'A Brief History of White Music'

What if mainstream pop songs originally sung by white artists were re-interpreted by a trio of African-American performers?

And what if you could hear the results live, on stage right here in the Rogue Valley?

For its Fall show, Oregon Cabaret Theatre is staging the musical revue, "A Brief History of White Music." The clever take on familiar pop music by various artists was conceived by Dee Dee Thomas and David Tweedy. The show previews at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11 and runs at 8 p.m. Thursday-Monday with 1 p.m. brunch matinees on Sundays Sept. 12 through Nov. 2.

American pop music has its roots in the African-American culture. Ragtime, jazz and blues came from that culture. The Beatles cited rhythm and blues as their inspiration and Elvis certainly tapped into that well for his musical style.

"White artists covered rhythm and blues songs," said OCT artistic director Jim Giancarlo. "Wouldn't it be great to take songs originated by white artists and present them with an R&B flavor?"

That's the premise of "A Brief History of White Music." The show turns the tables a bit by taking music of Buddy Holly, the Mamas and the Papas, Sonny & Cher, Elvis, and the Beatles, and gives them a fresh treatment, full of soul and jazz and snazzy moves.

"It's not a history play," said Darcy Danielson, the show's musical director. "However much of the '60s is there. Elvis and the Beatles are well represented. We're creating a new sound"

"It's light, not scholarly," Giancarlo said. The show ran for a year off-Broadway at the Village Gate night club and then moved to Denver where it also ran for a year.

Directing the show is Christopher George Patterson who has been seen on the OCT stage in "Five Guys Named Moe" and "Smokey Joe's Cafe." Patterson is taking the revue from an interesting night club performance into more of a show, with styling and choreography. Working with a cast who are all musicians, Patterson is exploring how you can take a basic melody and do so much with it.

"It's about the evolution of music," Patterson said. "How do these different types of music come together to create pop?"

"Because the approach has such a different aesthetic, a different approach, it really makes you pay attention to it," Giancarlo said. "It's the songs you grew up loving "¦ as they've never been sung before: 'That'll Be the Day,' 'Where the Boys Are,' 'Blue Suede Shoes,' 'Downtown,' and 'Imagine.'

Performing in the show are Dante Maurice Sterling, also seen in "Five Guys Named Moe" and "Smokey Joe's Cafe": Shelese Franklin who was in "Smokey Joe's Cafe" (she is Aretha Franklin's cousin and her mother was one of the Marvelettes); and making her OCT debut is New York performer Teanna Berry.

Playing music for the show is Danielson on piano, Jim Malachi on drums and J. Jorgenson on bass. Craig Hudson is providing set and lighting design. Costume design is by Kerri Lea Robbins. Sound design is by Tom Freeman. Kathleen Mahoney is the stage manager.

Tickets are $21 Sunday evening; $25 Sunday matinee; $25 and $27 for Thursday; and $29 and $31 for Friday and Saturday. The box office is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. daily; 4 to 8 p.m. Sundays; closed Tuesdays.

See oregoncabaret.com or call 488-2902.

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