Laura Ellis Puts Moonlight’s Club M “In A Jazz Mood”
TR Robertson ……It was a misty and damp Friday evening, but the mood inside Vista’s newest venue, Club M, was anything but gloomy as a sold out crowd enjoyed a delicious dinner and an entertaining evening of vintage musical styles performed by singer, actress and recording artist Laura Ellis. Club M is the brainchild of Daniel Kays, Steven Glaudini, Fred Tracey, Justin Hall and David Beaver involving using the stage of the Moonlight Amphitheatre as a dinner theatre creating an intimate venue for small stage performances. Club M has been enjoying a successful season with sold out performances for the three shows and has already announced the return of Club M next season along with the line-up.
Guests began arriving around 6 PM, were greeted by a number of Moonlight employees and escorted to tables that seated 4. The club atmosphere was highlighted by a huge black curtain that covered the front of the stage, black table cloths, candles everywhere in the room and a performance stage in the middle against the curtain, set-up with a grand piano, a drum set and large bass, everything to give those attending the feeling they were stepping back in time to a cabaret supper club popular in the 30’s and 40’s. All that was missing, thankfully, was a haze of cigarette smoke. The piano was purchased by the Moonlight Cultural Foundation for the Club M concerts and donated to the City of Vista.
Photos by Bill Wechter
As soon as we were seated there was a waiter at our table to take our drink orders of either a glass or bottle of wine, a choice of beers or a non-alcoholic beverage. As people visited or met the people sitting at their table, promptly at 6:30 the Artisan Café began serving a French Nicoise salad, followed by the main course of Cajun Pork Loin and vegetables and a dessert of a Pecan Tart. The anticipation grew for the performer for this evening, Laura Ellis. At 8:15, Ms. Ellis’s band approached the stage made up of John Rodby on piano, Bill Brockmann on bass and John Harvey on percussion. Mr. Rodby has performed in numerous TV and film productions. He has also performed at many music festivals, has a number of CD’s available and composes classical music in his free time. Mr. Rodby also arranges many of Ms. Ellis’s songs for stage and her CD’s.
As Ms. Ellis took the stage it was apparent we were in for an entertaining evening as her exuberant personality lit up the stage. Her opening number was an upbeat “I Could Have Danced All Night” from “My Fair Lady”, followed by an old time favorite “That Old Black Magic” first performed in 1942 by Glenn Miller. Ms. Ellis mixes her repertoire with vintage songs from the silver screen, some jazz numbers and many of Ms. Ellis’s favorites referred to as Film Noir songs. The next two songs in her performance were examples from the Film Noir selections – “Put the Blame on Mame” from the 1948 movie “Gilda” and “Blue Gardenia” from 1953. Also included in the evening repertoire were another genre Ms. Ellis enjoys, songs from the 50’s/60’s girl groups and “Where the Boys Are”, first sung by Connie Francis, was an example of this. Ms. Ellis made a great connection with the audience and had a fun time with an audience member, Dennis, and the song “Whatever Lola Wants”, as well as with other members of the audience as she moved off of the stage and around in the crowd. “He’s a Tramp”, from Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp”, gave Ms. Ellis a chance to have fun with the audience again. She finished the opening act with “Route 66”, first sung in 1946 by Nat King Cole and bringing back memories of the 1964 TV show of the same name. A short break, and a change into a slinky red dress and Laura quickly started Act II with the number, “All About the Bass” by Meghan Trainor. This song had many audience members singing along. The second part of the show also saw Ms. Ellis perform for the first time on stage, a song she wrote, “Not This Time”. She describe one of her numbers as a slightly co-dependent song, “He Needs Me” and a favorite song of hers as an angry woman song originally sung by Betty Grable, “Once Too Often”. The final song of the evening was dedicated to the town she grew up in and the town where she began her love of jazz music, “Kansas City”, made popular by Wilbert Harrison in 1959. As Ms. Ellis returned to the stage for one final encore appearance with “I’ll Be Seeing You”, the evening came to a close and another successful Club M show was brought to an end.
This concept of creating a cabaret supper club on the Moonlight Stage was a long time in the making to bring it to fruition but it has been well worth the wait. Patrons are excited about next season. Laura and Jeff Segall, longtime Moonlight supporters and former Moonlight Board members were enthralled with the hospitality of those involved and loved the classy look that was created. Janice Ephron, Past-President of Moonlight and a lifetime donor since 1989 and Bob Beard President of the Carlsbad Education Foundation loved all of the music that has been presented at Club M and are supporters of anything Moonlight does because it is done the right way and presented beautifully. Dr. John LaFata and his wife Christine said the venue was tremendous and they also loved the Moonlight presentations.
The success of Club M has led to the announcement of the 2017 Moonlight Cabaret Series. The first concerts will be Molly Ringwald in concert for two performances on January 21st, Mandy Harvey for two performances on February 11th and The Four Freshman for two performances on March 11th. Additional performances might be added. For more information and tickets contact www.moonlightstage.com and for information on how to support he programs presented by Moonlight go to www.moonlightfoundation.com.