San Francisco Cabaret Preview: CELEBRATING STEPHEN SCHWARTZ (Bay Area Cabaret)

by Jim Allen on September 17, 2014

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area

Post image for San Francisco Cabaret Preview: CELEBRATING STEPHEN SCHWARTZ (Bay Area Cabaret)

THIS WICKED MAGIC SHOW
WILL CAST AN ENCHANTED GODSPELL

Teddy Bear’s; Fanny’s; Trinity Place; 132 Bush; the Plush Room; The Mint; Josie’s; the list goes on and on. Time was when San Francisco was overrun with cabarets and showrooms; a close-knit circuit of performance venues, where, for a small cover Liz Callaway will star with Stephen Schwartz in a special opening night gala, kicking off Bay Area Cabaret's 2014-2015 Season - Saturday, September 27 at the historic Venetian Room of the Fairmont San Francisco.charge and the price of a cocktail, you could enjoy an evening of up-close, live entertainment.

Then came the 80s, ushering-in a skyrocketing real estate market, HIV-AIDS, Cable TV, and our old, now forgotten friend, the VCR. Together they created a perfect storm, which swept into town and basically shut down the party. Several clubs limped on, but by 2004, cabaret in San Francisco was on life support. Well, Marilyn Levinson would have none of it. The intimate nature and personal connection between audience and artist, inherent in the best of cabaret, was something too important to let die.

Stephen Schwartz will star in a special opening night gala, kicking off Bay Area Cabaret's 2014-2015 Season - Saturday, September 27 at the historic Venetian Room of the Fairmont San Francisco.Considering the aforementioned dire history, it was beyond courageous, and possibly a tad fool-hardy, when Levinson, a fifth-generation San Franciscan, embarked on a potentially quixotic quest to keep cabaret alive—at least in the Bay Area. In person, the pretty, soft-spoken Levinson is candid, disarmingly funny, and authentic: a mensch. Would someone so open-hearted and generous of spirit be eaten alive by the well-known egos and “difficult personalities” of show biz? Her pedigree (assisting Joe Papp with the Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park, company manager of one of Yul Brynner’s last tours of The King and I, etc.) would seem to weigh in her favor, but the odds were against her.

CELEBRATING STEPHEN SCHWARTZ - PosterIt’s been almost eleven years since she first charged the windmills, and the jury is in: Marilyn Levinson’s highly risky experiment, Bay Area Cabaret, a non-profit 501c3, is an unparalleled success. She now boasts a large subscriber and patron base, and four years ago she reopened the legendary Venetian Room of the Fairmont Hotel, where she now presents the crème-de-la-crème of Broadway and cabaret. Chita Rivera, Barbara Cook, Peter Gallagher, Karen Mason, Sutton Foster, Judy Collins, Tommy Tune, Amanda McBroom, Christine Ebersole, Norm Lewis, and the duo of John Pizzarelli and Jessicka Molaskey are only a few of the A-list artists who have graced the BAC stage over the past decade. It seems only fitting that Bay Area Cabaret’s Opening Night Gala, Celebrating Stephen Schwartz, would be headlined by the Broadway and film composer/lyricist himself. The one who wrote Wicked’s “Defying Gravity,” a song which no doubt has special meaning for the indomitable Levinson.

Schwartz, one of our nation’s finest living songwriters/composers (Pippin, Godspell, Pocahontas, Enchanted, Prince of Egypt) will be joined onstage by Michael Orland (musical director for American Idol), Saturday Night Live’s Ana Gasteyer, who performed the role of Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway, Ana Gasteyer will star with Stephen Schwartz in a special opening night gala, kicking off Bay Area Cabaret's 2014-2015 Season - Saturday, September 27 at the historic Venetian Room of the Fairmont San Francisco.and by two masterful interpreters of Schwartz’ work, Liz Callaway and Michael McCorry Rose. Mr. Schwartz will also perform his own work and will be interviewed on stage by ASCAP’s Director of Musical Theatre Michael Kerker.

The rest of the BAC’s 11th season will feature Leslie Uggams, Sierra Boggess, Stacey Kent, Judy Collins, Ramsey Lewis, John Pizzarelli, Annaleigh Ashford, Bobby Conte Thornton, Lilias White and Billy Stritch.

In typical selfless fashion, Levinson says that her ultimate goal is to be instrumental in the creation of a nationwide circuit of cabarets, places that would provide regular employment to the practitioners of this increasing endangered art form she loves so much. If I were a betting man, I’d be putting my money on her.

photos courtesy of the artists
Stephen Schwartz photo by Joan Lauren

Celebrating Stephen Schwartz
Bay Area Cabaret’s Season XI Opening Night Gala
Fairmont Hotel’s Venetian Room
950 Mason Street, atop Nob Hill
Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 8:00 pm
for tickets, call (415) 392-4400 or visit www.bayareacabaret.org

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