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Ride the Blue Wave

Sue Matsuki, Laurie Krauz, Stephen Hanks, Meg Flather, Rosemary Loar, Tracy Stark; in front: Lisa Viggiano, Karen Oberlin

Stephen Hanks Presents: 

Cabaret Campaigns -
Ride the Blue Wave

Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors

Stephen Hanks' Cabaret Campaigns - Ride the Blue Wave, is an evening of cabaret in its most fundamental form, a small stage in an intimate atmosphere of talk and song.  From 19th century Paris to Vienna, Berlin, Zurich, America and England, cabaret has presented a medium for artists to stir society through entertainment. 

This year, Hanks, a lifelong activist, was inspired to host a series of all-star variety fundraising shows, raising funds for Progressive/Democratic candidates in the 2018 elections.  This second show of the series presented six skilled and savvy cabaret songbirds, each succinctly sharing why her candidate deserves to win, with songs to nail the message.  Hanks set the mood with the series' theme song, “The Great Blue Wave” (Michael Roberts), declaring,  "Come and join/The Great Blue wave/Something less bitter/Less often on Twitter..." You get the message. Mid-show, Hanks was back to deliver the rural sarcasm of “Whitewash County” (Elton John and Bernie Taupin).   

In no particular order, the featured singers offered personality, sharp comments, optimism and humor.  Note Karen Oberlin's inclusion of Randy Newman's dash of satirical humor with "Political Science," a look at American foreign policy in the early 1970's.  Oberlin's candidate is Andrew Janz running against Devin Nunes in the 22nd District of California. Preceding "Political Science," she delivered, "Silent Spring," a song of yearning and lost promise inspired by Rachel Carson's book.  Lyricist "Yip" Harburg  penned depictive lyrics commemorating the murders of John F. Kennedy and Medgar Evers in 1963 and he persuaded composer, Harold Arlen to add a haunting melody. 

Sue Matsuki began her salute to Robert "Beto" O’Rourke, who is, Sue says, "a Texan who supports gun control and an Irish-Catholic who supports women’s rights."  Adding a snappy country twang, Matsuki wrote a line song, "I'll Love You When..." ("...Kim's ass is small, when Mexico finally pays for that wall...").  Moving to a different and beautifully nuanced selection, she delivered the soulful poetry of Alan & Marilyn Bergman's "You Must Believe in Spring" set to Jacques Demy/Michel Legrand's evocative melody.

Opening the show was Lisa Viggiano who is supporting Wisconsin's Randy Bryce, running for Rep. Paul Ryan's seat, declaring that Bryce represents America's working families -- "my people," she adds.”  In this spirit, she sang Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” her voice echoing the frustration of young lovers springing "from cages out on Highway 9."  Accompanying all these singers was versatile and energetic musical director/pianist Tracy Stark, tucking in remnants of "Here Comes the Sun."  Viggiano added "We Can Be Kind," by David Friedman, precise with heartfelt lyrics of inspiration and wrapped up with Woodie Guthrie's reminder, "This Land Is Your Land."

Rosemary Loar spoke about her support for Sen. Maria Elaine Cantwell from Washington, a progressive environmentalist.  Loar also praised Cantwell's feminist passion and presented two original songs.  The first, "Higher Standard," added back-up with Meg Flather and Tracy Stark and a meaningful "What Is a Tree?" is an ode to nature with backup by Meg Flather/Laurie Krauz/Tracy Stark. 

Meg Flather's candidate is Ohio's Sen. Sherrod Brown, called "Everyone's Senator."  On election night in 2016, Flather wrote an original song, "We Are As Strong," to express her disappointment in the election results.  She was supported by a chorus of  singers at the back of the room.  Flather's segment ended with Carly Simon's "Let the River Run," a song inspired by transcendentalist/realist poet, Walt Whitman.  Lyrics, "Let the the dreamers/wake the nation/Come the New Jerusalem" are backed by Tracy Stark's rhythmic subway-sound backup.  Stark's talent in accompanying various moods and rhythms is truly impressive.

Laurie Krauz brought her powerful, flexible vocals and sensitivity to "Earth Song" (Michael Jackson), stressing the song's intoxicating emotionalism.  As in the line, "Did you ever stop to notice/ All the children dead from war," her interpretation was electrifying, every word precise.  Politically, Krauz believes in rebuilding this country from the local races up, so her candidate is Texas State Senate candidate Mark Phariss, who attended the show with his husband.  Laurie's second song was "I Believe in Music (I Believe in Love)" by Mac Davis, propellingly this great blue wave to lofty heights.  

The proceeds of the evening are donated to the political campaigns designated by the various performers and Stephen Hanks will match the funds raised. His upcoming shows includes:

August 16
Julie Reyburn, Sarah Rice, Janice Hall, 2018 Bistro Award winners Mary Sue Daniels, and Katie Dunne McGrath, Sierra Rein
Musical Director: Matthew Martin Ward

September 13 
Mark Nadler, Adam Shapiro, Jeff McCauley, Brian Charles Rooney, Rob Davis, Bruce Clough.
Musical Director: Ian Herman 

October 13
Kim Grogg, Kim Sutton, Billie Roe, Annie Hughes, Lane Bradbury, Blair Alexis Brown
Musical Director: Michael Roberts 

For those interested in being politically active, postcards were left on the tables from

Cabaret Campaigns - Ride the Blue Wave
Don't Tell Mama
343 - West 46 St, New York, NY
June 28, 2018
Cast: Lisa Viggiano, Sue Matsuki, Laurie Krauz, Meg Flather, Rosemary Loar, Karen Oberlin
Producer and Host:  Stephen Hanks
Musical Director: Tracy Stark 

Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors
June 2018