Once a lauded interpreter of European and cabaret songs, Samantha Samuels — “Sam” to her friends — is making a rare stage appearance at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre Monday to support the “Help is on the Way for the Holidays” benefit concert.
Samuels performed for decades, touring the country and the world in clubs, concerts and stage productions like “Piaf, No Regrets” and “Nine.”
About seven years ago she shifted gears, moving from performer to producer. With her business partner Steven Shore, Samuels runs the sibilantly named Esses Productions. Together, they have been successfully booking talent like Melissa Manchester, Linda Purl and Franc D’Ambrosio into venues all around the East Bay.
“There’s a school of thought that says a performer performs forever and the joy that comes from that keeps them going,” says Samuels about retiring from onstage life. “My school of thought was that I felt I had accomplished a dream. Performing with major stars, wearing designer gowns, getting standing ovations — things a middle-class Jewish girl from Chicago would never imagine.”
“Like an athlete or a dancer, when you don’t exercise all the time your skill is not the sharpest, the cleanest, the best it can be,” she says. “I wanted to remember my career and who I was as a performer at the best that I was.”
The transition had its challenges. “No one stands up and applauds for the producer at the end of a show. I found that irritating at first,” she laughs.
The moment back in the spotlight is the 10th annual holiday concert benefiting the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation, an organization Samuels has supported in the past. She will be joined onstage by Mary Wilson, Sally Struthers, Paula West, Bonnie Franklin and a host of other entertainers under the direction of David Galligan.
“It boiled down to two things,” Samuels says about performing again. “First, this sweet little song with lyrics by Kenny Mazlow is something I did for this event several years ago and I thought it would be nice to relive that memory. So it’s not like they were asking me for an aria.
“The second, and much more important reason, is that there’s very little I would say no to if it helped in the fight against AIDS. I lost my first friend to AIDS and did my first fundraiser when I was three months pregnant with my son Ben. He’s 26 now. That there is still a need to do these kinds of events touches me deeply.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter St., San Francisco
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Tickets: $40 to $100
Contact: (415) 273-1620, www.reaf.org