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Thursday, September 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A&E >  Stage

Laura Little’s ‘Cabaret’ supports performers on and off stage

Producer and executive director Laura Little has three goals when it comes to her upcoming event, “Cabaret,” at Jacklin Arts and Cultural Center on Sunday.

First, she’d like to introduce audience members to the performers – Jessi Little, Nick Szoeke, Callie Cabe and David Elridge – through songs and stories.

Much of the show will feature John Kander- and Fred Ebb-written songs from the Broadway musical, songs that Little has found make people laugh and work well in a cabaret setting.

Songs that involve audience participation also caught Little’s eye and made it into the show.

“Cabaret” also will feature the cast sharing personal stories, about past stage experiences and dreams they have, with the audience.

“My goal is to have the people walk out of there, and if they run into these singers at the grocery store, they feel like they know them and approach them because a piece of them has been shared,” Laura Little said. “It’s not just a stand up, sit down, sing-a-song type of thing.”

A Coeur d’Alene High School grad, Jessi Little received her BFA in theater from Texas Christian University and performs professionally in Seattle, Texas and California.

She will appear in Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre’s staged reading of “Crimes of the Heart” on Tuesday, and she will soon appear in another Laura Little Theatricals production, “First Date” at Coeur d’Alene Inn.

“That is the first time I’ve cast her in a lead role in a musical I’ve been involved with,” Little said of her daughter’s role in “First Date.” “I wanted her to earn her wings outside of this area, and now she has done that.”

Szoeke is a Texas native who received a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, and a master’s degree from University of Alabama.

Szoeke began performing in operas before moving into musical theater. He is currently playing Curly in Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre’s production of “Oklahoma!” and will soon appear in “First Date” as Aaron.

“I borrowed their voices for this event, which is great,” Laura Little said.

Joining Jessi Little and Szoeke are local favorites Cabe and Eldridge.

Laura Little praised Cabe’s comedic timing and called Eldrige one of her favorite young performers in the area.

“We’ll see him go places,” she said. “I’d like to give him the opportunity and give him songs he doesn’t typically do and grow him that way, although in this cabaret, he is doing something from ‘Joseph (and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,’ which he starred in at Spokane Children’s Theatre), but he does it so well.”

The live band features pianist Beth Taylor, bassist Rick Taylor, drummer Marsha Schlangen and guitarist Justin Knight.

During the second half of the show, Little will accomplish her second goal: to be an advocate for theaters in Idaho.

The quartet will perform snippets of songs from musicals that theaters across Idaho are producing in current or upcoming seasons.

“I think it’s important for us to promote each other,” she said.

Similarly, Little’s third goal with “Cabaret” is to raise money for the Northwest Theatre Arts and Education Foundation, a 501(c)3 she established about five years ago.

The foundation, which receives a portion of the proceeds from “Cabaret,” wants to ensure theater musicians get paid and bring the High School Musical Theatre Awards to Idaho.

The awards involve judging high school musical theater and handing out awards like best director, best musical director and best choreographer.

The best actor and actress award winners will be flown to New York and work with other states’ winners on Broadway for a week.

“Our state needs that,” Little said. “That’s my goal to start that next year, so I’m going to be doing fundraising, and I’ll be out being an ambassador for that. We’ll make that happen.”

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