ashland.news
May 26, 2024

Review: ‘Five on Fire’ fire up the Oregon Cabaret Theatre stage

Five women display their talents in "Five on Fire" (Photo by Rick Robinson)
April 21, 2023

Quintet of female singers does it all with verve

By Lee Juillerat for Ashland.news

It’s appropriate that the opening mix of songs in “Five on Fire Groundbreaking Women of Song,” the musical having its world premiere at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre, includes Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

For nearly two hours, five women have fun firing up the Cabaret stage with old and more recent songs made famous by woman singers, from golden oldies by Carole King, Loretta Lynn and Nina Simone to more contemporary performers like Taylor Swift, Shania Twain and Beyonce.

Sharing the delicious mix of songs are five women — Natasha Harris, Carrie Lyn Brandon, Marta Rymer, Cat Patterson and Brittneyann Accetta — with help from pianist/keyboardist Minhuii Lee. Along with singing, the five multi-talented “Girls” have fun displaying their skills on a variety of instruments, including lead and bass guitar, drums, cello, saxophone, mandolin, accordion, cello, violin and ukelele. They do it all, and with verve and vitality.

“Five on Fire,” which opened April 14 and runs through June 4 at the Cabaret, is a world premiere. But it moves so smoothly and efficiently that it feels like a musical that worked out the kinks in previous runs. Unusual for a first-ever show, “Fire” is a production that should move on to future venues. Complimenting the performances, “Fire” also burns hot because of its staging, lighting and choreography.

“Fire” is about women and music, but it’s more than songs. Insights into how some hit singles were created is provided through the use of back-stories. It’s told, for example, what stimulated the words in “The Chin,” Stevie Nicks’ hit single with Fleetwood Mac, along with events that created standards by Joni Mitchell, Loretta Lynn and other women artists. “I Will Always Love You,” for example, a mega-hit by Whitney Houston, was written by Dolly Parton. There’s also the story of what resulted in the lyrics for “Brand New Key,” known for its catchy little girl-like, “I’ve got a brand-new pair of roller skates,” which was written and sung by Melanie. And another short quip about Janis Joplin and her two tattoos.

“Fire” celebrates a variety of musical styles, from country-flavored songs by Bonnie Raitt to folk-flavored classics by Joni Mitchell, pop hits by the Shirelles, Madonna, Pat Benetar, Gloria Estefan, Brandi Carlile and the Supremes and snippets of songs by Wilson Phillips, Sister Sledge, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, 4 Non Blondes, Spice Girls and others. Among the show’s many highlights is Marta Rymer’s soulful rendering of “Halo,” one of Beyonce’s too-many-to-count hits.

“Five on Fire” was created for the Cabaret by four women, including performers Carrie Lyn Brandon and Natasha Harris along with Sarah Wussow and Valerie Rachelle, the Cabaret’s artistic director. Director Lauren Blair is also the show’s costume designer. Blair, who has directed previous Cabaret productions, says. “What I find so exciting about this show is rather than honoring a singular artist or a particular decade, ‘Five on Fire’ celebrates nearly 100 years of music so there’s something to inspire every single patron to dance and sing along.”

Credit also goes to the design team, including set designer DeAnne Kennedy, lighting designer Chris Wood, sound designer Joe Balestreri, projection designer Michael Stanfill and props designer Jackie Perrond, who create the show’s eye-pleasing visual delights.

Five on Fire” runs through Sunday, June 4, with Thursday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 1 p.m. and evening performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays. 

Reservations are required for pre-show dinner or brunch. Appetizers, cocktails, beverages, and desserts are available without reservations. Tickets are $43 for A level seating with limited $39 B level seating and $29 C level seating. The Cabaret offers a 15% ticket discount for groups of 12 or more for select ticket types and performances. $15 student rush tickets can be purchased 30 minutes before curtain with a valid student ID, subject to availability. For more information or to purchase tickets call the Oregon Cabaret box office at 541-488-2902 or visit oregoncabaret.com.

Email freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net.

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