If it’s Monday night in DC, many theaters are dark, but that doesn’t mean there’s not some great entertainment available for theater lovers. Over the past three-and-a-half years, La-Ti-Do has become the area’s premiere musical theatre cabaret and spoken word series, playing James Hoban’s Irish Restaurant & Bar (after moving from its original home, the Black Fox Lounge).
The show is offers an hour’s worth of entertainment for a price of just $15, an affordable night for high quality art on a night that’s usually dead in this town.
In addition to the weekly DC series, La-Ti-Do has also spent the past two years doing a monthly show in New York City at the Bowery Poetry Club, and that has led to an invitation for the troupe’s first-ever performance at the swank Broadway supperclub 54 Below on Tuesday, Sept. 1.
“This is a big deal because it’s the first time a DC-based production—that’s not like a Broadway show—has made a successful transfer to New York,” says Don Michael Mendoza, executive artistic director for La-Ti-Do DC, who co-hosts the event with Regie Cabico. “Most things from New York come down here and create a version, but we are going the opposite direction.”
Part musical theater, part spoken word, La-Ti-Do offers a place for actors, singers and poets to go and do something a little different each week.
“If someone is doing shows eight times a week, this is their chance to sing something that’s not their show,” Mendoza says. “What makes us unique is we’re not just musical theater but we tie in to the spoken word community as well. We’re more of a variety showcase. We have everything from musical theater actors to singer/songwriters to poets, storytellers and comedians and it all flows together in one evening of art.”
For the upcoming 54 Below gig, the show is featuring Elise Arndt, Madeline Cuddihy, Mason Granger, Caroline Mahoney, Justine Icy Moral, comedian Vijai Nathan, Sarah Beth Pfeifer, Rob Rokicki (co-writer of The Lightning Thief), Jon Sands, Grant Saunders, Ava Silva and Tara Trinity.
“We looked at our alumnus base in New York City to see who was available to participate. Many of the cast are from DC but have a big network in New York as well,” Mendoza says. “We try to build into it a sense of diversity. One of La-Ti-Do’s missions is to showcase a diverse talent group that spreads across all fields; not just ethnicity but also gender, sexual orientation…and show there is a plethora of talent in all fields and realms.”
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If all goes well at 54 Below, Mendoza expects La-Ti-Do to book more dates and the goal is to build a pathway between the two cities for artists to be a part of a safe space to perform.
“It’s a relaxed feel, but it’s also high-quality. We’re not an open mic,” Mendoza says. “Everyone is pre-screened, pre-auditioned or we have seen them in a show, so we know the quality that they bring.”
While La-Ti-Do isn’t saying so long to its other NYC home, Mendoza does feel there’s a certain panache that comes with the noted 54 Below that the Bowery Poetry Club just didn’t offer—especially for theater fans.
“[Bowery] catered more to our spoken word artists while 54 Below is a different audience; more theatrical,” he says. “There’s a step up that comes with 54 Below and the weight of what it all means. It gives legitimacy to La-Ti-Do coming up there. They thought we were unique and different enough to be added to their program.”
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