Stand Back: Nina Cain stars in story of Stevie Nicks
Since Nina Cain’s already accomplished the feat of being the lead singer of seven different musical groups at once, you might expect that taking on the persona of Steve Nicks for a couple of weekends at the Cutting Edge Theater in Slidell should be a piece of cake.
Well, yes and no.
For Cain, mastering not just the lyrics but the look and movements of the Rock ‘N' Roll Hall of Famer for “White Winged Dove,” the tribute show debuting Friday and created by Cutting Edge owner/operator Brian Fontenot, was not that difficult.
It’s the biographical narration portions of the show between songs that’s a little harder.
“I have a challenging time on the stage (acting, not singing) sometimes, jumping ahead and things like that,” Cain said. “But this show is not just a concert, and I have to switch back and forth between being Stevie the singer and Nina the storyteller.
“That’s how I want to come across — as a storyteller — not just a singer. I’m telling Stevie’s story along with singing her songs.”
Cain admits she didn’t know much about Nicks or her music before Fontenot approached her in the spring about starring in the latest of the cabaret shows Cutting Edge presents two or three times a year between the theater’s larger productions.
Cain, who was appearing at Pippi, the stripper with the heart of gold, in Cutting Edge’s version of "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" at the time, was Fontenot’s first and only choice for the role.
“For a show like this, you’ve got to have the right physical attributes,” Fontenot said. “Nina’s definitely got that.
“And then, you have to be an outstanding performer. When she walks on that stage, she’s extraordinary.”
To Fontenot, who has penned shows about the lives and music of Mama Cass and Buddy Holley among others, the combination is essential.
Audiences, he said, are expecting to see a recreation of the artists at his or her peak, even if the artist is still living. Nicks is now 69, but still popular and touring. (She drew more than 9,000 to the Smoothie King Center the week "Trailer Park Musical" opened at Cutting Edge).
“People come to these shows looking for nostalgia,” he said. “A single song can take you back 50 years in an instant, so think of what an entire concert can do, especially when you’re bringing back memories by talking and show pictures from the past.
“This audience is going to get Stevie’s good stuff performed in the style when she was at her peak and in a much more intimate setting than you’d get in an arena. It’s playing to your market.”
It's a stroll through Stevie’s greatest hits, both with Fleetwood Mac and as a solo artist — “Dreams,” “Landslide,” “Rhiannon,” “Stand Back” and the climactic “Edge of 17” among others.
Chad Gearig-Howe, who appeared with Cain in "Trailer Park," and Rob Reidenhauer, add harmony to the performance.
Along the way, Cain also became somewhat of a Nicks expert, not just about her music but about other aspects of her life.
“Her lyrics are very relatable to me, especially ones about going through breakups, because I just did,” she said. “She’s telling the stories I want to tell.
“And she’s into witchy things, and I’ve always wanted to be a witch. We’re both Tauruses, so there’s a lot of magic going on.”
Cain also is into the capes, shawls and scarves that Nicks wears, not just to enhance her mystical aura but because back in the Fleetwood Mac days it made her appear larger on stage.
Another identifying point — at 29, Cain is the same age as Stevie was in 1979 when "Rumours" was in just about everyone's record collection.
And Cain certainly knows something about changing singing styles on stage, going back to the time 10 years ago when the Morgan City native left UNO, where she’d come to study music, to become the lead singer with the house band at the Famous Door on Bourbon Street.
Over the years, Cain has fronted several bands, going from pop to blues to soul to jazz. Among her current gigs is a residency with the New Orleans Juke Box at the Saint Hotel on Canal Street.
“You learn how to dress up for corporate appearance,” she said. “And then maybe you have a bare midriff for a bar. “It’s just whatever suits the moment and what you’re playing.”
Cain said she’s hoping this isn’t her last such show. She’d like a crack at being Madonna.
And Fontenot, who can see this show being held over for an extra weekend, has ideas of his own for future shows with the music of Bette Midler, Gloria Estefan and Barbra Streisand.
So, could there be another collaboration down the road?
“That would be great,” Cain said. “This has been a lot of work, but I’m having the time of my life.”