by Rob Lester
Urban Stages is usually a home to plays and play readings. Ticket sales and sponsorships resulting from the current music-oriented series make possible their outreach programs bringing free arts to children and teens throughout the city, throughout the year. And throughout the beginning of December, the box office for the 75-seat raked auditorium has raked in money to fund it as customers have picked up tickets for shows likely to pick up their spirits at this near-holiday time. The Christmas holiday gets a nod with A Ritzmas Daryl, punnily named for the pairing of cabaret favorites Ricky Ritzel and Daryl Glenn who are pairing two musical scores for Dickens' perennial tale: Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, and Leslie Bricusse's Scrooge. (This Christmas rollicking round-up will be making its own cabaret rounds around town, also booked at Don't Tell Mama and the Metropolitan Room, with Alison Nusbaum featured in the show for the female roles.)
Urban Stages' Artistic Director Frances Hill, whose home turf is theatre, has made sure that the festival has a theatre sensibility, and she and Producing Associate Peter Napolitano have cherry-picked events and performers who've proven themselves comfortably at home in both genres: cabaret singers with a sense of theatricality or theatre background. They are naturals for a setting that is a happy medium between an intimate cabaret and an intimate theatre, or they've adapted what they do to the space far larger than the small stages in some cabaret rooms. (They can accommodate a band or the 30-member Broadway Youth Ensemble for one event.) Sarah Rice is an example of a performer who has stepped into cabaret (where she recently won both the MAC and Bistro Awards) from theatre (most famously as the original Johanna in Sweeney Todd) and will be among the attractions. She shares a bill with singer David Vernon. The series includes everything from a tribute to Lauren Bacall by Maureen Taylor to a multi-performer Jazz Jam and two weekend afternoon seminars that are free to ticketholders and MAC members. The seminars will feature lively discussions on the art and business of cabaret. Speaking of those two agendas, one who does them both splendidly gets her own event: An Evening with Tanya Holt presents a classy singer who's made waves singing solo and back-upbut whom many know better as the booking manager at the Metropolitan Room. With the exception of the closing benefit concert with Steve Ross, shows are $25 and those buying tickets to two shows held the same night get both for $40.