Last Saturday, the Student Musical Theatre Company (SMuTCo) performed “A Valentine’s Cabaret” downtown in the Palace Theater. The Palace was packed with students, faculty and community members who had come to support the large, talented cast of twenty-six students. Sophomores Tessa Drake and Lindsey Simpson co-directed and participated in the love-themed cabaret.
The singers were accompanied by a three-person pit band, consisting of sophomores Mike Peterson on piano, Adam Weisbarth on guitar and first-year Josh Rosen playing drums. Peterson was also musical director for the show.
“Mike Peterson, our pianist and musical director, is an incredible musician,” Drake said. “Without him none of this would have been possible. His ability to learn music so quickly and help teach it to others was unbelievable.”
Following an introduction of the cabaret, featuring the whole company performing “Heart and Music” from A New Brain, Drake and Simpson opened the individual acts with “My Funny Valentine” from Babes in Arms. Though their performance was strong, the audience might have been surprised to find out their number together was not part of the original line up.
“We had an emergency in which the person who was going to sing it had to go home,” Drake said. “So the cast decided that Linds and I should do it because we knew it the best and they thought it would be fun. So we memorized the words, added harmonies the day before the show and did it! As far as everything else though, we were very well prepared. It was our goal to have the show run smoothly with quick transitions.”
Drake and Simpson met their goals. Scenes flowed on and off stage smoothly, aided by the minimal use of background props. Keeping the stage bare helped focus attention on the talents of the performers. The only slight problem during the show occurred in the first few scenes, where the music occasionally overpowered some of the singing. As the cabaret progressed, this acoustic imbalance was remedied.
“The Palace was very helpful with the lighting and sound, something that Linds and I were nervous about,” Drake said.”We just wanted our show to look professional.”
The cabaret featured 17 different songs and varying combinations of performers, from solos to duets to full company performances. The scenes ranged from sweet to bittersweet and everything in between. The quality of the production as a whole was extremely impressive. However, a few of the scenes stood out as being especially memorable, such as first-year Sam Christie and senior Jill Sobo, singing “Elaborate Lives” from Aida, finally fulfilling audience expectations with an onstage kiss.
Senior Joe Bliss had an outstanding solo, singing “The Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady. His talented voice and obvious enthusiasm made him a joy to behold onstage.
Sophomores Laura McDonald and Steve Naidu performed a pair of solos centering around a budding attraction between a young woman and the Starbucks worker who gives her coffee every morning. McDonald’s version of “Taylor” garnered laughs from the audience as she deliberated mixed sensuality in her body language along with her ode to “the latte boy” who had won her heart.
“Taylor’s Response” by Naidu got even more laughter, though, as it was revealed that what seemed like a schoolgirl crush was actually extreme stalking. Their scene was definitely an audience favorite.
Another scene-stealer was sophomore Mindy Goldenberg, singing “Think of Me” from The Phantom of the Opera. Goldenberg owned the stage with her absolutely beautiful voice; the program should have listed “Angel of Music” below her entry.
These three particular sets shined during the cabaret, but the entire cast gave strong performances. Coming from all class years and a variety of musical backgrounds, the combined talents of these twenty plus students was an enjoyable surprise.
“We were very happy to have people from all different singing groups on campus as well as those who weren’t in any,” Drake said.”Lindsey and I are both extremely happy with the way the show came out and want to thank the cast for all their hard work and putting up with our constant direction.”
In short, “Heart and Music” make an outstanding cabaret.