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Beth Baker brings cabaret to the Craterian

The San Francisco Chronicle put it this way: "Baker at — full throttle is an inspiring thing to behold."

Those who wish to behold Beth Baker doing her vocalizing — thing can see her perform at 7 p.m. Sunday, May 23, at the Craterian Ginger — Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford.

Baker's performance is part of the Craterian's Spotlight — Series focusing on local talent.

Baker, who makes her home in the Rogue Valley, grew up — in the San Francisco Bay Area where she began her cabaret career. She — starred as Fanny Brice in "Funny Girl" at Foothill Community College, — where she later played Sally Adams in "Call Me Madam."

She received DramaLogue nominations for her roles in "Boys — From Syracuse" and "Call Me Madam" Other theatre work was followed by — solo performances, including singing the National Anthem for the San Francisco — Giants, Golden State Warriors, San Jose Sharks, and the Oakland A's.

"In 1995, an ex-literary agent from New York living in — the Bay Area said he would open doors for me I New York," Baker said. — "I never would have gone to New York if he hadn't prompted me to." She — was there for 31/2 years.

While in the Big Apple, Baker was making a name for herself — for her one-woman cabaret show at cabaret houses such as Eighty-eights, — Danny's Skylight Room and Don't Tell Mama's. She was also a regular soloist — with the Gospel Choir of Middle Collegiate Church/East Village.

Baker remembers her Broadway auditions as disappointing. — "I was always 'too something.' I was too young for character roles, too — old for ingenue roles, to large and talented for the chorus and too white — for a community that wanted exotic, ethnic-looking women. They said I — looked like I was from Ohio."

She was also told to sing 'straight out with no color.'

"I worked 40 years to have the color in my voice, why — was I going to get rid of it now?"

So she sang cabaret at night and painted cabinets by day.

"You usually lose money in cabaret," Baker said. "You — do it because you love it. I think that's true of the club owners too. — I spent many hours on the subway with canvas tote bags on my back full — of paint cans."

Baker loved the intimacy of Cabaret singing. Its sparseness, — usually paring the band down to one or two musicians. But it's hard to — find a cabaret these days.

"It's dying," Baker said. "It's almost gone in San Francisco — and New York. People always love it and wish there were more.

An evening with Beth Baker always includes a variety of — musical styles. Audiences at the Craterian can expect to hear a mix of — blues, ballads, jazz, gospel, inspirational and musical theater comedy. — She will be backed by a small combo.

In true cabaret fashion, Baker says she's not singing — music that's particularly edgy.

"I like to push a little here and there," she said. "But — I love it when people come up to me and say my singing touched them."

Here in the Rogue Valley, audiences have seen her perform — in one-woman Holiday Cabaret Shows, as featured soloist at Oregon Shakespeare — Festival's Daedalus Project and at Horizon Institute's "An Evening in — Celebration of the Human Spirit" at OSF's Angus Bowmer Theatre.

"I have grown to love the Rogue Valley. It was the place — my father chose to live out his life and the place where he died. I have — also grown to love the people of this valley... they supported me during — my time of grief and have vigorously supported my talent.

"This valley feels like home to me," Baker admits. "I — can't imagine ever leaving. The Rogue Valley would certainly seem to be — among the most unlikely places to build a career in music and yet it has — been perfect for me."

Tickets for Baker's Craterian concert are $15, general — admission. 779-3000.