Emily Padgett and Josh Young
Emily Padgett and Josh Young

Young and Padgett will be joined by the Kalkaska String Quartet.

When Broadway actor Josh Young originally wrote the Cabaret Valjean, Cosette and a String Quartet before the pandemic lockdown in 2020, he had no idea that it would be nearly two years before he would perform it in front of an audience, but he’s thrilled it’s finally going to happen.

Josh Young
Josh Young

On Feb. 12, Cabaret 313 will host Young and his wife, Emily Padgett, to ring in Valentine’s Day weekend for a night of cabaret performances in the Great Hall inside the Detroit Institute of Arts. Valjean, Cosette and a String Quartet is a musical tribute to the couple’s favorite decade of musical theater: the 1980s. The program features music from Les Misérables, Cats and Phantom of the Opera, among others.

Young and Padgett will be joined by the Kalkaska String Quartet. The Michigan-based ensemble performs both classical music as well as original arrangements of popular contemporary songs. The quartet is made up of violinist Meg Rohrer, violinist Emelyn Bashour, violist Nathaniel Cornell and cellist Wesley Hornpetrie. 

Newcomers to Michigan

Young and Padgett, who live in Lake Orion, both teach at Oakland University. They moved to Michigan in 2019 — right after the birth of their daughter, Adele May — so Young could take a position as assistant professor of theater at OU. Six months later, COVID hit, everybody went into lockdown and Broadway dimmed its lights.

Emily Padgett
Emily Padgett

“We felt lucky,” said Padgett, who converted to Judaism before marrying Young in 2018, “but we were brand new in town with a little baby and few friends.”

Padgett grew up in North Carolina before starting her Broadway career. She is known for her work on Broadway as Daisy Hilton in Side Show and Sherrie Christian in Rock of Ages, as well as for originating the roles of Lucy Grant in Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s Bright Star and Mrs. Bucket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

She and Young met on “kind of a blind date,” she said. Although they knew of each other and shared the same talent manager, they had never worked together before. Their talent manager set them up on a date, not thinking it would last. “It lasted,” Padgett said with a laugh. She now works as a lecturer and dance and vocal coach at OU.

Young is a Tony Award-nominated actor who made his Broadway debut as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, which transferred to New York after an acclaimed run at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. He has appeared in The Grapes of Wrath, Evita and Kiss Me, Kate at Stratford, as well as a national tour of Les Miserables and an international tour of West Side Story. He also performed in A Little Night Music, A Chorus Line, Hairspray and Othello. 

Young grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia and had his bar mitzvah at a Conservative congregation in his hometown. He’s been singing since elementary school. “My teachers took notice and saw I had some talent,” he said. “I had supportive parents who put me in community theater — Young People’s Theatre Workshop in Swarthmore, Pa., where I learned to love musical theater.” After college, Young returned to that theater to teach.

Young recalls his Broadway debut as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar as a role where his Judaism really came into play. 

“I looked at Judas as the hero trying to save the Jewish people and played him as the hero not the villain,” he said. “I believed that although Judas loved Jesus, who was an amazing person, he was afraid if [Jesus] raised too much of a ruckus he would hurt the Jewish people.” 

His director was on board with his interpretation of the character. Young wore a hamsah around his neck and davened on center stage while singing “Heaven on their Minds.”

At OU, Young is proud of his students and of creating a new way to teach musical theater when it was unsafe for everyone to be in the same room (because singing produces so many droplets in the air). He had three rooms hardwired with cameras, audio and video. His class is in one room, the accompanist in one room, and he and the singer (safely distanced) are in another. Other universities have taken notice of this technique and it has increased applications to OU’s theater department by 90%, he said.

Young and Padgett said they are still limited in what they can do because of the pandemic. Both of their children are too young to be vaccinated: Adele is 3 and baby brother Leo Elliott was born in 2020. They’re being safe but looking forward to becoming more active in the Detroit Jewish community when they can. Before the pandemic hit, they went to Temple Israel a few times and plan to go back. “This is the year we want and need to start making friends,” Padgett said.

A Love of Cabaret

Young and Padgett met Allan Nachman, cofounder of Cabaret 313, which brought professional cabaret to Detroit in 2013, shortly after they arrived in Michigan. Nachman knew of Young through his work in theater. The couple went to a Cabaret 313 event and were invited backstage.

“Since then, he and his wife have been our surrogate parents,” Padgett said. “They’ve been so kind to us and our children.”

In 2021, Young and Padgett performed tunes by Broadway composer Andrew Lloyd Webber as part of a virtual show for Cabaret 313. Following the performance, they engaged with audiences for a live Q&A. 

“Our audiences were captivated by their stage presence last year, which was clear even through the screen,” said Cabaret 313 Executive Director Sabrina Rosneck. “We are looking forward to our audiences experiencing their performance live and in-person this year.” 

The Feb. 12 performance will be the debut of Valjean, Cosette and a String Quartet. “This is the first one I’ve written for Emily and myself,” Young said. “The songs we’re singing weren’t meant to be sung to a seven-piece band, so we chose to have a string quartet along with piano. The combination sounds really beautiful. We’re so thrilled we can have our debut with Cabaret 313.” 

DETAILS 

Valjean, Cosette and a String Quartet will be performed at 6:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. Feb. 12 in the Great Hall inside the Detroit Institute of Arts (5200 Woodward Ave.). Audiences will be socially distanced and seated safely apart at tables. Masks will be required to be worn for the duration of the performance. Patrons will be asked for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 taken within 72 hours of the event. Tickets will not be sold at the door. Complimentary valet parking is available. Tickets range from $25-$200. To purchase tickets, visit cabaret313.org or call (313) 405-5061.

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