Theatre students put on nightclub cabaret acts

Amy Swanson, Staff Reporter

Get ready for an evening of original, honest cabaret performances, as Oakland University theatre students bring personal dialogue, song and story to Orchid Nightclub in Ferndale.

The Nightclub Cabaret series will feature one-person shows unique to each artist’s imagination, accompanied by a four-piece rock band.

“The really fun thing about the Nightclub Cabaret series is it gives students the opportunity to create something that is completely their own,” said musical theatre senior and performer Caleb Alman. “When we’re up on stage, we’re not playing a character or reading lines memorized from a script. We get to play ourselves, which isn’t too common in this profession.”

In preparation for creating their acts, the students took a cabaret class.

“It’s really nice because we get the chance to vet all of our material in front of an audience before we finalize it,” said musical theatre senior and performer Cassady Renee Temple. “You don’t usually get that opportunity, so knowing how an audience will react to material is so helpful. We get really detailed feedback from the class and a lot of time to work out the kinks.”

Fred Love, associate professor of theatre and coordinator of the musical theatre program, has been producing the Nightclub Cabaret acts for nine years.

Love feels the casual, intimate atmosphere of the venue and self-written acts allow the attendees to connect with cabaret performers on a personal level.

“The audience needs to be taken on a journey,” Love said. “They need to sense and feel the honesty of the performer. There must be a sense of forward motion, like being on a roller coaster, experiencing those terrific highs and those scary lows, all the while staying solidly on the track and enjoying every turn and bend in the car’s path.”

Alman has been attending this series since he was a freshman, compiling ideas for his own show.

To start the creative process, he went through his memory bank to gather stories worth telling, whether funny, sentimental or embarrassing. His act is titled “Tough Love,” and he is excited to entertain guests with an act that captures his sense of humor and the music he enjoys.

“If I can elicit some type of emotional response from the audience — whether it’s laughter, or anger, or nostalgia, or tears, even — then I would be satisfied,” Alman said. “Just like in any other theatrical production, you want the audience to feel something.”

This is the second time Temple has taken part in the series. She mentioned part of a cabaret’s draw is the freedom to perform whatever songs in the context she wants.

“In this setting, you also get to work with a band one-on-one, which you don’t always get during a large musical because there’s an entire ensemble,” Temple said. “It is a totally different experience getting time alone with the band and collaborating with them in a new way.”

Temple’s act is called “Extra! EXTRA!!! Screlt all about it!” The name is a reference to a joking musical theatre term for high belting.

“My cabaret this year is just really high energy and, at times, a little silly,” Temple said. “I want the audience to have as much fun watching it as I’m having performing it.”

Orchid Nightclub is located at 141 West 9 Mile Road in Ferndale.

The series runs April 9-12 and will include 11 acts. Each night will feature five or six acts. Doors open at 7 p.m., with shows beginning at 8 p.m., except April 12, when the performance  starts one hour earlier.

Entrance costs $10 at the door or $5 with a student ID.