Life’s a cabaret

Story by Emily Albrent

As the lights lowered, the audience became still with anticipation. Out walked a man with a microphone in hand, along with a dancer poised gracefully to begin.

Not a whisper could be heard as the orchestra started to play and the man began to sing. A rendition of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” reverberated against the walls and a sad, yet pensive sensation went through the audience. This is Cabaret.

Dr. Alan Rieck, the coordinator of music education, said Cabaret is a exceptional musical variety show. Cabaret debuted in 1978, giving students the opportunity to create and direct their own production.  Rieck said a show like Cabaret is not something many universities get the chance to do.

“It offers a unique experience for our students,” said Rieck. “The students do everything in the show.”

Rieck said the experience includes everything from directing to choreographing the dance numbers. It is written every year by the students, with music faculty there for guidance.

“It’s amazing that all these people could come together,” Rieck said.

Each year, a main theme is chosen for the show. This year, it was Careers. The careers ranged all the way from heel clicking cowboys to prim and proper social workers.

Each act included accompanying songs and dances. These musical numbers came in a wide range of styles. One minute audience members were jamming to the pop princess herself, Britney Spears, or listening to the electric guitar of Aerosmith’s “Dream On.”

According to the Cabaret website, the production staff consists of 10 student directors and 130 cast members. It takes a skillfully planned 10-month schedule to help keep everything on track.

“Cabaret is the largest production put on by the music department,” said Dr. Gary Schwartzhoff, director of choral activities.

The size of the cast can be one of the most challenging parts of the whole experience, Schwartzhoff said.  He added that it takes diligent work to make sure that each person knows what they are doing at all times.

“The hardest part, but most rewarding, is getting everyone on the same page,” said senior Mark Quamme, a member of The Singing Statesmen.

It takes a lot of patience and practice to put on each and every one of these performances. During the show, the cast runs across the stage, arms expertly pointed and voices tuned to perfection.

“It is mentally and physically exhausting,” said Elizabeth Sletten, a senior from Woman’s Concert Coral.

However, even though the show can be challenging at times, both Quamme and Sletten said they enjoy building relationships and making new friends.

Sletten said Cabaret is not just about dancing and singing — the show is about something more to many of the cast members. It is about creating bonds that will last a lifetime. And since many of the students do not get the chance to meet many of the other choir ensembles, Cabaret brings everyone together.

“The biggest thing is getting to spend time with all the other groups,” Quamme said.

In addition to the various choirs performing, one of the highlights for an audience member was the live music.

“It was great and I was impressed with the live orchestra,” said freshman Ashley Redfern.

Cabaret also lends a hand in collecting scholarship money for the students. Rieck said the ticket sales and generous donors are to thank for this wonderful opportunity.

In true Cabaret tradition, the show ended with all cast members lining the stage  and the outer rim of the room while singing, “We Are Family.”

Sletten and Quamme were right — Cabaret is not just about the singing and dancing. It is about something more.

Something like community.