I have been a denizen of Oak Park, IL since last July. Drawn here by the cultural ambiance and supportive community I settled in the Arts District. The theatre scene here is in transition. Oak Park has a deserved reputation for being supportive of the performing arts. There was a community theater here for many years called the Village Players and it was succeeded by the Festival Players (which produces among other things the summer Shakespeare in the Park) and the nearby Circle Theater. Circle Theatre is going strong, but has now become itinerant. There is a new theater town, The Open Door Repertory that hopes to take up the slack. It is also very likely to be in demand as a cabaret venue.
It is particularly tied into the community carefully offering either home grown theater or events that have local appeal. One of its commitments is to offer local audiences fine musical theater and similar events. It is presently embarking on a Jazz Festival with multiple offerings which will play various Saturday evenings to June 15.
Since this venue is within easy walking distance of my apartment, I wanted to check it out. The first event I visited on my recent cabaret weekend was Abigail Richards singing the music of Richard Rodgers, ‘From Hart to Hammerstein.”
This well attended concert proved why Jazz rules. Billed as a Jazz Concert the event seems designed to draw music offiicianados as well as theater types. And it was quite a fun evening. The venue is perfect for cabaret, accessible and comfortable. Refreshments are available but there is no cover of minimum.
A warm and accomplished jazz singer, Ms. Richards and her trio (Daniel Healy on Sax, Tim Fitzgerald on Guitar and Jake Vinsel on bass) interpreted the material with verve and respect. Mr. Fitzgerald was a close second to Ms. Richards in skillful riffing on the tunes. There was a pleasing mix of standards and less well known items some of which were quite venturesome: imagine a scat singer assaying “The Lonely Goatherd.”
I plan to return for more when I’m in town for the weekend. Next up is Elaine Dame exploring the Strayhorn/Ellington collaboration in “Something to Live For.” I hope the series continues to draw well. I know Elaine Dame is quite a presence in Chicago Cabaret.