Thursday, April 8, 2021

Oregon Cabaret Theatre: toasting a theatrical institution in Ashland


A lovingly restored 1911 church is home to Oregon Cabaret Theatre, a mainstay in Ashland, Oregon's cultural scene. After surviving the brutal pandemic year, the Cabaret is back in full swing. 

Themed menu offerings are available, as in this tasty French inspired
appetizer plate for "Picasso at the Lapin Agile." The "Sweeney Todd'
 menu featured meat pies, naturally, made with beef (not victims!)

DELIGHTFUL THEATER AWAITS IN LOVELY RESTORED CHURCH

Oregon Cabaret Theater celebrates 36 seasons serving up top entertainment and fine fare in an intimate setting -- and it's back in business after the pandemic's challenging year of change and cutbacks 



STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
and courtesy Oregon Cabaret Theatre

The range of productions at Oregon Cabaret Theatre
is impressive, from popular dramas to mysteries,
and musicals. Special one-nighters sometimes
round out the season. After a brutal year, the
cabaret is back. Dinner is also an option.
PEOPLE COME to Ashland, Oregon, for its beauty, small-town charm, fine food and world class theater.  Everyone knows about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and we're among legions who also take in a show at the lively, top-quality Oregon Cabaret Theatre.
It's been a brutal year for performance, but things are looking up and a spring-summer-fall slate is on the boards. "The Spitfire Grill," running into April, is already sold out.
Those who regularly frequent OSF's famous trio of theaters -- both locals and tourists -- know that another theatrical treasure exists in the neighborhood.  A short walk brings the play lover to Oregon Cabaret Theatre.
ALTHOUGH is an entirely separate enterprise from OSF,  the cabaret, too, shares a long, distinguished history.  This year marks its 36th season, and the cabaret expects to welcome nearly 40,000 people to its delightful theatrical and dining offerings where theater magic takes place under a glittering chandelier. 
An earlier Cabaret production, "Sweeney Todd" was
 masterfully done, featuring Valerie Rachelle
 as Mrs. Lovett and Galloway Stevens in the title role. 
Jackson County has been moved off the extreme risk designation, opening up indoor dining in the county, allowing the cabaret to re-open with safety measures.  Eager patrons quickly sold out "The Spitfire Grill." On tap after are "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" and "Buddy: The Music of Buddy Holly," followed by "Poirot: Murder on the Links" and a world premiere holiday show, "Christmas, Contigo" to finish off the season. So get your tickets now.
 
Lithia Park is near both the cabaret and the OSF,
a lovely place to unwind and relax between plays
.

In past years,  spirited one-night performances include sold-out tributes -- to Rosemary Clooney and Patsy Cline, for instance, enhanced by the cabaret setting, tasty food and a talented band.
HOUSED IN the historic "Old Pink Church" on the corner of First Street and Hagardine,  the cabaret's history traces to 1982 when Craig Hudson purchased the dilapidated, boarded up building and began a meticulous renovation.  He eventually restored the structure to its 1911 appearance, hiring artisans to replicate the stained glass windows.  The enterprising Hudson salvaged many of the theater's unique appointments -- including a vintage crystal chandelier -- from a 1927 movie palace in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.
Diners and theater lovers enjoy a leisurely meal while awaiting the beginning
of the production at Oregon Cabaret Theatre, now in its 36th season.



The first season was only 30 performances and the shows were immensely popular, allowing steady growth to  300-plus performances before the pandemic.  The cabaret is hitting its stride again.
BELOVED ACTOR, dancer and the Cabaret's founding member and artistic director for years, Jim Giancarlo, passed away in 2014.  Artistic director and accomplished actor Valerie Rachelle took over, promising "Our stage may be small, but the scope of our stories is large."
The Cabaret does an interesting display of each
show with a miniature set and costume designs.
The intimate house gives viewers a bird's eye view of the action, as we've seen in dozens of top-drawer shows through the years.  We've sat on the ground floor, the balcony, and the bar stools near the back.  All provide fine sight lines. 
A "pre pandemic" "Sweeney Todd" was a classic example of the theater's clever use of space.  The murderous barber's second-floor shop was expertly staged, along with the basement ovens where the barber's victims were dispatched and Mrs. Lovett baked her infamous, human-ingredients meat pies.
 SPEAKING OF FOOD, the Cabaret offers a lovely menu, usually themed to the show, for both dinner and -- on matinee days -- a festive brunch. Offerings range from quiche, tasty salads and beef burritos for lunch. For dinner, pick from a thoughtful variety including goat cheese and fig tarts to whet the appetite, prime rib and Yorkshire pudding, duck breast, steelhead salmon and delightful desserts, all carefully chosen to complement the plays.
The enduringly popular Dick Hay pie is plenty to share, a decadent chocolate cookie- ice cream treat named for longtime OCT patron and OSF lighting designer, a beloved cabaret fixture for decades.
DINNER THEATER in a historic, welcoming setting -- in a beautiful small venue with fine, well staged productions and a tasty menu... this appealing amalgam makes Oregon Cabaret Theatre a favorite for this reporter and thousands of other visitors to Ashland. Sets are clever, acting sharp, music tuneful and small space well used. Costumes, lighting, make-up all follow suit.
Yes, this picturesque town is famous for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. But don't overlook one of the country's most successful dinner theaters, Oregon Cabaret Theatre.  Considering the sell-out of the opener, "The Spitfire Grill ," one is wise to book now and avoid disappointment. 
oregoncabaret.com/2021-season/
or
oregoncabaret.com 541 488-2902



This fetching fox is among more than two
dozen sculptures outdoors at Living Desert Zoo
and Gardens, an outdoor venue in Palm Springs
.
UP NEXT:  Art and the outdoors are time honored companions, and we've found some magnificent places to explore as the world slowly returns to "normal." Meanwhile, masking and distancing don't have to be confining.  Come join us in sculpture parks, wildlife preserves and more, as we explore artistic outdoor venues which educate, inform and provide fresh air. Many of the world's great parks, nature preserves, outdoor art venues and wildlife parks are open, providing exciting nature-driven entertainment for the eyes, ears and senses. Palm Springs' Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, for instance, offers more than a dozen gorgeous bronze statues (see right, this delightful fox.) Consider botanical gardens, sculpture gardens, zoos and other options await to break the spell of isolation and offer an opportunity to enjoy fresh air and appreciate new sights and artwork Remember to explore, learn and live as you go.  Catch us each Friday for a fresh look at the arts, travel, nature, family and more. www.whereiscookie.com

5 comments:

  1. Portland PatronsApril 8, 2021 at 6:24 PM

    Along with the fabulous docket at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, we never miss a show at the Cabaret across the street. We've never seen a lousy production, in several decades of loyal support. Thanks for giving them such nice play. Well deserved and well done!

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  2. So glad you've been enjoying this delightful venue for decades. So have we! Never miss it and can't wait to get back down to Ashland. Fun piece as usual.

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  3. Lively place, the cabaret, and so good to hear the season is in swing. We missed last year's-- and only streaming at OSF. Thanks for keeping the flame.

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  4. We appreciate your accomplished writing and the beautiful, well composed photos.
    Such a treat to find whereiscookie!

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  5. Medford Theater BuffsApril 13, 2021 at 3:29 PM

    It's exciting to even think of attending a play again. Bravo for this cabaret, which is an institution in Ashland. We are thrilled to be enjoying performances again. "Spitfire Grill" is a delight. Thanks for helping spread the word of this treasure.

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