Baylor Theatre honors Sondheim with CaBEARet

Baylor Theatre ends the spring semester with its production of CaBEARet. Photo courtesy of Tess Wilson

By Emma Weidmann | Staff Writer

Upperclassmen with musical theater concentrations in Baylor’s theatre program will finish the year with a bang at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday with CaBEARet in the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center.

The performance will feature music written and inspired by the late musical theater legend Steven Sondheim, who passed away earlier this year. Ticket sales will go toward the Leta Horan and Jerry McLaughlin Endowed Scholarship for Musical Theatre.

According to Connect, the musical theater workshop class “moves beyond vocal instruction to emphasize the staging of musical theater numbers and culminates in the final performance at CaBEARet. This musical revue features upperclassmen studying musical theater singing, dancing and acting in group and solo musical numbers from various Broadway shows.”

CaBEARet director Lauren Weber, a lecturer of musical theater, said, “because we had just done Steven Sondheim’s show in the fall, we decided to make it a little different.”

This show focuses on Sondheim’s legacy rather than being just a performance of his music. It includes songs from collaborators and mentors such as Jonathan Larson, Lin Manuel Miranda, Oscar Hammerstein and more.

Victoria senior Calder Meis said Baylor’s musical theater program is unique because it lies on a foundation of vocal and acting training done during students’ freshman and sophomore years, and doesn’t pick up the musical theater aspects until junior and senior year.

“Taking a truly acting-first approach to musical theater comes as an expression of telling the story and telling it well, has been a really big blessing for me as a performer and as a student,” Meis said. “It’s been a good home base.”

Meis sings “Boho Days” from “tick, tick… BOOM!” — a musical written by Lin Manuel Miranda that was recently turned into a film starring Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson. Larson, famous for writing the musical “Rent,” was heavily influenced personally and professionally by Sondheim, and Miranda’s own work echoes that of Sondheim’s as well. In fact, Meis said Sondheim’s influence can be found in just about every popular piece of musical theater as he redefined the genre as a whole.

“He took the form and turned it on its head and made it more [of] the thing it could be,” Meis said. “Everybody who is big in the musical theater scene right now can attribute some of their success to Steven Sondheim.”

Weber said that audiences will recognize from “tick, tick… BOOM!,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Hamilton.”

“He influenced so many musical theater composers, he changed the way that musical theater was written. He was so musical in his own form and in the way that he wrote the music,” Weber said. “He didn’t have any children of his own, but ‘children in art’ is one of his quotes, and everyone looks up to him.”

Proceeds from CaBEARet go to support the Leta Horan and Jerry McLaughlin Endowed Scholarship for Musical Theater, which Meis said is important because musical theater is a large part of American cultural identity.

“I think musical theater is an American form in the same way jazz is in that it’s become central to our pop culture identity,” Meis said. “Even now, we have A-list actors trying to expand their resume by entering the world of musical theater. It’s an avenue of artistic expression that feels deeply rooted in who we are as American people and one that is really satisfying to do well as a performer.”