Review: A Very Merry Madrigal (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre)

| November 29, 2013
Sarah Grant stars in Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's "A Very Merry Madrigal Christmas," directed by David Heimann, musical arrangements by Aaron Bernham. (phtoo credit: David Heimann)        
      
A Very Merry Madrigal 

Conceived and Directed by David Heimann
Musical arrangements by Aaron Benham  
at No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood (map)
thru Dec 22  |  tickets: $15-$25   |  more info 
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
                   Read review
     


  
  

A shiny bauble of Christmas cheer

     

Greg Foster, Sarah Grant, Andrew Sickel, Molly Kral and Missy Aguilar in Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's "A Very Merry Madrigal Christmas," directed by David Heimann, musical arrangements by Aaron Bernham. (phtoo credit: David Heimann)

    
Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre presents
    
A Very Merry Madrigal

Review by Catey Sullivan 

With A Very Merry Madrigal, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre serves up a shiny bauble of a show as a cast of six talented vocalists (Sarah Grant, Missy Aguilar, Tom Chiola, Molly Kral, Greg Foster and Andrew Sickel) gleefully make their way through myriad songs of the season.

Missy Aguilar and Tom Chiola in Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's "A Very Merry Madrigal Christmas," directed by David Heimann, musical arrangements by Aaron Bernham. (phtoo credit: David Heimann)Between the fireside ambiance of the No Exit Cafe – transformed into a cozy Medieval-esque pub – and the preponderance of cheery seasonal melodies, A Very Merry Madrigal could easily slip into treacly sentimental kitsch fast. That it doesn’t is a testimony to director David Heimann‘s ability to keep things sharp even when they’re sweet. There’s just enough irreverence and clear-eyed observation in Aaron Benham‘s musical arrangements to keep the proceedings merrily rolling along without turning into the theatrical equivalent of sticky-sweet fruit cake.

Packed as it is with music, A Very Merry Madrigal isn’t strictly a treat for the ears alone. The evening kicks off with a toast 30 minutes prior to the show. And with the first rousing chorus of "Wassail!", the talented ensemble serves hot, spiced cider to the audience along with the ecumenical declaration that everyone stop and enjoy a moment "non-theocratic sublime transcendence." Midway through the 70-minute piece, figgy pudding arrives, a rich, creamy concoction that satisfy any and all carb cravings for days.

Still, the music is the main attraction here, from the rollickingly traditional Jingle Bells (make sure to listen for soprano Grant’s silvery descant as it soars above the melody) to the wholly unexpected Christmas Can Can (a hilariously equal-opportunity send-up of the consumer-driven madness that drives everyone into a frenzy from Halloween to New Year’s.) Conducted by Benham and Jeremy Ramey, the song roster is nothing if not eclectic. An indubitably clever riff on Gilbert and Sullivan’s "Modern Major General " morphs into the somber, haunting strains of "In Dulci Jubli", a hymn from the Middle Ages that in turn leads the sextet into "In the Bleak Midwinter."

Andrew Sickel, Tom Chiola, Molly Kral, Missy Aguilar, Sarah Grant and Greg Foster in Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's "A Very Merry Madrigal Christmas," directed by David Heimann, musical arrangements by Aaron Bernham. (phtoo credit: David Heimann)

With Irving Berlin’s "Snow", the group delivers a counterpoint arrangement of melodies that swirl like opposing carousels. Equally lovely is Foster’s stirring rendition of Robert Frost’s "Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening," a number that steeps the No Exit in an atmosphere of hushed, secular reverence. Cheeky irreverence, however, is not neglected here: Molly Kral‘s coyly come-hither "Santa Baby" is sleekly seductive. There’s even a bit of bawdy poetry thrown in for good measure ("She makes things stand that have no feet/but when she kisses/she kisses so sweet.")

Sydney Rosenfeld‘s Ren Faire-worthy costumes evoke the era of scullery wenches and court jesters, while scenic designer Adam L. Veness‘ candles-and-tapestries decor summons the spirit of a communal drinking hall. At just over an hour, A Very Merry Madrigal is a bit on the short side – a few more songs would be a welcome addition to the program. Still, the production ably captures the spirit of bonhomie and warmth that should define the holidays. Just make sure to save room for that figgy pudding!  (And for an extra treat, try the meal served before the show – full menu at the bottom of this review).

  
Rating: ★★★
  
   

A Very Merry Madrigal continues through December 22nd at No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood (map), with performances Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 1:30pm/8pm, Sundays 1:30pm.  Tickets are $15-$25, and are available by phone (800-595-4849) or through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More info at Theo-U.com.

Sarah Grant, Greg Foster, Missy Aguilar, Andrew Sickel, Tom Chiola and Molly Kral star in Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's "A Very Merry Madrigal Christmas," directed by David Heimann, musical arrangements by Aaron Bernham. (phtoo credit: David Heimann)

Photos by David Heimann


     

artists

cast

Sarah Grant, Missy Aguilar, Tom Chiola, Molly Kral, Greg Foster, Andrew Sickel

behind the scenes

David Heimann (director, co-conceiver, photographer), Fred Anzevino (co-conceiver), Aaron Benham (co-musical director, musical arrangements), Jeremy Ramey (co-musical director), Sydney Rosenfeld (costume design), Adam Veness (scenic design), Brian Hoehne (lighting design), Paige Keedy (props design, production stage manager)

Molly Kral and Missy Aguilar in Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's "A Very Merry Madrigal Christmas," directed by David Heimann, musical arrangements by Aaron Bernham. (phtoo credit: David Heimann)  Tom Chiola, Missy Aguilar, Molly Kral, Andrew Sickel, Sarah Grant in Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's "A Very Merry Madrigal Christmas," directed by David Heimann, musical arrangements by Aaron Bernham. (phtoo credit: David Heimann)

Madrigal Menu – $15

Appetizer: Cheese, Grapes & Bread

Entree: Gilded Hen — Roasted Cornish Hen served with root vegetables (carrots, turnips and potatoes) resting in a savory broth.

Vegetarian Entree option: Savory stew w/ root vegetables (carrots, turnips potatoes)

Dessert: Custard Bread Pudding

13-1145

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Category: 2013 Reviews, Catey Sullivan, Holiday Show, New Work, No Exit Cafe, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre

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