Kudos to EPIC Players who gave an epic and heartwarming cabaret performance at Joe’s Pub this week. Singing to a sold-out crowd, EPIC performers chose songs that were personally meaningful to them, about their relationships,  challenges in love, and everyday life.  The cabaret’s theme was “Songs About Ourselves,” and opened with a touching rendition of “Black Sheep,” which expresses how it feels like to be rejected for being different.

EPIC’s neurodiverse cabaret featured duets, trios and small groups, composed of cast members with and without disabilities in addition to professional singers. As my daughter Samantha would say, the song choices were “a mix and match” ranging from Broadway musicals to pop rock.  My daughter sang “Till There Was You” (Music Man) in a duet with Andrew Kader followed by a trio performance of “Gimme, Gimme” (Thoroughly Modern Millie) with professional singer and cabaret co director, Amaker Smith.  Other songs in the show included “What About Us” (Pink),  “It’s You, I Like” (Mr. Rogers), “Fix You” (Cold Play), “The Climb” (Miley Cyrus), “I Knew You Were Waiting” (Aretha Franklin, George Michaels), and “Heroes” (David Bowie). One of the last songs,”You and Me (But Mostly Me)” from Book of Mormon was humorously delivered as a duet with Katharine Ivie and Gianluca Cirafini.

All of the performers  dressed in purple and black, EPIC’s colors.  For the entire evening EPIC performers broke the negative stereotype of people with autism being aloof and not making eye contact.  Samantha held hands with Andrew Kader and Amaker, smiling and flirting with both of them. Gideon Pianko and Nicky Gottlieb, good friends in real life, gazed warmly at each other as they sang together and then hugged at the end of the song. After more than two years of working together, “Songs About Ourselves” truly reflected a strong sense of community and family. I especially enjoyed watching Jessica Mastro (Robin’s singer/songwriter daughter) performing “What About Us?” with Shayna Goldberg and Mark Anthony Mendez.  For me and my best friend, having daughters share the stage together was a milestone moment.

Dan Garfinkel, our emcee for the evening, introduced everyone with warmth and wit. (Dan is now ready for Prime Time!) Talia Eapen, our stage manager, and Aubrie Therrien our creative director, helped inspire pride (and hopefully, donations) from our enthusiastic and appreciative audience. The show was the perfect length; it was well curated and allowed everyone a chance to shine, with three raffle winners interspersed between sets. Michael Cohen (Robin Reinach’s brother) and the quintessential theater buff won season tickets at the Round About.  The other two prizes won were a  $500 gift certificate to Quality Meats, and a walk-on role in EPIC’s next production of The Little Prince. https://www.facebook.com/events/529430880844761/ Tickets are already on sale!

Joe’s Pub turned out to be a delightful venue for our cabaret.  Seating 180 people at tables, banquettes, stools and counters on different levels, there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. In addition, my friends and I all appreciated being able to eat dinner while enjoying the show. I can personally vouch for the hamburger and French fries, which were better than expected. Further, the service was excellent and unobtrusive, despite our large crowd.

Not only was our crowd large, it was also lively and tremendously supportive. There was electricity in the air, and the show felt like a jubilant celebration of talent, lighting up the audience during a dark and divisive time In a dark and divisive world.  In the last number, all of the cast members sang “Heroes” (David Bowie). The refrain in that song:”Everyone can be a hero just for one day” was totally uplifting.

And just for one day, EPIC Players and everyone in the theater–actors, crew and audience–became heroes.

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