Like so many superheroes of song, a bevy of local singers will join forces Monday at The Capitol to present the latest installment of Limelight Entertainment’s Cocktail Cabaret events. The theme of the evening is “Animation Celebration!” offering fond renditions of classic tunes you grew up loving — and possibly singing yourself — only this time around, they’ll be sung in tune by some of the best singers in the area.
“We’ve been basically plugging it as animated movies from your childhood — you will hear songs that you know,” said Brad Ruder of Limelight.
“There are a couple that are off-the-beaten path, from like even before my time, like early 1980s,” he added. “But other than that, it’s all songs people are going to know from stuff as recently as a couple of years back to early ’90s, so there’s something for everybody.”
There will also be faces you know if you’ve caught any local musical theater.
For example, husband and wife performers Ryan and Kara Klontz have appeared in productions such as “Les Miserables” — the 2014 show in which they met — and, more recently, in “Rock of Ages” and “Evil Dead the Musical.”
“It’s a good chance to hear people pick their own music and put a spin on all kinds of different stuff that you wouldn’t see and (not) a specific musical,” Ryan Klontz told GO!
That’s part of why Ryan finds the Cabaret shows so appealing.
“There’s always a theme, but it’s an opportunity for you to kind of pick your own style of song that you want to sing, that you feel showcases your voice and your talent, versus if you do a musical, you get cast in a role — I don’t want to say ‘stuck,’ because it’s usually fun — but you are committed to singing the songs from that show,” he said. “The Cabarets give you a chance to sing whatever you want. The Cabarets are also super fun because it’s not often you get 12 amazing performers who get to do something of their own choosing in a specific show.”
Early last week, the Klontzes wrapped up “Evil Dead the Musical.” Kara, appearing in the show for the second time, played the archaeologist Annie. Ryan starred as the hero, Ash, his second time in the physically demanding role.
“I think next time around, I might let the next young buck come and take the reins,” Ryan said. “That show, and that part specifically, is tough on the body, tough on the voice,” he said, adding with a laugh, “There are only so many more years I’m going to be able to play a 21-year-old, being 35 now.”
Fortunately, the rigors of Cocktail Cabarets are a little less demanding, and he’ll be making his sixth appearance in one Monday night.
The evening will mark Kara’s fifth performance in a Cocktail Cabaret, she said. Kara, too, likes the independence Cabarets allow performers to exercise as opposed to fully staged productions.
“It’s community theater — and we’re always at the mercy of local production companies, the choices they make for shows and casting,” Kara said. “That’s the nature of the passion that we all have for doing theater, especially musical theater, but the cabarets give the performers an opportunity to kind of reflect on what we think we would like to perform for an audience — what we feel good and confident about, and sometimes, what we feel like we might want to take a risk and challenge ourselves to perform.”
Unlike fully staged musicals, rehearsals are kept to a minimum.
“We typically have one rehearsal with the accompanist, and then, usually one what we call a dress rehearsal,” Kara said.
“It’s really one night for everyone to gather and run the songs one more time. We don’t get into the theater until an hour before we open to the public. Really, the process is all on the singer to know their stuff and be able to get it under control, working with the accompanist a couple of times.” (The accompanist for Monday’s show is pianist Scott Michaelsen.)
That reliance on the performers is why “we hand-pick our performers. We don’t run an audition process,” Ruder said. “It’s supposed to be easy for us; it’s supposed to be easy for the performers.”
And if they can’t work on the level of independence the Cabaret calls for, “you get into some dicey situations if people don’t feel prepared,” Ruder said.
“It’s kind of crazy the level of professionalism we have here for community theater,” Kara said. “People are really always able to rally and pull it together.”
Ruder and his partner, Mike Nowak, took over the Cabarets in 2015 from founder John Kish and have held shows at The Capitol as frequently as every other month. However, the shows will go on hiatus when Limelight is on tap to work on other productions, such as Cascades Theatrical Company’s production of “Rent” late last spring.
“Since we have really no other projects on our docket right now, we’re going to try and run them every other month,” Ruder said, and the next show will likely be held in late January or early February. Prior to Limelight’s taking them over, the performances tended toward general Broadway cabaret shows. Now, they’ve evolved to have a theme, which has proven popular — particularly the recent “Gender Bender” night, in which men sang tunes written for women, and vice-versa.
“That was actually one of the best ones,” Ruder said. “People loved that one.” The Klontzes hosted the show, and the evening included Ryan singing “When You’re Good to Mama,” from “Chicago.”
After their Cabaret performances Monday, the Klontzes, who wed on July 21, expect to perform in the annual “A Tower Christmas” show at the Tower Theatre. Beyond that, however, they have no immediate plans to perform.
“Ryan and I are taking a short break. We’re not stepping away from theater,” Kara said. “Next week will be our first full week of being married and not having a show schedule.”