‘Casual Cabaret’ shows slated for summer


Say “cabaret” and many people think of the musical set in pre-WWII Germany. But they also think of a cozy club where patrons are entertained with song and witty patter that engages the audience.

Casual Cabaret is bringing back the cabaret with four performances by actress/singer duo Stellie Siteman and Barbara Helmer on May 25, June 15 and July 20 at the Minions Caf é, 7322 Manchester Rd. in Maplewood and a June 23 performance at Shangri-La Diner, 2201 Cherokee Street at Missouri in St. Louis. Mike Silverman is the musical director and De Kaplan is the producer of the show.

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Producer Kaplan described the show as clever, sharp and incisive. “The time is right for cabaret and the American songbook,” she said. She noted the cabaret conference here last August and the cabaret program at the Sheldon Theater in Grand Center.

A preview of the show that mixes music, humor and audience interaction sold out earlier this month. “I think cabaret is coming back,” said the show’s producer De Kaplan.

“Stellie and Barbara are the Elaine Stritch and Rosemary Clooney of St. Louis,” said De Kaplan in describing the performance style of the two women. The performances will present a combination of song and lively patter with the audience, including songs like Comden and Green’s One Hundred Easy Ways To Lose A Man.

Stellie Siteman, the sassy, brash “Elaine Stritch” of the pair, has been acting and singing for over thirty years, both in and out of St. Louis. Locally, she has appeared in shows with the New Jewish Theater, the MUNY and Arrow Rock Lyceum. She has also appeared in several movies and performed at the Mack Hayden Theater in New York.

Stellie Siteman is the daughter of Ruth and Alvin Siteman. Her father established the Siteman Cancer Center but music and theater run through her family, too. “I come from a theatrical background,” said Siteman, who mentioned that her grandmother was singer Mildred Goodman and great uncle Nathan Newman sang with the New York Opera. Siteman also enjoys volunteering with the Repertory Theater in the “Springboard to Learning” program, which brings arts and cultural programs to St. Louis schools.

Despite her long career in musical theater, this is Siteman’s first foray into cabaret. “I have done a lot of musical heater but I have always been told I should try cabaret,” said Siteman. The experience is turning out to be positive for both audience and singer-actress. “Unlike stage, you can break the ‘fourth wall’ in cabaret,” Siteman observed. “You get the know the audience. I like that.”

Stellie Siteman noted that many theater offerings seem male-dominated. “Let’s see something for the girls,” she added about her two-woman show.

“I do the comic singer bit, and Barbara does the jazzier singing,” she added about the cabaret show she and Helmer developed with Silverman and Kaplan.

Barbara Helmer’s voice and singing style have been compared to Rosemary Clooney. Like her cabaret partner Siteman, she has performed with such local musical companies as Broadway Fantasies and St. Louis Showstoppers. Recently she appeared in the sold-out “Ella’s Radio” for St. Louis Charity Performances.

Producer De Kaplan attended Jewish Hospital’s School of Nursing with Barbara Helmer, although Helmer is not Jewish. The two women have been fast friends for years, and Kaplan really encouraged Helmer and Siteman to go ahead with their plans for the cabaret.

Unlike the Sheldon shows, Casual Cabaret will present local performers, in a cozy, club-like setting. “The max for the audience is 40,” said Kaplan about the Minions Caf é. Since space is limited, it is best to call for a reservation. Dinner and the show at Minions is $45 and dinner is at 7:30, with the show at 8:30 p.m. At Shangri-La, dinner is at 7 p.m. and the show at 8 p.m., and the cost is $30. For information or reservations on the Minion Caf é shows, call 314-781-4800. For the show at the Shangri-La Diner, call 314-795-8778.