Inside Manhattan’s “Don’t Tell Mama”, the house lights are dimmed. Suddenly a spotlight flickers on and a melodic voice begins to sing.
"I feel a song coming on and I’m warning you, it’s a victorious, happy and glorious…”
This is Janet Jacobs’ one-woman show aptly titled, “A Life Well Sung.” A fifteen song performance peppered with stories about her long and interesting life. A life that began in Kenosha, Wisconsin and eventually led her here to Manhattan.
Seeing her sway and sing on the stage, one would hardly believe that Jacobs just turned eighty years old this February.
“I don’t feel like I’m reinventing myself,” said Jacobs. “This is reclaiming something that I left unfinished."
After what she describes as a disastrous marriage at eighteen, Jacobs said she moved to New York City with her young daughter. She recorded a few albums in her twenties and auditioned for theater roles but she gave up her show business career to better provide for her daughter Linda.
For the next 60 years, Jacobs held a variety of jobs at an art gallery, Cartier, and for sixteen years she worked in the travel business. On the side, she published short stories and took up photography, but never had the chance to sing. Her third husband, Ted Fine, who she’s been married to for 27 years, said he never even knew about her passion for song, until this year.
“She's very special and she's got a lot of talent,” said Fine. “And she's been hiding it for awhile."
Until now. For her eightieth birthday, a friend of Jacobs gave her an unusual gift: a course in cabaret singing at the 92nd Street Y.
"It turned out to be the most wonderful experience, we were only 7 in the class," said Jacobs. “Week by week, little by little I found myself getting more confident, getting excited."
The final project for the course involved a performance at “Don’t Tell Mama,” a cabaret in Hells Kitchen. They liked Jacobs much, they asked her to perform regularly.
"You can reinvent yourself,” said Linda Jacobs, her daughter. “Never say die, go for the dream, that's what she's doing and I’m so proud of her."