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PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE — In December and January, Sunday night rehearsals become the norm for the cast of the Citrus Fair's cabaret.

Twenty-six person cast is gearing up for Citrus Fair show

In preparation for the upcoming Citrus Fair, folks are starting to file into the exhibit halls to prepare large citrus-filled exhibits; walk over their quilts, canned goods and art pieces to Warner Hall; or, in the case of this year’s cabaret cast, spend Sunday nights putting the finishing touches on the new cabaret show, “That’s Entertainment.”

The road to put on the cabaret is long — the fair holds auditions for singers and dancers in July, casts the show in August and in September, they begin near-weekly rehearsals. Those who are cast as singers in the show met every other Sunday, with dancers meeting on the opposite weeks. Starting at the end of December, the groups came together for joint rehearsals.

“Everyone works as a team, it’s amazing what a huge amount of talent we have in such a small town,” said Ashlyn McLean, director and choreographer for the cabaret, and a member of the Citrus Fair board of directors. “There’s not a lot of musical theater opportunities in town, so this is really the big show. We have a lot of arts, but not performing arts like this.”

This year’s cabaret theme was decided based on a variety of factors, McLean said.

“I like to have more than one brain in the operation,” she said, citing the help of her executive committee (Midori Longo Rowlands, Whitney Westfall and Lauren Johnson). “We have a list of themes that we love. First we factor in our inspirations for the year and we also don’t want to put on anything similar to the previous year, so we take the cast’s interests into consideration, as well as the fair theme.

“Since California is the pinnacle of Hollywood and California Dreamin’ is the fair theme, we thought, ‘That’s Entertainment’ — just paying homage to music, movies and Broadway,” she said.

From there, they look at what dancers they have, what singers they have, who can perform what, and assign from there.

The camaraderie of the cast is one of Al Myers’ favorite parts of being in the show.

“The people in the show are wonderfully nice people and they’re very inclusive. They included me and made me feel like I was part of the cast from day one,” Myers said.

This is Myers’ first year as part of the cabaret cast, and decided to audition for the show after seeing the June encore performance of last year’s cabaret. 

“I was so impressed with the quality of the show and the talent in Cloverdale,” he said. “I was blown away.”

Compared to last year’s show, this year’s is bigger and more complicated, McLean said.

“There’s more complicated choreography, we have a bigger cast, way more group pieces, we have a bigger center stage,” she said. “All around, honestly, I think the songs will be a little bit more relatable. I feel like in the show, no matter your age, your demographic, anything, there’s something for everyone.”

While McLean was hesitate to disclose any details about the show’s song list, she said that there are 23 pieces, with 21 being “show pieces.”

According to the Citrus Fair’s website, “Guests will be transported to the bright lights of Hollywood for a tribute to film, theater and music. An incredibly talented cast has been assembled and is rehearsing to a set list that includes songs from ‘Footloose,’ ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ and ‘Top Gun.’”

“That’s Entertainment,” similar to previous Citrus Fair cabaret shows, will make the audience feel as if they’re part of the show, with cast members flitting in and out of the audience space and performing on a stage positioned in the center of the auditorium.

Myers said that involvement with the audience is one of the ways the show stands out, “It intermixes with the audience and uses the entire room. It’s pretty unique when you have a stage there — to have people come off of the stage and intermix with the patrons.”

The cabaret has been a staple of the fair since 1990. McLean was in it as a dancer from 2005 to 2007 and then when she joined the Citrus Fair Board of Directors three years ago, she knew she wanted to get involved with the cabaret again.

“I spent my first year taking it all in as a chairperson and then I decided that I wanted to direct it and take it to the level of what I wanted it to look like,” she said. “It’s such a time-honored tradition.”

While she’s watched the popularity of the cabaret come and go in waves, McLean said that the recent performances have been part of an up-swing.

“I think last year was a really big hype for us — we created an entirely different show with this center stage instead of a runway that we’ve always had,” she said. “Right now we’re on a really good high and we’re only hoping to make it better and bring more performing arts to Cloverdale.”

Tickets for “That’s Entertainment” will be available until sold out, or through Friday, Feb. 7. As a response to last year’s shows, this year’s cabaret has added a night of performance. The show will run on Feb. 13, 15 and 16. Doors open at 5:45 p.m. and the show starts at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $65 per person and include appetizers, dinner, dessert and a bottle of wine on the table. Tickets are available at the Citrus Fair box office or online at cloverdalecitrusfair.org.

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