“I Don’t Remember You: Broadway’s Cult Classics, vol. II” Review –Delight in an Obsession with Musical Theater

 

Imagine that your homepage is www.playbill.com

 

And that your bedroom is wallpapered with posters and playbills from the musical “Dreamgirls”…

 

And that one of your best summers in high school was when you checked out every book, CD and video you could get your hands on about Stephen Sondheim

 

And you are only half-joking when you regale your friends with your imitation of  Patti LuPone

 

 

If this sounds like someone obsessed—in a good way—with all things Broadway musicals you are right.  If you guessed that this is a description of Christopher Pazdernik you probably have had the chance to go to “Option Up”, his monthly musical theater talk show at Stage 773.

 

 

Better yet, you may have been to a Davenport Cabaret devoted to forgotten musicals that Christopher has directed and produced with local musical theater talents whom he simply adores.  The last one was held on January 12 and will be repeated on January 21 and January 26.   It is definitely worth venturing out in the cold to catch the remaining performances.

 

 

This “..Cult Classics..” cabaret performers included: Missy Aguilar (wide ranging credits with the likes of “Les Miserables” at Drury Lane to an upcoming Chicago Shakespeare production of “Sense and Sensibility” later this year);

 

 

Elizabeth Lanza (Jeff awarded for “Can-Can” and one of the “Hot New Faces” that the Chicago Tribune did a call out for when she appeared in the Marriott’s production of “South Pacific”, among many other credits);

 

 

Nate Lewellyn (most recently seen at the Marriott’s “Godspell” production, and whose long list of credits includes a role in the Lyric’s “The Barber of Seville”);

 

 

And Travis Taylor (Jeff nominated for his part in Drury Lane’s “Les Miserables” among many other Drury Lane productions as well as several at Chicago Shakespeare, “Sunday in the Park with George”, among many other credits.

 

These singers were the ones that Pazdernik corralled into the cozy Davenport’s Piano Bar & Cabaret to sing a wide swath of charming songs from musicals with short or micro-sized runs.  The difficulties inherent in creating an audience for short-lived cabaret performances such as these does also create a plus for the audience.   This is singing up close in an intimate space.  When the songs are funny you really get to see the singers ham it up.  And when they are sad you also get to see these performers’ eyes well with tears.

 

Best yet, Pazdernik’s knowledge of musicals, appropriately tagged “encyclopedic” by Newcity, brings you gems that really do deserve an airing even if the musicals they were in bombed.   

 

Of course there were love songs.   Memorably, Travis Taylor sang “Love Changes Everything” from “Aspects of Love”.

 

The comic pieces of the evening were easy favorites.  Travis Taylor sang “My Fortune is My Face” from “Fade Out/Fade In” perkily turning his head as the lyrics called out different facial views.  Missy Aguilar absolutely delighted singing “When I’m Drunk I’m Beautiful” from “Prettybelle”.  She was joined in duet with Beth Lanza singing “The Grass is Always Greener” from “Woman of the Year” that was so compelling you had to wonder why the show was a flop. 

 

Nate Lewellyn’s voice had a soothing appeal—whether it’s a more comic or yearning tune. 

 

 

Recent Northwestern grad Michael Kaish whose conducting and assistant musical direction of Porchlight’s “Sweeney Todd” certainly made a big splash last year, was the evening’s music director, giving non-stop gusto to the keyboard accompaniment of the entire cabaret.

 

That nagging question—“Why did that show flop?”—is certainly one you’ll be asking yourself by the evening’s end.  Pazdernik never answers that question definitively because you sense he loves these works so much he’ll never quite understand it either, but he does give many clues in his charming banter about how each show went down.

 


 

It’s Pazdernik’s love of all things musical theater that really makes the show shine.  He recounts that he first got hooked when he was only 8 by a production of CATS in Green Bay, Wisconsin, near his Neenah, WI childhood home.  He’s been immersing himself in all things musical theater ever since, one way or another, and it shows. 

 

Of the “Cult Classics” cabaret series Pazdernik recounts, “It got started in 2011 because I have a dear friend, Katherine Condit, who was in the original Broadway cast of CHESS. I was dying to find an outlet for her to sing some of the music of CHESS and also some of the music from CARRIE. Since they were both flop musicals on Broadway that still found an after-life, there was a natural connection there so I just kept looking for music from other forgotten musicals to build a show.  Beth Lanza was in that first edition, and she's in the second one as well.

 

“I would certainly love to do more. Cabaret is extraordinarily hard to find an audience for, because it doesn't make enough money to spend anything on marketing, and it doesn't run long enough to build much word-of-mouth.  You really have to rely of self-promotion, which is every performer's worst nightmare-- - "Come see my show!" So I try to do that for the performers as much as possible, since I really produce these for them (the singers). So to want to do that, I have to be really excited about something, and this time it was Travis and Beth singing the songs from BRIDGES, because I love it so much. From there it was a natural step to find Missy and Nate, two singers who are equally extraordinary and complete Travis and Beth in different ways. Last, I was beyond lucky to have a colleague recommend Michael Kaish to me (music director), who is an unbelievable talent!

 

“So the next one will happen when I find some combination of singer and song that I'm equally excited about! “

 

 

There are other opportunities to catch a gander of Pazdernik’s enticing obsession with musicals.  Next up are the remaining performances of the “..Cult Classics..”  Cabaret on January 21 and January 26.  Check Stage 773 for information on his next monthly “Option Up” show.  He frequently works as a director with musicals in development around Chicago and as a teaching assistant at his alma mater Elmhurst College.  Soon he will be an assistant choreographer for the Chicago premiere of “First Date” at the Royal George Theater and directing “City of Angels” with Porchlight, where he is an Artistic Associate.  HIV+ since 2009, Pazdernik also is an AIDS activist and plans to host a benefit concert on his next birthday.

 

I Don’t Remember You: Broadway’s Cult Classics, vol. II

Davenport’s Piano Bar & Cabaret

1383 North Milwaukee, Chicago

 

January 21 and January 26, 8 PM

 

For tickets and information call 773 278 1830 or visit the Davenport website.

 

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Graphic Design of logo:  Eric Reda

Photos:  Christopher Pazdernik headshot - Oomphotography .  All other photos were submitted by performer, unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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