By Lou Harry
Indianapolis Business Journal
For almost seven years, some of the leading lights of Broadway, TV and jazz—including Alan Cumming (“Cabaret,” “The Good Wife”), Jane Lynch (“Glee”), Leslie Odom Jr. (“Hamilton”), and Dee Dee Bridgewater—have played the Cabaret at the Columbia Club.
In 2017, however, the Cabaret will no longer be at the Columbia Club.
Where will it be? That's something Shannon Forsell, the Cabaret's Artistic Director and CEO isn't ready to announce.
"We're still in negotiations with a couple of different options but leaning heavily toward one," she told IBJ. That one, she added, would include partnerships with other arts organizations, allowing the Cabaret to expand its programming. She promises a spring 2017 opening of the new digs with the possibility of interim concerts at another location.
While intimacy is important for a cabaret, the organization would also benefit from a larger space. Achieving 96 percent audience capacity—even after increasing seating by 20 percent to meet demand—the Cabaret sold out most of its shows in advance. Tickets for Megan Hilty's November shows were gone by May. The Hilty shows on Nov. 28-29 will be the final performance weekend at the current location. The venue holds about 125 patrons.
Forsell said that the Cabaret hadn't planned on moving—even though there had been an attempt to woo the organization to the proposed 21c hotel. The issue, she said, was financial for both parties.
"When we were negotiating, [The Columbia Club] made a proposal that would eliminate food and beverage and create a new fee structure, and it wasn't financially feasible to absorb that," she said. "The fee structure would be similar to the cost of having our own space and having complete control of our own business."
Columbia Club General Manager and Chief Operating Officer Jim Rentschler and President William Butler informed members of the move Monday.
"The Columbia Club has a rich history of supporting the arts in Indiana, and we have enjoyed our partnership with the Cabaret," they wrote. "We have been happy to have been part of their resurgence. Please join me and the board in wishing them continued success in the future."
The Cabaret grew out of the American Cabaret Theatre, which spent 19 years at the Athenaeum on Massachusetts Avenue. It shifted its emphasis in 2008 from full stage productions with local casts to intimate cabaret concerts by local, national and international talent. In March 2009, the new model began presenting such shows at the downtown Connoisseur Room before jumping to the Columbia Club in December of that year.
"For Cabaret 3.0, we want to up our game even more," said Forsell. "We had an amazing run at the Columbia Club and we're going to miss it, but we're ready to take the next step with the organization."
The Cabaret board, Forsell said, is contemplating whether or not to stage a winter/spring season at a temporary venue or wait to restart programming once the new spot is secured.
"We are just super grateful for the Columbia Club," said Forsell. "We couldn't be where we are without it. But it's time to say this was awesome but it's better for both to shift things. We need more space and they can make more money renting for weddings. There are no hard feelings."
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