“What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play. Life is a cabaret, old chum. Come to the cabaret.” – Cabaret by Liza Minelli
Embracing these words, Conly Basham, expressive arts therapist in training and former New York City actress, shared her love of theatre and artistic expression with Mercy Retirement & Care Center residents in a unique, interactive experience.
“What began as a weekly Cabaret Club exploring themes and stories of family, love and patriotism, transformed into a 15-week experience concluding with a show-stopping performance by residents,” Conly said.
“Our residents are still writing and creating their stories in the present, and this was what we wanted to share,” says Conly. Drawing on the passions and skills of the residents, Conly, along with help from the Life Enrichment team, planned the Cabaret Club’s first show.
Residents, who chose to participate, brought with them their own experiences, passions and talents. “Each member of the Club was given a role, no matter their care level,” says, Conly. “Whether it was painting sets, keeping rhythm, shining in the spotlight or coordinating logistics, there was a role for everyone and everyone found their place.”
The Cabaret Club, became a community of support, working toward a fantastic goal of a performance to enlighten, entertain and enthrall resident, families and friends.
After weeks of preparation, the Cabaret Club was ready to take the stage. The lights were up and the stage was set. Residents stood in the wings in trepidation, silently rehearsing their songs and motioning through their dance steps. Hushed conversations of “It’s really happening!” added to the excitement back stage.
The room filled with the familiar song of Liza Minelli’s, “What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play. Life is a cabaret, old chum. Come to the cabaret,” and the show had officially begun!
Dancers matched their steps, singers hit their notes and improvisation left the audience reeling with laughter. A sing-a-long performance with the entire cast and audience concluded the show. The final note rang out and filled the room with the greatest sense of accomplishment. “Listen to the lullaby of old Broadway.”
Residents recounted their favorite scenes for days following the show. “It was truly a buzz-worthy hit,” Conly said.
The Cabaret Club’s performance is only the first in “a beautiful start to continued opportunities of expression,” says Conly. The Club will focus next on storytelling and personal narratives.