Love-Filled Quad-Cities Cabaret Shares Boundless Talent, Affection
A wise man (lyricist Hal David) once wrote “What the World Needs Now is Love.” Man, do we need it now more than ever, and you can certainly get your affectionate fix in the new Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse Valentine cabaret, “Let’s Fall in Love.”
Valentine’s Day is technically over — but really, who doesn’t need love every day?? And the 90-minute, slick, sweet and super heartfelt video compilation will be available online through noon on Monday, Feb. 22. I loved, loved, loved it.
It features the talents (including cute interviews of couples) of many performers not only from Circa, but the Black Box Theatre, Center for Living Arts, Countryside Community Theatre, Davenport Junior Theatre, Double Threat Studios, Mississippi Bend Players/Augustana, QC Theatre Workshop, Quad City Music Guild and The Spotlight Theatre.
Organized and edited by the boundlessly talented married couple Ashley and Bobby Becher, “Let’s Fall in Love” clearly shows not only why these people love theater and each other, but they literally were brought together by theater. If you’re a musical theater fan like me, you’ll appreciate not only the gorgeous vocal and expressive
talents of the dedicated singers here, but it’s cool to learn how they met, plus value and nurture their relationship.
The Bechers met in 2012 in South Korea, teaching musicals, and in the past two years have been very active with Davenport Junior Theatre and Circa ’21. I first wrote about them exactly two years ago today, but unfortunately still haven’t met them in person! (Damn you, Covid!!!)
“We’ve always been talking about, since Covid started, doing something cooperative and would help all the theaters,” Ashley (a 2003 Bettendorf High alum) said recently. “We know that everyone’s hurting and our community is so important in the Quad-Cities.”
After the online New Year’s Eve Circa show went well, Diane Laake from Circa suggested doing a Valentine’s cabaret, and Becher said this would be a perfect time to include all the local theaters. What they all produced is practically perfect and obviously a labor of love.
Most of the video scenes appear to be filmed from home (while some are in theaters or outdoor locations) and the Bechers kick things off with the Cole Porter classic, “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love).” They start off in formal dress and gradually let their hair down (in Ashley’s case, literally), disrobing bit by bit, and (since this is a G-rated show), the last to come off is shoes in bed, as they snuggle up with popcorn to watch a movie.
After the song, the couple briefly tell how they met and note how many local performers fell in love doing theater. Ashley says since so many theaters are truly struggling, it’s important to share the love, and feature couples from 10 area theater groups.
Circa favorites Bret and Erin Churchill met doing “Grease” at Circa in 2006 and have been married 13 years. Erin plays ukulele as they sing “Those Magic Changes” from “Grease,” including an impressive falsetto from Bret.
Megan Warren and Chase Austin have been a couple nearly three years, and met doing “Catch Me If You Can” at Music Guild (spring 2018), and later on Warren unleashes a powerful solo of “Fly, Fly Away” from that show, and it’s a spectacular tour de force, that fittingly soars.
Andy and Callen Sederquist embody the hit song, “Let Your Love Flow” (which they don’t sing), since they met in the wacky Music Guild comedy, “Urinetown,” in spring 2015, and they’ve been married about 18 months. They sing “Follow Your Heart” from the show, irresistibly and simply (and how appropriately, it can be streamed).
It’s a mini-drama all its own, as Andy says he doesn’t know how to listen to his heart and she somehow does. Callen appears possessed, Andy is nervous and she captures his heart (and ours), and they display beautiful harmonies. Like most of the couples featured here who share prior photos of themselves, we see the Sederquist wedding kiss.
Interspersed among musical highlights are brief snippets of interviews of the couples, back and forth (not one couple all at a time), and a few are just featured sans singing. Those are Steph DeLacy and Taylor Bley; Max Moline and Abbie Carpenter, and Ian Sodawasser and Alexis Lotspeich.
DeLacy and Bley have been together about a year and a half, after meeting at Music Guild; Moline and Carpenter met at Junior Theatre in 2018 (involved mainly at QC Theatre Workshop), and Sodawsser and Lotspeich met in fall 2018 at the Spotlight Theatre.
They’re all adorable but I really liked the story of Ian and Alexis meeting when he was in “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” she was costumer and he asked her for a cape. Alexis though he was going to be “a total diva,” but he got his cape and she got a crush on him.
“Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” opened Valentine’s Day 2019, with Ian in the lead and Alexis again doing costumes. That was their first Valentine’s with any significant other, and last February, he directed “Wedding Singer” at Spotlight, and she again did costumes, the last show they’ve done.
Circa head Bootlegger Brad Hauskins is filmed by his wife Heather (you can see her in a mirror), and he sings a verse of “When I’m Sixty-Four” to their cute daughter Lucy, but we don’t learn his love story (as they also met at Circa).
FYI – When Hauskins began as a member of the performing waitstaff at Circa ’21 in 1987, Heather was 2. Twenty-nine years later, she became a co-star in the long-running production that’s his life, filling the role of his wife. They met at Circa in 2012, when Heather was stage manager; married in 2016, and their daughter is now 2 ½.
