Venice Theatre has a good thing going for its audiences, and its artists, with the fifth annual Summer Cabaret Festival, taking place July 6 through Aug. 27.
Good for audiences because it offers them something to do during the summer, and good for the artists, because the cabaret format allows them to create new shows that express their own affinities for music, theater and comedy in the intimate setting of the Pinkerton Theatre, where friends and fans can cheer them on.
The nightclub feel of the Pinkerton enhances that closeness between those onstage and those in the seats, and the line-up this summer ranges all over the place, from Broadway to rock to jazz and beyond, so you should find something to suit your tastes. Familiar faces, and a few new ones, take the stage; here’s the schedule.
July 6, 7, and 9 (matinee): VT’s longtime Ebenezer Scrooge, Eric Watters, sings the songs of Johnny Mercer (“Moon River,” “Blues in the Night”) in “My Huckleberry Friend.”
July 8 and 9: Edwin Watson, familiar to VT audiences from Smokey Joe’s Café and Five Guys Named Moe, takes a journey through jazz standards from classic movies and television hits, along with more songs he grew up with, in “Songs of My Heart.”
July 13 and 14: VT’s director of diversity, Kristofer Geddie, delivers “Broadway, My Way,” exploring different rhythms and sounds with familiar tunes.
July 15 and 16 (matinee): Brian Craft and Ashley Figlow team for “On the 21st Century,” a variety show featuring mash-ups of popular songs, musical theater faves and more.
July 20 and 21: Frequent music director Michelle Kasanofsky welcomes her father and her son onstage to perform “To All the Men I’ve Loved Before,” featuring songs like “Fever” and “The Lady Is a Tramp.”
July 22 and 23 (matinee): “Love at First Sight,” starring Nick Drivas, debuted at Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York City last year; now you can see Drivas here at home, singing songs and telling stories related to that amazing initial moment of fixation, whether for a first love or a first car.
July 23: VT’s resident sound designer and technician, Dorian Boyd, is back with Dorian and The Furniture, offering a collage of mellow rock tunes.
July 27 and 28: Singers get a chance to render songs from shows they will never be cast in because they are the wrong “type,” with “Liz Pascoe & Friends: Not My Type.”
July 29 and 30 (matinee): Musicians Michele and David Pruyn make like Richard and Karen with “A Tribute to the Carpenters,” backed by a five-piece band.
Aug. 3 and 6 (matinee): Student music director Eli Schildkraut and friends team up for “Songs You’ve Never Heard Before (And Maybe Some You Have),” a chance to test your musical knowledge.
Aug. 4 and 5: “Sinning Sirens” brings to the stage RubyJean Siren, Karma Kandlewick and Ginger Holliday (Real names? You be the judge), along with tapping clown Toez and drag king Chief Peach.
Aug. 9, 10 and 11: Join VT’s 2017 Summer Stockers in their first-ever cabaret show, “Zombie Serenade, Songs in the Key of Aaaiiiee!” Chills, thrills and fun with songs like “Monster Mash” and “Ghouls Just Want to Have Fun.” Costumes welcome.
Aug. 10 and 11: Ever wondered what the hard-working employees at VT secretly long to do? It’s not hard to figure out when staffers strut the stage in “Don’t Quit Your Day Job.”
Aug. 12 and 13 (matinee): Recently onstage in VT’s Blood Brothers, Alana Opie is back with something completely different—her “Classic Country Cabaret.” Think Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn.
Aug. 13: Star of Broadway, the West End and 54 Below Ann Morrison makes her VT cabaret bow with “Ann’s Furniture Set.”
Aug. 17 and 20: Syreeta Banks and Ariel Blue join forces for “Soul Sisters, a Celebration of Divas,” featuring songs by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Adele and more.
Aug. 18 and 19: Sarasota’s comedy guerilla theater troupe, Random Acts, is back with “Hold My Beer,” the only show during the fest that carries a warning of adult language, adult situations and really bad limericks.
Aug. 20 and 27 (both matinees): Bass/baritone Stephen Ditchfield shows why he’s been entertaining for more than three decades with “Through the Years.”
Aug. 24 and 25: Melissa Cripps delivers songs from Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, Cole Porter and others in “Turning Point,” with a portion of the proceeds going to breast cancer research.
Aug. 26 and 27: The fest wraps up with VT’s Kim Kollar in “BABS! Bad Ass Broads of Song,” a tribute to some of the best female vocalists of all time.
Tickets are $20 for each show and now on sale at venicestage.com, at the box office or by calling (941) 488-1115.