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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Encore Cabaret’ blends Broadway, jazz and more in Appleton PAC

Critic At Large

Cornerstone Jazz Orchestra and Center Stage Vocalists

Scene from Friday night “Encore Cabaret.” (Warren Gerds)

APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Hybrid vigor is on display in “Encore Cabaret,” a show with roots in Broadway musicals and branches all over the place.

In the branches are young voices and high-skill instrumental jazz musicians. Broadway songs are done up jazzy ways.

The show is an offshoot of the Center Stage High School Musical Theater Program of Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.

Another performance will be presented at 7:30 p.m. today, Saturday, Jan. 15, in Kimberly-Clark Theater of the center. Info: foxcitiespac.com.

Seating is cabaret style. The “cabaret” element extends to the serving of beverages.

COVID-19 protocols are present: Masking for audience and staff. The singers wear clear-plastic face shields.

The program showcases music from Broadway from back when to today.

The 12-member Cornerstone Jazz Orchestra lets rip with such instrumentals as the stand-alone “On Broadway” and “A New World” from “Songs for a New World” and medleys from such shows as “West Side Story” and “Gypsy.”

The orchestra also backs students in Center Stage Encore Singers in such songs as “Freak Flag” and “Who I’d Be” from “Shrek,” “The Impossible Dream” from “Man of La Mancha,” “She Used To Be Mine” from “Waitress,” “You’re Nothing Without Me” from “City of Angels,” “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come from Away,” “If I Loved You” from “Carousel” and “Marry the Man Today” from “Guys and Dolls.”

Each piece is introduced with a backstory by musical director/arranger Shawn Postell, who essentially put this whole shebang together at the behest of the center, with plenty of assistance from the center in staffing lights and sound elements, plus ushers/servers, plus finances. Friday night, Shawn Postell mentioned to the audience (who gave a standing ovation at the end) that he couldn’t believe how many telephone calls it took to organize this project.

Thirty-five or so years ago, Shawn Postell arranged music for concerts as a student in the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay jazz program guided by masterful teacher/arranger Lovell Ives.

Side stories: “On Broadway,” which opens this concert, is one of the pieces he arranged as a student. Following Friday’s performance, Shawn Postell said after he wrote the original version, “I went over to Lovell Ives’ house, and he fixed it.” Also in the current band from that era at UWGB is saxophonist Marc Jimos, one of the players who delivers complex solos.

This is the lineup of students with * meaning they perform Saturday only:

Amelia Bazett-Jones* – Green Bay East High School

Ione Berken* – Green Bay East High School

Ryan Bouchard – Pulaski High School

Isaac Bowman* – Green Bay East High School

Jennifer Duarte Castillo* – Green Bay East High School

Nandi Dube* – Xavier High School

Karli Huss – Little Chute High School

Audryn Just– Pulaski High School

Leah Nolte – Fox Valley Lutheran High School

Dalena Pakalske – Southern Door County High School

Lily Polzin – De Pere High School

Josh Thone – Xavier High School

Also performing are alumni Mickey Wirtz (2020), Kyra Hietpas (2019) and Matthew Wautier-Rodriguez (2019).

Friday, Mickey Wirtz and Matthew Wautier-Rodriguez sang two solos each and had the opportunity to add character enactment to their songs.

Today’s setups for high school musicals include wireless headsets for students to move freely. In this show, two to six students deliver the goods as they adjust to performing with stationary microphones.

Yes, hybrid vigor – energetic spirit drawn from distinctly separate sources to create something special (my definition).

***

THE VENUE: The Kimberly-Clark Theater is a specialty/“black box” theater – flexible, focus on the performance space, open ceiling with theatrical and ventilation equipment exposed and little ornamentation (though this theater has color in red curtains, padded red seats and wood elements). Located within the larger Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, the space is 56 feet wide, 75 feet long and 25 feet high. For “Encore Cabaret,” 28 or so round tables are spread around the floor to accommodate 112 or so listeners. The raised performance stage is to the right of the entrance. The second level of the hall is rimmed by segments of wood paneling, an acoustic touch that adds a visual boost.

THE PEOPLE: Kimberly, Clark and Company was established in 1872 in Neenah, with key figures in the papermaking firm being four businessmen-friends – John A. Kimberly, Havilah Babcock, Charles B. Clark and Frank C. Shattuck. The business has been Kimberly-Clark Co. since 1906. John A. Kimberly, from a poor family in New York state, was an idea guy who took to business at an early age. Charles B. Clark, also from New York, was popular enough to be elected mayor of Neenah and to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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