The energetic Catalyst Cabaret sings about a few of their fearfullest things in new Halloween show

Do you like Halloween? Do you like musicals (with a little cheesy pop thrown in)? Then you’ll most certainly enjoy Catalyst Cabaret‘s new Halloween show (which sadly only has one more performance left on October 30 at 6pm at Stage 773’s new cabaret space).

Catalyst Cabaret is a newer group, made up of seven young performers. Last night, Shaun Nathan Baer, Matthew Ellenwood, Raymond Havey, Michael Richardson, Hillary Marren, Teresa Scalise and Daniel Spaguolo took the stage to sing about their deepest fears.

But before I go into the show itself, I gotta talk about the renovated Stage 773. This was my first visit since its million-dollar reconstruction. Wow! It’s lovely. Hard to believe the dusty Theatre Building Chicago once occupied the space. Catalyst Cabaret’s show was in Stage 773’s brand-spankin’ new cabaret room, and it’s a venue that I think will give the higher-end Davenport’s a run for its money — especially for smaller groups and solo performers on a budget. A suggestion, though: ditch the tacky upright and spring for a baby grand.

Back to the show. It’s a fun hour or so of music and comedy. The through-line for the evening is “things that make me scared.” So, Scalise and Spaguolo sang, for example, a sweet and sad little folk song about growing up single and alone called “When I Go.” Richardson, who recently panicked when he (mis)diagnosed his untimely death via, performed “A Hypochondriac’s Song” by up-and-coming musical theatre composer Ryan Scott Oliver. There were also a few classic Halloween-ish musical theatre numbers, including a heated duet from Jekyll and Hyde by Marren and Baer and Marren offered a scintillating “I Put a Spell on You.”

But the highlight of the evening is an inspired parody musical of the tween phenom known as “Twilight.” Honestly, I’ve never seen a “Twilight” movie let alone read any of the books (and I’d like to keep it that way), but thanks to this group’s clever and riotous retelling of the story through modified musical theatre numbers, I feel they’ve saved me hours of my life. Thanks, Catalyst Cabaret!

One thing for this group — and other cabaret groups and performers — to consider. It’s a pet peeve of mine when performers spend most of the evening justifying their song choices by saying things like “when we were putting together this show…” You know? I don’t care about the thought process that went into putting your show together. Just do the show, and make it compelling through a clear through-line, unique story and inspired song. Reasoning your song choices by simply telling us why you chose your song (i.e., “this is a favorite audition song of mine”) is lazy. Tell a story. Create a context. Build a cohesive evening.

Rant over. This is a fun evening and this cabaret company is one to really look out for. And there may be a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” musical number thrown into the mix. Just sayin’.

Check out Catalyst Cabaret’s final Halloween show on October 30 at Stage 773’s cabaret space. More info here >

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