Showcase Cabaret Brings To Life the David Yazbek Songbook



He was mesmerized by every song he heard, moving to the rhythm of the music, eyes closed as he absorbed the performances and mouthed the lyrics. Yes, this man knew every song by heart but, then again, he should. Because this man wasn’t just any audience member. He was David Yazbek, and he was witnessing his songbook coming to life through 12 juniors from Carnegie Mellon University’s  School of Drama.

David Yazbek helped students fine tune their performances, prepared with the help of faculty member Gary Kline. Yazbek wrote the music and lyrics for the Broadway musicals "The Full Monty," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," "The Band’s Visit" and "Tootsie."

The students presented "Give Them What They Want" at the Greer Cabaret Theater in Pittsburgh on Sunday night. Yazbek, an American writer, musician, composer and lyricist, wrote the music and lyrics for the Broadway musicals "The Full Monty," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," "The Band’s Visit" and "Tootsie."

No stranger to Broadway’s elite, Yazbek was thrilled with what he saw in the student performances, calling them "some of the best I’ve heard" in the business.

"I am impressed, although it is Carnegie Mellon, so I shouldn’t be surprised," he said during a Saturday afternoon rehearsal.

Junior Grant Reynolds rehearsed for the annual Showcase Cabaret. This year, the performance was based on music by David Yazbek.

On Sunday, after a particularly moving performance by Simone Jones of Yazbek’s "Something Different" from "The Band’s Visit," he added: "I have sat through thousands of auditions, and what I’m hearing by this group tonight is incredible."

During this, his first visit to Pittsburgh, Yazbek helped students fine tune their performances, prepared with the help of faculty member Gary Kline, who directed the show. Despite an emergency appendectomy Friday afternoon, Kline was present at the sound check Sunday night and sat at the front table of the venue, watching his students’ hard work come to life.

"I just had to come," Kline said as the crowd was about to enter the cabaret. "I had to be here for our 10th cabaret."

The Junior Showcase Cabaret serves as a fundraiser for senior School of Drama students who travel to New York and Los Angeles in the spring, seeking agents and managers. Playing to a full house at the Greer, it’s a safe bet the class is well on its way to contributing to the spring career launch of graduating seniors.

Kline’s Art of Cabaret class is part of the junior curriculum for music theater students. The students have the "opportunity to perform in this marvelous cabaret venue as they hone their extraordinary performing and singing skills with a microphone."

Yazbek had nothing but praise for the students and for the town he’s now planning to revisit.

"I know so many people who come from Pittsburgh, and they love it," he said. "You never hear anyone say, ’Wow, I can’t wait to get out of Pittsburgh.’"


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