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BWW Feature: SO YOU WANT TO SING CABARET at Fordham University


David Sabella and Sue Matsuki Teach a First of Its Kind Cabaret Course

BWW Feature: SO YOU WANT TO SING CABARET  at Fordham University

Cabaret is the most elusive of art forms. Even those who are regular cabaret performers are unable to give you a unified definition. It frequently crosses paths with musical theatre in material and personnel, and yet it is not technically theatre. And although it resembles concertizing, it's not strictly music either. It can encompass songs, poetry, prose, dance, standup, monologues, sketches, and performance art. Although it is frequently regarded as the repository of The Great American Songbook, it can also feature any style of music one can imagine, from opera to country to hip-hop. And while solo performances are most common, cabaret can also feature groups, both small and large. Anyone who sets out to write a guidebook on the art of cabaret is taking on a handful.

BWW Feature: SO YOU WANT TO SING CABARET  at Fordham University
Stephanie DiDonato

And yet that is precisely what cabaret performers David Sabella and Sue Matsuki did in 2020 when their book, SO YOU WANT TO SING CABARET: A GUIDE FOR PERFORMERS was published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. The book is the first of its kind. A one-stop shop for those aspiring to put together their own cabaret shows, as well as an invaluable resource for those who are devotees of cabaret. The book contains chapters on crafting your show, lyric connection, "do-it-yourself" production and promotion, and working with your musical team. The book was such a success that it was adopted by the National Association of Teachers of Singing for use as a textbook.

BWW Feature: SO YOU WANT TO SING CABARET  at Fordham University
Tori Sen
BWW Feature: SO YOU WANT TO SING CABARET  at Fordham University
Justice! Somerville-Adair

And that is just what David Sabella and Sue Matsuki have done with it. In the summer session at Fordham University, they have been teaching a class based on their book. Seven students, six in-person and one who studies remotely from San Francisco, have had the privilege of being instructed by the two cabaret veterans in crafting a perfect cabaret performance. I was lucky enough to see their end-of-semester performance and I had a delightful afternoon. Each student prepared a two-song set with some banter and a hand-off to the next singer. All the songs and medleys had been personally tailored to the students by Matsuki, Sabella, and musical director David Gaines.

Sue Matsuki told me each student was required to do a medley. They brought in a song that they felt strongly about. Then they were assigned a song by the instructors, and with David Gaines, they would have to find a way to do a mash-up of the two songs that spoke to their individual personalities. Sabella informed the audience that this was the first program of its kind to use SO YOU WANT TO SING CABARET as a textbook. Matsuki described it as a 101 level class and said she and Sabella have future plans to provide more advanced-level classes in which students will be given the skills to put together their own full-length evenings. For an industry that is constantly struggling to find new audiences, Sabella and Matsuki's work is essential in training and lighting a fire under the next generation of cabaret performers and cabaret audiences.

BWW Feature: SO YOU WANT TO SING CABARET  at Fordham University
Giordana Simurdiak

BWW Feature: SO YOU WANT TO SING CABARET  at Fordham University This is not a review. But it should be mentioned that all the students who performed today were of the highest quality. The polish and poise that they exhibited belied the fact that many of them had absolutely no cabaret knowledge a few short weeks ago. They sang standards, rock songs, art songs, and everything in between, They modeled wonderful mic technique and were natural and charming in their banter. With nothing but a mic and a stool, they created musical magic. Kudos to David Wilson, Stephanie DiDonato, Tori Sen, Anahita Subramanya, Twila Duarte, Justice! Somerville-Adair, and Giordana Simurdiak for their excellent work. I expect to be reviewing them all very soon.

Special mention should also be made of David Gaines, whose arrangements were the glue that held everything together. Having such a skilled and sensitive musical director was a great boon to these budding artists.

And also congratulations are due to David Sabella and Sue Matsuki. Their premiere semester was a clear success. I will watch with great curiosity to see what they come up with in future semesters. I cannot commend the work they are doing enough. It is very gratifying to see performers in their 20's excited about cabaret and embracing an art form in which they are so free to express themselves freely. Hats off to David Sabella and Sue Matsuki for taking the time to pass their extensive knowledge on to a new generation.

BWW Feature: SO YOU WANT TO SING CABARET  at Fordham University
Anahita Subramanya

SO YOU WANT TO SING: A Guide for Performers is available at and To learn more about David Sabella, visit For more information about Sue Matsuki, go to

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