By: Paulanne Simmons
June 29, 2018: Last December, Stephen Hanks looked at what was going on in the United States with Donald Trump in the White House and thought he had to do something to make an impact as part of the resistance. As a cabaret producer and host, and “resident rabble rouser,” he decided to take action. The result is “Cabaret Campaigns: Ride the Blue Wave 2018,” a series of variety fundraising shows that was created to support Democratic candidates in the upcoming midterm elections. The series launched in April and continues through mid October.
The July 28 event at Don’t Tell Mama featured six talented performers: Lisa Viggiano representing Wisconsin U.S. Congress candidate Randy Bryce; Sue Matsuki representing Texas U.S. Senate candidate Betto O’Rourke; Rosemary Loar representing Washington Senator Maria Cantwell; Karen Oberlin representing California U.S. Congress candidate Andrew Janz; Meg Flather representing Ohio Senator Sherwood Brown; and Laurie Krauz representing Texas Senate Candidate Mark Phariss (who was actually at the show with his husband Vic Holmes as they were in town for a fundraiser).Musical direction was provided by Tracy Stark at the piano.
Most of these committed and competent ladies made selections appropriate to the occasion. Sometimes these were songs written by other composers. Viggiano sang Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” as well as a very moving interpretation of David Friedman’s “We Can Be Kind,” interwoven with verses from Woodie Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” from Stark. Oberlin chose Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg’s socially conscious “Silent Spring” along with Randy Newman’s playful “Political Science,” a song that urges us to “drop the big one/And see what happens,” because despite our best efforts, nobody likes us anyway.
Loar sang original compositions: “Higher Standard” which expresses her “shock and disbelief” at how Hillary Clinton had been treated in the 2016 election; and “What Is a Tree?” to articulate her concern for the environment.
Others combined original work with covers. Matsuki’s “I’ll Love You When,” (“a love song to the Orange One”), promised to love our president when “cabaret makes me rich” or “Ann Coulter’s not a bitch.” But she tempered her cynicism with Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Jacque Deny and Michel Legrand’s “You Must Believe in Spring.” Meg Flather sang Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run” followed by her own “We Are Strong,” which told us “we are strong as our weakest link/Wise when our children think.”
Krauz wrapped up the evening and roused the audience with Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” and Mac Davis’s classic song of hope “I Believe in Music.” But Hanks is not depending on music to do it alone. Members of the audience were encouraged to continue with their own efforts, and proceeds from the event will be distributed among the candidates.
Next Shows are August 16, September 13, and October 13, all 7 pm at Don’t Tell Mama.