Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Brownville Christmas Gala

Totally by accident, we recently discovered an unusual "oasis" of sorts among the small towns of Southeast Nebraska.  Brownville had a population of 146 in the 2000 census, yet it hosts a string of Broadway veterans and produces an annual Repertory Theater made up of music/theater majors from across the country.  Both are housed in former churches which have been remodeled and updated to accommodate performances.  We got our first taste of the Brownville Concert Series with the finale' of the 2011 season, The Christmas Gala.

Specially created and staged for Brownville by acclaimed singer and director Eric Michael Gillett, The Christmas Gala brings together two Brownville cabaret veterans with new faces and talents from the Broadway stage.

These five talented artists put on a wonderful show of Christmas tunes - old standards and some new tunes.  I still can't quite believe we found a show of this caliber less than twenty-five miles from Green Acres.  I am looking forward to the 2012 season which kicks off in the Spring.

Brownville, the oldest town in Nebraska, is also home to galleries, book shops, the River Inn Resort (a bed and breakfast aboard a paddle-wheel boat on the Missouri River), a vineyard and winery, the Spirit of Brownville - available for scenic river cruises - museums, restored historic homes and, of course, the summer theater I mentioned earlier.  I foresee many hours of enjoyment in Brownville.  Regardless of how it sounds, I'm not a paid spokesperson for the city of Brownville, so I'll let you click the links to find out more for yourself.

Here's a brief rundown of the musicians who were part of the Christmas Gala:

Eric Michael Gillette was seen on Broadway in the original casts of “Kiss Me Kate”, “Sweet Smell of Success” and “The Frogs.”  He has appeared in movies such as “The Brothers”, “The Producers” and “Maid in Manhattan.” Gillett appeared on TV in “Law and Order".

Valerie Lemon has performed across the United States as concert soloist for Academy Award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch for 12 years. 

Raissa Katona Bennett performed the leading role of Christine in “Phantom of the Opera" and appeared in the Actor’s Fund Benefit Concert of “Chess” with Josh Groban.  She appeared in the first national tours of “Cats” and “Parade”.

T. Oliver Reid's Broadway credits include, “Chicago”, “Kiss Me Kate”, “Follies”, “Thoroughly Modern Milllie”, “Never Gonna Dance”, “La Cage Aux Folles”, “The Wedding Singer”, “Mary Poppins”, “Damn Yankees” and the 25th anniversary concert of “Dreamgirls.” 

Jeff Cubeta is in demand as a vocalist, musical director, pianist and vocal technician.  As a vocalist he performed the tenor solo in Orff’s Carmina Burana with The Three Rivers Choral Society.
 (Personally, I don't know why they don't list credits as a pianist - he is amazing!)


  1. Wow, what an amazing discovery! Enjoy!

    Merry Christmas to you all. Cards are still pretty far down on my "to-do" list so I'm not too optimistic at this point.
    May your days be merry and bright in the new year, as well!!