BWW Review: Cabernet Cabaret's IT'S TOO DARN HOT is a Sizzling Success
Cabernet Cabaret presents its fourth production, IT'S TOO DARN HOT: THE MUSIC OF Cole Porter. Fulfilling the company's mission to bring a recurring musical theatre opportunity to Austin area actors, this one-night-only show blends classic Cole Porter tunes with personal song choices selected by the ensemble. The curated group of local artists includes Jacob Bernelle, Amber Lackey, Briyana D. Clarel, Lucy Abramowitz, Danielle Kane, Rodrigo M. Zaragoza, Kristin DeGroot, Nathan Clemenson, Charissa Memrick, Creighton Moench, and the company's founder Emily Villarreal.
It's no surprise why Cole Porter won the popular vote in Cabernet Cabaret's social media poll against the likes of Alan Menken and Andrew Lloyd Webber to become the event's featured composer. His iconic standards are vast and memorable with such hits as "De-Lovely," "I've Got You Under My Skin," and "In The Still Of The Night." Porter also penned several hits songs for Broadway shows including "Kiss Me, Kate," "The Gay Divorcee," and what many consider his biggest success, "Anything Goes." His film score work can also be heard on such movies as "Born To Dance," and "Rosalee."
The talent of the performers in the two-act show is undeniable. Each artist is a powerhouse combo of strong vocal ability and stage presence. Favorite solo performances include Amber Lackey's gorgeous rendition of "Night and Day" in French; Nathan Clemenson's fully charged, comedic take on "Don't Fence Me In;" and Charissa Memrick's show-stopping act one closer "The Physician." Special guest artists also contributed to the event. Assistant director Rodrigo M. Zaragoza gives a velvety smooth performance of "Begin The Beguine;" the multi-talented Creighton Moench impresses with "I Get A Kick Out Of You," complete with saxophone solo; and director Emily Villarreal takes a sultry and brash turn with "Talkin' To A Sailor" from the musical The Last Ship. The evening also featured several group performances, the favorite by far being "I Hate Men" featuring Briyana D. Clarel, Amber Lackey, and Jacob Bernelle.
Musical accompaniment provided by pianist Tyler Groft and drummer Ian Geyer is outstanding. Groft and Geyer exhibit a natural musical rapport that stands out, especially during the evening's slower numbers. The production's setting also plays a huge part in the ambient quality of the show. Tucked away inside the aptly named nightclub, Speakeasy, the production is given the perfect setting with its dark wooden fixtures and vintage artwork transporting patrons to an era gone by.
The only slightly confusing elements of the production fell on the song selection and the show's emcee, David Higgins. When featuring a composer of Porter's magnitude, there is little worry of running out of material. This makes it all the more surprising to see the addition of modern contemporary show tunes. Although the performances were excellent, it seems a disservice to the theme not to include more of Porter's well-known standards. Higgins, the charming host of the evening's events also seemed to struggle filling time between each number. A majority of the show's two and half hour run is taken up by Higgins' attempt to interview each performer, with many conversations running as long as most numbers. A more structured script may help boost energy and keep the show running at a smoother pace.
With that being said, Cabernet Cabaret's production of TOO DARN HOT is a sizzling success. This carefully crafted evening of musical theatre sets the standard for other theatrical special events in the area. Whether you are a fan of the classics or Broadway's more modern works, there is something for everyone to enjoy. CabCab, as it's affectionately known, should be commended for their commitment to providing a platform for aspiring musical theatre performers. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for this company on the rise and their upcoming performances.
IT'S TOO DARN HOT: THE MUSIC OF Cole Porter played at Speakeasy Nightclub (412 Congress Ave D, Austin, TX 78701) on May 2nd at 8 pm.
Run Time: Approximately 2.5 hours with 15-minute intermission.