When I heard that a musical was being staged about Nat King Cole on a local news station, it immediately piqued my interest. I went on the theatre website and saw that it was ending the next day, so I decided to drive there and get a ticket for the next day. Then, I looked at the time and said, “Hey, why not catch the matinee for today?”
Thus, I ventured out to get into the holiday spirit by purchasing a ticket for An Unforgettable Nat King Cole Christmas. If you know anything about the north side of Chicago parking, you know that this took a bit of hope. I was about to give up after driving around for a while when, “Voila.” There sat a vacant parking spot with my name invisibly written on it.
I claimed it and went in to purchase a ticket and decided to stay and see it today rather than drive the distance on the next day. I had never been to this Mercury Theater before which houses the Venus Cabaret Theatre but I knew a lot of about Nat King Cole. So, I was all in.
As a baby boomer, I remember his tv show which I believe was only 15 minutes long, but he was there. We all know his famous Christmas Song about roasting chestnuts on an open fire and some of us know more of his songs. I bought one of his CD’s in my latter years because I knew that it was gold. I let him serenade me once on a Peter Pan Bus ride as I traveled to visit Amherst, Massachusetts from Boston.
Evan Tyrone Martin, the lead singer at this event, graciously reminded us that listening to any of Nat King Cole’s songs make you forget about your troubles and woes. As his silky, smooth voice crooned out many of Nat King Cole’s songs, he added snippets of Cole’s life in between the songs.
The Venus Cabaret Theatre is a small intimate setting that held about 20 or so people. It was like being in someone’s living room and he and his five-piece band were so refined, professional and entertaining. Jo Ann Daugherty was the pianist and I noticed that the musicians looked over at her for their cues and later read that she was also the director. They were dressed in suits and ties and it was clear that these musicians took their craft seriously. Andy Pratt was on guitar; Joshua Ramos on bass; Rajiv Halim played both saxophone and flute and Ryan Bennett was on drums and percussion.
The play list was long and full and like Evan Tyrone Martin guaranteed, I forgot all my concerns and troubles for that couple of hours. He belted out songs like Silent Night, Get (Your Kicks on) Route 66 and I’ll be Home for Christmas. When he sang Smile, there were few dry eyes in the room. It is such a universal song as we all reminisce during this time of the year.
He sang Unforgettable, The Christmas Song, The Greatest Love; Straighten Up and Fly Right; If I Had to Choose; The Only Thing I See is You; When I Fall in Love, I Love You (for Sentimental Reasons) and Mona Lisa. Oh, I could go on and on, but this beautiful, festive occasion spearheaded my holiday mood.
Evan Tyrone Martin sang at least 14 of Nat King Cole’s songs and he even sang one in Spanish. I am so thankful that I did not give up on parking. All I could do for Evan Tyrone Martin as I left the theater was throw him a series of kisses to express my gratitude! He smiled and laughed. What a grand delight!
Lynn M. December 14, 2019