by Ozzie Nogg
Once you’re seduced by the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd, it’s hard to turn your back on show biz — as some members of the 1987 Campaign Cabaret cast will tell you. They’ll be putting on costumes and makeup for an encore performance on Sunday, Oct 11 — this time in Campaign Cabaret 2015 at Joslyn’s Witherspoon Concert Hall.
Jeff Taxman returns to this production with the same excitement and vocal bravura he brought to the stage almost 30 years ago. “The first Cabaret introduced Debbie Friedman songs to the community, and it also introduced me to the remarkable Joanie Jacobson who directed the show. Her talent, leadership and vision made us all look great and feel appreciated,” Taxman said. “I really look forward to reliving some of the songs that touched the audience back then. Many of the original cast members are gone, Peony Park is gone, plenty has changed, but this generation of volunteers and performers are talented and enthusiastic. We old-timers are pretty great, too. I predict the audience will leave the Joslyn moved and inspired.”
Patty Nogg, who joins this year’s Cabaret cast as a narrator, sang in the ensemble of the original Campaign Cabaret along with her twin sons, Brian and Jeff. “In 1987 we were part of the closing number, Tears Are Not Enough,” Jeff said, “and this time I’ll be singing that same song with the entire cast including my daughter, Riley Nogg, who is eight years old — the same age I was during the first Campaign Cabaret. I remember the energy and enthusiasm that my cousin, Joanie Jacobson, put into the show. It was contagious, and this year’s cast is just as upbeat.” Brian Nogg remembers what fun it was to stay up late on the Sunday night of the performance. “There was a big party afterwards in the Peony Park Ballroom, and a few years later we had my Bar Mitzvah party in the same location. Cabaret is full of family memories.”
Andee Scioli and her mother Pam Friedlander are both returning cast members. Andee recalls dancing in Coming to America, the opening number of the first Campaign Cabaret. “I was just a pre-teen at the time,” she said, “but I danced with many Jewish teenage girls who took me under their wings and made me feel a part of the group.” Andee and Ozzie Nogg performed a duet in the original show, and this year Andee’s son, Jack, will repeat that duet with Eadie Tsabari, one of his Hebrew teachers. “The song is Aitz Chaim He,” Scioli explained. “The Hebrew words describe a tree of life and how all who uphold it are blessed. My grandmother loved the song, and my brother and I sang it at her funeral. My brother sang it at my wedding and it was sung at my cousin’s wedding as well. Aitz Chaim He continues to have great meaning in my life.”
So how will the revival of Campaign Cabaret affect the audience? “I think everyone will be inspired by seeing our community, young and old, work together,” Jeff Nogg said. The fact that three generations of both the Steve Nogg and Bruce Friedlander families will perform in Campaign Cabaret 2015 proves Jeff’s point. “The show will make people realize how lucky we are to live in Omaha, where there is so much participation and where so many people care about our future,” Jeff continued. “The show is a great reminder of what the Jewish Federation is all about — the passion, the participation, the working together and sharing of skills that keep our community strong.” For Brian Nogg, “Our Jewish community is so unique. Any of us can decide one day to make a difference, and you’ll get the opportunity to do so. Of course, we need the money raised by Cabaret to support the efforts of our community agencies, but the evening isn’t about fundraising. It’s about getting the community together to celebrate what can easily be taken for granted. People remember how meaningful Cabaret was in 1987. This year’s cast will do its best to make sure Campaign Cabaret 2015 is equally successful.”
Jeff Taxman offered his own call to action. “Omaha is a great community, and great communities deserve great celebrations. Campaign Cabaret is big enough and exciting enough to be that great celebration. A celebration that gives us the opportunity to feel thankful for the institutions that support our Jewish lives, thankful we have the resources to fund so many services, and thankful we have the infrastructure in which to house those services. This event gives us the opportunity to feel good about ourselves, to sing and dance with friends and family. In my book, Campaign Cabaret should be a project we look forward to on a regular basis, not once every 28 years, and volunteers should clamor to be involved.”