Upright Cabaret Presents Jen & Jake at Vermont-Review

photograph by Kristina Sado

The Upright Cabaret inaugurated its new venue with a double bill featuring Jennifer Leigh Warren and Jake Simpson in a show that rocked the room and delivered that electric charge that only a live performance can spark.  Everyone in the house that night took home a little bit of the passion that the singers and the band delivered.  If this is what the Upright Cabaret has planned for its new dedicated space connected to the Vermont Restaurant, then everyone in LA is going to want to drop by for their energy “fix.”  

photograph by Kristina Sado

This evening’s show was called Jen & Jake: Songs for Grown Folk and was inspired by the two singers’ desire to do a show exclusively of songs they themselves love without any concern with what are the top audience pleasers.  The result certainly did please the audience, in part because the performances were so committed and in part because the range of material made for some surprises and some fun.  I particularly liked the pairing of a raucous, rocking Don’t Change Horses (in the Middle of a Stream) followed by a smooth, heartfelt Desperado.

photograph by Kristina Sado

Jennifer Leigh Warren is tiny gal with big voice whose Broadway credits include “Big River” and “Marie Christine.”  Jake Simpson is a piano-playing wailer who was the Star Search Grand Champion twice. Backed up by a solid band, they delivered solos and duets to an appreciative house.

Ms. Warren took charge of the room from the moment she walked on stage.  Food can be ordered from the connecting restaurant, and only once did a waiter make the mistake of walking out in front of her in mid-ballad.  She schooled him with good humor, managing both to take charge of the room in no uncertain terms and to leave everyone laughing, including the waiter and the innocent patron caught up in the middle.  And the wait staff made sure to take orders and make deliveries between numbers from then on.  

photograph by Kristina Sado

Jake Simpson doesn’t just have an incredible expressive and emotional voice.  No matter how big a sound or emotion, he never forces it.  You never feel he’s playing the emotion, or squeezing out that last bit of vocal gymnastics for effect.  It’s more like he’s being taken by the music and the sound pouring out of him IS the song happening rather than him singing.

The Upright Cabaret runs five nights a week at present but is aiming for 3 shows a night 7 nights a week at their new home at the Vermont. They are a leader in bringing audiences some of the brightest new talent.   Upright Alumni include Adam Lambert (American Idol), Alan Cumming (Tony Award winner),  Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother),  Paula Cole (Grammy award winner), Hunter Parish (Weeds), and Lea Salonga (Tony winner). In addition, they will be taking some of the shows developed by the Upright’s producers Chris Isaacson and Shane Scheel shows on the road.  Look for them at the Ford Amphitheatre some time in the 2010 season as well as at other venues around California and New York.

photograph by Kristina Sado

Ticket prices vary according to the act.  They can be purchased online through the Upright Cabaret website or at the door prior to the performance if they are still available.  Whatever the ticket price, you should know that there is a $20 food and beverage minimum per person.

Upright Cabaret plays in the following places:

Upright Cabaret on Vermont - Los Angeles, CA, permanent home base and venue
La Mirada Theatre - La Mirada, CA - Upright Cabaret's American Icon Series, Oct 2009-June 2010
Ace Hotel & Swim Club - Palm Springs, CA: 3rd Season begins Sept 2009 - July 2010 (shows monthly)
The Country Club - Avalon, CA, performing summer shows on Catalina Island
The Ford Amphitheatre - Los Angeles, CA - 2nd Season begins June 2010.
Joe's Pub - NYC: Quarterly Shows all year long

Info on all upcoming events can be found at www.uprightcabaret.com

article photographs by Kristina Sado

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