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From Paris to Manhattan to the Columbia: A cabaret

By Regina Pergola
On February 7, 2017

Singer Raynel Shepard sang a duet with Harry Mayronne and his marionette at a fundraiser for the Sims Library and the Columbia Theatre. 
Regina Pergola/The Lion's Roar 

“Breakfast in Paris, Martinis in Manhattan: a Cabaret” was a fundraiser for the Friends of Sims Library and the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts. 

The cabaret, which took place on Feb. 4, invited patrons to enjoy Raynel Shepard singing with Harry Mayronne as an accompanist. Each patron was given two complimentary drinks at the beginning of the evening. The Sims Library and the Columbia Theatre began a partnership, which resulted in this fundraiser.

“It goes to the issue of culture and we both believe in culture,” said Executive Director of the Columbia Theatre Roy Blackwood. “We thought we could collaborate and bring it together. We really started this about three years ago and Eric said, ‘Let’s do this.’ I said ‘Okay, let’s get some talent that’s good, that we can afford and that we can sell tickets for.’ He was able to do that. The rest of it is easy, and it’s what we do all the time. You get some snacks, some tea candles, some PA and we’re ready to go.”

Director of the Sims Library Eric Johnson was in attendance, co-hosting with Blackwood to petition the audience members for their support of the Sims Library.

“I am delighted at the success at tonight’s evening,” said Johnson. “We didn’t know when we started whether we would have an audience of 20 or an audience of 80, and we had an audience of over 80. Everyone loved it. It’s one of the few times they’ve done a cabaret in Hammond, and I’m just so happy it was a big success for both the Columbia Theatre and Sims library.”

The idea sparked from personal experience from Blackwood. He enjoyed the performance and the memories it brought back.

“I loved it,” said Blackwood. “My wife and I love Paris, we love New York, so what could be better? That really was sort of the catalyst and we think that was the hook that brought people in.”

The patrons were supporting the Sims Library and the Columbia Theatre with their purchase of tickets for the evening along with the purchase of additional drinks. 

“To be honest, this audience in here is kind of our core audience in the big theatre,” said Blackwood. “It’s the kind of people we can count on all the time. We wanted to give them a top-notch performance at a reasonable price. The way the world goes, 40 bucks for a ticket to a show like this and a couple of free drinks, that’s really a good deal. That’s what we wanted to do and we pulled it off.”

Blackwood looks to expand the audiences for additional performances, appealing to various age ranges.

“I’ve got a couple ideas for future shows that we can do here,” said Blackwood. “People like this kind of intimate format. We’ve tried this a couple of times with the college age. We haven’t sparked their imagination so much yet. They’re comfortable with more of a $10 ticket price, and we might be able to do that down the road. It’ll take a while, but we’ll be able to bring in some entertainment they might like.”

He was pleased with the evening, deeming it a success for both the performers and the patrons. 

“This has just been a lot of fun, and you saw everyone really enjoyed themselves,” said Blackwood. “What a charming, engaging singer and pianist. With the marionettes, I wasn’t so sure in the beginning how that would work but it really did work out fine.”

Various supporters from the audience were involved with the university, including former president Randy Moffett, who had 32 years of university service.

“We think this is a great event,” said Moffett. “It’s a fundraiser for the library and the library is the heart of the university. Of course, the entertainment is really wonderful and got a good crowd here. Some familiar faces that we know and some new faces.”

Shepard discussed how she got involved performing for the fundraiser and her love of the city she sang about. 

“I’ve known Pat Brady and Eric Johnson for a couple years,” said Shepard. “I must have said something to Eric or Pat. They’ve heard me sing before, so, they suggested that. Of course, I’ve always wanted to do this sort of cabaret, and Pat introduced me to Harry. I’ve been in Paris, but only a couple of times. I keep saying to my husband ‘When are we going back to Paris?’ so maybe this will prompt him to let us go back. It’s a beautiful city.”


Patrons received two free drinks at the event with their ticket. The event was called “Breakfast in Paris, Martinis in Manhatten: a Cabaret" and included entertainment by singer Raynel Shepard.
Regina Pergola/The Lion's Roar 



Raynel Shepard sang at the Columbia Theatre for a fundraiser that benefited the Columbia and Sims Memorial Library.  She was accompanied by Harry Mayronne.
Regina Pergola/The Lion's Roar 




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