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BWW Reviews: FIVE reasons for Nashville audiences to be thankful

Nashville theatre-goers are a pretty lucky lot, with a great deal to be thankful for actually, what with the wealth of talent you can find in our little burg. We may be known around the world as Music City USA, but those of us in the know can rightfully and justifiably attest to the fact that you could refer to us just easily as "Theater City USA."

Certainly, you'd be hard-pressed to find any city around the globe with more musical talent than you'll find in Nashville, which means, of course, that musical theater here is really good - even when it's bad (and do you really need me to list examples? I think not, but I can if called upon to do so...), it's far better than you'd find anywhere else. Nashville is fairly teeming with talented people - it's that simple.

Take the five women who took to the stage at Street Theatre Company Monday night to present the first offering from MAS Nashville (a "mutual admiration society," a collective of artists, a group of people with a shared creative vision...whatever the hell you want to call it) entitled, simply and concisely, FIVE, an evening of cabaret that lived up to all its advance hype.

Performing to a sold-out crowd of people clamoring to be wowed, the five women - Melodie Madden Adams, Megan Murphy Chambers, Cori Laemmel, Laura Matula and Erin Parker - delivered the goods, for sure, while exhibiting a very canny sense of show business acumen. The five stars (and make no mistake about it, these women have plenty of star power and each is stellar on her own) gave the audience exactly what they paid their five bucks for, leaving them begging for more. If there is a better plan for continued success for MAS Nashville, I can't imagine what it could be.

Opening with a simple, kinda sweet, introduction to the five headliners - clad in little black dresses, each woman stood before a microphone and sang a snippet from a song that effectively captured her personality - the night's entertainment moved quickly and effortlessly . Well, some tightening of the between-songs patter wouldn't hurt; but please don't send me any hate mail, I laughed just as much as you did.

During that opening, Cori Laemmel gave us a lovely, understated sampling of "Moon River," looking for all the world like a latter-day Audrey Hepburn (not a surprise since she seems to idolize the actress) that left us hungry for a breakast at Tiffany's .

Erin Parker, blond and gorgeous as humanly possible, her red lips pursed in a heart-shaped smile recalling flappers and chanteuses of past generations, treated us to a charming "I Want To Be Loved By You."

Megan Murphy Chambers (possibly the most natural cabaret artist among this quintet of amazing women) claimed the center position in the opening number, tantalizing us with a too-short version of "Maybe This Time."

Claiming - in grand style - for herself the role of the musical theater diva among the five, the tall and curvy Melodie Madden Adams delivered a beautiful version of "Don't Rain On My Parade."

Finally, Laura Matula, the slightly mysterious, almost waiflike wunderkind with a clarion voice and a sweet vulnerability in her delivery, offered up a stunning "Over the Rainbow."

The opening set the tone for the evening's entertainment and gave the mere mortals in the audience an idea of what to expect from these showstopping goddesses throughout the ensuing two hours of entertainment. Each woman was given her moment in the spotlight, an opportunity to showcase her own unique talent, sense of timing and rapport with her audience...and, believe you me, these ladies know how to work a crowd.

Although each woman performed with an easy grace, displaying ample wit and charm, Chambers proved the most self-assured comedienne among the five, eliciting the most raucous laughter from the audience. Truly, she's missing her calling: Get the woman a regular cabaret gig and watch audiences line up for tickets.

Perhaps the night's most entertaining number featured all five of the women performing a wonderfully original and clever take on Chicago's "Cell Block Tango," which allowed each woman to confess a particular case of poor judgment in matters of the heart. Adams sang of a first date with a cute guy who showed up in "jorts," his lack of fashion savvy spelling doom for any hopes of a budding romance. Laemmel lamented a high school boyfriend who'd cheated on her with not one but two girls - but who assumed it was okay since it happened on a couch rather than in a bed. Parker told of a sexual assignation interrupted when the guy's "Bible study buddy" arrived unexpectedly, sending her through a window to escape detection - and to a cheap Chinese buffet afterward to assuage her embarrassment. Chambers tunefully recalled a college hayride with a fraternity boy who got drunk, went skinny dipping and took her to spend the night in a room "papered in titties and Nascar logos." But Matula took the top honors - or rather, her sister did - when she sang of the guy who was having sex with her sister when she suffered an aneurysm. Yep, fucking pretty much blew her fucking mind.

Already veterans at this cabaret stuff, the FIVE women know the secrets to a successful cabaret act: Pick good songs, bare your souls onstage, look great while doing your shtick (and did they ever, wowing us with an unending fashion parade of stunning little black dresses) and leave your audience wanting more - hell, the people in the seats were practically demanding future shows. But more importantly, these five glorious performers (each a force of nature on her own), proved themselves unassailable as a group. They didn't have to reinvent cabaret to be successful, for sure, but what they did that is truly to their immense credit - and to their fans' collective delight and joy - was to find the ideal formula for their shared and continued success.

The five women of FIVE were deftly accompanied by the equally talented, charming, very cute and very young-looking (I must confess that I kept glancing over my shoulder for To Catch A Predator's Chris Hansen to amble upon the scene with a pitcher of sweet tea) Jeffrey Williams on the piano - who served as the evening's connecting thread among the five elements of the evening - with the uber-versatile Anthony Matula on drums and guitar for a couple of numbers (Matula's talents are also on display in MAS Nashville's branding, graphic design, glamourous photography and overall look of the project - all of which are praiseworthy).

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From This Author Jeffrey Ellis