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'Kickin' the Clouds Away' at Oregon Cabaret Theatre

Oregon Cabaret Theatre is kicking off its 2009 season with "Kickin' the Clouds Away," a new show about an old time — the 1920s and '30s — that bears a striking resemblance to our own financially troubled, but hopeful era.

"Kickin' the Clouds Away" opens Friday, Feb. 13 with low-priced previews on Feb. 11 and 12. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursdays-Mondays as well as 1 p.m. brunch matinees on Sundays. The show closes Sunday, March 29.

The creators and stars of this show are four old friends and two new ones. Suzanne Seiber, Tamara Marston, John Stadelman and Jim Giancarlo have been friends and colleagues for at least two decades. They have performed in, written and directed many Cabaret shows over the years.

Seiber has appeared in 11 shows at the Cabaret, Marston in 12. Stadelman has performed in 16 Cabaret shows and directed three productions as well as writing the Cabaret classic "The Holiday Broadcast of 1943." Giancarlo is OCT's artistic director and has performed in five shows, written eight and directed and/or choreographed 61 productions.

They are joined in "Kickin' the Clouds Away" by the "new" musical team of Mark Turnbull (musical director and guitarist) and Aaron Blenkush (pianist). Turnbull and Blenkush have previously worked together with Marston on "Tales of Fannie Keenan, better known as Dora Hand" at Oregon Stage Works.

"It's been 14 years since I've done a run of a show," Giancarlo said. "I'm having a great time. Who could be in better company? It's such a treat to hang out with those guys every day. And Mark and Aaron are great to work with."

"Kickin' the Clouds Away" features classic American popular music of the 1920s and '30s by songwriters including Rodgers and Hart, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg. There will also be plenty of dancing, especially Tap.

The songs represent the carefree fun of the '20s, the hard times of the '30s and the way popular music helped to get us through the tough times. The musical revue was one of the most popular types of entertainment in the 1920s and '30s. Songwriters like Berlin and the Gershwins got their start writing for revues.

"They were often a combination of topical comment and escapist entertainment," Giancarlo said. "When putting our show together we decided to select songs that were very much of their time but also felt very relevant to our time."

Giancarlo and Seiber were both in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Green Show in 1976. Giancarlo had just come to Ashland. Giancarlo has known Stadelman since 1986, the year the Cabaret was started. Marston came to the Cabaret from Seattle as part of "The Amazing Pink Things" and never left Ashland.

"We definitely have a great group history together," Giancarlo said. "It's been great writing the show together."

Seiber is thrilled to be working with Giancarlo. The two have been dance partners for 33 years. "Jim and I are enjoying each other so much," Seiber said. "One of us starts an idea and the other finishes it. Our friendship has been like that and it's continued in our dancing. What a joy to work with someone filled with ideas."

Marston also is enjoying the opportunity to work with her old friends. "We're having so much fun with this," she said. "It's so amazing to be working with these people. It's such a comfort working with each other, with the trust and the ability to work as a team. We all know each other's strengths."

Stadelman, too, was happy to be working with the others and found the process of discovering the music exciting. "You saw the lyrics in the songs," he said. "I never knew that song came out of it."

Gourmet dinner and brunch are available with advance reservations. Appetizers, desserts and beverages are also available without reservations.

Tickets are $19-$31. The Oregon Cabaret Theatre has taken $5 off its season subscription rate. Audiences can see all five productions for less than the price of four. The Sunday-only subscription is $95, the weeknight subscription is $103 and the anytime subscription is $119. The box office is at First and Hargadine streets in Ashland. Tickets also are available at oregoncabaret.com or by phone after 11 a.m. at 488-2902. (after 11 a.m.).

Jim Giancarlo and Tamara Marston will take the stage in Oregon Cabaret Theatre's new show, 'Kickin' the Clouds Away.' - Christopher Briscoe