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Gaslight Cabaret Festival Opens Oct. 13

Jim Dolan has a go at "This Cabaret Thing"

Jim Dolan in front of the Gaslight Theater, 358 N. Boyle Ave. in the Central West End. Since 2014 Dolan has offered a taste of the old Gaslight Square entertainment district with his Gaslight Cabaret Festival. | photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)

September 06, 2017
In the late 1950s to the early 1960s, St. Louis was home to one of the most unique entertainment districts in the country Gaslight Square.

Up-and-coming entertainers like Barbra Streisand, The Smothers Brothers and Woody Allen played for audiences who did not know they were seeing acts that would become legends.

While the Square might be gone, Jim Dolan has seized a bit of history in his Gaslight Cabaret Festival by bringing musical performers to the Gaslight Theater, 358 N. Boyle Ave. in the Central West End.

Dolan and his company, The Presenters Dolan, started the Gaslight Cabaret Festival in 2014.

"I have been producing cabaret since 2006 in different places, and I wanted to have a festival season so we could go for five or six weeks with different folks," he said.

"I wanted to give it a focus and a time, and this is a way to bring in a lot of different people under one roof to do a season," he said.

Cabaret differs from other entertainment forms in that the singer, or singers, perform on a small stage with a piano, or maybe a couple of other instruments, in a small, intimate setting.

Jim Dolan has been presenting cabaret shows since 2016. | photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
"We have several Broadway people coming in this season and they will probably do songs that they are associated with in the plays they have done," Dolan said.

"They will tell a story about the show or their experience in the show; there's a connection, personal or professional, to the song," he said. "Stories bring out the song and songs bring out the stories."

While Dolan does not have a background in theater, he has always been a fan. When he would travel on business to New York, he would go to the theater.

"I'd never seen cabaret, so I thought, 'Why don't I try this cabaret thing?''' he said. "I saw a great performer, Steve Ross, and it stuck with me, and I thought if I ever got the chance, I would like to do that."

The Gaslight Cabaret is Dolan's "night time job," as he says.

Emily Skinner (click for larger version)
He has two businesses: Dolan Media Arts, a marketing communications agency, and Action Online Publishing, which publishes collectible toy and action figure magazines.

Paula West performs Oct. 13-14. (click for larger version)
"I joined the board of the St. Louis Actors Studio six or seven years ago," he said. "They perform at the Gaslight Theater and I thought this would be a cool space to do cabaret."

Dolan travels to New York a couple of times a year to find performers.

"I do research and keep my ear to the ground for people who, I think, might work well," he said.

Emily Skinner On Nov. 11

Alice Ripley performs (click for larger version)
One of these performers, Emily Skinner, will be gracing the Gaslight Cabaret Festival stage on Nov. 11.

Skinner is no stranger to St. Louis, having performed at the Muny Opera last June in "The Little Mermaid," and the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis in September 2016 in "Follies."

"I'm a theater actress and have done a lot of Broadway," she said.

"When I'm not doing that, I like to do concert work, and when someone suggested that I do cabaret, I did, and found that I really enjoy it," she said. "It's very intimate, and you can be personal.

"On a stage, there's a distance between you and your audience," she said. "With cabaret, it's a small venue like you're having a soiree with friends. It has a warmer feeling for me."

Farah Alvin performs with William Michals Nov. 3-4 (click for larger version)
Skinner said she has always been a performer, even at the age of 5.

"I was a hyper kid, and my kindergarten teacher, to keep me settled down, gave me 15 minutes to "perform" every day on the condition I would sit with the class the rest of the day," she said.

"I lip synched to records, gave puppet shows, anything I could do," she said. "After two weeks, she called my mother and said, 'You should know you have a performer on your hands,' so my mother put me in dance classes, then I did community theater.

William Michals (click for larger version)
"Kudos to that teacher," she laughed.

An accomplished Broadway actor, Skinner has performed in many productions, including "The Full Monty," "Billy Elliott" and "Side Show," for which she was nominated for a Tony Award.

Festival Season

The Gaslight Cabaret Festival kicks off Oct. 13 and 14 with jazz singer Paula West, a regular at Feinstein's in San Francisco.

Alice Ripley, who won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, "Next to Normal," will perform Oct. 20 and 21. Her other credits include "Les Miserables," "Side Show," "Sunset Boulevard" and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano will present "Downton Abbey Road: The Best of Britain" on Oct. 27, with songs by Noel Coward, Anthony Newley, Sting, The Beatles and Ivor Novello.

Eric Comstock and Barbra Fasano (click for larger version)

Nov. 3 and 4 bring Farah Alvin and William Michals with "Broadway's Greatest Hits of All Time!" direct from Michael Feinstein's 54 Below in New York City.

Ken Haller, Nov. 2-9 (click for larger version)
Ken Haller performs "Happy Haller Days" on Nov. 2 and 9, with his take on the holidays.

Katie McGrath, Nov. 10 (click for larger version)
On Nov. 10, Katie McGrath, "a cabaret natural," will perform "Significant Others," which she just presented at the Metropolitan Room in New York. The show features a mix of pop, country and soul.

Emily Skinner closes out this year's Gaslight Cabaret Festival on Nov. 11 doing "Broadway, Her Way."

Single ticket prices for the Gateway Cabaret Festival range from $30 to $45, depending on the show, and there's a 10 percent discount for a subscription of five shows or more.

To purchase tickets, visit www.gaslightcabaretfestival.com.

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