The brassy sound of jazz and big-band music was a welcome addition to the second annual Double-A Cabaret: An Evening of Jazz and Broadway featured eight of St. Mary’s College’s most talented student vocalists collaborating with the five student musicians and three professional musicians of the St. Mary’s Jazz Combo. The one-night-only performance took place at Bruce Davis Theater in Montgomery Hall on Friday, Feb. 8 to a very enthusiastic and very crowded audience. The event proved to be so popular that extra chairs were placed around the sides of the theater to accommodate the overflow.
In front of the band, three round café tables for special guests like President Joe Urgo were placed in front of the band as if in an actual cabaret lounge, and the eight singers sat at their own table as they watched the other students perform their songs.
The creation of Double-A Cabaret was inspired by Arthur Zamanakos, a very great benefactor for the arts and humanities at St. Mary’s, and it was named after the two A’s of “Arthur” and his late wife “Alice,” to whom the show is dedicated. Larry Vote, the show’s choral director, said, “Mr. Zamanakos has done a lot for the College, especially for the Music Department…He’s made this show possible by a special grant to allow us to bring students together to work on American popular song, which is a great tradition of this country.”
The electric energy of the audience, and reciprocal energy from the singers, was felt in each student’s performance. Easily recognizable songs were greeted with gasps and cheers. One of them, the classic song “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess, was sung in its original operatic form by sophomore Rachel Buxton. “We had such a great turn out and the audience gave us fabulous energy!” she said. “I cannot wait until next year!”
Buxton’s sentiments were echoed by sophomore Valerie Holt, who sang the song “Adelaide’s Lament” from the musical Guys and Dolls. “It was really exciting to find out just how talented my fellow students are, both among the vocalists and instrumentalists,” she said.
Senior Carrie Meeder sang “I Dreamed a Dream,” a fan-favorite from the musical Les Misérables, and first-years Elizabeth Embser and Andrew Tarquinio proved that their musical talents will be around at St. Mary’s for years to come.
Jiayang Owen Ma, a senior, impressed the audience with his infectious enthusiasm and his boisterous bilingual rendition of Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” which he sang in his native Chinese as well as English.
Senior Ryan Thompson, to the audible delight of the audience, sang a cover of Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea.” About his experience with Double-A Cabaret, in which Thompson has performed for the two years of its existence, Thompson said, “To me, the cabaret meant an opportunity to share music with others on a more intimate level where the audience felt more of a connection to the singer and the music. In the usual recital context, the audience is told to be completely quiet, but the cabaret ambiance allows for them to interact with the musicians and singers in a way that allows for more communication of emotion and meaning.”
One of the other performers in this intimate setting was Hannah Myers, a sophomore who skillfully sang the classic showtune “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from the musical Funny Girl. “I had friends tell me it was the best show they’ve seen at St. Mary’s,” she said. “[We had] a great venue, a very talented band, and amazing singers. We were very lucky to have an amazing team, with pianist Jerry Ascione, the jazz band under the direction of Don Stapleson, and the direction of Larry Vote and Joan McFarland [vocal coach].”
Jessica Paguirigan, a junior who attended the show, could not keep herself from gushing about Double-A Cabaret.
“That show was the best thing that’s happened on this campus for a long time,” she said. “It was so amazing to hear how the singers and band members communicated with each other and with the audience. The singers and the musicians touched my heart so much so that I cried because it was so beautiful and meaningful to me. It made me feel ridiculous…in a good way.” The overwhelmingly positive response from performers and the audience to the brilliant showcase of fresh student talent at Double-A Cabaret guarantees that this annual performance will become a staple of the music scene at the College.