Cabaret series heating back up

Broadway and other stars will continue to shine in the winter/spring lineup of the increasingly popular Cabaret at The Commons concert series.

The new dates and the acts are:

Jan. 12: Pop singer Johnny Rodgers, performing “Legends of American Music,” from Louis Armstrong to Elvis Presley.

March 9: Four-time Tony nominee Judy Kuhn, performing tunes marking a century of American Song from one family: Richard Rodgers, his daughter Mary Rodgers and her son Adam Guettel.

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April 6: Broadway leading man Billy Porter, performing “Broadway and Soul,” featuring Broadway hits plus swing, disco and blues.

The orchestra launched the series at the downtown Commons Jan. 8, 2015, with a 400-seat, sold-out show with homegrown singer and Broadway performer Mary Claire King. The popular Cabaret shows in the past six months alone have drawn an average of 375 people, said Margaret Powers, the orchestra’s executive director.

The largest audience in the series was an overflow crowd of 457, possible because of extra seating demanded and set up for nationally known singer, dancer and actress Rumer Willis’ performance July 21.

And music fans already are snapping up tickets for the newly announced shows.

Powers said more than 100 tickets each have been sold for the Porter and Kuhn shows. And nearly that number has been sold for Rodgers.

“I think that’s phenomenal,” Powers said.

The series gives local music lovers another avenue to connect with the Philharmonic’s arts reach — which music director David Bowden reminds others is far more than orchestral concerts.

The cabaret atmosphere is more informal and less structured than an orchestral concert. Although a number of the local cabaret performers have performed with orchestras all over the country, they have said they consider the cabaret setting to be more intimate, allowing entertainers to be closer physically and emotionally to the crowd.

Plus, performers feel free to allow their personalities to be spotlighted.

Singer Shannon Forsell, for instance, drew laughs when she climbed atop the piano during her April 7 show during a song about a woman’s weight.

Behind the curtain of the Cabaret

The Cabaret at The Commons began in January 2015 as a partnership between The Columbia Club in Indianapolis and the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic.

The Cabaret at the Columbia Club agreed to share with the local orchestra a number of the cabaret performers it books at the Indianapolis venue.

Shannon Forsell is artistic director and CEO of what is now called The Cabaret because it has changed venues to Indiana Landmark Center’s Cook Theater in Indianapolis.

New shows at a glance

The new Cabaret at The Commons dates and the acts scheduled at the downtown venue at 300 Washington St. are:

Jan. 12 — Pop singer Johnny Rodgers performing “Legends of American Music,” from Louis Armstrong to Elvis Presley.

March 9 — Four-time Tony nominee Judy Kuhn, performing the works of Rodgers, Rodgers and Guetell, a reference to Richard Rodgers, his daughter Mary Rodgers and her son, Adam Guettel.

April 6 — Broadway leading man Billy Porter, performing “Broadway and Soul,” featuring Broadway hits plus swing, disco and blues.

Tickets: V.I.P $55, preferred $35 and general admission $20. Table reservations are available in the V.I.P. and preferred sections.

Those planning to attend multiple shows can purchase a package; purchase all three shows to get 15 percent off, or purchase two and get a 10 percent discount.

Tickets may be purchased online at thecip.org or by calling the box office at 812-376-2638, ext. 1. Physical tickets will not be issued for this series. Patrons check-in upon arrival using their reservation name.

Food: First Class Catering will continue to offer a full dinner option in addition to a lighter hors d’oeuvres menu. Meal reservations, available to VIP and preferred patrons, are $18 per person and must be made in advance by calling the Philharmonic office at 812-376-2638.

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