Some three years or so ago, the California Musical Theater (CMT) organization (which presents touring Broadway shows in the fall and spring and The Music Circus summer productions) decided to open a cabaret, in the hopes of bringing life back to Sacramento's K Street Mall. One end of the Mall is a shopping center, the other end is the Community Center and running between them is a six block long concrete mall filled with questionable businesses and the venerable old Crest Theater.
At the time the controversial Cosmopolitan Cabaret opened, a review of the K Street Mall appeared in Trip Advisor. It seemed to describe how a lot of people felt about the place
....the k st mall is a slum. if they want people to shop here they need to first make parking free. and on top of that, they need to keep the place well lit, and clean. there are too many bums just walking around, sitting, sleeping, and begging. i feel like i'm going to get robbed just walking here.
The Cosmopolitan Cabaret was going to class up the place and make the whole mall attractive to new businesses and bring some sort of higher class night life back to the area.
At the time the cabaret was being built, my cousin Kathy had recently gone on disability from her job as bookkeepeer for CMT was was happy to provide me with office gossip about the new project, which she predicted was going to send the company into ruin.
Three years later, the company has not been reduced to ruin, and the K Street Mall is still pretty much as it was when the place was built, so it's pretty much a wash as to how much impact it has had. The original idea was to couple it with a fancy (expensive) restaurant so that people could have dinner first, then move into the theater for the show. That didn't last long, but you could order drinks or (very expensive) snacks in the theater and they were made in the restaurant.
The restaurant idea has gone through several changes, at one point being closed entirely while they sold movie-type snacks in the lobby of the theater. Now the restaurant is a pizza joint which plays loud music, which (fortunately) does not seep through and disturb the stage show inside the cabaret. The drinks are still ridiculously expensive ($10 for a bottle of water and a glass of wine tonight)
The first show in the cabaret was Forever Plaid, a show I had wanted to see forever. It was a great show for people "of a certain age" and Walt and I loved it, but we wondered how it would play to the young, hip audience CMT was hoping to attract. The material seemed dated (especially a long segment on the Ed Sullivan show) but if you knew the material, it was very funny.
When Forever Plaid ran its course, the next show was Late Night Catechism in which a faux nun stood up and lectured the audience on things Catholic for 2 hours. If you were familiar with the Catholic teachings and particular if you attended Catholic school, the show was hilarious. If, like my colleague, you had no inside information about Catholicism or Catholic school teaching, it was deadly dull.
Most of the shows which have followed have not been particularly spectacular (except for Forbidden Broadway, which I loved in New York and was pleased to see here in Sacramento. But I've given lukewarm reviews to all of the others shows, some of which were concert shows (like Sinatra) and some of which were plot shows (like Suds, which offered great laundromat humor. Not).
Tonight another show I've been wanting to see opened -- I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. Fortunately it was one of the better shows I've seen at the Cosmopolitan Cabaret. I think almost anyone watching this show will find something to identify with, from the awkward dating scene, to the romance, to marriage, to raising kids, to getting older. It's very funny but the scene where two old people meet at a wake I somehow found a little difficult to watch. For one thing there was a coffin on stage, reminding me of the (so far) ten people we've know who have died this year, but even moreso because the guy in the scene reminded me so much of our friend Will Connelly, who died in April. He would have been just as funny as the actor was. I miss him.
At the cabaret, you are seated at a table with four chairs, so it's a chance to meet new folks (and we all know how good I am about that). We have been seated with "regular folks," not critics before, but once we were seated with veteran radio personality Mary Jane Popp and her husband. We enjoyed talking together and since that time, we always chat briefly when we encounter each other at shows.
Walter (whose last name I don't know if I ever knew) and his wife became friendly with us years ago because at the time he and Ned were working (or had worked) at the same radio station. He's a nice guy and I enjoy chatting with him and his wife.
And of course, Patti, from the Sacramento News and Review is someone I talk to a lot--and we are Word with Friends partners, though she beats me 90% of the time.
But it hasn't always been rosy. I remember sitting next to a woman (you can tell critics because we all carry information packets) who let me know in no uncertain terms that she had been doing this for many years and had nothing to share with a nobody like me. And the main critic at the big Sacramento newspaper was so curt and dismissive of me when I was first starting that I haven't dared to try to talk to him now that I'm more "seasoned."
But tonight we sat with Chris, who writes for a different Sacramento paper. He was charming and we had a great time sharing information, particularly about my old boss, Derrick Bang.