NextStop Theatre’s summer cabaret series to debut July 11

Chanteuse Karen Mason, via Ms. Mason's website.
Chanteuse Karen Mason, via Ms. Mason's website.

HERNDON, Va., July 4, 2014 – Washington’s always eclectic In Series, which wraps up its production of “La Traviata” this weekend, has long been one of the few games in town when it comes to cabaret-style entertainment. In recent years, though, Arlington’s Signature Theatre has weighed in with its own lively cabaret take.

But now, Herndon’s recently rechristened NextStop Theatre company enters the lists with its brand new, first-time ever Summer Cabaret Series. That’s a big plus for Virginia’s outside-the-Beltway music and cabaret fans who dread those weekend close encounters with those Dulles Toll Road and I-66 24/7 traffic snarls en route to various DC entertainment venues.

In its brand new summer cabaret series, NextStop is offering a diverse mix of solo cabaret artists and ensembles, seasoned with a piquant dash of comedy.

Having morphed this past season from what was arguably the region’s most consistently excellent community theater program (aka, the Elden Street Players) into a professional equity company, NextStop is also paying tribute to its past this summer by featuring numerous artists with area roots. At the same time, the current schedule is highlighting up-and-coming young talent as well—attempting, no doubt, to nurture the next generation of performers as this company always has done in the past.

Here’s what’s happening at Herndon’s Industrial Strength Theatre beginning just a week from today:

Solo Acts (and one musical duo)

Opening night for the series is Friday, July 11, 2014, as singer-actress Karen Mason appears at the Industrial Strength Theatre for a two-night musical stand. The talented Ms. Mason is noted for her cabaret performances, but has also appeared in musicals as diverse as “Hairspray” and “Sunset Boulevard,” as well as taking a more serious turn in TV’s long-running “Law & Order” SVU series. Of her cabaret performances, the Chicago Tribune has declared that Ms. Mason “performs with a ferocity of spirit and improvisational freedom that are immensely appealing.”

Erin Driscoll in "Cloak and Dagger" at Signature. (Credit Margot Schulman)
Erin Driscoll in “Cloak and Dagger” at Signature. (Credit Margot Schulman)

Hailing originally from Herndon, Helen Hayes Award-winning singer-actress Erin Driscoll—who wraps up her role as femme fatale Helena Troy in Signature Theatre’s world premiere musical “Cloak and Dagger” this weekend—has appeared in numerous roles both here and in New York. Writing for DC Theatre Scene in 2008, Joel Markowitz declared “Washington theatres fell in love with her glorious voice. Who can forget her lovely Cinderella at Olney Theatre Center, and her adorable mouse in A Year with Frog and Toad at Round House Theatre?” NextStop audiences will get a chance to hear Ms. Driscoll on July 18.

Describing them as “two of the DC region’s premiere chanteuses,” NextStop presents a program by Bev Cosham and Terri Allen on July 20 that features the music of Amanda McBroom, a noted American singer, songwriter, actress and cabaret performer. She’s perhaps most famous for penning “The Rose,” the signature song of the eponymous 1979 Bette Midler film.

DC area favorite, singer-actress Tracy Lynn Olivera is described by NextStop as “a quirky, eclectic mix of Broadway, jazz, pop and a little bit country from a DC girl who is also a little bit of everything.” She’ll be performing in Herndon on July 25.

Actress, recording artist and singer Sally Mayes. (PR photo)
Actress, recording artist and singer Sally Mayes. (PR photo)

Tony Award-nominated veteran cabaret singer Sally Mayes will grace the Industrial Strength Theatre’s stage on July 18. One critic, writing in Stage Left, notes that “Mayes combines solid musical skills and shrewd dramatic judgment with an effervescent ‘down home’ approach.”

A graduate of Herndon High, rising young songstress and area resident Kate Merryman will make her Industrial Strength solo cabaret appearance on July 27. She graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor of Music degree from George Mason University last year and has participated in Master Classes held by Broadway chanteuse Lisa Vroman, who recently appeared in Terence McNally’s “Master Class” with Virginia Lyric Opera, and with Met star opera singer Dwayne Croft who has also appeared here with the Washington National Opera. Locally, Ms. Merryman has appeared in productions as diverse as “Les Miz,” Mozart’s “Magic Flute,” and Christmas on Broadway at DC’s Black Fox Lounge.

The Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet, left to right: Ginny Carr, alto; Robert McBride, tenor; Holly Shockey, soprano; and Andre Enceneat, bass. (PR photo)
The Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet, left to right: Ginny Carr, alto; Robert McBride, tenor; Holly Shockey, soprano; and Andre Enceneat, bass. (PR photo)

WAMMIE Award-winning pop, jazz and R&B singer Andre Enceneat visits Herndon on August 1, offering what NextStop describes as “an evening of intimate jazz standards featuring jazz pianist Pete Frassrand. Mr. Enceneat is part of the well-known Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet.

GMU professor, jazz vocalist and big band performer Darden Purcell is also Director of Jazz Studies at Mason. She’s sung both solo and backup for numerous bands, and she’ll be appearing in her own Industrial Strength cabaret show on August 8. In the meantime, check out her style by listening to excerpts from her “Easy Living” CD here.

Darden Purcell pictured on her latest CD cover.
Darden Purcell pictured on her latest CD cover.

The excellent area talent continues at NextStop on August 9 as another Herndon native, current Fairfax County High School Choral Director Keri Staley debuts in her solo cabaret premiere. Like Darden Purcell, she’s also a big band expert and showtune vet.

Ensemble performances

If you’re looking for a musical or acting career (or both), you’ve got to start somewhere. And that somewhere is often your local high school. On July 13 and August 15, NextStop highlights the often astounding talent that seems to magically materialize each year on area high school stages.

The July 13 program offers a “High School Musical Theatre Showcase” of the best vocal talent that’s currently treading Fairfax County’s boards. Later this summer, on August 15, the focus is once again on talented local students in a second edition of this mini-series.

Three more events highlight talent that’s stuck with theater through thick and thin. NextStop’s August 2 program features “The Divas of NextStop,” an evening whose title is mostly self-explanatory. Female artists from this year’s production are the headliners, including Anya Nebel, Katie McManus, Kristin Garaffo, and Nora Palka.

The following day, August 3, the series presents its “DC Cabaret Network Showcase” featuring artists Cindy Hutchins, Lonny Price, Steve Cupo and Tracy Simpson. Helen Hayes Award-winning music director George Fulginiti-Shakar appears as well.

On August 10, it’s a trip down nostalgia lane, particularly for long time Elden Street Players fans and supporters, as NextStop presents its “Elden Street Musical Experience,” celebrating the astounding repertoire of classic theater music this community ensemble has brought to area residents over the last quarter century. Featured on this program are musical theater vets John Loughney, Jaclyn young, Matthew Thompson and Priscilla Cuellar.


Screenshot of "Last Ham Standing's" signature website image.
Screenshot of “Last Ham Standing’s” signature website image.

We promised comedy earlier in this rundown, and NextStop won’t disappoint this summer. On July 19, the Industrial Strength Theatre will host those local divos and divas of improv, Last Ham Standing, and life may never be the same again. This area troupe will put together an evening of madcap skits and sketches largely based on audience suggestions. Don’t miss the chaos!

Season Finale

The Summer Cabaret Series wraps up festivities with a performance by area theater vet Jim Van Slyke who will appear in his popular Neil Sedaka Show. Sedaka himself has endorsed this show, and it’s likely to be a popular sellout for NextStop as well.

For a sample, check out this YouTube excerpt from the show.

Tickets and Information

Tickets for most cabaret events range between $20 and $25, with some evenings slightly higher at $25-$30. For more information, visit NextStop Theatre’s website, or call 703-481-5930.


If you haven’t visited the Industrial Strength Theatre before, check out NextStop’s map page here. The address is 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon, VA 20170. But that’s just half the story. From the outset, this excellent black box theatre has been located in the back of a series of industrial warehouses and shops, so follow the signs once you turn in. Plentiful parking is free if a bit quirky, so make sure you know where you’re going first.

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