Time to Remember
You'd be doing yourself a favor by going to Gulf Coast State College's latest production of Cabaret . Utterly entertaining and enjoyable, peppered with strong performances and a live onstage band, this is a strong showing from GCSC's theatre program.
Garret Poladian brings strong dancing skills and bold sexuality to the role of the Emcee and has some lovely moments especially at the finale but I wish the choreography throughout matched his skill set. His emcee is prettier than most, a casting choice that undermines the seediness of the character, but it still works well. High school student Ben Whitmer gives a sturdy if slightly stiff performance in the role of the Yank writer Cliff which is one of the more difficult roles- the character itself is written rather blandly. Mr. Whitmer lends a nice strength to the role and a very resonant speaking voice. I look forward to his future endeavors. Savannah Wambo - the lovely young actress who plays Sally - has a sturdy set of pipes and a sweet disposition onstage. Unfortunately, I think this talented ingenue would be better suited for a character that lets that innate goodness sing through. Sally is a pill poppin' , booze swillin', life of the party girl with loose morality. Ms. Wambo is just too nice to convincingly play that.
One of my favorite performances came from Jessica St. Hill as Fraulein Schneider, the boardinghouse owner. Strong voice and lovely nuanced acting, her portrayal brings poignance and heart to Schneider and has a sweet chemistry with Christian Sullivan as Herr Schultz. Kaitlynn Millsap gives a nice turn as the bawdy prostitute Fraulein Kost, and Jason Betz brings humor and scary sweetness to the role of Ernst (I say scary because the reveal mid show that he is a Natzi officer chills even more so because Betz plays him with so much charm.)
The stage expanded over the orchestra pit was uneccessarily large. Mostly it created an alienating distance in the generally cramped and intimate settings of the Kit Kat Klub (The telephone song was like watching a tennis match as you pinged back and forth from either side of the stage to follow the song.) Actually , any time scenes took place at the tables in the club, I found it hard to follow where the dialogue was taking place. The boarding house sets were nice, but instead of doing a huge hallway , I would have preferred a unit representing Herr Shultz's fruit stand/shop.
The biggest thing missing was dirt. The overall feel of the production from the performances to the set was clean and safe. The show could have used a heavy slathering of sleaze- from the club to the , you know, Nazis. This is disturbing material that felt a bit sanitized. The chilling "Tomorrow belongs to me" loses impact with the vastness of the set. The distances made it feel safe, and Caberet should never feel safe.
Director Jason Heddon does a fine job at bringing strong performances from his talented cast. He has chosen to focus mainly on the original script of the show, forgoing the revisions of the revivals. In this he loses two very good numbers , "Maybe This Time" and "The Money Song". Energywise, these additions were sorely missed as the last half of the first act tends to drag.
I was not a fan of the choreography, but I know it is hard with mostly untrained dancers. The thing I would have love to have seen differently was the approach. The Kit Kat girls work in a seedy decadent dump of a club. Their dancining doesn't have to be chorine polished- this ain't 42nd Street- but make it looser, fill the measures with movement, and have the girls commit to the 4th rate style of the club. Glory in the ineptness. Embrace the awkwardness, That would have played better, in my opinion.
These are my nit picky quibbles for an overall strong show. Just next time, please leave the grime.
There's a light....over at Kaleidoscope Theatre!
As a teen, one of my first jobs was at a movie theater in Birmingham, Al that showed Rocky Horror picture show every Friday night. My friends would all come, dressed in costume, and re-enact the entire movie in front of the screen. That is how most people were exposed to the campy flick. It was a glorious, and freeing thing at that age to experience this kind of community. Straight, gay, it didn't matter. We were all part of something bigger than that, than us.
So, of course, I have a special place in my heart for the movie. But none of that could prepare me for the utter delight I beheld when watching the stage play of "The Rocky Horror Show" , now playing at Kaleidoscope Theatre in Lynnhaven.
Masterfully directed by Jason Blanks and Ray Stanley with attentive eyes for detail, the stage play (which has overt sexuality and language) has such innocence and joy that is nothing offensive inferred.It inevitably is a celebration of differences and awakening of acceptance of what some would perceive as freaks. The audience, which was a nearly sold out house of every walk of life, roared their approval and ended up giving a well deserved standing ovation .
The Greek chorus of Transylvanians worked the crowd Pre-show, building the antici......pation with their exuberance. The set was decievingly simple but packed with clever suprises. A 4 piece band played backstage behind a gauzy curtain- a gift to have live music onstage!
