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Arts & Entertainment

CLO Cabaret revue journeys from Rodgers to Hammerstein

| Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
Kristiann Menotiades will be in CLO Cabaret's 'A Grand Night for Singing” review. Courtesy CLO Cabaret
Kristiann Menotiades will be in CLO Cabaret's 'A Grand Night for Singing” review. Courtesy CLO Cabaret
Kiesha Lalama is choreographer for CLO Cabaret's 'A Grand Night for Singing” review. 
Courtesy CLO Cabaret
Kiesha Lalama is choreographer for CLO Cabaret's 'A Grand Night for Singing” review. Courtesy CLO Cabaret

“A Grand Night for Singing” also could be a great occasion for listening.

The CLO Cabaret revue that begins performances Thursday at the Cabaret at Theater Square, Downtown, pays tribute to the songwriting duo of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, while taking the audience and performers on a romantic journey from “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin',” to “Some Enchanted Evening.”

“It's about love and trying to find connections,” says Keisha Lalama, the show's choreographer. “It's like a dream and you get drawn to this place by fate and destiny. You don't know why you are called to this place … but eventually, through time, you know why you are there.”

The revue's 30 songs were written decades ago, for such classic musicals as “Carousel,” “Oklahoma!,” “The King and I” and “South Pacific.”

“But in this show, they also feel as fresh and new as if you're hearing them for the first time,” says Kristiann Menotiades, who's returning for her eighth show at the CLO Cabaret.

“We are singing so many songs I didn't care about. But, now that I'm in the show, (I realize) it's a great song,” Menotiades says. “With the characters, transitions and the way it's staged, you will actually listen.”

To explain, she points to “We Kiss in the Shadow” from “The King and I”: “I never even paid attention to it before, but Paul-Jordan Jansen's performance will make you fall in love with him. ... It's probably my favorite moment.”

The layout of the cabaret has been completely transformed for “A Grand Night for Singing” with the performance area now placed in one corner of the room and 40 tables with seating for three hugging the rounded arc of the stage. Seating for an additional 81 patrons is provided at high-top tables toward the room's sides and along a counter at the rear of the room.

It's an intimate space for customers, performers and audience members.

In keeping with that mood, audiences shouldn't expect big, showy tap numbers from the cast of five.

“The movement is subtle. There are no big dance breaks,” Lalama says. “So much of the choreography is directed movement.”

The key to the success of a musical revue is seamless transitions that take actors from one song to the next, which is often very different in tempo and mood.

“They need to happen with movement and storytelling,” she says.

While Jack Allison, the show's director, works to emphasize the layers of story and character, it's the choreographer's task to help show the interconnections between the songs and the characters.

“If we didn't give meaning and connectedness, it wouldn't make sense,” she says. “There will be moments that every single person in the audience should feel connected to one character and say ‘This is me.' Everyone will be able to relate to a moment, a character and be able to insert themselves and their own personal situation.”

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or acarter@tribweb.com.

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