A chanteuse and a piano man. You and someone special at a small table sipping something heady. If you're in the market for romance and intimacy in an evening of song, cabaret is darn hard to beat. But the sad fact is that, despite our area having no shortage of skilled vocalists and cozy places for performing, cabarets are about as scarce in Central Texas as snow flurries. I put it on my list for Santa, but now TexARTS is set to scoop the jolly old elf, delivering a new cabaret before he even hitches those tiny reindeer to his sleigh this year.
Coming Home for Christmas is a new medley of yuletide favorites, both the sacred and the secular, being served up this weekend by Courtney Sanchez and Matt Wilson, with help from a string of musical leading lights brighter than any you'll find this side of the Zilker Christmas Tree: Zach Theatre stars Jacqui Cross (Crowns), Tim Curry (It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues), Felicia Dinwiddie (Ain't Misbehavin'), Rod Sanford (Ragtime), and Janis Stinson (Caroline, or Change), as well as Paul Sanchez, Courtney's husband and a gifted singer in his own right. The two-night program launches a new cabaret series for the company, one that it hopes will engage the patrons it has already and attract new audiences to TexARTS' Lakeway hideaway.
When the company started looking for a local performer to inaugurate the series, Sanchez was at the top of its list. The female lead singer of the Atlantics and a Zach mainstay herself (Rent, Porgy and Bess, Dreamgirls) had been cast in TexARTS' production of Ain't Misbehavin' last year, but a competing commitment to sing with a Cirque du Soleil show that was touring through Austin kept her from taking the role. The cabaret gave the company another opportunity to present the performer, and it was Sanchez who suggested bringing aboard Wilson, the keyboardist and singer who made good as the Piano Man in the first national tour of the Billy Joel musical Movin' Out. When more of Sanchez's musical friends were included, says TexARTS Business Manager Jarret Mallon, "it kind of magically turned into this holiday show."
TexARTS is already making sure that this is one Christmas gift that keeps on giving. The company's Kam & James Morris Theatre is booked with its Musical Theatre Academy performances of Footloose and Seussical the Musical in the month of January, but the cabaret series will return Feb. 22 with the Studebakers, followed by An Evening With Austin Haller and Kara Bliss, March 8 & 9, and more acts waiting in the wings.
Coming Home for Christmas runs Friday and Saturday, Dec. 21-22, 7pm, in the Kam & James Morris Theatre, TexARTS' Erin Doherty Studio, 2300 Lohman's Spur #160, Lakeway. For more information, call 852-9079 x101 or visit www.tex-arts.org.
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