Wednesday, February 6, 2013

GRATEFUL, Jonathan Ragsdale's farewell cabaret

Tuesday night was a packed house at the North Fourth Arts center, can you tell?

Jonathan Ragsdale, as a local dancer, performer, actor, singer, instructor and choreographer, has had plenty of chances to interact with the Albuquerque theater scene in the past few years, with companies and organizations like The Albuquerque Theatre Guild, PLAY Conservatory, Musical Theatre Southwest, and Albuquerque Little Theater. Naturally, the turnout for "GRATEFUL, a farewell cabaret" filled the entire house (and was even Skyped) so that colleagues, friends, and family could celebrate his achievements just weeks before his departure for the Big Apple, and bigger plans.

I spoke with Jonathan before the performance, "This show is everything I want to leave behind. The main message is a big thank you to all of the people who've helped me in this journey. It's not 'Hey look at me,' that's not what I want. It's to thank all those people who went crazy with me and played with me in the theater. I want to share my most honest thoughts, and all these special moments I've had. And to say thank you."

Accompanied on piano by Paul Roth, Jonathan's show included musical numbers that allowed him to narrate the show as well as highlight his singing and dancing talents. "On Broadway" opened the show (very Fosse, of course) with his student dancers (Katie Marshall, Callie McCarty, Mercedes Goodart, Samantha Rogers, Montana Sandoval and Belle Hernandez) accompanying him.

The girls returned to flesh out Jonathan's story of his early years in ballet class during "One Step Closer," and while most of his numbers were performed solo, such as "Come Down From the Tree" and "Grateful," one performance piece focused entirely on Jonathan's student, whose rendition of the "Cup Song" from Pitch Perfect really was pitch perfect.

I first met Jonathan Ragsdale during call backs for "Footloose" - Jonathan was reading for Ren that day - and later got to know him better while rehearsing and playing opposite him as his character's mother during the run of the show, produced by Musical Theatre Southwest. It's tremendous, for me as a performer, to see others who reach for their dreams, while having the courage to say goodbye to the life they've known thus far. Jonathan's cabaret was sentimental expressing this, but also upbeat.

A little Fosse, some time on the cabaret stool, a little ballet & musical theater, a lot of humor & smiles... and in the spirit of giving back to the community who nurtured him, all proceeds from the evening's event benefited The Growing Stage, where Jonathan has instructed in years past.

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