BWW Review: Annapolis Shakespeare Company Opens Their New Cabaret Space With An Evening Celebrating THE AMERICAN SONGBOOK
The cabaret show has been a staple in the entertainment industry for some time. Singers and performers alike relish the opportunity to tell stories in a different way than they're used to, while performing songs they've never been given the opportunity to sing. These evenings are more intimate and audiences have the chance to feel closer and more in tune with the performers than they would be in a theater or larger concert venue. And while there are music clubs and small venues in Maryland, there aren't many theaters providing this type of entertainment on a regular basis.
That is until the Annapolis Shakespeare Company (ASC) decided to open a cabaret of their own. When the ASC moved into their new space on West Street, they realized that not only did they have a beautiful black-box theater space, but they also had an additional area that would be perfect for hosting a cabaret. This small space behind the theater allows for a piano, a bar and a small stage, surrounded by a few small tables.
Before the cabaret, I saw the empty space and thought that it would definitely be too small an area to hold this type of event, however after seeing it set up for the show, I was astounded by just how much they were able to fit into the space. Because of its size it was intimate and inviting to guests. However, a little more leg room would have been nice, but subtracting a table or two would have solved that problem perfectly.
While snacks like pretzels and popcorn were provided on each table, free for the taking, the bar was a cash bar - well stocked with wines, and sodas. One of the ASC's resident actors was fulfilling the duty of bar tender for the evening, and did a fabulous job of taking care of the guests and making them feel welcome. That's something that the ASC does very well. They're caring and attentive, and I've always felt welcome and appreciated when attending their shows, and this cabaret was no different.
By the time the show began I was completely content chatting away with my table mate - a lovely ex-actor who was on Broadway for a few years in DAMN YANKEES. I don't think I could have been placed at a more enjoyable table.
The performers were all resident actors of the company, or friends of Sally Boyett who runs the ASC. Sally herself even sang a few songs, which as she shared, doesn't happen very often. The entire cast began the evening, entitled THE AMERICAN SONGBOOK with a rendition of "Tonight, Tonight" by Leonard Bernstein. It was the perfect song to set us up for the music to come. As the evening continued, we were treated to classics by writers such as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, George & Ira Gershwin and Rodgers & Hart. These songs epitomized that old New York feel which is just what you want in a cabaret. The performers that had wow'ed me with their acting during MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, blew me away again with their singing. As actors they've been trained to act, so they instilled heart and fun into many of the songs.
In my opinion the songs chosen worked well in succession. The overarching theme aside from THE AMERICAN SONGBOOK was Love. As Sally reiterated, so many of the songs written at that time were about love. And that was definitely felt. However, I think it may have been felt more if the performances were allowed to flow into each other. There was a bit of talking between each song - about the ASC and its programs - that stilted the show slightly. If the songs were allowed to live on their own, the show would have been a bit shorter and more cohesive. To end the night, the entire cast came together again to sing probably the most perfect song for a Shakespeare theater company to sing "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" by Cole Porter. You could tell the performers were thoroughly enjoying the performance and adding all of the comedic elements to it that they could. It was definitely a highlight of the evening.
Like I said, there aren't many cabaret venues in Maryland. This puts the ASC in a very unique position. Their plans are to continue on with these types of performances, and if their first show is any indication, I believe they'll be successful in this venture. The venue is cozy. The people are lovely. And the performers are amazingly talented. So if you're looking for something to do in Annapolis during these upcoming cold winter months, be sure to check ASC's website for upcoming shows.
POE...and all the others - October 23, 25, 30 and November 1, 2017 @ 7:30pm