Starry lineup coming to downtown Cabaret

Word is out on the lineup for the rest of the 2011 Cabaret at the Columbia Club series and, well, its a knock-out.

Already announced shows included Andrea Marcovicci, one of the top names in cabaret circles, performing a music-from-the-movies weekend Feb. 25-26. And the return of Jil Agrot, who supplied the vocals for La Vie En Rose, on March 22.

New names include Melissa Manchester, the pop singer/songwriter who, many don't realize, also showed her skills as a theatrical composer with the musical "I Sent a Letter to My Love" (Perhaps some enterprising theater company will arrange a reading of that show around the same weekend–hint, hint). She'll be here on April 2.

Billy Stritch, who visited town playing piano for Liza Minnelli a few weeks back, will take the stage himself in a tribute to Mel Torme May 13-14. Darrian Ford, from Broadway's "Smokey Joe's Cafe," performs a Sam Cooke tribute on July 8-9. And the great Liz Callaway returns with a concert of Broadway tunes Aug. 26-27.

The insanely promising season continues with Tony DeSare–who you may have seen swing with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra–taking over for a weekend Sept. 16-17.

A major coup is the booking of songwriter/composer Jason Robert Brown Oct. 14-15. He's the talent behind such shows as "The Last Five Years," "Parade," and "Songs for a New World." He's also a terrific singer, as witnessed by his "Someone Else's Clothes" CD. I'll be leading Q&As with Brown after each performance, so count on sticking around for some insight from one of the best in the business (him, not me).

Stephanie Block, the lead in "The Pirate Queen," "The Boy from Oz," and "9 to 5: The Musical," headlines the Cabaret fundraiser on Oct. 28. Karen Akers performs an evening of Cole Porter on Nov. 11, and comic singer/impressionist Christine Pedi brings the laughs on Dec. 15.

And that's just the national acts.

Locals in the on-deck circle include Jimmy Guilford and friends in a Doo Wop show March 11-12, Cynthia Lane and the Indy Jazz Fest Band on April 22, an all-female jazz show led by Monika Herzig on June 2, Brenda Williams in concert on June 17, Stacie Sandoval and Elizabeth Souza celebrating Latin music on July 29, Deb Mullins singing the  blues Aug. 12-13, and an all-women blues fest on Sept. 30.

My biggest problem right now is how to fit other Indy arts groups onto my calendar.

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