By Jonathan Williams
Times West Virginian
Sometimes, an idle conversation can lead to something special.
So can a rhyme.
For Friday’s “Cabernet and Cabaret” event at Heston Farms Winery, both were essential.
It all started in April, when Jason Young, owner of The Vintage Theatre Company in Bridgeport, teamed up with Seven Stories Theatre Company, of Fairmont, to put on a couple improv shows at the farm.
“We did two consecutive weekends of improv shows,” he said, with an enthusiastic reception. The second weekend sold out two performances, one of which was scheduled based on the strength of the prior shows.
“It was one of the most successful things they’d had to date,” Young said.
So naturally he and John Provins, the events director for the farm, discussed future events.
“I told him I’d like to see us do something like this once a month,” Provins said. So long as the theater guys could come up with ideas for shows, he said the farm was happy to have them come back.
So when Provins asked Young what came next, something happened.
“Almost as a joke, I said, ‘It’s a winery, John. Let’s do a cabernet (a type of wine) cabaret (a musical revue).’ And he said to me, ‘How did you know?’” Young said.
As it turned out, Mickey Heston, the owner of the winery, had been working on the farm’s first cabernet. The stars aligned, and they got to work planning.
“One thing leads to another at the farm,” Provins said.
The event itself is “definitely new to this area,” Young said. To prepare, he gathered a number of talented Broadway-style musical performers.
However, rather than spending a month or longer training through material, he asked the vocalists what songs they’d like to sing.
“It’s always a little bit better if you let people sing what they want to sing,” he said. “We need some crowd-pleasers, we need funny, we need recognizable, and they came up with a list.”
With songs from many classic musicals such as “Annie,” “Oklahoma,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Man of La Mancha,” all that remained was arranging the set, and Young decided to put it in the people’s hands.
“We’re going to prep about 30 songs,” he said. Then, when they go on stage, audience members will be provided with a list of songs, and they’ll take requests from that list.
“They are truly entertainers,” Provins said. “They want the audience to be involved.”
“Instead of imposing our will on the audience, we’re bringing our songs, and they get to say what they want to hear when they want to hear it,” Young said.
The audience will not know who is going to perform the songs until after the selection is made.
“I think we have enough good, recognizable material that people will be able to pick,” he said. “We may even open it up, so people can say, ‘So-and-so hasn’t sang in a while,’” and pick that person.
“We’re trying to make it a very relaxed, casual evening of some really great music,” he said.
Heston Farms has never had an evening dedicated to show tunes, Provins said.
“It’s new to me, period,” he said. The cabernet, part of the Spring Peepers line, will also be brand new.
It’s part of the variety Provins said they strive to provide at the venue.
“I can’t just pick out music that I like,” he said. “We try to be new and unusual and entertaining.”
The show begins at 7 p.m. The cover charge is $5 at the door. Wine and alcohol are served at the establishment. For more information, call 304--366-WINE.
Email Jonathan Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JWilliamsTWV.