by Lydia Baxter
Sometimes two seemingly different and uncomplimentary ideas can actually work in synchronicity. Florida Studio Theatre’s 2018 Summer Cabaret Season is filled with fresh and exciting new takes on much-loved classics: men perform an iconic female singer-songwriter’s music, Broadway hits get a twist of jazz and swing, and Gilbert & Sullivan is brought into the 21st century.
Carole’s Kings, the first in FST’s Summer Sidekicks Series, will make you “feel the earth move under your feet” with their tight harmonies and sharp choreography. Paying homage to one of America’s most celebrated and iconic singer-songwriters, Carole’s Kings features Carole King’s biggest hits: “The Loco-Motion,” “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “You’ve Got a Friend,” and many more. It will be difficult to stay in your seat as Carole’s three “kings” tickle the ivories and do the loco-motion, but when they share the stories behind King’s music, you will be completely absorbed. One of the show’s co-creators, DJ Bucciarelli, shared, “Carole’s music is not only beautiful, but important–dealing with marriage, race, politics, and every emotion a human can muster. From the fun barbershop feel of “Chains” to the haunting “So Far Away,” she really does write for everyone.”
The universality of King’s music and the cabaret’s fresh take on it are two reasons that FST’s Producing Artistic Director Richard Hopkins was drawn to Carole’s Kings. Hopkins said, “I think [her music] speaks to the creative imagination as a gender-less entity. A woman can write for a man and a man for a woman. Carole’s Kings brings a fresh new interpretation [to King’s music]. This kind of flip allows you to hear [the songs] fresh, as if for the first time.” It is a little-known fact that King wrote music for both genders. In fact, many of her earliest hits were recorded and released by male singers.
Next up is The Music of the Night, a brand-new show by The Swingaroos that celebrates a century of Broadway music, but adds a hint of ‘30s and ‘40s jazz. Last seen in FST’s 2015 Summer Cabaret Series, The Swingaroos return to Sarasota with their swingin’est versions of songs by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and the Gershwins, just to name a few. The group’s raw talent and distinct sound delighted audiences and impressed FST artistic staff. Richard Hopkins shared, “[The Swingaroos] have got this unique style, and a great, fresh sound. We’ve been encouraging them to develop work, so that we could bring them back.”
Unlike The Swingaroos’ last cabaret at FST, band leader Kimberley Hawkey won’t be the only one singing on stage. This time, she will be joined by a male vocalist, enabling the group to perform some of Broadway’s finest duets. Hawkey created The Music of the Night specifically for The Swingaroos, and Assaf Gleizner, the band’s pianist, gave her a hand by arranging the music. He also composed the orchestrations for Carole’s Kings—it seems like Mr. Gleizner can’t keep his hands still!
Winding up the Summer Cabaret Season is Gilbert & Sullivan Unplugged: Modern Twist, Major Hits. Gilbert & Sullivan were considered the rockstars of their time, and their operettas were adored. This one-of-a-kind cabaret is a tribute-like show that treats Gilbert & Sullivan as if they were, once again, superstars. By mashing songs from The Mikado, H.M.S. Pinafore, and Pirates of Penzance up in the style of acoustic rock and folk, Gilbert & Sullivan Unplugged re-envisions the music, so it speaks to today’s audiences. “The arrangements and the approach are completely different, which give you a whole new angle [to Gilbert & Sullivan],” said Richard Hopkins.
The cast of Gilbert & Sullivan Unplugged all play their own instruments, oftentimes accompanying themselves as they sing—which isn’t easy when you’re performing the famous patter song, “I Am the Very Model of A Modern Major General.” Having performed in full-fledged Gilbert & Sullivan productions at theatres like the American Repertory Theatre and Actors Theatre of Louisville, the show’s cast definitely has the skills and knowledge to bring out the fun in Gilbert & Sullivan.
With all new takes on classics, the 2018 Summer Cabaret Sidekick Series offers up a thrilling mix of contrasts and brilliant music.