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Intimate entertainment: CVRep’s summer cabaret series features talented solo acts

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One Internet dictionary defines cabaret as “a form of dramatic entertainment featuring music, song, dance, recitation, or drama. The venue for the performance may be a bar, casino, hotel, restaurant, or nightclub with a performance stage.”

Take the CVRep Summer Cabaret Series, for example, at the new, gorgeous and intimate CVRep Playhouse. Most Thursdays through August 24th, CVRep hosts performances from many different performers representing a variety of genres. In July, you can enjoy Miguel Bernal and his flamenco company (July 13), internationally renowned tenor Maximo Marcuso (July 20) and Broadway performers and EMI Recording artist Christia Mantzke (July 27).

This year’s series has been running since May, and in a recent interview, Adam Karsten, CVRep’s executive art director, said the shows have had strong audiences so far.

“People seem to love it,” Carsten said. “The difficulty is getting people to know that it’s here and who we’re bringing into the valley — because the talent is really, really good. Those experiences will be shared with us and our audience on Thursday night. In July, we will have a flamenco company, an opera tenor and a Billboard award-winning recording artist.”

From a business perspective, it’s important to keep these experiences affordable, Carsten said.

“We’ve worked hard to keep the ticket price at $45 for events like this, and the response has been overwhelming,” Karsten said. “What’s unique about this is that you get a very intimate experience. These cabaret shows are just amazing where the artist breaks the fourth wall and really talks to the audience.

“It’s really great because you experience (the performances) in a very personal way, and you’re also able to see how original and unique and talented each performance is. If you’re in a 1,200-seat house watching Fo a ramenco show, and you’re on the first or second, sometimes even the third balcony, you don’t have the same experience as if you were 20 feet away. In that respect, it’s really great and very surprising.”

In addition to the summer cabaret series, CVRep is hard at work developing new shows in search of the next big Broadway show.

Maximo Marcuso will be at CVRep on Thursday, July 20th.

“One of the things that we do, and we really try to do on another level, is the revival of Broadway productions, Golden Age productions, and new productions,” Carsten said. “We’ve started a new work development program, we’re looking at our next Broadway show, and we’re pretty confident that’s going to be the end result, even though it’s going to take some time. For writers, creatives and artists, it’s A safe space to come to the desert to create their work for free. CVRep covers all the costs, and then we pick one of the works every year and put it in our season, and then we make it. It’s a A unique experience because it’s free for the writers and the creative team, but it’s something for everyone. … I believe that’s where our success lies.”

Karsten came to Coachella Valley last year and just finished his first season as executive artistic director of CVRep. He said it was a very welcome surprise to discover the Coachella Valley’s deep affection for theater.

“It’s really not knowledge or information that I had previously known,” Carsten said. “I’ve had my career in New York and the East Coast, so I didn’t know the depth of support, the depth of the actual Broadway senior community, and the knowledge of theatergoer patrons. It surprised me, but it was also welcome.”

According to its website, CVRep’s mission is to deliver “thought-provoking drama of substance.” Carsten explains how the summer cabaret series advances that mission.

“A lot of times, we think the (declared) storylines and themes will get in the way of the characters,” says Carsten. “When you go to these cabaret shows, they’re almost always personal in nature, and you get to understand the artist’s journey, what they’ve overcome, or what they’re struggling with, or what they’re passionate about, or what their passion is. I find it inspiring, so that’s one of the reasons I feel like it really fits what I’m looking for. When I invite artists to join us, they share the human experience we all feel…and what we have to overcome thing. I’m inspired and uplifted by this success, so it’s thought-provoking in a lot of ways.”

The CVRep Summer Cabaret Series runs Thursdays at 7 pm through August 24 at the CVRep Playhouse, 68510 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Cathedral City. Tickets are $45.For tickets or more information, call 760-296-2966, or visit cvrep.org.

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