Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Venetian Evenings
The Venetian Room

Also see Patrick's recent review of A Midsummer Night's Dream

Photo by Justin Schuman
San Francisco's Venetian Room is one of the most storied venues in The City. Over the years it has hosted a who's who of entertainers, including (but not limited to): Tony Bennett, Eartha Kitt, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, Ike and Tina Turner, Jerry Lewis, Ginger Rogers, Carol Channing, Peggy Lee, Bernadette Peters, Lou Rawls, Johnny Mathis, Marlene Dietrich, and Sonny & Cher. We can now add to that list Tony-winning singer, dancer, actress and producer, LaChanze, who recently graced the Venetian Room stage with co-stars Carole J. Bufford and Grammy-winning jazz singer Jamie Davis in a tribute to that long lineup of stars in a one-night only show entitled "Venetian Evenings."

Singing to a packed house, the three vocalists ran through a wide range of songs associated with many of the artists who gave the Venetian Room its reputation as a top-notch venue. Bufford opened the evening with an all-time classic, "Fever," Peggy Lee's biggest hit, smoothing out the smoky edge of Lee's rendition, giving the tune an even silkier feel. LaChanze then stepped up to the microphone for a gorgeous take on Rodgers and Hart's "My Romance," from the oft-forgotten 1935 musical Jumbo.

Next up was Jamie Davis, whose resonant baritone earned him a 2024 Grammy for his participation on the album "Count Basie Swings the Blues." Davis, who for many years was the lead vocalist in Basie's big band, paid tribute to Nat King Cole by singing "Nature Boy." The song is a perfect match for Davis's deep voice, as it has the lowest range of any of Cole's hits.

And the hits kept coming: Bufford gave a gorgeously enunciated "Non, je ne regrette rien" (yes, Piaf appeared at the Venetian Room back in the day), and LaChanze rocked the joint with The Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go?" and backed it up with Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Walk on By" (add Dionne Warwick's name to the list of Venetian Room star appearances) with soulful backing from the five-piece band led by saxophonist Aaron Joseph Lington, his trio, and pianist Casey Filson. They closed the show with all three joining in on The City's unofficial theme song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."

As delightful as the music was, the history of the Venetian Room that was woven into breaks between songs was just as compelling. Hearing the inside scoop on the goings-on inside the lavish venue (in one of The City's most luxe hotels) turned the evening into something much more that just another cabaret show.

Bay Area Cabaret is doing Bay Area music lovers a huge favor by reigniting the action at the Venetian Room, bringing in a range of talents to once more fill the room with gorgeous sounds. (Next up is Broadway's own Julie Benko, fresh off her appearances as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl and Ruth Stern in Barry Manilow's Harmony. But it's going to be hard to top the trio of talents that filled the stage Sunday evening.

Venetian Evenings was performed on March 24, 2024, at The Venetian Room, Fairmont San Francisco, 950 Mason St, San Francisco CA. For more information, please visit