Circa regular Tristan Tapscott met his girlfriend, Savannah Bay Strandin, in the cast of Circa’s 2019 “Singin’ in the Rain,” and we learn he
“accidentally” said “I love you” to her at a bowling alley (either within days or the first three weeks). When asked “who made the first move,” they each say the other did.
Tapscott and Strandin take us on an appropriately wintry tour of the Q-C in their song, “Love Is An Open Door” (from “Frozen”), ending delightfully outside Circa.
The only same-sex couple highlighted – Myka and Kelsey Walljasper – met as Circa bussers 11 years ago. A daughter of Circa favorite Tom Walljasper, Myka says she doesn’t like Valentine’s Day but pines over Kelsey’s beautiful smile and green eyes.
While “their” song is “Can’t Help Fallin’ In Love,” for the cabaret they perform “I Just Wanna Dance With You,” an exuberant love song done by the lesbian couple in “The Prom.”
Todd Meredith and Jenny Stodd – who met at Circa in 2008 in “The Buddy Holly Story” — come to us from their new house in New Jersey. He has played the iconic young rocker (who died in 1959 in Iowa) and she his wife over several years, and in front of their fireplace, they sing “When You’re Standing Next to Me” from one of their favorite movies, “A Mighty Wind.”
The happy song of companionship is performed winningly, with great harmonies. Stodd extols the virtues of the Rock Island dinner theater: “There’s something magical about working there.”
Another couple sings in front of a warm fire on the video, with a guitar, as Lonnie Behnke and Bonita Barner Howes of Countryside do “Fernando” from ABBA’s “Mamma Mia,” which CCT did in July 2019, and it’s done strongly here (but for some reason, Behnke never plays his guitar).
Black Box Theatre co-owner Lora Adams flies solo with a rendition of “Fever,” and notes she still gets the fever from her husband, Michael (their first date was at Circa). He’s not a performer, but an invaluable set builder. “He makes a damn good carpenter,” Adams says.
A fairy-tale love story is David Baxter and Heather Herkelman, who were cast as the title leads in Music Guild’s June 2019 “Beauty and the Beast.” He said the first thing he noticed about her was her intensity, and how right she was for the fiery Belle. Heather said she first noticed his muscles (he’s a bodybuilder) and voice. David said he never thought in “1,000, billion years” that someone like her would fall for him.
Seated with their dog, they do a lovely, intense version of “As Long As You’re Mine,” from “Wicked.”
Similarly, Anthony and Sydney Greer related their meet cute – coincidentally in the 2015 Music Guild show where Herkelman was the lead,
“Mary Poppins.” Anthony thought Sydney was gorgeous and out of his league. They’ve been married two and a half years and have an 18-month-old son, Liam, who Anthony is convinced will also be a performer.
The young couple wonderfully does the cheerful, idealistic duet, “I Don’t Need Anything But You,” from “Annie.”
In 2020, we literally traveled a “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” and one of the casualties was Augustana’s “American Idiot” (the Green Day musical), and three of its cast members perform a blistering, enthusiastic excerpt – “When It’s Time/St. Jimmy/Letterbomb” – by the couple Ryan J. Hurdle and Becca Casad (now juniors) with the amazing Ravyn Davis, a sophomore. Just wow!
Adam and Bethany Sanders met doing “West Side Story” in 2017 at Quad City Music Guild, and started dating about a month after the show closed. They’ve been active at Moline’s Spotlight – which is where he proposed to her Feb. 28, 2019, as the song “Falling Slowly” played.
After they got married July 25, 2020, they sang that duet from “Once” for their first dance at the reception and appropriately, they make us fall in love with them in the transcendent song here in the video cabaret, which also is accompanied by several photos of Adam and Bethany.
Two virtual group numbers are yet more highlights of “Let’s Fall in Love.” Four women were filmed separately doing a joyful tap dance to the boisterous Postmodern Jukebox version of “Always Be My Baby” Ashley Becher (Circa), Jenny Hampton (DJT), Shelley Cooper (Augustana/MBP), and Bethany Sanders (QCMG/Spotlight).
In the big finale, Elephant Love Medley (from “Moulin Rouge”) is sung (as separate couples blended together) by the Bechers, the Walljaspers, Greers, Sederquists, Churchills, Sanders(es), Tapscott and Strandin, Warren and Austin (Double Threat); as well as Brycen Witt and Virgil Hajdys (Augustana/MBP). All nine couples raise their passionate voices at the end for “I Will Always Love You.”
Kudos to everyone for making this thrilling, inspiring ode to love possible. Music and art can absolutely connect us, show us what’s important, give us a way to express what we feel — and these incredible artists all deserve our thanks and support.
Proceeds from the $15 virtual tickets will be split among the 10 theatrical nonprofits. “Let’s Fall in Love” is NOT to be missed. It’ll definitely warm you up this freezing week.
Reserve your link at https://www.showtix4u.com/events/17497, by Monday, Feb. 22 at noon. You can also still watch Circa’s “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and “Broadway Backwards” at the same link, through midnight March 1.
To see photos of performers, and stills from the video, click HERE.