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Linda Kosut, Arnaldo! delight, Ashland Cabaret scores with Archy
by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

Charles Dickens wrote the immortal A Tale Of Two Cities, which has lasted more than 150 years. This week, your humble scribe, Mr. Bits&Bytes, gives SGN readers "A Tale Of Three Cities." Immortality is not expected. Read on:

LINDA KOSUT SIZZLES AT JAZZ AT PEARL'S WITH OSCAR BROWN TRIBUTE
In San Francisco, there are few harder-working cabaret artists than Linda Kosut. (Well, to be truthful, her frequent onstage partner, Lua Hadar - reviewed several weeks ago in this space in SGN - would be right up there, as well.)

Kosut, winner of the 2008 BackStage Magazine's Bistro Award for Outstanding Recording for her As Long As You're Living - The Songs and Poetry of Oscar Brown, Jr., encored her Brown tribute with a lot of other material for a late-June cabaret outing at Jazz At Pearl's in the City by the Bay. The two shows drew near-capacity crowds for the Sunday performances.

Looking "fabulous" in "a diva dress cut down to there," as one Bay Area fan enthused, Kosut sang her heart out. Talent in abundance, style to match, a delightful stage presence - all combined to make the evening a winner in every sense.

Kosut started the evening with "Let's Get Lost," a jazz classic that deserves more hearings. "Birth of the Blues" jazzed up the evening with "Billie's Bounce" jiving the crowd. Cole Porter's "Don't Fence Me In" was another vocal highlight. The Beatles made the play list with "Nowhere Man," a wonderfully clever inclusion in the eclectic program.

The tributes to Brown, most from her award-winning CD, were happily received by the cheering crowd, but it was the classic "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens" that stopped the show.

Kosut and Hadar, who perform together as The Kitchenettes and run a long-established cabaret workshop for young singers, have wanted to "play Seattle" for years. It might still happen - a "sugar daddy" angel "with zillions of frequent flyer miles" could bring the talented singers to The Emerald City.

Stay in touch with Kosut's cabaret performances at www.lindakosut.com . Yeah, tell her Bits&Bytes told you to check in.

OREGON CABARET THEATRE SCORES WITH ARCHY, SWING SHIFT IN AUGUST
The Oregon Cabaret Theatre (OCT) is the "other" major production company in Ashland, OR. The world-famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival runs 11 plays during its rotating repertory season, February through October. But, week in and week out, year in and year out, OCT retains a high level of consistently satisfying productions. The current Archy and Mehitabel is a case in point. The title, actually, is archy and mehitabel, in lowercase, since Archy, the typewriting cockroach who tells the tales, cannot jump on the shift key and type in caps.

Don Marquis wrote the tales of A&M in the WW I era, mainly as installments in his New York Sun columns. Archy (or archy) tells the tales of the various residents of Shinbone Alley, the bohemian lives they lead, but mainly the adventures of Mehitabel, the pre-Cats heroine of the saga.

The musical currently on stage in Ashland actually dates from 1957 when it played New York as Shinebone Alley. Stars as diverse as Carol Channing and Eartha Kitt were involved in the production, as recording of the original tales and a television broadcast. One suspects this current incarnation is a blending of many versions. If not, it certainly seems so.

While the show is far too long, far too rambling, the performances are first-rate, especially the animated actor playing Archy, Andy Liegl. The rest of the cast turns in solid work but it is Liegl who will be remembered for his detailed work.

archy and mehitabel continues through August 31. The theater performs on Monday, the night that the Shakespeare Festival is "dark." The Sunday brunch matinee is also a favorite with local audiences. OCT often sells out key weekend performances weeks in advance. It is "the" theatrical experience many Ashland audiences (and a growing number of tourists) mark as "must-see."

Next up for OCT is the intriguing August 1 and 2 staging of Swing Shift - Tapping Into Rhythm, a two-night dance concert at OSF's long-shuttered Black Swan Theatre.

Then, for the fall, OCT offers A Brief History Of White Music, a revue exploring a fascinating premise: what would mainstream pop songs of yesteryear, those mainly sung by white artists, sound like if they had been introduced by African American performers. Imagine, for instance, a black singer wailing about "Where The Boys Are" with no Connie Francis in sight. That show runs September 12-November 2. Then, for the holiday season, OCT offers its traditional "panto," with historical ties to British Music Hall traditions. This year Ali Baba delights family audiences November 14-December 31. Details on all OCT shows at (541) 488-2902. OCT is celebrating its 23rd season, with many years ahead.

ARNALDO! SCORES WITH PRE-PRIDE CABARET SHOW AT JULIA'S ON BROADWAY
One of the entertainment highlights of Pride Week 2008 was the thoroughly engaging cabaret show by Arnaldo!, Seattle's prize-winning "drag chanteuse" or "gender illusionist" who has been drawing huge crowds in The Emerald City for years - and is now delighting critics and cabaret fans in New York and other major cities and resort destinations.

Arnaldo!'s pre-Pride cabaret, I Am What I Am! started big, grew bigger and ends with a bang. A tribute to Judy Garland started the evening - a natural showstopper for the capacity Pride crowd. Musical tributes to The Carpenters, Edith Piaf, and Eartha Kitt followed, with a good sampling of classic songs from The Great American Songbook. Daryl Spadaccini was effective all evening on the keyboard and added a few musical quips of his own, slyly tucked into the evening's music.

Jeanette d'Armand, one of Bits&Bytes' favorite Seattle cabaret artists (and a long-time champion of Arnaldo!), added a lot of zip to the evening with two guest songs. Her trademark, "The Saga of Jenny," brought down the house, as usual. (Jenny, from Lady In The Dark, it should be remembered, studied foreign languages - among other things - and "in 27 languages she couldn't say no .")

Julia's is not the best spot for a serious cabaret show. The overflow bar, adjacent to the restaurant/cabaret area, cannot be cut off from the stage side of the club and the noise spillover was a major problem. A cantankerous microphone forced Arnaldo! to sing a couple of early songs without amplification - it worked for a brief period but would have killed his voice if the sound problem had not been solved. But, as they say, "the show must go on" - and it did.

Nathan and Steven, owners of the late and lamented Thumper's, where Arnaldo! started his cabaret career nearly 10 years ago, were welcome visitors for the pre-Pride cabaret. Check up on Arnaldo!'s upcoming shows at www.dragchanteuse.com .

OLYMPIA'S CAPITAL PLAYHOUSE HOSTS FUNDRAISING CABARET, FREE TYKES ON STAGE SHOW
The ambitious Capital Playhouse in Olympia, a terrifically successful theater that spotlights musical theatre, has two exciting productions on the calendar for tomorrow, July 5.

A free - as in free - family show, Artic Adventures, welcomes Seattle visitors with children (ages 5-7 is the target audiences) for a 7 p.m. performance. The show, part of the Tykes On Stage training program that develops into the theater's highly respected Kids At Play summer stock series, promises a "fabulous production" as "the kids have the times of their lives!" Details at (360) 943-2744.

Later tomorrow night, Capitol Playhouse hosts a 10 p.m. late night fundraising cabaret, a benefit for the theater's scholarship fund for students. All members of the theater - staff, actors, directors - promise to make an onstage appearance. The agenda includes "a runway fashion show, silly skits, belted musical theater hits" and promises of a one-man show that seems to have a local, Olympia, following. Sounds fun ... and for a good cause. Details - same number. Check it out.

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