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Enjoy ‘A Grand Night for Singing’ — cabaret style

GRAND PERFORMANCE — Ryan Drummond, Melissa WolfKlain and Justin Michael Duval perform in the California Musical Theatre production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "A Grand Night for Singing." The musical cotinues at the Cosmopolitan Cabaret through May 8. Photo by Charr Crail.
GRAND PERFORMANCE — Ryan Drummond, Melissa WolfKlain and Justin Michael Duval perform in the California Musical Theatre production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "A Grand Night for Singing." The musical cotinues at the Cosmopolitan Cabaret through May 8. Photo by Charr Crail.

GRAND PERFORMANCE — Ryan Drummond, Melissa WolfKlain and Justin Michael Duval perform in the California Musical Theatre production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "A Grand Night for Singing." The musical continues at the Cosmopolitan Cabaret through May 8. Photo by Charr Crail.

Cabaret is an acquired taste. Like some wines and cheeses, it helps to be a tad adventurous when trying new things. This certainly helped when I attended the Cosmopolitan Cabaret in Sacramento.

This branch of California Musical Theatre opened its third season earlier this year with “A Grand Night for Singing,” featuring songs from all 11 musicals of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The Tony-nominated musical will run through May 8.

This musical made its debut in New York City in 1993, where it was presented cabaret-style. It was nominated for two Tony Awards (Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical) and ran for 52 performances.

The seating at the Cosmopolitan Cabaret is a combination of café table seating and theater seating. The audience is right up there with the stage. I found it a trifle claustrophobic at first, but then I realized that if I had brought a friend, I could have thought it “intimate.” A little research into cabaret helped, too.

Cabaret in the United States has a rich history, dating back to the Jazz Age. In New York City lovers of music could enjoy an adult beverage and dinner while stars of radio, screen and Broadway entertained on stage.

It was most popular in the ’40s and ’50s. Cabaret began to decline as a popular art form in the 1960s with the advent of the modern rock concert and popular variety shows on television, such as the “Dean Martin Show.”

While still appreciated by older generations, the present day younger generation of actors also embraces cabaret as an artform for expression.

The Sacramento production of “A Grand Night for Singing” features an experienced, highly talented cast of five: Ryan Drummond, Justin Michael Duval, Lisa Ferris, Jill Van Velzer and Melissa WolfKlain.

The music of Rodgers and Hammerstein sparkles throughout this production. Featuring songs from the famous duo’s most famous musicals as well as their lesser-known productions, one will get a good taste of musical genres from 1943 to 1959.

This wide variety is also one of the challenges of this musical. “A Grand Night” is a choreographed musical showcase of tunes, as opposed to a musical with a story to tell. Divided into two acts — the first focused on “young love” and the second on “married/star-crossed love” — this musical can sometimes feel like a precious child’s lanyard necklace where each bead is colorful and unique … but where nothing matches. Audiences may find this disconcerting at first.

That aside, the music is excellent and the cast does a great job with the singing and choreography. Chris Schlagel shines as the pianist/accompanist. There are many light moments and good humor throughout. One really doesn’t mind the lack of plot near the conclusion when the entire audience goes silent for Drummond’s stellar rendition of “This Nearly Was Mine.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the theater.

So, for something completely different … try an evening out on the town in the Capital City and check out the Cosmopolitan Cabaret.

“A Grand Night for Singing” runs through May 8. The Cosmopolitan Cabaret is located at 1000 K St. (corner of 10th and K) in downtown Sacramento. Ticket prices range from $33 to $43 per person, depending on the day and type of seating (table seating or tiered seating).

Show days and times are Wednesdays at 7 p.m., Thursday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., closed Monday and Tuesday. The box office at the Cosmopolitan Cabaret opens two hours before each show. For advance tickets visit the Wells Fargo Pavilion box office or call (916) 557-1999.

Pay parking is conveniently located at the Capitol Parking Garage located next door at 10th and L streets. For the big city, it’s even reasonably priced. For more information visit www.CosmopolitanCabaret.com.

Send your event for consideration in Susan’s column to slaird@handywriting.com

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Posted by on Mar 24 2011.
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