Craig Jessup has 20 songs about love he is singing in a show called “Funny Valentine.”
In the collection of tunes he will perform with pianist-arranger Ken Muir the day before Valentine’s Day in Mill Valley, the Bay Area cabaret veteran aims to capture not just the thrill of being in love, but the downside too.
“I can comment on falling in and out of love, and rediscovering love,” Jessup says. “Each song is like a small play, and together the tunes make up a whole cycle.”
Songs by Stephen Sondheim (“Sorry-Grateful,” “Buddy’s Blues”) give the show its darker, heavier moments.
“I must’ve seen the second act of ‘Company’ 30 times,” Jessup says, describing how his love for Sondheim solidified when he lived in New York in 1970-71 — a time when people could sneak into theaters.
In his show, the Sondheim tunes complement a selection of more-upbeat numbers from the Great American Songbook by Rodgers and Hart and the Gershwins that Jessup has performed through the years in shows around the Bay Area.
The cabaret business admittedly has slowed down in recent decades, says Jessup, who, in the late 1970s and early ’80s played a wide variety of clubs in San Francisco with his former wife, Ruth Hastings, and had big success in “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris,” which he took to Belgium.
Today, Jessup, who has a day job at a bank, laments the lack of opportunity for cabaret artists.
“Even in New York, there’s no place where you can make money,” he says. “There’s no place where people can get their footing and perform their material over and over.”
At the same time, he is pleased with his audience of followers, many in the gay community, who remember the old days and that TV shows, particularly “Glee” and “American Idol” to a lesser extent, are bringing listeners back to musicals — and material that is better than the run-of-the-mill pop song.
Speaking of pop, Jessup, a songwriter and keyboardist, recently recorded original songs, a process he has enjoyed as much as working with his “fabulous” collaborator Muir in preparing “Funny Valentine.”
“Bring your date,” he says of the show, which offers not only a set list of songs that are dramatic jewels, but a jewel box of a theater too. “The intimate environment is what makes it so special.”
IF YOU GO
Where: 142 Throckmorton Theatre, 142 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley
When: 7:30 p.m., Feb. 13
Tickets: $25 to $35
Contact: (415) 383-9600, www.142throckmortontheatre.org