Nina Gabianelli to perform cabaret act ‘Here I Am’ at Wheeler Opera House |

Nina Gabianelli to perform cabaret act ‘Here I Am’ at Wheeler Opera House

Carla Jean Whitley
The Aspen Times
Nina Gabianelli will perform her cabaret act "Here I Am" on Tuesday at the Wheeler Opera House.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: ‘Here I Am,’ An evening of song with Nina Gabianelli

Where: Wheeler Opera House

When: Tuesday, July 25, 8 p.m.

How much: Free; reservations accepted

More info:

Songs are stories. And when Nina Gabianelli takes the stage at the Wheeler Opera House on Tuesday, she’ll link a series of songs to tell her own story.

“A lot of people in this valley know me as who I am today. But there’s a lot of years to back that up,” Gabianelli said before a sold-out March performance at Thunder River Theatre’s “Diva Cabaret” series.

“Here I Am” will introduce viewers to the rest of her story. As a 17-year resident of the Roaring Fork Valley, Gabianelli is a familiar face to many. She served as both hostess and a performer at Aspen’s Crystal Palace until its 2008 closing, and has since performed in both professional and community theater throughout the valley. She’s also a part of the Consenual Improv troupe, which performs at Thunder River. But as Gabianelli noted, many people know only the story of who she is today: a singer, an actor and vice president of education and programming at Aspen Historical Society.

“Her style up until starting with improv was really much more about, ‘I know what I’m supposed to do. It’s scripted.’ That’s very safe and maybe, in some ways, a little less personal,” said Thunder River artistic director Corey Simpson. “So I think for her, this process of rehearsing and performing with the improv group has also pushed her in some exciting direction where she’s becoming more and more comfortable with putting herself out there.”

In her final six years as an actor in New York City, Gabianelli spent much of her time on the cabaret stage. It’s a perfect venue for storytelling, she said. But when she left the city in the late 1990s, the story she’ll tell Monday wasn’t yet complete.

A significant portion of it is Gabianelli’s recovery from alcoholism. She has been sober for more than 15 years.

“People need to know there’s hope,” she said.

Part of the challenge in preparing “Here I Am” was selecting the right music to communicate that tale and the others that comprise her life to date. Gabianelli worked on arrangements with David Dyer, a former Crystal Palace colleague, who will accompany her on piano. Dyer will perform afterward, transforming the theater into a piano-bar atmosphere.

Cabaret is a perfect venue for sharing a story, Gabianelli said, because it’s more than a performance. The audience isn’t being performed to, but rather their emotions should be part of the experience.

“It’s different from vaudeville. It’s different from a show. It’s an intimate sharing of information,” she said. Gabianelli has long hoped to create such a show, but it took the right space and a healthy dose of inspiration. The latter came from a cabaret symposium she attended in Mykonos, Greece, in fall 2015. The former? That’s from Corey Simpson and Thunder River.

“(Cabaret) requires the right space. It can’t be a 400-seat theater, it can’t be a 40-seat theater. It needs a grand piano, not a keyboard,” she said. The theater will be transformed into a nightclub-like atmosphere, including a bar.

The Wheeler performance is part of its ongoing “Sunset Series,” which launched this summer with intimate performances in the historic opera house’s bar.

Gabianelli hopes others will step up to create shows, as well. Seeing others’ work is a source of inspiration, and the Roaring Fork Valley offers opportunity to try new things.

“It’s nice to be a big fish in a small pond,” said Gabianelli, who said the level of competition in New York bred self doubt. “There’s still challenges. There’s still competition. But there’s also room for everyone to shine.”

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