The curtains were up and the lights were lit as the Hinman Production Company (HPC) recently premiered “Sondheim Tribute Cabaret” as its first cabaret of the year.
Dedicated to famous Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, who passed away in November of last year, “Sondheim Tribute Cabaret” premiered on Jan. 9 on YouTube. It featured performers singing a variety of numbers from Sondheim musicals such as “Into the Woods,” “Company” and “Assassins.”
Samantha Carroll, director of “Sondheim Tribute Cabaret,” Student Association (SA) vice president for student success and a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, explained how this latest cabaret came to be.
“We did a few [cabarets] over the course of the 2020-2021 school year, but we hadn’t had them since,” Carroll wrote in an email. “People seemed to want them back, so I initially planned to have a holiday song cabaret over winter break. But, after it broke that Stephen Sondheim had passed, we decided that a tribute concert to him was apt since most of us love his work and admire his impact on musical [theatre].”
From there, the not “too challenging” creative process, as described by Carroll, was set into motion.
“Basically, people signed up for a specific Sondheim song, and I approved them so there wouldn’t be overlap,” Carroll said. “Then they sent me their videos and I edited them into one show using iMovie and Canva transitions. I did it as a timeline of his work, starting from his first show and ending toward the end of his career.”
For the actors and actresses who took part in the cabaret, like Kristina Yim, a sophomore majoring in psychology, and Devin Mori, an undeclared freshman, previous HPC experiences and the communal experience of putting together theatre motivated them to join the project. Yim said the cabarets offer a fun experience that is different than larger plays or productions.
“I have always been involved in HPC’s cabarets because they are a fun way of getting involved aside from their big productions,” Yim wrote in an email. “I also love watching my friends perform in them, and everyone is always so supportive in the chat during each song.”
Mori expressed a similar sentiment and reason for getting involved.
“I participated in this cabaret for a number of reasons, but mainly because I knew that my friends would be doing it too,” Mori wrote in an email. “All of us use musical theatre to express ourselves emotionally and this cabaret was a perfect opportunity to do so.”
In terms of selecting pieces for “Sondheim Tribute Cabaret,” the performers shared a greater variety of reasons, with their one common thread being previous experiences.
For Kayci Rudge, a senior double-majoring in psychology and women, gender and sexuality studies, their song choice came from experiences at Binghamton University.
“I chose to perform ‘Pretty Women’ from ‘Sweeney Todd: [The Demon Barber of Fleet Street]’ because it’s been a favorite of mine since my [Theatre 101: Intro to Musical Theatre teaching assistant (TA)] days in freshman year,” Rudge wrote in an email. “My friend and I would always joke that many musical theatre songs performed by men could double as queer anthems if sung by someone femme; it was fun to see that idea to fruition as part of the ‘Sondheim [Tribute] Cabaret.’”
For Yim, the “Sondheim Tribute Cabaret” provided an opportunity to present some of Sondheim’s lesser-known work.
“I picked ‘What More Do I Need?’ from ‘Saturday Night’ because it is one of Sondheim’s lesser-known songs, compared to his work from popular shows such as ‘Into the Woods’ or ‘West Side Story,’” Yim wrote. “It was originally written for the show ‘Saturday Night,’ but unfortunately the show closed before it premiered. Since the closing of the show, various songs, such as the one I sang, were performed at various events.”
No matter what, one thing that is undeniable is the unfathomable impact that Sondheim has had on the art of musical theatre, and how long his legacy will live on.
“I think most of his work is incredibly timeless, and he will be permanently remembered as an integral part of theatre history,” Carroll wrote. “Some of the most quintessential examples of musical [theatre] are his work, and I think he will always be remembered for that.”
Watch HPC’s “Sondheim Tribute Cabaret” here.