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Thursday, November 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A night out with friends

“Christmas With Friends” features, from left, Mark Cotter, Laura Sable and Jack Bannon. The three posed for pictures at the Resort Shops in Coeur d’Alene last week. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
“Christmas With Friends” features, from left, Mark Cotter, Laura Sable and Jack Bannon. The three posed for pictures at the Resort Shops in Coeur d’Alene last week. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

There is such a thing as truth in advertising. And “Christmas With Friends,” the new holiday cabaret show at the Coeur d’Alene resort is as advertised.

Christmas with friends.

The show reunites three couples, Ellen Travolta and Jack Bannon, Roger Welch and Mark Cotter, Laura Sable and Bill Wiemuth. They’re all longtime friends and artistic collaborators. Travolta, Bannon, Cotter and Sable were all players with Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre, where Welch was artistic director for two decades. Sable and Wiemuth (the accompanist) work as entertainers on the American Queen, a steamboat company that journeys along the Mississippi River, as do Cotter and Welch when Cotter isn’t doing his cabaret act in New York and Welch isn’t directing plays all over the country.

See? Friends.

“Coming back here to do this is great,” said Cotter, who is based in New York. “It’s apropos because I’ve been away a couple years, so it’s Christmas with friends. These truly are my friends.”

Cotter, Sable and Bannon will be putting their artistic talents on display. Welch is directing, Travolta producing and Wiemuth playing piano – with an able assist from Spokane bassist Scott Steed, whom Cotter said is “also a friend” – for the show’s four-week run.

The show will feature Cotter and Sable singing separately and together, with Bannon dropping in a couple of times to share stories about friendships and the holidays, Welch said.

“It’s like little mini-stories told throughout in song or written stories,” he said.

The show will include a number of traditional and popular holiday songs, from “O, Holy Night” to “The Christmas Song” to “The Man With the Bag.”

But it’ll be more than a greatest holiday hits show, Welch said.

“Mark has brought some new Christmas songs that are more story songs, written by composers you may not know,” he said. “So it’ll be a combination of standards and things you’ve probably never heard before, but might become your new favorites.”

One of the new songs, Cotter said, is called “All Those Christmas Cliches,” described as “the best Christmas song you’ll never hear. … It’s every image you can conjure up. It’s a lovely song.”

Sable, who lives in Coeur d’Alene when she and Wiemuth aren’t steaming up and down the Mississippi, will perform a tribute to three “great ladies of song,” featuring a big hit and a notable Christmas tune by three different women. One of the women will be Karen Carpenter, and Sable will sing “Close to You” and “Merry Christmas Darling.” The others, Sable said, she wants to keep a surprise.

“I love the freedom of this show,” she said. “There are going to be parts of this that aren’t scripted at all.”

For his part, Bannon is happy to leave the singing to the real singers. “I tell stories. I do enjoy that,” he said. “They’re sweet.”

The resort’s holiday cabaret often is billed as a good date night. Welch agrees.

“What’s great about these shows is that it’s a wonderful place to come and see a show,” Welch said. “You can have a snack or a beverage or whatever. It’s not very long and it’ll put you in the mood for Christmas. Mark is incredibly good at touching people with his music, so I think there’s enough variety in it that if you don’t like what you hear, the next thing you’ll like better. It’s a great evening. You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful place to come and hang out.”

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