Abbot Cabaret Improvisation Well-Performed

Every year, students and parents turn their attention to the impressive and always popular Grasshopper Night. Hours of tireless work are put into making sure the performances are top-notch and parent-appropriate. However, long after the Grasshopper Night curtains have closed and the performances are finished, the curtains rise on a smaller, more testosterone-filled show by the Abbot Cluster: Abbot Cabaret! Abbot Cabaret 2008 spotlighted student talent and hilarious skits and video clips from the two masters of ceremonies, Ben Laccetti ’08 and Evan Hawk ’08. There were two performances Saturday night, at 7 and 9 p.m. Considering Saturday afternoon was the only opportunity the performers had to rehearse as a group, the show went smoothly. Sure, the acts didn’t go exactly in the order listed on the program. There were a couple technical difficulties—the M.C.’s occasionally forgot which performers were next up and not enough programs were printed. But, overall, the night was an impressive display of talent, skill and humor. “The parts that were funny were really funny,” said Sophie Scolnik-Brower ’08 While past versions of Abbot Cabaret have relied heavily on goofy comedy, the acts were more varied this year. The show primarily consisted of small bands, both acoustic and a cappella, but there was also improv, male hip-hop dancing and spoken-word poetry. The collection from the two dollar admission fee was donated to Lazarus House, a charity helping those affected by the recent fire in Lawrence, MA. Moving the performances along, the M.C.’s, Laccetti and Hawk, were the heart and soul of the evening. They managed to unify the show with their various comedy duets. The premise of their story was simple; Ben had found a treasure map in the library and decided to set out on a quest with Evan to find the hidden fortune. The great treasure turned out to be a pair of oven mitts which “made their fantasies happen.” The rest of their acts was a series of short comedies about friendship, relationships and PA life. The M.C.’s acts alternated between complete nonsense and humor, and the audience laughed throughout. Common themes included lobsters, mustaches and sexiness. As the show progressed, the two boys also displayed their love for cross-dressing. Laccetti even tore off his top layer at the end of the performance, revealing a red strapless dress which soon slipped down to his torso. Since not all of their singers were able to make the show on Saturday, Azure decided to make a few last-minute additions to their number. They chose a couple girls from other acts in the show including Lily Shaffer ’10 and Hannah Turk ’09, and taught them both the lyrics and the movements in the girls’ bathroom right before the show. Although Azure didn’t exhibit quite the energy of some of the other acts, the girls’ wide smiles and Carrie St. Louis’s ’08 riveting beat-boxing held the audience to their seats. The improv group Under the Bed played a game that required the audience to provide a word or phrase to inspire a scene between a pair of actors. In the middle of the scene, Abby Colella ’08 called out for the pair to stop mid-action and for the audience to supply an appropriate topic for a commercial. Then, the improv pair would start performing using the new cue as inspiration. For instance, Yisa Fermin ’08 and Patrick Brady ’11 acted out a side-splitting scene spurred by the phrases “It’s contagious!” and “Victoria’s Secret.” The band Funkopotamus performed Outkast’s “Hey Ya.” However, it was a much slower, quieter version of the original song. The audience loved Funkopotamus’ performance and even answered Dan Silva ’08, the band’s singer, with phrases from the song like “ice cold” and “yeah.” The last “hey ya” was a haunting ending to the song. Michael Scognamiglio ’10 and Alex Kalil ’09 sang Flight of the Conchords’ “The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room.” Scognamiglio brought a girl up to the stage to sing to during each performance. Although Scognamiglio and Kalil’s voices didn’t blend perfectly, their act came across as very heartfelt. “Scogs is a wonderful singer,” remarked Kalil after the show. Andi Zhou ’09 and Alex Gottfried ’09, also known as Team Rocket, acted in one of the more comical scenes of the evening. The two dressed in the hooded capes of Christian abbots and sang a Gregorian chant as they walked through the middle aisle to the stage. Then, their tune changed to a medley of old pop songs such as “Bye, Bye, Bye.” They left the stage to enthusiastic applause. Countless individuals worked behind-the-scenes to make Abbot Cabaret 2008 come together. “I was asked to stage manage,” explained Eli Grober ’09. “It was stressful, especially since [Saturday] was the only day we rehearsed. But the acts were great.” Other techies included John Grunbeck ’09, Mike Kaluzny ’09 and Lou Tejada ’08. Sound masters Phil Hofer ’10 and Will Koven ‘08 ensured the sound for each act was perfect. Koven dashed back and forth between the audience and Hofer’s table at the side of the stage, advising him on which microphones needed to be adjusted. While Hofer admitted that it was “hectic,” there were only a couple sound mishaps. In addition to all the technical work, Laura Wu ’10 designed the program cover. Despite its similarities with Grasshopper Night, Abbot Cabaret was far more casual and low-key. Compared to the grueling Grasshopper rehearsal schedule, the Cabaret performers only rehearsed together for the few hours before the performance. Plus there were two performances and both on the same night, which means far fewer people were able to attend the show. Turk said, “The show wasn’t intimidating because it wasn’t in Tang.” Having Abbot Cabaret in Kemper Auditorium gave it a far more intimate and personal feel. Although Abbot Cabaret received much less attention, most of the acts were of similar quality to those in Grasshopper Night. Both are talent shows, but the two are very different in nature. Grasshopper Night is supposed to be a more professional, polished performance, suitable for Parents’ Weekend. On the other hand, Abbot Cabaret is an opportunity for students and faculty to come together and laugh unguarded at our own inside jokes. As Laccetti said at the end of the show, “We’ve learned a lot about life…and crustaceans.” Now, ask yourself; could you possibly ask for anything more?