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BWW Review: Lyric Theatre's MOONLIGHT CABARET is a Breath of Fresh Air

Lyric Theatre returns to live performances with the Moonlight Cabaret. Opening weekend features OKC favorites performing hits from the 70s at The Water Stage.

BWW Review: Lyric Theatre's MOONLIGHT CABARET is a Breath of Fresh Air

Live theatre is officially BACK! Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma is one of the first professional theatres in the country to return to live performances. After months of navigating new safety guidelines, brainstorming and venue searching, the team at Lyric has figured out a safe way to provide live performances for the whole family. The answer isn't simple, but it's certainly doable. They re-open, after a pandemic related hiatus that began in March, at the Myriad Gardens Water Stage. This outdoor stage is Lyric's home for the next three weeks while they present two outdoor cabarets.

Lyric's Moonlight Cabaret runs in the evenings, alongside their daytime performances of Lyric Kids' Clubhouse Cabaret. Moonlight Cabaret features the best of the best- longtime Lyric and OKC favorite performers, a few newcomers, and even rising star student performers. The first of three weekends of performances is led by Music Director Eric Grigg and rocks with a 1970s theme.

The show features safely-distanced artists on stage, sharing songs and stories throughout the night. Each artist tells their background with Lyric Theatre and what their song choices mean to them. It's a fun, relaxing evening at the ambient Water Stage. More than a return to a familiar place, Lyric's Moonlight Cabaret offers a reunion of sorts. Live theatre is nothing without an audience, and it's clear those on the stage have missed seeing familiar faces in the audience, and the feeling for those in attendance is quite mutual.

Lyric's Producing Artistic Director Michael Baron introduces the show, and in these moments seems truly happy to be talking to real people who aren't behind a screen, finally, after six grueling months.

The show opens with Vince Leseney performing "Miami 2017", a Billy Joel tune that is best known for its lyrics "I've seen the lights go out on Broadway." It's a poignant and fitting way to open this show. The song offers a moment of reflection on just how hard the pandemic-related shut down has been, for the performing arts particularly.

But the night is not all somber. Olivia Yokers brings a pep and spirit with her performance of "I Feel the Earth Move" by Carole King. Justin Larman is well-suited in his take on Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now", and Thomas E. Cunningham takes a break from cracking jokes to perform a touching version of Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight". Show stopper Kat Metcalfe, performing in a dazzling silver dress and sexy red heels, brings the Rockstar vibe with Patti Smith's "Because the Night". Real-life married couple Vince Leseney and Mandy Jiran perform a lovely duet with Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond's "You Don't Bring Me Flowers". Jiran closes out the first Act, as it were, with the feminist anthem "You're so Vain" by Carly Simon.

With all the important bases covered, the show adds in musical theatre numbers for the second Act. There's no intermission, but as Grigg explains, the tone changes midway through and every performer sings twice.

Cunningham performs a powerful "I Don't Remember Christmas" from the 1976 musical revue Starting Here, Starting Now. Student performers Erica Burkett and Skylar Hemenway tear up the stage with Dolly Parton's "Jolene", followed by a three-part medley of sorts from Yokers, Larman and Jiran, powerhouses all. Burkett returns with "Bridge Over Troubled Water", dedicating the song to two of her teachers who are in attendance. She undoubtedly makes them proud, and the chill that runs through the audience is not just from the cool evening breeze. Hemenway returns with "Nightingale", doing justice to the Carole King song and proclaiming herself "A Carole King girl". Kat Metcalfe breaks hearts with "Meadowlark" from The Baker's Wife, and Leseney closes his solo performances with the timely and important "Border Song" by Elton John.

A cabaret is nothing without a grand finale, and Leseney, Jiran, and Cunningham certainly provide that with the hit number "Come Sail Away" by iconic '70s group Styx. Cell phone flashlights come out, and as Leseney laments, "Doesn't anyone smoke anymore!?" the '70s are truly brought back in all their nicotine-hazed glory.

The cast closes with "Bright Side of Life" from the 1979 film Monty Python's Life of Brian, and thus the decade is complete.

Lyric Theatre's Moonlight Cabaret is a chance for audiences to return to live theatre, the only industry to still remain largely shut down. Lyric is finding ways to produce art, keep theatre in front of audiences, and keep performers working. Theatre is always needed, but right now, at a time when it's all but disappeared completely, it's needed more than ever. As we exit in social distanced, masked order, Baron returns and wishes us good night, remarking with true sincerity to the newly returned audience, "We're so glad you're back." We, the audience, couldn't agree more.

Lyric Theatre's Moonlight Cabaret continues until October 4th at the Myriad Gardens Water Stage and Plaza, 301 W. Reno Ave in downtown OKC. A new lineup of songs and performers is featured each weekend, and every cast is worth a trip outdoors for some safe, open-air entertainment. For tickets and times, visit lyrictheatreokc.com.


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From This Author Adrienne Proctor