Tyler Kent was a perfectly nerdy Brad Majors with a strong voice and Holly Fuller was a comic revelation with fabulous vocal prowess as the flowering-soon-to-be-deflowered Janet Weiss. These characters represent middle America apple pie "normals" and the actors did a fantastic job of pulling you in.
But of course, the real star of the show, the character everyone remembers, is the gender bending sweet transsexual Frankenfurter. With a pillar of spiked white hair and an assortment of corsets and heels, once actor Doug Gilliland takes the stage you cannot take your eyes off him. ( He looks like you took Lou Reed, Joan Crawford, and Ursula the sea witch and stuck them in a blender) . His rendition of "I'm going home" simply fantastic.
The rest of the cast does an amazing job as well. I particularly liked Melissa Bowmans screeching been there done that take on Magenta, and the switched gender casting of Rachel Eiland Hall as Dr. Scott. ( Her floor show reveal elicits howls from the audience.) And not forgetting Barry Hertzog who lends necessary gravitas as the narrator.
Do yourself a favor and go see this show. It is well worth the drive. Get reservations- the last two weekends are selling fast!
Being an actor is such an incredible honor. Seriously. We get to touch peoples lives, inspire others to follow in our footsteps, make them feel, make them think,expand their horizons, make them smile, and sometimes inspire them to be- to live their lives fully. That's some profound stuff there and may reek a skoche of hyperbole, but let me explain.
Currently, I am in a children's production of "The Velveteen Rabbit" at Emerald Coast Theatre company. It is aimed at younger audiences ( 4-10 years old) and is part of their Theatre for Young Audience's program. Now, as a performer, I've heard others sniff at the thought of doing children's theatre, but I think it is so rewarding and ...yes, challenging. Holding the attention of wide eyed tots for an hour???? Trust me, Not easy! But the looks in their eyes and the love they show as they leave the theatre-priceless! And it's not only in their eyes- it also shines brightly in the eyes of their parents. It leaves me with such a feeling of accomplishment and fills my heart to the brim. We do a good thing.
Believe it or not, this isn't about the kids . Today as I interacted with the audience, I saw an elderly couple sitting on the front row next to three little girls. I wondered if they were their grandparents, but mostly I was struck by the lady - probably in her seventies and in a wheelchair, she had a regal air to her and she was paying close attention to the show. I'll get back to her in a minute.
If you aren't familiar with the story, "Velveteen Rabbit" is about a little girl who gets a stuffed rabbit made of velveteen for her birthday. The other toys jockey for position in the playroom hierarchy , worrying that they will lose their masters love . I play the old horse who has seen it all (He's been there the master's whole life!) and knows all toys have a chance to become "real", courtesy of the Fairy.
Sweet story, brightly colored sets, cuddley toys - a recipe for a great children's show.
Today I learned it was something more.
After the show, we bunny hop out of the theatre and gather in front of a picture spot to greet the kids and their parents. Some are timid and wary of coming up to us as their parents coax them into a photo op , others run up to us and give us hugs. That's gold there, folks. Pure 24 karat gold. Nothing better. Or so I thought.
The last to make it to us was the wheelchair bound lady and her husband. I couldn't see if the little girls were trailing behind, but the lady came to each of us and thanked us all, heaping praise. As she was the last out, after we embraced hands, I went back to change. As I was leaving, I sat with one of my dear co-stars and we were chatting. The mother (Berrit)of the young girl who played Velveteen Rabbit came over and asked us if we had seen the lady on the wheelchair. I immediately thought how odd that we both noticed her but obviously she was someone special. Berrit told us that the lady had her picture taken with her daughter and then proceeded to relate how special the play was to her. I thought maybe it was because of her ?grandaughter's? reaction, but that wasn't the case. Berit told us she wasn't sure of the why the lady was in a wheelchair, but when she was going through physical therapy, her therapist gave her "Velveteen Rabbit" to read. The lady never really understood why....until now. This children's play, this trifle of a show, touched her. All the toys yearn for their master's love and the chance of becoming real. And this lovely regal lady got something from what we did today.
She said, "I am real."
THAT"S why her Doctor gave her the book. To remind her who she was , WHAT she was. That's what art does.
And that's why I do theatre.
Stephen LaDow is a local actor, blogger,singer, barista , and supporter of the arts. He lives on the West End of Panama City. Follow his blog at Unfiltered-ness.com.
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