Want all the thrills and soaring vocals of music theater without the cumbersome story lines? Oklahoma City University and Kamp's Market & Deli have the answer with a weekly musical showcase, Kamp's Kabaret.
The performance premiered last week and continues Saturday with a cabaret show featuring an array of musical styles, from pop, Broadway to opera, all performed by OCU's best and brightest.
"These students are training in proper performance theater and opera, and a lot of these kids won't always be involved in large stage productions," said entertainment lawyer Jay Shanker. "They may be teaching or working other jobs to make ends meet until the next tour or production, so it will help that they have a chance to learn cabaret performance."
Shanker took the Kamp's Kabaret project on as a way to involve himself in local civic work. He wanted to set up a cabaret in Oklahoma like those he'd seen in New York, where small-name actors would pack the clubs after their bit parts or chorus work for Broadway productions were over.
He said the cabaret will help students expand their repertoire and put the school's roster on full display.
"The flip side for patrons in Oklahoma is they might be seeing a Broadway star in the making," Shanker said.
Senior musical theater major Aaron Brown said the possibility of a cabaret had been kicked around for a few years, but finally gained major steam last year.
"I'm really excited about this and all the opportunities it will open up," Brown said. "Cabaret is really big in New York right now, and our students are really excited to learn that skill as well."
Cabaret differs from traditional musical theater in that any style is acceptable, and there is no story line connecting one song to the next. The songs don't even have to originate from a musical at all. Graduate musical theater student Jeremiah Downes said the stripped-down performance aspect can be a challenge to actors.
"You're not playing a character yourself," Downes said. "The venues tend to be a lot more intimate, so you have to develop a relationship with the audience so they know who you are and how the songs relate to you, rather than being in a large space where you have a lot you can hide behind."
A benefit is that the performers aren't restrained by director demands, and are free to explore any musical style.
"The school really promotes individuality and our identity and this is a great way to express that," senior Jane Bunting said. "There have been styles of singing I have been working on that are new to me, like the belting pop style. It's not something I'm entirely used to."
The concept could be expanded in the future to include performances featuring kids, sing-alongs and whatever seems to pique public interest.
"We want to take it as far as the public will let us take it," Brown said. "Maybe make a CD of top performers; around the holidays do a Christmas cabaret; if we have enough of a following, do a gospel brunch. We really want this to be a service to the community."