As I made my way to the Forestburgh Playhouse (FBP) last weekend, I couldn’t help but think of Sally Bowles singing those very words in the Broadway show “Cabaret,” which features …
As I made my way to the Forestburgh Playhouse (FBP) last weekend, I couldn’t help but think of Sally Bowles singing those very words in the Broadway show “Cabaret,” which features the insanely memorable music and lyrics of the legendary songwriting duo (John) Kander and (Fred) Ebb.
Now in its third season, “Forestburgh Under the Stars” was inspired by producer Franklin Trapp. It was an answer to one of the many problems created by the COVID-19 pandemic, which reared its ugly head in 2019. Not wanting to close the theatre down, but restricted by concerns for public safety and health, Trapp concocted the outdoor concert series as a way of presenting entertainment for audiences that would ensure peace of mind for everyone attending.
Most of us are familiar with Sally’s war-torn advice.
“What good is sitting
Alone in your room?
Come hear the music play
Life is a cabaret, old chum
Come to the cabaret.”
Prior to “Under the Stars,” I had no idea that Trapp was so well connected to the vast coterie of Broadway veterans and top-notch cabaret performers who were (and are) more than happy to visit the Catskills, enjoy a brief respite from New York City, and do what they do best: sing.
The first advertisement of the season spelled it out. “An evening with Broadway powerhouse T. Oliver Reid is coming to Forestburgh.” Reluctantly, I had to admit that I was unaware of Reid, who is currently in the cast of “Hadestown” in NYC, and has appeared in countless Broadway productions, including “Chicago,” “Mary Poppins” and “Kiss Me Kate.”
“You’ll be dazzled by the immense talent of T. Oliver Reid,” the ad promised and I, along with the rest of the audience members, was not disappointed. Reid presented a tribute to another legend, Bobby Short (September 15, 1924-March 21, 2005), who was an American cabaret singer and pianist. He is best known for his interpretations of songs by popular composers of the first half of the 20th century, such as Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Noël Coward and George and Ira Gershwin—a compilation of compositions that Short dubbed the “Great American Songbook.”
As frogs croaked and birds chirped their good nights, Reid’s incredibly smooth vocals and prowess interpreting the lyrics of those brilliant (IMHO) composers wowed the crowd with songs that many of us are familiar with. “This guy has a beautiful voice,” I scribbled in my notebook as the evening unfolded.
“I’m with you once more under the stars, and down by the shore an orchestra’s playing,” Reid crooned, opening with Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine,” followed by such classics as “I Get a Kick out of You,” “That Old Black Magic,” “Isn’t it Romantic” and “My Satin Doll.” Closing with Ira Gershwin’s “But Not for Me” made one thing clear. T. Oliver Reid and the “Great American Songbook” are definitely for me.
“Come taste the wine
Come hear the band
Come blow your horn
Right this way, your table’s waiting.”
So sang Sally Bowles in my ear as I vowed to return for more.
I’m beginning to think I “live under a rock,” as Barbara Fox would say, since I was also unaware of Broadway’s Jay Armstrong Johnson. He has starred in “On the Town,” “Hair” and “Phantom of the Opera,” to name but a few.
“Jay takes us on a musical journey as he celebrates his country roots, eclectic Broadway career, and his love for all things music,” the FBP website declared. “From Reba McEntire to Bernstein to Jonathan Larsen to Sondheim, you’ll not want to miss this musical potpourri that is sure to ‘The Life of the Party.’” Right again, Mr. Trapp.
Like the proverbial Energizer Bunny, Johnson careened across the outdoor patio stage, and as the stars began to twinkle, presented another roster of familiar tunes from famous shows like “A Chorus Line,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Peter Pan,” and “West Side Story.” They were replete with ridiculously entertaining patter, superb vocals and great panache.
“Nothing short of amazing,” I jotted down in my notebook, and as I packed up the camera gear and headed for home, I once again heard Sally Bowles’ musical advice:
“Start by admitting
from cradle to tomb
It isn’t that long a stay.
Life is a cabaret, old chum
It’s only a cabaret, old chum
And I love a cabaret!”
Turns out, I do too.
For more information on Forestburgh Under the Stars and a complete schedule of main stage productions, go to www.fbplayhouse.org or call 845/794-1194. I’ll be there, and my little dog, too!
Fun Fact: Bobby Short was born in Danville, Illinois, where two of his school classmates were Dick Van Dyke and Donald O’Connor.
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