By Tom Alvarez, Indianapolis Performing Arts Examiner
Looking ever much as sexy and glamorous as Rita Hayworth in the 1946 film, Gilda, Shannon Forsell wore a tight, strapless, red gown when she took to the stage for What Is This Thing Called Love? at the Cabaret at the Columbia this past Friday evening.
Instead of taking place in the Cabaret’s usual third story lounge venue, the show, which was billed as “A musical valentine and romantic dinner show featuring love songs from the great American Song Book, Torch songs and miore…” was moved to the elegant Crystal Terrace in order to accommodate the crowd of 130 attendees who paid $75 per person for the dinner/show package.
The large dining room with tiered seating, massive hanging brass and crystal chandeliers, huge potted plants, full length mirrored wall, and lead glass windows overlooking a glittering Monument Circle, was the perfect setting. It was also an ideal atmosphere to showcase music that was at its height from the 1920′s through the 40′s, when sophisticated, swanky, supper clubs flourished.
Accompanied by her exceptionally talented music director Ray Lahrman on piano, and remarkable percussionist Todd Nichols, the free-spirited Forsell performed a program of song selections that not only fit the evening’s theme but also showed off her distinctive voice, range and style. Also prevalent throughout Forsell’s performance was her wise-cracking humour and easy banter that contributed to an evening that was both inspiring and entertaining.
Kicking off the show with the obligatory “My Funny Valentine,” Forsell also shined in “My Foolish Heart”, “My Romance”, “I Love Being Here” and “I Met A Man”. Displaying her saucy, swing side, she charmed the audience with her rendition of “Peel Me A Grape” and provided contrast in “La Vie En Rose” (made famous by Edith Piaf) during which she sang with great emotional depth and conviction, making the song very much her own.
In a celebration of her own love story, Shannon moved the crowd when she introduced her husband David, explaining to the audience that he had recently undergone major surgery and that twenty years ago in May they held their wedding reception in the very room in which she was performing. She also shared that they danced the traditional first dance to “It Had To Be You” which she then sang while dancing briefly with David. It was a moment of shared intimacy which proved to be an emotional highlight of the entire evening.
Opening with her own sultry version “At Last” in the second part of her act, Forsell continued to illustrate her ability to excel at different styles when she sang songs which included: “Come To Me”, “What Is This Thing Called Love”, and a plaintive “The Man Who Got Away”. Closing her show with “I Wish You Love”, Forsell came back for an encore in which she sang “The Nearness of You”.
Ultimately, in producing this exceptional event, Forsell reinforced why she has become such a pivotal force in making the Cabaret art form and its music, relevant today. As the Managing and Producing Director of the Cabaret, and loving interpreter of classics from the American Songbook we all continue to benefit greatly from her versatility.
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"One of Indianapolis' most fashionable downtown nightspots..."Tom Alvarez, Examiner.com