‘Brandeis Cares’: cabaret for charity
Fifteen minutes before the show, “Brandeis Cares” cast members flooded the Shapiro Campus Center atrium. Last-minute texts went out: “does anyone want to perform tonight?’” Theater students sat on the red couches, mulling over song choices as they considered signing up.
At one point, the cast of Hillel Theater Group’s upcoming show “Footloose” exited the Green Room en masse, ran their song and dance for two minutes, then dissolved into the mass of theater students and friends waiting around the Shapiro Campus Center Theater before the show. This atmosphere exemplified the show’s purpose and audience: a group of theater insiders performing mostly for each other, with outsiders and friends rounding out the crowd.
Far from an industry secret, Tympanium Euphorium’s “Brandeis Cares” show has been around for years. The show is based on the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS series, which holds performances and donates the shows’ proceeds to AIDS research. In the vein of performances like the Theater Department’s “After Orlando,” “Brandeis Cares” is the University theater community’s response to the AIDS crisis. The show’s tickets and raffle money will go to Broadway Cares, which has raised $285 million dollars for AIDS and HIV-related services since 2016. The raffle offered attendees a chance to win a self-care basket, voice lessons, a signed poster from the show “Rent,” and a gift card to Tempo, the local cocktail and dinner restaurant.
Jessie Eichinger ’17, Tympanium Euphorium’s president and the show’s organizer, took to the stage to kick off the show with some facts about Broadway Cares, the raffles, and upcoming Undergraduate Theatre Collective shows. As an emcee, Eichinger’s bit was referencing her height — she adjusted the microphone lower almost every time she took to the stage, making jokes about how the microphone was too tall for her, despite her high-heeled shoes.
TopScore kicked off the show with a performance of the “Dr. Who” theme song, followed by Caitlin Crane-Moscowitz ’20 singing “Even Though” from the show “I Love You Because.” Crane-Moscowitz sang about falling in love with someone despite their flaws, smiling even as she listed the ways in which her lover failed to meet her expectations (by being more traditional than her dad, by being pretentious, etc.). As Crane-Moscowitz exited the stage and Eichinger entered to introduce the next performer, Eichinger jokingly noted that she had just received a Snapchat of Crane-Moscowitz’s performance.
Next were two songs from “Spring Awakening.” Hannah McCowan ’19 and Melanie Charwat ’19 sang “Whispering,” and Leah Chanen ’19 and Ryan DelVastro ’20 sang “Mama Who Bore Me.” Both performances synthesized singing with sign language in a nod to Deaf West’s production of “Spring Awakening,” which used both ways of singing to tell the show’s story.
The audience appeared to know the lyrics to most of the songs, and this came through in the way the audience members clapped. Whereas most audiences would wait until the music ended to verify that a song was over, this audience started clapping the second the last lyric was sung. This happened during McCowan and Sarah Salinger-Mullen’s ’19 performance of “Some Things Are Meant To Be” from “Little Women,” as well as during Sarah Steiker’s ’18 performance of “When He Sees Me” from “Waitress.”
Other performances included Rachel Geller ’18 singing “Nothing” from “A Chorus Line” and Proscenium, an a capellla group on campus, singing “Pulled” from “The Addams Family Musical.”
At the end of the show, Eichinger reclaimed the stage and re-adjusted the microphone yet again, at which point one audience member yelled “get taller!” Eichinger announced that Proscenium members had won most of the raffle prizes, at which some audience members yelled “rigged!”
In a way, the relaxed environment that allowed these shouts to be playful and not aggressive exemplified the tone of the show. Following in the footsteps of “Broadway Cares,” “Brandeis Cares” was an exciting way to see performers sing songs outside of their usual repertoire. Of course, the person who gets the most out of such an experience is the person who knows what that kind of repertoire is.