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    Spotlight on Broadway: Two Divas, One Counter-Tenor and A House Full of Hams

    By Heidi Beeler

    Life is a cabaret, they say, and if you’ve ever wanted to be the life of a cabaret, now’s your chance.

    The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band is renting a ballroom, carting in a duo of delicious divas and revving up a song book of show tunes that covers more than a half century of Broadway gems so you can sing your heart out and live out your Lin-Manuel Miranda fantasies in style. Come drink the wine; come hear the band, indeed. Spotlight on Broadway features Donna Sachet and Leanne Borghesi under the crystal chandeliers of the Empire Ballroom at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, Saturday, May 20 at 8 pm.

    The Freedom Band’s Artistic Director, Pete Nowlen, wrote that this sing-along was inspired by The Dance-Along Nutcracker™, the Band’s beloved Christmas production. It’s another chance to get the audience into the act, which is at the heart of what this community band is all about.

    “We wanted a parallel fun show to bookend with the Dance-Along with a more adult focus,” Nowlen wrote in an emailed interview, “and we want to build an annual benefit concert so that [the Freedom Band] can keep doing all that we now do—and even more. The two fit perfectly together, so this event was created … with the audience being a third featured performer.”

    By now, we’ve all sung along to the Sound of Music, and, yes, here you get another great big opportunity to dust off your lederhosen and head for the alps. There’s more than Rodgers and Hammerstein’s lush symphonic soundtrack here, though. The coup of the evening’s program is a new medley from Miranda’s latest Broadway blockbuster Hamilton. Sondheim’s sublimely brooding Sweeney Todd, the funkadelic anthem “Freak Flag” from Shrek the Musical and Hamlisch’s brassy, driving A Chorus Line all make an appearance here. A whiff of Hairspray, a touch of Sweet Charity, a dash of Streisand “On A Clear Day” all make an evening of Broadway show tunes just that much gayer.

    Framing the event with their golden pipes and comic repartee are two pros familiar with San Francisco’s cabaret scene. Donna Sachet hosts the weekly drag revue, Sunday’s a Drag, at Harry Denton’s Starlight Room at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. Crowned Empress XXX by the Imperial Court of San Francisco, Sachet has performed at innumerable events and fundraisers over the past 20 years. Her annual variety show Songs of the Season has raised funds for the AIDS Emergency Fund for 18 years running. A San Francisco celebrity with national exposure, Donna has co-anchored live television coverage of the June SF Pride Parade for a decade.

    Joining Sachet to co-emcee is Leanne Borghesi. Leanne performs cabaret in NYC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. A California native and graduate of the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, Borghesi most recently performed her solo show “BDSM (Beautiful, Dirty, Sexy Me)” at the Nikko last summer. Her alter ego is the infamous Ms. Anita Cocktail, and she’s an original founding member of the comedic cabaret trip “B.O.O.B.S.” (Busty Outrageous Over-the-top Broads Singing). She’s slung cabaret at Feinstein’s at the Nikko, Razz Room, Mbar Hollywood, Herbst Theater, Marines Memorial, Palace of Fine Arts, and the Metropolitan Room and The Duplex in New York City.

    “As we started building the event, Donna and Leanne were the two artists we identified as desired headliners,” said Nowlen. “We approached them both, hoping to get one of them—and both were extremely excited to perform and loved the idea of performing together. It’s amazing to be working with two fantastic artists.”

    The two cabaret divas have lent Nowlen a hand in choosing the numbers. Along with leading the sing-alongs, they’ll grace the audience with a few feature numbers of their own.

    Of course, laying the music down for the singers, both featured and audience, is the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, the first openly LGBT Band in the world. Singing with the lavish sound of a 60-piece, symphonic band is a treat for cabaret pros and wannabes alike. Subtitled “A Sing-Along Concert Fundraiser,” the concert is a benefit for the Band complete with raffle prizes and auction items. A cash bar is on hand if you need a little singing courage.

    “This show will be fun, even if you don’t want to sing-along,” Nowlen said. You’ll have a gay old time!

    Trumpet player Heidi Beeler has been a member of the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band since 1991. She is also a founding member of the Dixieland Dykes +3. For more information, please visit www.sflgfb.org or www.facebook.com/sflgfb