Cabaret Review: “Chills running up my arms”
On August 26, I ventured to a little black box style theatre on the outskirts of West Chester for “BIG GIRL, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL”- a cabaret celebrating girls with a little extra love! Nightcap Cabaret, founded by Anne Marie Scalies and Nate Golden put on this production at the Limelight Performing Arts Center.
I went with mild trepidation, because I knew it was cabaret style and I would be alone. One never knows what to expect when you’ll be sitting at intimate tables with strangers. Luckily, the crowd of about 50 was full of some of the nicest, most appreciative audience members I’ve ever seen.
As I waited for the show to begin, I took note of the cozy atmosphere and the small stage, that housed a drum kit and keyboard and sparkling backdrop. A cool, purple sheen fell across the room and the audience enjoyed some soft chatter and a few drinks. It was BYOB, after all.
The show opened with an acapella group performance of “Big Girl, You are Beautiful” and “Fat Bottom Girls”. It was a mash up arranged by Kat Lemon, who also performed with the group. It smoothly swooped between the two songs. The harmonies these women gave us had chills running up my arms. It reminded me a lot of the Petra Haden videos I love so much, where she has a a stage full of women doing covers of rock songs, all sans instruments. I knew from that moment I was going to love the show, and I was right.
Ann Pinto McCarney, the owner of Limelight Performing Arts Center, which housed this show, was the first solo performer. She welcomed the audience and thanked us for coming, followed by a quick disclaimer and apology for anyone who might take offense to her song for its vulgarity. Everyone seemed genuinely amused by her warning and not one person seemed upset with her song choice, “Sweet As Whole”, written by Sara Barelleis. With Vanessa Williams on keys and Chris Tolomeo on drums, McCarney’s voice was sweet and wholesome, which made the lyrics about assholes and bitches that much more entertaining. I’d never heard this song prior to this show, but it has since become a personal anthem for me.
Zoi Gianneas McNamara was up next, with a heart wrenching performance of “On My Own” and “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables. There was such passion in her voice and expression. Not surprisingly, she garnered a huge reaction from the audience, including several people leaping from their seats in uproarious applause at the close.
Brieanne Rogers followed McNamara, which was clearly intimidating, to say the least, but she held her own with a hilarious rendition of “I Can Cook Too” from the musical On The Town. She was sexy, fun, and tiny bit raunchy. A brilliant direction from this group to have a funny, quirky number right after a ballad.
We heard next from Amanda Shaffern sing us “Jenny’s Blues” from It Shoulda Been You. I loved her powerful voice, especially when she sang out “’Cause I’m gonna get me a little something something
And a little something else on the side”. She was so confident and strong on stage and brought that energy in full force.
Then came one of my absolute favorite songs of the night, performed by Tiara Greene: “Moving the Line” from Smash. Greene was seemingly so soft spoken and unassuming when she first took the stage. I was even a little concerned it was going to bring the show to a screeching halt, but she had other plans. She gave us a strong and moving anthem about persevering and overcoming it all when that proverbial finish line keeps moving further and further away.
Brieanne Rogers made here next appearance on stage, this time for an hysterical duet with Kat Lemon, who had such fun and entertaining stage presence, I found myself wishing I could see her do an entire one woman show. Rogers and Lemon gave us a raucous version of “Sorority Girls” by Nick Blaemire.
We were then graced with a second solo performance by McCarney with “Meadowlark” from The Baker’s Wife and a group number with McCarney, Lemon, McNamara, & Katie McGrier, who made her way to the stage for the first time, with “I’m a Woman” from Smokey Joe’s cafe. Shaffern brought us a sweet, compelling version of “Simple Little Things” from 110 in the Shade.
Now we come to McGrier’s only solo performance of the night with her song, “I’m Not Pregnant, I’m Just Fat” by Katie Thompson. My entire table could not stop laughing at this one, not only because it was a funny song, but also because we had a pregnant woman at our table and this was a hotly debated topic prior to the show.
Kat Lemon came back up on stage to share a rousing rendition of the pop song by Adele, “Rumor Has It” and Brieanne Rogers came back up to perform “Fly, Fly Away” from Catch Me If You Can. We saw McNamara again, with a song from And The World Goes Round called “Sara Lee”, where she sang to us of her love of all things baked and sweet. The second to last number of the night was “What About Love” from The Color Purple, performed by Tiare Greene.
For the closing, all the women came back on stage and performed a medley of Disney songs. We were even treated to a little snippet from Scalies, who surprised us by joining the ladies on stage and singing a little bit herself. Everyone sang a little from a different Disney production, closed out with McGrier belting out “Let It Go” from Frozen.
All in all, I had an amazing time. I laughed a lot. I had chills. I got a little choked up. I found myself wishing it was longer. My only complaint would be that I, as a Big Girl who can sing, was not on stage with them. If you like an intimate setting and a good show, I would definitely recommend Limelight and Nightcap Cabaret.
EmKay is a graduate of Kutztown University with a BFA in theatre, music, and writing. She’s worked in the theatrical and musical world from NYC to New Orleans. When she’s not at work, she enjoys seeing live theater and concerts, as well as baking and crafting and collecting vinyl records.