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Friday, April 16, 2021

Casa Mañana says ‘Come to the cabaret …’

Casa Mañana

3101 W. Lancaster Ave.

Fort Worth 76107

817-332-2272

www.casamanana.org.

Michael Cunio

www.michaelcunio.com/home

Casa Mañana dates to 1936 when a large outdoor amphitheater and restaurant called Casa Mañana, “The House of Tomorrow,” was built as part of Fort Worth’s celebration of the Texas Centennial. In 1958, the fully enclosed, air-conditioned, aluminum-domed theater opened.

Things are getting a little cozier at Casa Mañana. Long known as one of the most comfortable settings in which to see a show, the legendary Fort Worth venue is set to open the Reid Cabaret Theatre in February.

Ribbons were cut Jan. 10 with board members, city officials and members of the community attending.

“We’re thrilled to see Fort Worth’s oldest theatrical organization, Casa Mañana, expand with the new Reid Cabaret performance space,” said Mayor Betsy Price. “Casa Mañana is a staple in Fort Worth’s Cultural District and an anchor for our greater arts community. The City of Fort Worth is honored to play a role in Casa’s continued growth.”

The new theater is a 70-seat venue within Casa Mañana with cabaret-style seating and a full bar. The idea is to take visitors into the past, where audiences relaxed while watching acts from the Rat Pack era such as Frank Sinatra, Liza Minelli and Tony Bennett. The Reid Cabaret features earth-tone walls, black and white photos, elegant seating and state-of-the-art sound.

The idea for a cabaret-style theater was inspired by the likes of Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York, according to Casa president and executive producer Wally Jones.

“The cabaret theater is more like a social club/supper club, like the old-school small performance spaces that Frank Sinatra performed in,” Jones said.

It is named after the Molly and Rusty Reid family, long-time supporters of Casa.

“The Reids have been a part of Casa Mañana for many years, long before I joined up in 2009,” said Jones. “[Their daughter] Sainty grew up here and the family has been supporting Casa for years. We are honored and thrilled to have such a prominent and philanthropic family permanently affixed to the Casa Mañana name.”

The quaint setting features four-top and two-top tables, so no large crowds.

“Entertainment tastes change periodically. The cabaret-style is more and more popular with patrons,” Jones said. “Patrons like taking drinks into the theater – Broadway even allows it now – and the cabaret will have table service. The cabaret offers more variety for entertainment, and there’s that social aspect. You’re going to have drinks with friends with entertainment.”

Singer Michael Cunio is the inaugural act in the new theater with shows Feb. 8 and 10 at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 9 at 9:30 p.m., and an extra show on Feb. 10 at 10 p.m. His act will include songs ranging from Sinatra to James Brown to Aerosmith. After performing in the Tony Award-winning hits Jersey Boys and Hairspray, and with the critically acclaimed vocal group Under the Streetlamp, he set off on a solo career that has included his debut album, “Back Alley Soul,” and a recent concert special for PBS.

“We are thrilled Michael Cunio is our opening act. He’s a seasoned New York cabaret performer with a Broadway background,” Jones said.

As for future shows, Jones said Casa is looking at a variety of Broadway performers with cabaret-style shows and concert readings of new works.

Jones has been at Casa nine years and had a similar cabaret-style show when he was working with North Carolina Theater. Plans for such a theater at Casa Mañana began to take shape about six years ago.

Also included in the project is 2,100 square feet of new administrative office space and a permanent 1,500-square-foot storage space, designed by Bennett, Benner Partners and contracted by Trelaine Mapp Source Building Group Inc. The new permanent storage space alleviates the need for the trailers the theater was using.

The city funded about 50 percent of the cost of the additions, or up to $409,000, from community partnership funds. The balance was raised by Casa Mañana through private donations.

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