At age 91, with an uncanny ear for pitch and an eye for talent, Marian “Babe” Rosenberg could compete with any American Idol judge. But this petite dynamo would rather audition dozens of performers as director of the St. Louis Show Stoppers.
Since 1996, Babe has been producing an annual musical revue to support cancer research at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. Thanks to Babe’s long career of singing, dancing and directing other Broadway-style shows, from St. Louis to New York to Florida, she understood how demanding this new venture would be.
“The only way I would consider directing and producing this show was if the money raised went to Barnes-Jewish Hospital for cancer research,” Babe says. “This show takes a lot of work so there had to be a purpose for me to do it.”
Babe’s connection is personal: her son died of cancer 20 years ago at the age of 48. Several cast members of the St. Louis Show Stoppers have also been touched by the disease.
The cast consists of more than 40 singers and dancers ages 16 to 88. Weekly rehearsals span 16 weeks and culminate in four performances over two weekends. Many of the performers spend their days as accountants, lawyers, teachers or students before racing off to rehearsals at night. Babe spends months choosing just the right songs for the performers.
“Singing and dancing is their outlet,” Babe says. “Seeing everyone have so much fun makes it all worth it. We’re like a big family. I’m happy if they’re happy.”
The Show Must Go On
While Babe enjoys the laughter and fun of the show, she directs with no-nonsense authority. Babe sits in the front row during each performance, giving any long-winded emcee “the look” and subtly issuing the ominous “cut” signal across the throat. But it’s usually followed by a wink and a smile.
Mike Sander, president of St. Louis Show Stoppers, has been the target of “the look” when his introductory remarks at the show go too long. But he happily participates. He and his wife, Bobbie, run the business end of the Show Stoppers. Together, they reserve the show’s venue, promote the show, sell tickets and coordinate the myriad details required of a large production.
“We feel so proud to be part of it,” Mike says. “We’ve met many new friends through this and have a lot of fun.”
Bobbie’s father passed away from cancer at age 60, which drives her to pour countless hours of work behind the scenes to help make the show successful. “Everything is donated for the show except the musicians and venue,” she says. “For next year, we’re already working on ways to raise even more money for cancer research.”
Several years ago, Babe broke her leg—literally. But following the show biz credo, the show went on. As she looks to the future, she takes each year as it comes. “As long as I’m able, I’ll continue to direct the show,” she says. “But there’s no such thing as being irreplaceable. No matter what, the show must go on.”