The Journey To Creating My First Cabaret
First off, I am excited to share that this is my first NMT blog post as a college graduate! In order to celebrate my big graduation, I wanted to do something special that would be the perfect farewell to my time at California State University, Fullerton. I am a BA Theatre Arts student with an Applied Studies emphasis, aka general theatre. Since my emphasis is essentially the island of misfit toys, we don’t get the same final showings or major projects that the tech emphases or BFA students get by the time they graduate. Therefore, I made like Ursula and took matters in to my own tentacles. I decided that my best option was to put on a cabaret: I love to sing, I have great witty banter, and having people focus on me for forty-five minutes sounds like a dream!
However, I knew that I had to do something more interesting than just singing songs I like or songs from my audition book. I didn’t want to do the traditional medley commemorating my university education or some fun parody song. Most importantly, if I was going to put in the effort to do this cabaret, I could not make it completely self-indulgent. My life story, while still valid, isn’t interesting enough to pull from. Therefore, I centered my first cabaret on a topic I love most: JOY!
I wanted to create something that didn’t take itself so seriously. There are so many dark things going on in the world: mass shootings, natural disasters, and political nastiness dominate the news. I wanted to counteract that with a message of hope, and if I could make an audience smile then that would be enough for me. I consider myself an optimist, so played off of my musical theatre love and titled by cabaret “Cockeyed Optimist: Songs of Joy.” I was confident in my theme, and so many songs were popping up in my brain.
I only had about three weeks to assemble everything, but I had so many options in my head that it was easy to choose songs. I was (and am!) lucky to have a fabulous voice teacher that helped me come up with arrangements and narrow down my set list. I am very blessed with a really solid support system of friends and faculty that led me to this cabaret. The day of the show I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I thought I would be. I was excited and relaxed, ready to share some positive vibes with my friends and family.
I opened the show with a little medley of “I Believe In Love” from Hair and “Put On A Happy Face” from Bye Bye Birdie – two classics with a simple message. With my next song, I wanted to take the audience on a journey to a time with lots of pure, unadulterated joy: childhood. I did a simple little mash-up of “Over The Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz and “Never Neverland” from Peter Pan – ironically, these were the first two musicals I ever saw! I followed this up with one of my favorites, “Spark of Creation” from Children of Eden.
The next section of songs centered on the central message of hope. First up was “Hear My Song” from Songs For A New World, followed by a fantastic arrangement of “Tomorrow” from Annie. I closed up this little section with “There Will Be A Miracle” from one of my favorite musicals, See What I Wanna See. All three songs, while similar in message, have a different meaning to me. “Hear My Song” was a song that I first heard at a time when I needed it most, and so I wanted to pay it forward. “Tomorrow” is a song that is much more than just a little girl in a red curly wig when you look at the lyrics, and my voice teacher came up with a brilliant accompaniment that made me cry every time I sang it. Finally, “There Will Be A Miracle” is a beautiful and understated song. I’m known more for flashy, riff-y numbers as a performer, and I wanted to bring a little restraint to my cabaret.
After sharing my desire for positivity with “Sing Happy” from Flora, The Red Menace, I closed out with two songs that showed my hope for my future as I prepare to graduate: “Astonishing” from Little Women and my encore, “Cut, Print, Moving On” from Smash. I learned from the greats (Patti LuPone, Kristin Chenoweth, Britney Spears) that one must always have an encore prepared.
Working on this cabaret, I discovered that it was the best way to sum up myself. When we go through daily life, we don’t really know how to explain ourselves since it’s something that we don’t always do. How do we define ourselves? What are our values, beliefs, desires? College is supposed to be the time when you find yourself, and this cabaret was the perfect way to finish out my university career. I hope that this cabaret, or my career as a cabaret performer, has some sort of a future life. If anything, this was a great test run!