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Arts and Entertainment

27 Songs In Search of a New Audience: 'For The Record: Baz Luhrmann' Re-Imagines Supper Club Cabaret

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If you thought the closest you could get to the songs used in Baz Luhrmann films like "Moulin Rouge" was your iPod cranked up full blast or your Netflix stream, you are going to want to head to Show at Barre in the next few weeks to catch the powerful, intimate, and innovative live show "For the Record: Baz Luhrmann."

Inside the dim and narrow bar-restaurant the electric hum of anticipation pre-show is swiftly replaced by the stirring sounds of the band and the vocal talents of the rotating cast of performers who are using the soundtrack songs to tell the abridged stories from three of Lurhmann's most beloved films. Considered the "Red Curtain Trilogy," the evening is a rapid-fire journey through the songs of "Romeo+ Juliet," "Strictly Ballroom," and "Moulin Rouge," performed in a hybrid of rock opera-cabaret.

The phenomenal cast--many of whom boast Broadway credits--weave their way from the back end of the bar to the stages set up in the space, with rousing appearances atop the bar itself, or even outside on the street up a tree. Pushing the boundaries of traditional live entertainment, Executive Producer/Director Shane Scheel and Musical Director Chris Bratten have created a dynamic performance environment where movie plots and soundtracks--something we can usually get only so physically close to--come within the audience's reach (and sometimes even sipping from their drinks). What was before relegated to a CD, DVD, or band's concert becomes live action engagement of the highest caliber.

Sitting in Barre vt for a recent Friday night performance, I will admit to having arrived a skeptic. Though a life-long musical theatre lover, the "Red Curtain Trilogy" of Lurhmann's isn't in my canon of cherished librettos. With a table just a breath away from the center dais-style stage--giving one performer the chance to drape himself across my lap momentarily--the immediacy and familiarity of the songs as rendered so skillfully quickly made me a convert. About half way through the second act, which is comprised entirely of "Moulin Rouge," I was wiping tears from my eyes, having been utterly swept away in the tornado's eye of the musical spectacle.

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Those tears, however, weren't just from the emotional power, but also from laughing so hard at the characters' mugging. A standout for her dry, sexy wit and killer singing voice, Ginifer King as Satine was a delight to watch, as were her castmates of the evening, including Jason Paige, Michael Montroni, Tracie Thoms, Jenna Leigh Green, Derek Klena, Darryl Semira, and Arielle Jacobs. Adapting seamlessly to multiple roles during the two-act performance, the cast's baseline of tremendous talent was called upon, and answered, with a tour-de-force evening exemplifying what it means to be an ensemble. By the time Jacobs wrapped up the 27-number evening with an energetic "Rhythm of the Night" the crowd was ready to sing and dance themselves back out onto the streets of Los Feliz.

One audience member of another recent show came up with a much more succinct, and far more important review of "For the Record," however. The show is "fucking awesome," says Luhrmann himself.

"For the Record: Baz Luhrmann" runs Thursdays at 8pm and Friday & Saturdays at 9pm (Sunday shows may be added in June). Tickets are $20, however seating is first-come-first served.