The nonprofit theatre will present a limited engagement of Sing Happy! from Oct. 28-Nov. 7.
Broadway songwriting duo John Kander and Fred Ebb are world-renowned for their stage musicals, which include the smash hits Chicago and Cabaret. Now, Ann Arbor’s residential performing arts group Theatre Nova is paying homage to that legacy with a performance dedicated to their music.
The nonprofit theatre will present a limited engagement of Sing Happy! from Oct. 28-Nov. 7. The 70-minute show will celebrate the lasting impact of Kander and Ebb, traversing the duo’s many hits and taking shape in the form of a musical revue.
An ensemble of singers, including Jewish performer Elizabeth Jaffe, will recreate hits from Cabaret, Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman and more. Sing Happy! will also double as a fundraiser, generating funding for Theatre Nova, which like many theaters across the country was hit hard by COVID-19 during lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions.
“Everyone will be singing Kander and Ebb Songs,” Jaffe, 35, of Ann Arbor, explains, “and there will be some solos, duets and group numbers.”
Jaffe will be performing “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret, a musical she says is one of her favorites. She’ll also be singing “The Grass is Always Greener” from Woman of the Year and joining a group number “He Had it Coming” from Chicago.
Sing Happy!, among other recent productions, is Theatre Nova’s way of making a comeback after a long hiatus, Jaffe says. “It’s been really hard for everyone,” she says of COVID’s impact on the theater industry, which left many performers and venues without work or revenue for months. “This is Theatre Nova’s way of saying ‘we’re still here.’”
The idea for the Sing Happy! production was in the works for several years, a performance that Jaffe says was essentially ready to go. “Their music is beautiful,” Jaffe says of Kander and Ebb. “It’s interesting because some of it is really dark, and then the other half is the opposite.”
“It’s everything that you would want in a concert,” she adds. “It goes through every motion.”
Still, she calls Sing Happy! an upbeat, energetic production that will be fun for the audience to experience. “Because it’s Kander and Ebb music, it’s so great, and a lot of it is not very well known,” Jaffe says. “The audience will probably be hearing a lot of the songs for the first time.”
For Jaffe, who has been performing with Theatre Nova for several years, she appreciates the theater’s embracement of other cultures and willingness to step outside of the norm. As a Jewish performer, she often felt unrepresented in holiday productions, which tended to focus on Christmas. Yet Theatre Nova, she explains, has put on Chanukah-centric shows.
“For the first time during the holiday season, I felt included,” Jaffe says. “I was really excited when Theatre Nova reached back out to me to be a part of Sing Happy!”
Theatre Nova will require proof of vaccination and the wearing of masks during the show to keep patrons and performers safe. “The show will be happy and fun,” Jaffe says. “It’s going to be great for the community.”