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The Public wants you to come to the cabaret

Saturday, July 22, 2000

By Anjali Sachdeva, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

If you feel a bit chilled after watching Macbeth murder most of Scotland's nobility, Pittsburgh Public Theater has just the thing to get your blood pumping and your toes tapping.

Public Theater and Starbucks will host a cabaret at the O'Reilly Theater after the performances of "Macbeth" tonight and July 28 and 29.

The cabaret is part of Public Theater's effort to increase interest in the arts and to bring more visitors to the cultural district Downtown.

The show will be hosted by Justin Brill and Beth Crosby, two recent musical theater graduates from Carnegie Mellon University, and accompanied by pianist Michael Moricz.

Brill says that as a host he wants to make the show friendly and informal. He believes the cabaret is a step toward having a more accessible theater scene in Pittsburgh.

"I think it would be great if people could go to a little cabaret club and watch a few acts after the symphony, or Friday night, if you don't have tickets for anything, you could just go watch a singer for half an hour."

The shows will be held in the lobby of the O'Reilly from 10:30 p.m. to midnight and are free whether or not you attend the play.

Macbeth is a production of the Young Company, a division of Public Theater that highlights local and national young actors. Organizer Rob Zellers, education director of Public Theater and the Young Company, hopes that the cabaret will interest young people in the arts and eventually convince them that dance clubs are not the only entertainment option on a Friday night.

Brill and Crosby will open the show by singing a few songs. Other performers include members of the "Macbeth" cast, actors from the Civic Light Opera and Pittsburgh Musical Theater, South Side guitarist Matt Calvetti, and a group from the Jewish Community Center led by Kathryn Spitz.

One of the CLO performers, 18-year-old Courtney Mazza, says that she sees the cabaret as an example of Pittsburgh's vibrant arts scene.

Mazza grew up in Pittsburgh and attended both Rogers and CAPA, the city's performing arts middle school and high school. She is now studying musical theater at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia but says that returning home offered more job opportunities for the summer.

"I think Pittsburgh is a much better town for musical theater. I couldn't stay in Philly to pursue my career because it's a lot of straight theater," explains Mazza.

She is spending the summer as a member of the CLO's ensemble and is now performing in "Pajama Game."

Not all the cabaret's performers are veterans of the art world. Ann Cahouet, a lawyer at Reed, Smith, Shaw and McClay, will be singing Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody" as part of a rhythm and blues quartet.

She recruited people from her law firm to be in the group, which also performed at the "CLO Celebrates the Arts" competition in June.

"What I've discovered at our firm is that there's a lot of talent that people don't get to use every day, and when you give them that opportunity, they're absolutely delighted," says Cahouet. "It was great to find out through the grapevine that so-and-so used to be a gospel singer or a dancer in a previous life."

Cahouet says she first heard the song on public radio and instantly imagined it as a huge musical production "with [Allegheny County Executive] Jim Roddey and Mayor Murphy sitting in the audience."

The original act included a dance ensemble, but at the cabaret the singers will perform by themselves.

Audience members are invited to strut their stuff, as well.

"Last year, a 13-year-old girl in the audience asked if she could come up and sing. She did a song from 'Rent' and brought the house down," says Zellers. He hopes this year's crowd will be just as enthusiastic.

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