Alexandra Silbur
Alexandra Silbur

Cabaret 313 celebrates 10 years of bringing entertainment to audiences.

The stage at the Detroit Opera House was being set for a performance, but it was not for the large scenes of a classic show. Instead, it would be space for a more intimate group – a singer, accompaniment and audience with seating for about 100 people at tables allowing four to six individuals.

Carole J. Bufford, known for her interpretations of the American songbook and stories about her experiences with it, would be at the center to become one of some 50 vocalists presented independently over the past 10 years by Cabaret 313.

This season and next, Cabaret 313 is celebrating its milestone year hosting varied singers brought to such distinctive city venues as Rivera Court at the Detroit Institute of Arts and The Cube at the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center.

Among the many performers who have appeared for Cabaret 313 have been Liz Callaway, a vocalist known for her renditions of music by Stephen Sondheim; Alan Cumming, a television, film and stage luminary; and Megan Hilty, a stage and TV entertainer regularly seen on the television series Smash.

Alan Cumming
Alan Cumming

Cabaret 313 was started in a partnership shared by Allan Nachman and Sandi Reitelman, both active in the Jewish community.  While he continues as president, her input transferred to board membership five years ago with Sabrina Rosneck beginning as executive director two years ago.

“Cabaret 313 got started in 2012 when Sandy and I were at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts, which was just opening,” said Nachman, an attorney affiliated with the firm of Butzel Long.

“We were put on a committee to help decide what future bookings Berman should have, and we were sitting next to each other. It turned out we both realized that we go to New York to see a lot of cabaret shows.

“We decided that maybe we could bring cabaret to Detroit, and we started planning. We formed a nonprofit and began bringing world-class cabaret to the city.”

The first three performances were in homes to test the response to this type of programming described by New York Times staffer Sarah Bahr: “There are no costumes, no elaborate sets, no distant balcony scenes. It’s just you listening to another person pour their heart out on stage. You aren’t just there to observe. They see you, hear you, react to you, ensuring that no two shows are ever the same. Even in the Instagram age, cabaret is one art form that demands to be experienced live.”

The very first show, in the spring of 2013, took place in the home of Ethan and Gretchen Davidson and featured music by Christine Andreas, who has appeared at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. Two more home presentations in the area tested out the acceptance of this type of showmanship.

“We used those to see whether there was a market, and we almost sold out every one of them,” Nachman said. “We knew we had something that was exciting for Detroiters.

“We generally have five shows a year, and most of the people who come to our shows are from the suburbs. While choosing who will be on our stages, we look at not only the singing performance, but also the explanations between the songs that are very interesting. People love that patter.”

In the contracts for performers, it is stated that they can drop out if they are offered a special role in New York that conflicts with the timing. That happened in the 2016-2017 season with positive results although with anxiety, as well.

The original performer said that he loved what Cabaret 313 does and is not going to leave the company high and dry.  He found another famous performer, LaChanze, who won the Tony Award for the Broadway production of The Color Purple.

“We only had about three weeks to let our audiences know, and everyone came,” Nachman said. “LaChanze put on a great performance.”

Joshua Henry, Joy and Allan Nachman.
Joshua Henry, Joy and Allan Nachman.

Nachman is joined by his wife, Joy, as a cabaret fan, Cabaret 313 board member and enthusiastic planner. Other board members include treasurer Erick Eickhoff, secretary Irwin Elson, Lawrence Bluth, Hazel Karbel, David Karp, Mary Kramer, Bruce Kridler and Barton Morris.

Besides the performances, the singers are asked to conduct master classes and have appeared before students at the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, Oakland University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.

“Going all the way back to grade school, one of my favorite classes was music,” said Nachman, tracing his interest in the elements of cabaret. “When I got to the University of Michigan, they had a program called Soph Show. I had a small role in Soph Show put on by the sophomore class. After I graduated, I started going to New York many times and saw shows there.”

Nachman, the father of two and grandfather of six, plays guitar for his own enjoyment and is taking piano lessons.

“When we started Cabaret 313, we didn’t think it would grow to 10 years,” he said about the organization that uses Art Ops services to budget for various administrative responsibilities. “We were just blessed to have brought cabaret to Detroit at a time when Detroit was rising. The city became a hotspot for downtown development.

“One reason we call it Cabaret 313 — with 313 taken from the Detroit area phone prefix — is that we want to be part of the rising of Detroit as it becomes a major city for entertainment. Ten years earlier, it wouldn’t have happened. Detroit was getting to be a hot place for entertainers and sports, and we wanted to be part of the reimagined cultural fabric.”

The basis for the 10-year celebration over two seasons has to do with the interruption of in-person presentations during COVID. Although the programming was live, it was streamed from New York.

There was one live stream from the Birdland Jazz Club and another from the apartment of Ali Stroker, a lead in a revival of Oklahoma. A third was from the apartment of Eva Noblezada, who starred in Hadestown.

Eden Espinosa, who appeared in the musical Wicked, will be in the final show for this season on Saturday, March 25, at the Marlene Boll Theatre in the YMCA, 1401 Broadway, Detroit. As usual, there will be two performances in the one evening – 6:30 and 8:45 p.m.

Next season, Cabaret 313 will team up with another nonprofit related to Broadway and have a charity performance to mark the 10-year celebration.

“For every show, we try to find some people who have never heard of us and provide complimentary tickets to show them what we do,” said Nachman, who also is on the boards of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, Adat Shalom Synagogue, Detroit Opera, Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Belle Isle Conservancy.

“The thing that makes me most happy is when people come up after a show and say that if they would have known about Cabaret 313, they would have been coming for years.“

To get more information about Cabaret 313, call (313) 405-5061 or visit $60-$225.

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