12/22/2018        COURTENAY’S CABARET:  HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS           Alliance Theatre

 

TALENT AND JOY

The Alliance Theatre welcomes back Atlanta’s own “Broadway Baby” (The Prom), Courtenay Collins, for a warm and pleasant cabaret of music, cheer, and conversation.  Set Designer Kat Conley has transformed the intimate Hertz Stage into an even more-intimate personal party room, adding design elements to the audience tiers.  And an on-set bar keeps the spirits flowing and the cheer bubbling.

 

I have been a rabid fan of Ms. Collins’ since 2006’s Love Jerry at Actor’s Express.  Since then, her performances in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, Hello Dolly, Catch Me if You Can, and, of course, The Prom have cemented her standing as an Atlanta treasure and icon.

 

Here, she lets us into her home and into her heart, sharing her life, her family, and her favorite holiday traditions and songs.  Sunday’s matinee had an element of friendship, as the stage-side tables were filled with a posse of her high school friends, with whom she interacted and invited on stage.

 

In short, Courtenay’s Cabaret showcases a towering talent we’ve applauded for many years.  It also gives us a glimpse into the heart of a vivacious woman who squeezes excitement from the most unlikely experiences, and whose fondest wish is to share her heart with the entire world.

The show itself is filled with delights – an accidental visit from Marley’s Ghost by Eric Mendenhall (who apparently got lost in the new Alliance’s labyrinthine back halls), a pair of prop hands who appears at the mere tug of an old-fashion bell pull, and a guest with whom Ms. Collins chats, and who is allowed to bring us a song of their own.  It should be noted that this “guest” is different for every performance, so you never know who is going to “drop in.”

 

At Sunday’s matinee, we were privileged to meet Leah Partridge, Soprano and Opera Star, who appeared last year as the Beggar Woman in the Atlanta Opera’s Sweeney Todd.  She regaled as with an exquisitely performed “Quando Men Vo,” by Puccini, from La Boheme.  (The aria is also known as “Musetta’s Waltz,” so now I have context when I hear that referred to in Rent).

 

We were also privileged to meet a wonderful trio of musicians, Jo Lynn Burks on Piano (who doubles as Music Director), Scott Glazer on Bass, and “Q” Robinson on percussion, all of who were treated as friends rather than “back-up” band, even getting to participate in an “Ugly Sweater” contest.  Can you believe there are actually enough Ugly Sweater songs to build a full medley?  But I digress…

 

As to the songs themselves, all the usual favorites are here.  I understand the show changes frequently, so listing any would be as fruitless as my grandmother’s pitiless fruitcake.  Ms. Collins shares a few “my year in New York” experiences to introduce a medley of “Christmas in Manhattan” songs that I suspect will be in every performance.  In any case, she puts all her talent into every song, and makes even the most over-heard favorites sound fresh and new.

 

Nor does Ms. Collins leave us out!  She wanders freely throughout the audience, soliciting volunteers, encouraging sing-a-longs (lyric sheets are included in the program), and even making enough Christmas Cookies for EVERYONE.

 

Yes, there are many cabaret opportunities for you, as there is every Christmas season.  But I doubt if there will be any as warm, as welcoming, and as filled to the brim with talent and joy as Courtenay’s Cabaret.  It truly earns its subtitle, Home for the Holidays.  Ms. Collins makes her home feel as welcoming as our own.

 

I enjoyed every minute of Courtenay’s Cabaret, and every note of her performance. 

   -- Brad Rudy (BK Rudy@aol.com    @bk_rudy    #CourtenaysCabaret)

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