Cabaret comeback

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Since I first started writing about arts in Indianapolis in the mid-90s, I’ve been baffled as to why the American Cabaret Theatre offered so little traditional cabaret.

The format of cabaret is fairly simple: A singer and an accompanist (sometimes a small combo) offer an intimate hour and a quarter or so of music, with, usually, a bit of banter as caulking between the songs. These up-close-and-classy shows tend to have a high by-the-minute ticket price, but the rewards can be wonderful.

The American Cabaret Theatre as we knew it — greatest-hits revues and the occassional book musical at the Atheneum with, usually, distracting slide projections and the sounds of the beergarten band leeking through the grand walls — is gone. But out of it seems to be coming a leaner ACT, now anchored in that word at the center of its name.

Led by former ACT star Shannon Forsell, the company will be presenting staight-up cabaret at The Connoisseur Room, a just-over-100-seat venue at 115 E. Ohio Street. Each mont, Forsell promises both a headlining national act and a showcase for a local performer. Plus, music-plus-poetry events that the former ACT was just getting off the ground when it collapsed.

The opening show in the new format–a $100-a-seat benefit show on March 31–features French singer Jil Aigrot, who supplied the singing in the Edith Piaf bio film “La Vie En Rose.”  The good news (at least, for the new ACT): The show is nearly sold out. Call 294-7005 quickly if you want to try to get in.

The good news (for the rest of us): Is that Forsell is in talks with some of the top names in the cabaret world to perform here. To that end, she’s also circulating a list of potential acts to interested parties to get some feedback on local preferences. Those shows, to be clear, will have lower ticket prices.

Is it fair for me, a critic, to pick some favorites from her list? Perhaps not. Instead, I’ll dance around the issue by saying that some outstanding, exciting talent is on her maybe list, including Liz Callaway (whose sister, Ann, headlined the ISO’s Yuletide show in ’08), goofball Jason Graae, Darius De Haas (who knocked me out years ago in the original U.S. production of the musical “Children of Eden), and Sally Mayes? Even if these don’t make the cut, though, I’m looking forward to seeing who Forsell and company do bring to town. And which Indy talents they showcase in the promising new (old) format.

Your thoughts? Anyone you’d like to see at the Cabaret at the Connoisseur?

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