New Artists Showcase

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New Artists Showcase

Arts Club of Washington, Washington, DC, March 29, 2024

Reviewed by Michael Miyazaki

(L-R) Susan Derry, Makalya Fetterman, Christine Kaufmann, Gavin Schulman, Bryn Underwood, Julia Lupi, Rhiannon Rueda, Parker Chace, Michael Mazey, Quinn Volpe, Sabrina Neff, Olivia Levin, Alexandra Fabbri
Photo courtesy of Capital Cabaret, Inc.

The National Capital Cabaret Festival opened its series by looking to the future with a showcase of students from the American University’s theater, musical theater, jazz, and opera programs. The evening was hosted by instructor Susan Derry. She expressed the importance of the performance experience for artists to “grow into who they are.”

Alexandra Fabbri’s “One Perfect Moment” from the cheerleading musical Bring It On, The Musical was a lovely way to open the evening with its theme of anticipation and discovery. Rhiannon Rueda sang “Falling Behind” by Laufey, filling the space with a laid-back bossa nova vibe. Gavin Schulman sang a version of “Moonfall” (The Mystery of Edwin Drood) that brought out the haunting beauty of the song. Sabrina Neff did an affecting job with the story of “Another Life” from The Bridges of Madison County, balancing the heartbreak of the story with the bouncy beat of the music.

Quinn Volpe sang a smoky, relaxed version of “Besame Mucho.”  Makayla Fetterman turned “Sonya, Alone” from Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 into a passionate anthem of friendship. Parker Chace accompanied himself on his composition, “The Great Unknown,” a song about appreciating life’s fleeting moments. Christine Kaufmann sang the break-up song “From the Start” (Laufey), with a lovely balance of bitterness and humor set to a bossa nova beat. Michael Mazey offered a version of “Angel Eyes” that sounded as though it came directly from a noir movie soundtrack.

Julia Lupi’s version of “Higher” from Allegiance gave us a zesty exploration of aspiration and heartbreak. Olivia Levin brought a relaxed bluesy grace to the theme of forgiveness in “Ease My Mind” by Ben Platt. Bryn Underwood closed the show with The Greatest Showman’s “Never Enough,” a statement of ambition that was a great way to end the evening.

Pianist Oren Levine accompanied the singers and supported the variety of styles and genres with sensitivity and flair. Derry hosted the evening with charm and grace and organized the material to give the evening a pleasing flow.

The training that the performers have been receiving was evidently top notch; the vocal quality and sense of pitch were uniformly superb. The students had a clear sense of the story line in their material; they understood and capably delivered the lyrics; and they all did a good job of playing to the audience in an intimate space. Given their youth and/or the training they had received, it was hard to get a sense of the performers’ individual personalities through their single-song performances. Still, to repeat what Derry had said to open the show, it takes performances like these to enable artists to “grow into who they are.”

Michael Miyazaki

Michael Miyazaki is a Washington DC/Baltimore area-based performer, director, and writer. He has performed at various venues in the DC area, and his most recent show is Thanks for the Memories: The Musical Legacy of Bob Hope. He has appeared with numerous local theater troupes including Scena Theatre, the Source Theatre, and Fraudulent Productions. He has attended the Perry-Mansfield Cabaret Workshop (working with master teachers Andrea Marcovicci, Karen Mason, Barry Kleinbort, Christopher Denny, Shelly Markham, and David Gaines), and has also studied under Sally Mayes, Tex Arnold, Lina Koutrakos, Rick Jensen, Amanda McBroom, and Alex Rybeck. He is the creator of the blog The Miyazaki Cabaret Update: DC & Beyond (currently on hiatus) and is a member of the DC Cabaret Network and the Arts Club of Washington.