Oregon Cabaret Theatre, under the excellent direction of Valerie Rachelle and Rick Robinson, is two weeks away from closing out its 2017 season, with the charming musical "She Loves Me" finishing up its final two weeks.
The 2017 season has been a raunchy and rapturous one, which included a short-run redux of the company's 2016 monster-hit, "Rocky Horror Picture Show," as well as various strong showings across a wide range of genres. "Baskerville," by Ken Ludwig, was a stellar murder mystery rooted in the tales of Arthur Conan Doyle; "The Drowsy Chaperone," that robust parody of American musical comedy of the 1920s, was another crowd favorite, with strong attendance and engaged patrons.
"The All Night Strut" featured an actor-exhausting but crowd-pleasing abundance of toe-tapping classics of the American songbook, with a special focus on 1930s and '40s filled with jazz, blues, bebop and old standards. In late winter/early spring of 2017, the company launched its fast-paced season with the classic British farcical door-slammer, "Noises Off," which was a highlight of a strong year and featured acting chops aplenty, with a particularly strong and passionate showing from Rogue Valley perennial Livia Genise.
Oregon Cabaret has also continued a popular tradition with its "Naughty But Nice" late-night cabaret events, one of which is currently running throughout December at 11 p.m. on Fridays. It features risqué skits and holiday songs from members of the cabaret ensemble.
In 2018, the theater will continue its tradition of door-busting, giddy musical productions with "Million Dollar Quartet," billed as a "jukebox musical" that dramatizes the impromptu jam session that occurred on Dec. 4, 1956, with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. The musical, a fairly contemporary addition to the stable of OCT productions, debuted on Broadway in 2010.
"Once: The Musical" will come next in late April, a tribute to love set in Ireland and featuring a burgeoning romance between a Dublin busker and a Czech girl. "Once" was a favorite of the critics and received multiple accolades. It also swept the 2012 Tony Awards, winning seven of the famous Herman Rosse designed awards, including Best Musical.
Next up will be the autobiographical and biographical coming-of-age parable, "Avenue Q," set in Brooklyn, New York, and featuring both human actors and puppeteers. The two-act musical is another show that was awarded three Tony Awards after it transferred to Broadway from off-Broadway in 2003.
In September, patrons will be treated to the off-Broadway absurdist comedy "Picasso at the Lapine Agile," a play written by American comedian Steve Martin about a theoretical meeting between renowned physicist Albert Einstein and legendary painter Pablo Picasso over drinks in a Montmartre bar, just before both men execute work in their fields that bring them newfound glory. The overarching theme of the play is the similarity of imagination that ultimately exists between art and science.
Rounding out 2018 with what will surely be another insane challenge for its troupe of reliably fabulous actors, the Cabaret will mount the manic "Every Christmas Story Ever Told," a production that has been called a "timely take on Christmas and pop culture" in which three actors attempt — instead of doing boring old Dickens — to perform every Christmas story in existence. We can probably look forward to more of the deranged physical antics for which the Cabaret has become well known.
Overall, the programming from Ashland's underdog powerhouse theater continues to be fresh and compelling. We look forward to 2018.
— Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.