- By gentleguide
- On Sat 23 Dec 2017
Des Moines has a thriving musical theatre community, with an amazing amount of talent and opportunity to perform that simply isn’t found in other cities our size. And even if you don’t have the schedule that allows for the time and dedication needed to put on a typical musical, there is still a place to get your showtunes on. Noce’s Saturday Late-Nite slot is a musical theatre lover’s dreamtime, with a chance to be a star yourself.
In addition to their regularly scheduled Late-Nite Cabarets featuring some of the best theatre voices in the area. Noce Jazz/Cabaret is home to an event that is rather unique: Broadway Karaoke, where everyone can come and perform showtunes live, with an piano accompanist and a very appreciative audience (not to mention no cover charge and a cash bar!)
Personally, Broadway Karaoke is literally the best night of my theatre month... and now it’s going to be even more....
Twice the Events, Twice as Nice
Starting Saturday December 30, the 10:30pm slot every weekend will be a theatre-related show, with Cabarets on the first and third weeks and Broadway Karaoke going to twice a month on the second and fourth Saturdays. So there will be more opportunities for everyone to shine in the spotlight.
Local theatre favorite Katy Merriman is the organizer for Noce’s Saturday Showtime events, both the Cabarets and the Broadway Karaoke. “It’s great to watch someone perform for the first time and brave the room,” she says enthusiastically, “which is full of happy clapping people no matter what, by the way! It is also exciting to see the cast of a running local show or just a local star get up and sing the crap out of a good show tune.”
“It’s always fun to see someone get up and sing for the first time as well - lots of people start out just spectating, but eventually work up the courage to sing a song. It is great to watch someone do that and feel good about a performance experience - plus [Noce] is not to shabby of a venue to have your first solo performance.”
Of course, this all had to come from somewhere. About a year and a half ago, Noce creator Bob Filippone got the idea of starting Broadway Karaoke at Noce. “He loved the idea of getting everyone together to share songs and have a good time,” says Katy, “whether you are a theatre person of just a big fan of that crowd.”
“It has definitely grown from a low key Sunday event to a busy and exciting way to end a late Saturday night at Noce. I’m really pleased with how it has grown, and more people are starting to just walk in to see what’s happening because it’s a busy and fun night.”
Setting the Stage
Most of the time Noce is a jazz and music venue, but the theatre community has truly responded to the opportunities that Noce has provided for events of a more Broadway style. Katy continues....
“It’s such a versatile space, but [Broadway Karaoke is] the kind of night that really suits Noce, when it’s packed late at night and everyone is enjoying music and having a good time. Some nights are more raucous than others for karaoke, but it is a low key way to perform and enjoy show tunes.”
“We love to invite performers in from shows that are running to sing a song or two and help promote their shows. That has been a fun recent addition to more recent Broadway Karaoke nights at Noce.”
It might be surprising to find such a thing going on in our small city. You may expect a regularly scheduled night like this in a New York or Chicago, but in Des Moines? In my admittedly minimal research, I was unable to find any other place in the country that featured such a thing, let alone in a city our size.
“I think Broadway Karaoke has worked here for a few reasons,” says Katy. “There is an enormous group of theatre people in Des Moines who have a place to get together and sing for anyone who wants to attend. It’s a great way to try out new material in front of a crowd or to just enjoy show tunes if you aren’t someone who likes to get up and sing.”
“Karaoke can be a risky title, in that anyone can get up and sing, but we have an insanely talented group of people who come sing. If you come just to listen, you end up getting a pretty top notch show tunes show for no cover!”
A Little Help from My Friends
It’s not just a bare microphone and bright lights. While either Katy or Bob have hosted the vast majority of the Broadway Karaoke evenings (and performed wonderfully themselves), the real unsung (literally!) heroes of Broadway Karaoke are the amazing accompanists that provide their services for all of the performers. Francine Griffith, Ben Hagen, Anna Lackaff, and Brian Hutzell have all provided backup and support for the performers, and calmed many a nervous first-timer.
“Some people might not realize what a feat it is to sit down and sight read a song cold,” says an amazed Katy, “but those players have to be supremely talented musicians to pull off such a thing. I’m so happy that we have such talented musicians who are willing to roll with whatever happens. Not only do they have to read the music cold as they go, but there are also great accompanists who help singers if they get lost or off from the music, and who go with whatever the performer is doing and make it work. Not just any pianist can do that.”
These performers have to be prepared for any music and any performer, and they go a long way towards making the experience enjoyable for singer and listener alike. Plus, they provide some of their own music from their vast collections on occasion.
“Bob supplies all of the music books that we have, and our wonderful accompanists for the event, Francine Griffith and Anna Lackaff, usually come armed with many binders full of their own show tune sheet music. Anyone who brings any music can always sing, though. You just need a copy for the accompanist, and a copy for yourself if you need it.”
Of course, Katy sometimes adds her own touch to the proceedings. “I like to make up rules when I host like ‘If you sing from Wicked, you have to wear a witch hat’ or ‘If you sing from Phantom you have to cover half of your face with your hand’, and Francine usually pitches in and brings a few extra props.”
All in all, Broadway Karaoke is an amazing evening for the musical theatre lover, and whether you’re a performer or just love to listen, there’s something for everyone with a passion for show tunes. Whether it’s a classic favorite, a long-lost gem, or just a song from a show you’ve recently discovered, it might get performed one late-nite at Noce. Or you could even introduce it yourself to those who share that passion.
“I’ve learned a lot of new songs listening to what people bring in. The event has definitely evolved over the past year, and I think it’s getting awfully fun. We are saturated with great theatre in Des Moines, but we have to make sure people outside the small theatre world we live in know it is happening, and know that it is high quality and important to see and support.”
You can discover that wonderful theatre community, and even start participating in it. Broadway Karaoke rings out 2017 this Saturday night at 10:30pm, and will continue as a regular feature at Noce on the second and fourth Saturday nights of the month starting in January. And don’t forget the featured Late-Nite Cabaret shows on the alternate Saturday nights! No cover, so no excuse not to become a part of the entertainment!!