There’s been an explosion of New York style cabaret in Los Angeles over the past few years, with Aaron Jacobs’ second-Sunday-of-the-month Spotlight Cabaret providing audiences the chance to enjoy the vocal talents of some of our finest musical theater talents while savoring some of Café Metropol’s tasty dinner treats or a cocktail, beer, or glass of wine.


Several things set Spotlight apart from other L.A. cabaret nights, first and foremost of which is Metropol’s casual, relaxed, dining-with-friends atmosphere. The $15 cover charge and $10 drink/food minimum are quite reasonable, as are the items on Metropol’s menu, and free street parking is easy to find. Providing accompaniment for the dozen or so performers is the Spotlight Trio, given a distinctively jazzy sound by musical director David Olivas on saxophone, with AJ Robb on piano and Jeff Takiguchi on bass. Finally, there’s the assembled talent, an eclectic blend of veterans and newcomers with one thing in common—they all can sing up a storm!

Spotlight’s October offering was dubbed Broadway Nu Skool, the “nu” indicative of the freshness of the talent on display and the “nu-ness” of the evening’s material—songs by Jason Robert Brown, Michael John LaChiusa, and Stephen Schwartz, to name just a few of the songwriters represented.


Three of Sunday’s most stellar performers were recent Scenie winners Janet Krupin, Mel Robert, and Blake Sterling. Broadway-bound with the upcoming Bring It On, Krupin dazzled with “Old Fashioned Love Story” and “See What I Wanna See,” Rent and Miss Saigon’s Robert impressed with “King Of The World” and “I’ll Cover You,” and up-and-comer Sterling wowed with “30/90” and “It Takes Two.” Sterling also joined Spotlight producer-host Jacobs and Kelly Michelle Smith (of Glendale Centre Theatre’s Lucky Stiff) in a powerful medley from Next To Normal, coming soon to the Ahmanson.

Recently returned from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where she costarred in the hit rock musical Lovelace, Jill Marie Burke proved that huge voices come in petite packages with “Mr. Hopalong Heartbreak” and a tear-inducing bit of parental advice on “What It Means To Be A Friend.” The Color Purple was represented in the stunning Carly Turner’s “Too Beautiful For Words” and her exquisite duet of “What About Love” with Spotlight’s powerhouse associate producer Nikkema Taylor.

In addition to Turner and Taylor, much of the evening’s talent was new to this reviewer though not to the entertainment world. Parenthood’s Eddy Rioseco (recently Boq in the San Francisco sitdown of Wicked) showed off his gorgeous pipes in “With Someone Like You” (cut from Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years) and was joined by wife Taryn for “The Next Ten Minutes,” from the same show. Jon Sparks sang a wonderful rendition of Kerrigan & Lowdermilk’s “Run Away With Me” as well as Thoroughly Modern Millie’s “What Do I Need With Love.” Boy-next-door Nathan Shrake demonstrated his versatility with the legit sounds of “She Was There” and the pop sounds of “Boys With Dreams” from the musical Edges. Songwriter Ali Mandelbaum introduced a pair of selections for her in-progress musical Eliza, “Birthday” and “Something More,” which showed off not only a fine voice but a real gift for melody.

Winners of the evening’s (unofficial) Scenie for Divaliciousness were Darci Monet, who rocked the house with “I Hear You Knocking” and out-Ephabaed every Elphaba before her with “No Good Deed,” and Judy Norton, proving that this Walton girl has grown up to be one fine singer, first with Spamalot’s hilariously over-the-top “The Song That Goes Like This” and finally, closing the evening with as powerful a rendition of Andrew Lippa’s “How Did We Come To This?” as I’ve heard.

Next up for Spotlight is November 14th’s Jazz Corner With Mr. Olivas, spotlighting musical director Olivas’s sax mastery, on display this past Sunday in “Fur Elise,” “Take Five,” and “Linus And Lucy.” Jazz fans won’t want to miss it, and for those looking to put themselves in a holiday mood, December 12 brings Celebrate Me Home 2. When the second Sunday of the month rolls around, Spotlight Cabaret is clearly the place to be.

–Steven Stanley
October 12, 2010

Café Metropol, 923 East 3rd Street, Los Angeles.

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