Musical theater department expands, offers course in cabaret

Geneseo’s musical theater majors capitalized on an opportunity to perform at Rochester’s resident professional theater venue, Geva Theatre Center, on Friday Oct. 28 and Saturday Oct. 29. The group of students performed an array of musical theater songs in a Late-Night Cabaret. The cabaret performances followed Geva’s current production, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” which features two current Geneseo students, psychology major senior Nicole Eras and musical theater major junior Jessica Murphy.

The cabaret was performed in the recently renovated Geva Theatre lobby, which created a casual and conversational atmosphere for both the audience and performers. The show attracted Rochester locals, Geneseo students and professionals currently working at the theater.

The show provided the College’s musical theater majors with the opportunity to sing in an intimate space—a chance they don’t often get here at Geneseo. Musical theater major freshman Brett Hammes said that the show required him to “change from just performing a song to interacting with the audience.”

Each performer in the cabaret introduced their own piece, allowing audience members to better connect with the students and their songs. In addition, mathematics and adolescent education double major senior Ben Reiner and Eras—as well as communication and musical theater double major junior Sophie Yeomans and musical theater major sophomore Brian Sousis—entertained the audience as emcees throughout the night.

Guiding the performance, the emcees introduced each individual performer and cracked a few jokes along the way—all while holding the tremendous responsibility of creating an upbeat atmosphere for the duration of the evening.

The show opened with an uplifting group number titled “Become,” which was most recently performed in Geneseo’s production of “Edges.” A mix of relatable lyrics and beautiful harmonies in the opening number created a positive start to the performance and let the audience know that they were in for a treat.

The rest of the performance was comprised of various musical theater solo performances by each student. Songs ranged from emotional and heartfelt ballads, such as political science and musical theater double major junior Aram Peers’ “Like It Here” from the web-musical “The Hinterlands” to comical and witty tunes, such as political science major junior Maria Cento’s “In Short” from “Edges.”

The set performed was a mix of touching ballads, hilarious contemporary up-tempos and a powerhouse closer by the women in the major. This included featuring Yeomans with a rendition of composing team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s “Ready To Be Loved” from “Edges.”

This opportunity was presented to musical theater majors through a new experimental cabaret course headed by professor of English and theater Melanie Blood and lecturer Don Kot, resident music director at Geva Theatre and coordinator of the musical theater department here at Geneseo.

“So many professional musical theater performers appear in this environment now; it seemed essential to start exposing students to this genre and to be able to perform in a close, less-formal atmosphere,” Kot said.

Musical theater major junior Kim Cole shared what this course has taught her so far. “It’s most important [in this setting] to tell a story and send a message to the audience,” Cole said.

The course is just one of many experimental classes offered by the department, which has an ultimate goal to expand as a whole. These experimental courses will be permanently offered in the future to allow students studying musical theater to become more versatile and well-rounded performers.