There's a new club in town that's creating quite a stir.
It's called Club 88, and it'll be swingin' into action May 16-19 in the theater at Columbia Basin College in Pasco.
Club 88 is loosely based on the popular, but now defunct, Rose Tattoo cabaret -- a hot spot in Los Angeles in the past century.
It's about the nightclub closing forever and sharing memories of all the stars who came through the doors in the '60s, '70s and '80s.
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The story is the brainchild of Tri-City pianoman Steve Haberman, who wrote the music for the show. And even though the musical story is fictional, Haberman admits much of it was inspired by his own past and the years he was a pianoman at the Rose Tattoo.
"It's actually based more on the time period, which was one of my most creative and productive times," he told the Herald. "The musical is fictionalized a bit because I changed the time period (from when I was playing there) to at least 10 years earlier."
Naturally, the lead character is a piano player named Sammy who meets all sorts of singers, who eventually move on to fame.
"The play spans 20 years, from the 1960s to the 1980s, and what happens to America during that time and how it impacts the entertainment industry and the Rose Tattoo club," said co-director Ginny Quinley. "Steve's original music reflects the different emotions of those times. It's a show where we laugh and sometimes cry as we listen."
Even though Haberman created the show, he won't be playing the role of the pianoman. That will be handled by Bryan Foley. But the kicker is that Haberman will be playing the piano behind the scenes while Foley gives the audience the illusion he's tinkling the ivories.
"Stevie is playing all of his original music, and I am going to do my best to reproduce that out front on stage," Foley said. "I hope I can accomplish that illusion because after all, no one can beat the original class act himself."
Katrina Carlson plays Alexis, the piano player's love interest. The character is based on a woman Haberman got involved with many years ago at the Rose Tattoo.
"Steve talks about her, and it's fun to see the sparkle in his eye when he does," Carlson said. "He said it took him about a month to get up the nerve to ask her out, but it happens a lot quicker in the play. And I ask him out, not the other way around."
Daphne Block delivers powerful vocals in the role of Arnesha, a sassy young woman with a tender heart and a passion for music.
Block first worked with Haberman when she was cast in a lead role in CBC's production of Beehive.
"He wowed me then, and he wows me now," she said. She loved working with Haberman and told him he would be in big trouble if he didn't invite her to his next one.
"So when this show came up, he called me for the role of Arnesha," Block said. "To say the least, I was thrilled."
Paul Davis' role as Michael Phoenix was inspired by Haberman's friendship with Michael Feinstein, a renowned cabaret singer and pianist in Los Angeles.
Feinstein is well known for his work archiving a repertoire of standards called The Great American Songbook, a collection of some of the best and most influential songs of 20th century American culture, Davis said.
"I'm having a wonderful time portraying Phoenix because I can very much identify with Feinstein's love of this kind of music," he said.
"Club 88 is going to be amazing because Steve's real piano playing is phenomenal and the original songs he wrote could fit right into the Great American Songbook itself."
Quinley is sharing directing duties with John Tuttle, who also helped write the script, cast the characters and choreograph the show.
"I have worked with all of these people in the Tri-Cities, and I am the kind of person who sticks with who I know can do the job and I have history working with," Haberman said.
When Quinley first heard Haberman's idea, she saw similarities to Chorus Line.
"Stevie wrote 21 amazing songs from the happiest moments of his life to the most heartbreaking ones," she said. "The music is catchy, the lyrics are clever and the actors play their roles well. There are also some surprises, and the plot will keep you guessing and smiling."
Showtime is 7:30 p.m. May 16-18 with a 2 p.m. matinee May 19. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Ticket outlets are at Adventures Underground in Richland, JD's Time Center in Kennewick and the CBC bookstore on the Pasco campus. Tickets also are available at the door.
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dorioneal