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Jazz-club atmosphere fits ‘Bus Stops Here’

Still basking in the near-unanimous praise for its recent mainstage musical hit, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” and beginning to tout the upcoming production of Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” MusicalFare Theatre on Saturday completed a quartet of recent cabaret entertainments in a new lounge before an appreciative afternoon gathering of about 80. The lovers of song and banter were happy to enjoy the ample talents of keyboardists Randy Kramer and Theresa Quinn, plus former Tommy Dorsey trombonist Phil Sims and a former Dorsey pal, percussionist Tom Kasperek, in a little revue titled “The Bus Stops Here.” No “Go Bills,” No Sabres woes – just tunes from yesteryear, some from today, a little Broadway, plenty of Gershwin, lots of talk.

The sleek, new space at MusicalFare’s Daemen College home is called the Premier Center, and it’s been the venue for an eclectic series of mostly one-night cabaret-style shows for a couple of months: tributes to Louis Prima, Louis Armstrong and Carole King, musical evenings of various genres – including a harpist, Rita Costanzi – lounge favorites from KellyKate Abel and Chuck Basil, oldies from the Great American Songbook and a one-woman stage presentation on the life of Emily Dickinson, “The Belle of Amherst.”

So, when the mainstage goes dark, the lights come on at the Premier. There are tables, a bar, a stage. There are munchies, adult beverages. It has the feel of a jazz club without the smoke. It is – well, very cool. MusicalFare’s Kramer, who is artistic director of the venue, is rightly proud of the addition.

“The Bus Stops Here,” two 90-minute shows, was almost all music from the Kramer-Quinn-Sims developmental days – experiences away from familiar Buffalo turf, including Kramer’s experiences with the former Summerfare, Upstage New York and the fledgling MusicalFare; Quinn’s early songwriting days in Nashville, then tickling the ivories while preparing for law school; and Sims, on the road with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, with hundreds of gigs and name-dropping stories to go with each one of them.

The show, with all arrangements by Sims, paraded a diverse list of songs, from Dorsey staples, R&B and Harold Arlen segued into Ellington and a raucous “Night Train” with ease. There were excerpted showstoppers from “A Chorus Line,” with some Carole King and Bacharach and a touching post-Katrina ode to Louisiana by the surprisingly versatile Quinn. The always-amazing Kramer recalled a few directorial problems before the gregarious and animated Sims turned vocalist and wrapped up the night with what he called an “epic medley” of every song George and Ira Gershwin ever penned. From “An American in Paris” to “Porgy and Bess,” to “A Foggy Day” to “How Long Has This Been Going On?” and back again – these were brilliant last minutes.

“The Bus Stops Here” could easily return to the Premier. It’s a perfect vehicle for the space, tuneful, joyful, quick. Maybe Sims could play more, talk less.

Next at the Premier: “A Big Band Holiday,” songs of the season in December.

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