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Oregon Cabaret launches full season, along with slate of two-nighters

The Oregon Cabaret Theatre is back!

When Jackson County was moved out of the COVID-19 extreme risk category, the Cabaret was able to reopen, launching its 2021 season Feb. 26 with the hit musical “The Spitfire Grill.”

The reimagined production features a cast of seven playing their own instruments as an onstage orchestra.

The musical tells the heartfelt story of a woman who was just released from prison and goes to work in a small-town café. It is about healing the wounds of the past and finding one’s own chosen family.

A film in 1996 which won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, “Spitfire Grill” was the basis for the 2001 Off-Broadway musical of the same name by James Valcq and Fred Alley.

The Ashland production is directed by Cabaret Artistic Director Valerie Rachelle.

“We first started rehearsals for “Spitfire Grill” in early March of 2020,” she said, “and then put the show on hold March 13.”

The Cabaret housed the cast and kept them in town until the end of May in the hopes they would be able to open the show, but that wasn’t possible. Of the original seven cast members, three returned for the 2021 opening.

“In order to rehearse the show, we brought in the out-of-town cast members and isolated them for two weeks,” Rachelle said. “Then, everyone — the entire cast, stage manager, director and choreographer — were all tested prior to entering the building.”

All tests came back negative. The out-of-town cast members live together in a bubble in housing provided by the Cabaret. Everyone associated with the Cabaret operation is required to do a daily health check-in at least an hour before entering the building, at which time there also is a temperature check and official log-in.

“We have put into place a lot of new safety protocols in order to produce theater at this time,” Rachelle said.

Rachelle said having the actors make their own music works very well in this production.

“The beautiful score comes to life in the hands of the characters as they make their journey through the story,” she said.

Patrons will find physically distanced seating at tables where they can enjoy a meal before the show or a dessert and beverage at intermission.

“We are blessed to be a small theater with a lot of space in the house,” Rachelle said. “We added upgraded MERV-13 filters to our air units and have found ways to keep our casts and staff small.”

The venue can hold 220, but at this time, the Cabaret is seating only 42 patrons to keep parties well separated and the audience at least 12 feet from the stage.

Masks are required, except when dining, and all patrons are temperature-checked in the lobby before entering the theater.

A limited menu offers new dishes, as well as some Cabaret favorites. Entrée choices include rosemary merlot short ribs, chicken breast, Columbia River steelhead, house-made ravioli and a vegan medley. A selection of small plates and desserts rounds out the menu. Yes, Dick Hay Pie is still available!

“The Spitfire Grill” runs through April 18. Following is the Cabaret lineup for the rest of the year:

  • April 29 – June 30: “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” an irreverent comedy about a new tenant wreaking havoc in Armadillo Acres in Florida.
  • July 1 – Sept. 5: “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” with such hit songs as “That’ll Be the Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “La Bamba,” and “Johnny B. Goode.”
  • Sept. 18 – Nov. 7: “Poirot: Murder on the Links,” a popular Agatha Christie murder mystery thriller.
  • Nov. 18 – Dec. 31: “Christmas, Contigo,” the story of a trip back home for Iris Delgado Piñeira to introduce the family to her fiancé, Bryan, all in the trappings of Noche Buena.

During the season, there also will be two-night-only shows featuring favorite performers and tributes. On March 2-3, David Saffert and Jillian Snow kicked things off as Liberace and Liza Minelli in a night of music and comedy. Future shows include:

  • March 9 -10: Kristen Calvin and Robbie DaCosta perform an electric mix of hits from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.
  • May 10-12: A tribute to the life and music of Loretta Lynn stars Livia Genise.
  • Sept. 21-22: The Brothers Reed bring their humor and musical riffs to the Cabaret in a return engagement.
  • Sept. 27-29: Crossing the Streams features Cabaret clowns and bitter rivals Justin Waggle and Stephen Kline in a fast-paced night of fun.
  • Oct. 24-25: Cabaret regulars Lauren Blair and Jake Delaney celebrate infamous duos and duets through the ages.

Performances and show dates are subject to change. See oregoncabaret.com for news, updates and to purchase tickets.

“We are grateful to our entire staff and to all the creative teams and artists who have been a huge part of our survival,” Rachelle said.

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

Members of ‘The Spitfire Grill” cast at Oregon Cabaret Theatre, from left: Jon Patrick Penick as Caleb, Carrie Lyn Brandon as Shelby, Mariah Lotz as Percy, Marta Rymer as Effy and Matthew Staley as Joe. The show runs through April 18. Courtesy photo