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44th annual Cabaret production at UW-Eau Claire to run Jan. 26-Feb. 4

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: Cabaret 2023 performers, staff and directors finalized all last-minute tweaks at the final dress rehearsal Wednesday night before the Thursday, Jan. 26, opening show.

A favorite winter event at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1978, the annual Cabaret production from the music and theatre arts department is set for an eight-show run between Thursday, Jan. 26, and Saturday, Feb. 4.

Always a production entirely written, arranged, choreographed and directed by students, this year’s event, titled “Forces of Nature,” features music and dance from 100 vocal and dance ensemble members backed by Blugold orchestra and jazz ensembles.

The show schedule is as follows, with all eight performances and two Saturday preshow dinners in the Ojibwe Ballroom of Davies Center:

  • Show: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26.
  • Show: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27.
  • Show: 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28.
  • Preshow dinner: 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28.
  • Show: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28.
  • Show: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2.
  • Show: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3.
  • Shows: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4.
  • Preshow dinner: 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online or at the Service Center desk in Davies Center.

Senior Jacob Hallett, the 2023 production manager for the show, describes this year’s theme as life-encompassing.

“Existing since the beginning of time, the elements in nature are the building blocks of life as we know it,” says the music composition major from Waukesha. “Water, fire, earth, air — each serves their purpose and represents different aspects of being alive. “‘Cabaret: Forces of Nature’ explores the many meanings of classic elements, as well as more human elements such as time, life and death.”

The 2½-hour show consists of two five-set acts split with one brief intermission. A 100-student cast of vocal and dance performers are accompanied by Blugold orchestra and jazz instrumentalists through a robust program of 18 songs, including one original student-written piece.

“This show is amazing and features the many talents of our UWEC music and theatre arts program, music majors and minors alongside many students of other programs who simply love music,” Hallett says.

“We also have the privilege of showcasing an original song, ‘Drowning in You’ by Emily Annis, a senior communication major from Durand. You don’t want to miss this fantastic show, so purchase your Cabaret tickets now and join us on this musical adventure through the human experience.”

Cabaret student leadership

For many years, the faculty direction for Cabaret has come from Dr. Frank Watkins, director of choral studies at UW-Eau Claire. All elements of the show, however, are created, produced and carried out by students, including a leadership team of 14 students in crucial roles like vocal and orchestral arrangers; choreographers, stage, lighting and sound technicians; and stage managers.

Cade Passe, a fourth-year music liberal arts major from Lonsdale, Minnesota, is the orchestra conductor for the 2023 show; this is Passe’s third year with Cabaret.

“I direct the 19-piece orchestra and run rehearsals during ‘tech week,’ the last week prior to the show,” Passe says. “In addition, I oversee the orchestral arrangers, the students who collaborate with student vocal arrangers to write the orchestral accompaniment.

“As part of the leadership team, I’ve learned so much that I hope to apply to a future career. I’m interested in joining an orchestra on Broadway as a trombone player, maybe even conducting someday, so Cabaret is great preparation.”

One of the vocal arrangers who works with orchestra members is Casey Hilts, a senior choral music education major from Wausau.

“Along with the orchestra arrangers, I work with choreographers to create the overall vision of the sets,” Hilts says. “As a future music teacher, I have found this experience invaluable. Experimenting with different methods of teaching the ensembles without the guidance of a professor is helping me truly discover my strengths. In my four years with this show, I’ve made many lifelong friendships with amazing people who all share my passion for music and performance.”

As no show can succeed without a skilled stage manager, Jimmy Whitcomb’s role on the Cabaret leadership team has been a critical one.

“It was my job to take each of the eight sets and two small acts and connect them with an overarching story,” says the senior theatre arts major form Crystal, Minnesota.

“I wrote the scripts of scenes that happen between the sets, held the casting auditions and directed the scenes. During the live show I make sure everyone is where they need to be and everything backstage goes according to plan.”

The future drama teacher feels well-prepared for many aspects of that career by the three years in Cabaret.

“Providing students with opportunities for leadership is one of the best things about Cabaret,” Whitcomb says. “Completely creating and executing a big show like Cabaret is part of what makes it such a great experience for students year after year.”

For vocal arranger and four-year Cabaret veteran Emmeline Liske, the whole experience helps to fill gaps between classroom knowledge and experience, and the set of soft skills she knows she will need as a music educator.

“My work in Cabaret leadership helped prepare me for the interpersonal and logistical challenges that don’t really come up in the traditional curriculum,” says the senior choral education major from Oshkosh.

“Two years leading Cabaret ensembles makes me feel much more prepared to take on the challenges in my own classrooms — plus I’ve been able to develop skills and confidence in such a fun and fulfilling environment.”