Temecula’s Old Town Mercantile rings in the New Year early with music

The Old Town Temecula Mercantile’s cozy brick interior was filled with the sound of music as well as feelings of anticipation and joy for the New Year during two sold out cabaret performances at 6:30 and 8 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013.

The performances were New Year’s-themed and part of the monthly “Cabaret at the Merc,” programming arranged by Old Town Temecula Community Theater.

Both performers familiar with The Merc and those who had never been there before came together to perform a number of classical theater show tunes.

Some of the performers of the evening came from as far away as New York to play before The Merc’s large audience, who packed the venue from wall to wall and took up every chair available within the relatively confined space.

Tunes like “Too Darn Hot,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” and “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” were some of the many songs that were sung during both of the two shows.

Every month Cabaret at the Merc is planned out and put together by Jeremy Lapp and his co-producer Jordan Beck. The two have been the names behind Cabaret at the Merc since the monthly event was created in May of 2012.

Lapp said he and Beck planned for the New Year’s-themed event to be similar to last year’s in that it would be inspired by classical American Broadway singers like Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin and others.

However, Lapp said that one key characteristic that made this year’s cabaret performance somewhat different than last year’s was the talent in attendance.

“The talent that we had for this year’s show was just extra special,” he said. “I think we had three or four people who came in from New York for the show, so we kind of raised the bar as far as the level of talent we had performing in the show.”

“Also having two sold out shows for New Year’s is awesome. The excitement was definitely there in the community and we were excited to be able to do two shows for everybody,” he said.

One of the more unique characteristics of the evening’s programming was the duets that were performed, according to Lapp. The show producer said these were remarkable because often times when performers sung a particular song with one another, it was their first time doing so before a live audience.

Performers Victor Hernandez and John Lalonde, for example, had little time to prepare and no way of knowing what the end result of their short practice sessions would be when they arrived on stage to perform, “We’ll Take a Glass Together,” a tune out of Maury Yaust’s “Grand Hotel,” a play about Berlin in the late 1920s.

“John and I, we practiced a little bit, but we never really sang it out loud,” Hernandez said. “I mean we did a little bit during the rehearsal, but it was definitely something we did for the first time in front of people that night.”

“It’s very nerve-wracking,” he said. “They say you should always sing (a song) a few times before you perform in front of people and we never really got that opportunity, but it was fun; it was a fun song.”

The evening was filled with a wide variety of show tunes, some of which had been chosen by the performers while others were chosen by Lapp and Beck.

Cabaret at The Merc’s Musical Director, Leigh Sutherlin, played at the piano for the most part while the performers sung their songs.

However, Sutherlin did perform two songs of her choosing: “Too Darn Hot” and “My Romance.”

Sutherlin said she picked these songs for a few key reasons.

“The theme for that night was classical musical theater and so we were looking for music from older musicals, perhaps Rogers and Hammerstein or Rogers and Hart – the old classical musicals,” Sutherlin said. “So that gives us a chance to get into (the question) of what have become jazz standards over the years by some musicians.”

“I think a singer usually picks a song when they connect to the words really well,” she said. “And I love to play ‘My Romance,’ I love to sing it, and I love the chorus, the melody, the key and everything about it.”

Sutherlin said she thought the night’s performances were great and that they did a good job of meeting the standard set by last year’s performances.

“I think they were both top-notch,” she said. “They were very well attended and we sold out both shows both years. I think the audience was very receptive, the performers were top-notch, and everyone had a great time as far as I’m concerned.”

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