the Metropolitan Opera where I was a spear carrier. The real drama came from the Italian conductors and the animals they brought on for Aida.”
Before coming to Kansas City, Zarr said he taught in upstate New York where he taught a single drama class at five different high schools. He directed their musials and other productions while there. He now calls Kansas City home and works with many different theaters, production companies and assists with ushering, box office, performing, house managing, etc.–besides performing with Wood.
“Marilyn and I have several genres we basically use. We have a pop, a Broadway that’s from beginning to current shows, and special like Jewish composers. We also do specific crooners because some venues request Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and even Johnny Mathis. Village Shalom’s shows are tailored specifically for them We perform them weekly. We mix up what we present. We did several composers in a recent show there, so there was a little Gershwin, some Sondheim, some Jerry Herman, some Irving Berlin,” Zarr said.
According to Zarr, most of the venues book them regularly, some weekly, some monthly, some several times a year. Each venue usually posts a monthly calendar so people can see and plan to attend our shows. They are all free for the viewers, he said.