Maybe local ticket buyers are planning to see the 2015 winner of ABC-TV’s “Dancing With the Stars.” Or a budding Broadway star from “Chicago.” Or even the daughter of Hollywood stars Bruce Willis and Demi Moore.

But Shannon Forsell bets a Columbus audience members are in for a pleasant surprise when they catch sultry-voiced Rumer Willis in Cabaret at The Commons at 7:30 p.m. July 21.

Forsell, artistic director and CEO of The Cabaret at The Columbia Club in Indianapolis, booked Willis at her place and also for the cabaret series at The Commons in Columbus.

“Many of these people may not even know she’s such a fabulous singer,” Forsell said. “We read the reviews (of her first solo cabaret show) and saw video footage and thought she was fantastic.

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“And, of course, that was the most important thing for us. We realize she’s at the beginning of what will be a great career.”

Late last week, organizers already had sold nearly 320 tickets, including to people such as local singer, choral teacher and Broadway fan Janie Gordon, who called it “one of the coolest things in Columbus.”

That means ticket sales are approaching the 400-seat capacity of The Commons for such an event.

A New York Times review of Willis’ April show at the prestigious Cafe Carlyle on the Upper East Side of New York City gushed with lines such as “Her voice is strong with a wailing upper register that she wielded with an awareness of how far to go before reaching a point of diminishing returns.” She drew praise particularly for effectively presenting tunes with painful emotional fodder, including Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child.”

The 27-year-old Willis has spoken in interviews, including some after winning “Dancing With the Stars,” about facing online bullying, partly for her celebrity, and the sting of that reality even after all her success.

Her spring show also included material from artists as varied as retro rocker Pat Benatar, jazzy soul vocalist Amy Winehouse, pop’s Fiona Apple, Motown and what she described as “old-school jazz.”

Columbus resident Jessica Thomas, who recently bought a ticket to the upcoming Cabaret at the Commons show, saw Willis on “Dancing With the Stars.” Afterward, she fell in love with her singing voice.

“I love her sultry sound, and she’s just overall beautiful,” Thomas said. “There’s not a lot of excitement in Columbus, so when someone or something this interesting comes, I just want to be a part of it.”

Cabaret at the Commons, launched in January 2015, has brought to town well-recognized Broadway stars such as Ramin Karimloo from “Les Miserables” and Mandy Gonzalez from “Wicked.” Plus, it made room for a local favorite such as rising stage performer Mary Claire King, now in “War Paint” in Chicago.

The local series has averaged more than 220 people per show. Karimloo attracted nearly 400, and King sold out her show with 400 people.

With all the attention given to Willis’ growing multiple talents, including her winning role of Roxie Hart in “Chicago,” it makes one wonder what else she can do so well. In a recent interview with Fox News Magazine, she chuckled at such a question — and offered a down-to-earth answer.

She loves to knit.

“My sisters always find (that) funny,” she said.

Singer, dancer, actress and then some

Who: Actress, dancer and singer Rumer Willis in her Cabaret at The Commons show presented by the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic.

When: 7:30 p.m. July 21.

Where: The Commons, 300 Washington St. in Columbus.

Dinner available: Optional dinner served to your table before the show for $15/person. Includes one of four entrees, a mixed green salad and dessert.

Tickets: $55 (sold out), $35 and $20, available at the cip.org or 812-376-2638.

Pull Quote

“We read the reviews (of her first solo cabaret show) and saw video footage and thought she was fantastic.”

— Shannon Forsell, artistic director and CEO of The Cabaret at The Columbia Club, on cabaret singer Rumer Willis

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.