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ArtsRancho Santa Fe

For Ron Banks the cabaret is very personal

Cabaret Caccia is currently in its 2014 season, and performances are being held on select Sundays at 7 p.m. in the Encinitas Library.

Ronald M. Banks is a baritone singer-actor who has performed show tunes from numerous Broadway productions such as “Carousel,” “Sweeney Todd,” and his favorite one, “The King and I.”

He, too, will be participating in Cabaret Caccia Feb. 23 from 7 to 9 p.m., leading a program titled “From Mongkut to Mickey Mouse.”

It’s 10 a.m. on Tuesday, and as I’m speaking with Banks over the phone, it occurs to me that all I know of cabaret is the fact that there is a musical (and a film adaptation) of the same name.

I’m hoping to learn more about this particular fine art from this accomplished performer, who acknowledges “The King and I,” as his big break. I can only imagine how busy he must be, with the cabaret so close to its opening night, but he manages to find an open slot in his schedule for an interview.

Singing has the ability to captivate the deepest depths of the human soul and transcend the limitations of expressing emotion. If you had to choose one word to describe your love of singing throughout your career, what would it be?

I would say probably “moving.” And I say that not as a description of what counts as a singer, but what I always strive to do. Every song has a story, and we try to effectively tell that story through song.

What would you consider to be your favorite type of performance throughout your career, and why?

They all have pluses and minuses. I think probably I would choose musical theatre, because I’ve done it for so long and it’s just such a part of me. But there aren’t as many jobs as there used to be, and they often involve a lot of traveling. The great thing about concert is that you can still tell a story, and it can be a story of your choosing.

It’s a one-night gig; it’s not very time-consuming, and very, very pleasant in that way. Opera…I love doing it, but it’s been difficult, making a living out of it. There are so many good opera singers out there; that’s part of the problem of trying to be an opera singer, but you can’t deny their passion. And I’m starting to get a bigger perspective on concert-type singing.


How did you get involved with Cabaret Caccia, and what convinced you to give it a shot?

An old colleague of mine (Ann Chase) worked with her husband David Chase. I had another concert back in September, and unbeknownst to me, she and her husband were in the audience. So she contacted me via email and offered me the opportunity on Feb. 23. It’s another opportunity to do what I love, here up on stage, and to share an evening of musical theatre and personal anecdotes with an audience.

What makes cabaret different from other forms of entertainment?

It’s very personal; it’s like harkening back to an older, different time before there was television or even radio, when people got together for entertainment. This is back when everybody played piano and everybody sang a little bit, and they would just get together in their parlors after dinner and maybe someone would deliver a speech, and someone else would get up and do a dramatic reading, and then other people would get up and sing. It’s almost like inviting friends and family to your parlor and having a nice time together, sharing some fun.

It seems that whenever “cabaret” is mentioned, most people recall the musical of the same name and not really know what the actual art is. What are you hoping audiences will take away from this special event upon attending it?

Well, I was wondering if you were going to bring that up, because I was thinking about that while we were talking. It’s interesting to me, the influence of media on people’s perception of the definitions of the term “cabaret,” and we have such easy access to all sorts of information. If people don’t know what cabaret is, they just go on the Internet and look up the various definitions.

Others have preconceived notions based on the movie; growing up in the ‘50s, where cabaret had a different definition. But for my purposes, my biggest hope for my performance would basically be that people enjoy themselves for the evening.

I just did a quick translation of “caccia” and it translates to “hunting.” But cabaret I think today just means a musical performance of various styles, and I don’t think it has to involve one person; it could be a group, for that matter. Thank you for asking me that question, because now I’m curious about the answer.