'For the Record' series: Cutting-edge cabaret in L.A.? Believe it.
Cabaret and Los Angeles aren’t often uttered in the same sentence. No doubt, New York City comes to mind when one thinks of cabaret. But here’s a shocker: Something fun and cabaret-y is indeed going on in L.A. It’s called the For the Record series, and it’s held at a venue called Barre in the ever-charming Los Feliz neighborhood of L.A. The interesting thing about Record is that it’s not just for New York ex-pats who crave stage shows: Movie lovers — yes, that’s most of you Angelenos! — will appreciate it, too, as the shows are basically revues of the songs used in particular, beloved movie-maker’s biggest flicks. And yes, still, those expecting a New York cabaret experience won’t be disappointed. Everyone wins.
Currently, For the Record is putting on its Baz Luhrmann: The Red Curtain Trilogy show, which features a playlist from three of Luhrmann’s movies: Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet, and Strictly Ballroom. Hits like Romeo‘s “Lovefool,” Ballroom‘s “Time After Time,” and Moulin’s “One Day I’ll Fly Away” are performed in Barre’s intimate bar setting by a motley crew of singer-actors who have histories on Broadway, in music, or in Los Angeles’ burgeoning theater scene.
The show is simple, yet engaging: One minute, Dream Girls alum Dionne Gipson is wailing away stunningly to Prince’s “When Doves Cry” at the back of the bar, while just a little while later Gypsy vet Ginifer King (pictured above) does a sultry, delightful version of “One Day I’ll Fly Away” on a small stage in the middle of the room. A band plays at the front of the bar on yet another stage. With that said, get ready to crane your neck: The performance happens literally everywhere, so as an audience member, you’re constantly whipping your head to follow the action. Even the setting just feels so New York cabaret: The small audience (maybe 50 people?) is crammed into a mish-mash of tables that cause you to rub elbows with your neighbors quite often. It’s called ambiance.
The performers, of course, switch out, depending on the night, but some of the other Broadway (and non-Broadway) folks you may recognize who take the stage include: Steve Mazurek and Wicked‘s Kate Reinders (pictured together at left); Wicked‘s Jenna Leigh Green; In the Height‘s Arielle Jacobs; Center Stage: Turn it Up‘s Sarah Jayne Jensen; Prince Michael Motroni, who, among many other things, has an interesting credit as a backup dancer for America’s Got Talent runner-up Prince Poppycock; Tracie Thoms, of Rent on Broadway and film; Beauty & the Beast‘s Brooke Tansley; Mamma Mia‘s Darryl Semira; and Jason Paige, who was in Neil Patrick Harris’ Rent at the Hollywood Bowl last year.
Another lovely, and fascinating, thing about the For the Record series is that it’s constantly evolving: It launched last September at Barre with For the Record: Quentin Tarantino, a cabaret-style concert just like The Red Curtain Trilogy but instead featuring the soundtrack from Tarantino’s celebrated movies, including Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, both Kill Bill flicks, Jackie Brown, Death Proof, and Inglourious Basterds. Next up, John Hughes got the Record treatment, with the songs from his beloved library filling the space at Barre until Luhrmann began. Luhrmann will run through May, and the team will follow next with For the Record: Coen Brothers and then For the Record: Christopher Guest. Fun, right? (Just the possibility of what else they could do is exciting to think about. What other filmmakers should they tribute?)
Another important thing about the show? It’s cheap: $20 per ticket, and you can order food (and drinks!) while you’re watching.
In so many ways, For the Record is sort of like The Real Housewives franchise of live theater in L.A. (go with me here for a minute): Some version of it is always going on, whether it’s the sounds from Baz Luhrmann movies, Quentin Tarantino films, or John Hughes flicks. OK, so it’s really nothing like The Real Housewives. But the point is that you can always get a little Record in your life, and you know what? That’s a good thing.
For the Record, presented by the Show at Barre, is live Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at Barre in Los Feliz, Los Angeles.
Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky