Experience the 11th Annual Cabaret Festival in Orlando

With over 40 jazz, pop, Broadway, and comedy performances, the Orlando Cabaret Festival celebrates its 11th year in the city. Cabaret is entertainment featuring music, comedy, song, dance, recitation or drama distinguished by the performance venue in a restaurant, pub or nightclub. Many of Central Florida’s favorites, as well as New York’s stars are featured in this celebration of all things cabaret.

Performances take place from April 25 to May 12, 2013 at the Orlando’s Mad Cow Theater. The theater is an intimate complex with two stages in Downtown Orlando. Tickets to the festival are available for sale on February 26th and information about the featured artists can be found on the festival website. Affordable ticket packages are also available for guests who would like to experience two, three, or even more cabaret shows.

During the festival, 7:00pm and 8:15pm shows are scheduled every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. On Sundays, shows are scheduled at 2:00pm, 3:15pm, and 5:00pm. A relatively new and increasing popular festival option features the “Lunchtime Cabaret” shows. Downtown workers and visitors seeking daytime entertainment can see shows every weekday at 12:00pm.  The theater encourages patrons to bring their lunch of purchase one of their boxed lunches while checking out these 45-minute shows.

A parking garage is available for public use and discounted by the Mad Cow Theater on Central Boulevard between Orange Avenue and the train tracks. Several convenient hotel options are in walking distance of the theater as well including the Grand Bohemian, Embassy Suites, and Eo Inn. By utilizing a car rental from the Orlando Airport, visitors can easily find their way to the festival and experience the culture that Orlando has to offer.

This year’s talented artists include sophisticated composer, Tony DeSare, Tony Award Nominee, Emily Skinner, and knockout comedy team, Mel and El. Broadway star, Shoshana Bean, graceful lyricist, Lee Lessack, and the multi-talented Michael Walters will be delivering stellar performances at the festival as well. Each seat in the Mad Cow is close to the stage, giving the audience a spectacular experience from the first through the last day of the festival!

A Blues Garden in the Middle of the City

During the winter, you’d have to be pretty observant to notice the banners and silhouettes while riding the Michigan bus through Chicago’s south loop. However during the summertime, the corner of Michigan Avenue and 21st Street buzzes with the sounds of music and fans of the blues.

Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation, located in the old Chess Records building, started a museum dedicated to blues legends of years ago. Grammy Award winner, bassist, guitarist, and vocalist Willie Dixon is credited as being one of the most influential artists to bridge the gap between blues and rock and roll after World War II. Willie started the foundation to help promote blues music and support blues artists. Additionally, he organized the first Chicago Blues Festival, the Blues in the Schools Program, and the Muddy Waters Scholarship foundation.

The museum on Michigan Avenue is open Monday to Friday from 11am to 4pm and on Saturdays from 12pm to 2pm. Admission to the museum is $10 and donations are also accepted on the foundation website. You can check out records, awards, performance outfits, and other memorabilia from your favorite blues artists as you peer through the glass cases.

The outdoor music garden is located next to the museum and hosts outdoor concerts on Thursday evenings in the summer. Both seasoned and aspiring blues musicians perform their interpretations of the blues on the outdoor stage. I had the pleasure of attending one of these concerts, which featured some great entertainment acts and was very well attended. There weren’t enough folding chairs set up in the small garden area so fans overflowed onto the sidewalk. Passersby would do a double-take to see where exactly the music was coming from and often stop to listen in as well.

There’s no denying that winters in Chicago are long and miserable, but people seem to stay for the amazing things that pop up when the mercury rises. Periodically check the foundation’s website for upcoming events and keep the Willie Dixon’s Blues Garden in mind for an evening of blues and history in the months ahead.