On October 12th I attended Slippery Rock’s Musical Theatre Society’s Fall Cabaret. This year, the cast of 64 talented singers and dancers performed seven-teen songs from the beloved Broadway classics such as Hamilton, All Shook Up, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and many more. All were played beautifully to the accompaniment of a live band.
The show was directed by Rachel Sobota, with assistant directors Brody MeKenna and Andrew Borcherding. The choreography was done by Mindy Clearly and Sydney Don Giovanni.
The Cabaret kicked off to a somewhat slow start with a set of songs from Godspell. I felt the energy was lagging and cast was lacking in enthusiasm in this opening song, but this was only a minor hiccup. The tone changed rather quickly by the next songs as we were given stunning performances by Anna Roe singing “Not for The Life of Me” and Antonie Dodson’s emotional solo in “Solla Sollew”. As always, the men’s ensemble left the audience enraptured in laughter and excitement with their performance of “To Life” from Fiddler on the Roof. The female ensemble’s performance of “Mama Who Bore Me” from Spring Awakening, featuring Sa’rai Freeman and Alex Bradly as the soloists, left me in awe; the energy and passion put into that piece was astounding and easily stole the show for me. Other acts such as “Forever Yours”, “What You Mean to Me”, “Marian the Librarian”, “Just Another Day”, and “A Step Too Far” made me speechless. Alex Scabis’ performance of “You’ll Be Back” from Hamilton had the audience falling out of their seats laughing.
The Cabaret closed with most of the cast in “Burning Love” from All Shook Up, we were all enchanted by this group and left the building that night in amazement. While I really enjoyed this year’s Cabaret, it was not without its faults. There were a few times where the singers were either being drowned out by the band, muffled by their own mics, or had the mics so close to their mouths you could hear them breath. It was very distracting and took away from an otherwise perfect performance. Over all, this was a wonderful performance and I look forward to the rest of their productions in the upcoming year.
A Christmas Carol is a classic tale that everybody has heard at least once. No two productions of this story are the same. Some more traditional, others more comedic; but no matter how you present the tone, they all have the same story. So, going into this production, I entered with only moderate expectations, expecting the same story I have heard every December.
As I entered the theater and took my seat, I was greeted with the cast of the show singing Christmas carols while some of the children were selling water bottles. I took the time to study the set. The walls were covered in books, most likely to draw reference to the play coming from an old story.
The plot of the play was the same as every other Christmas Carol; not much was changed from the original. But as the play proceeded, I found that the actors were amazing and completely devoted to their roles. I never caught one actor falling out of character or losing interest, even for a second. The best example of this would be the actor playing Scrooge. His emotions, reactions, and body movements felt realistic and genuine. He truly appeared to be a bitter, old man.
I was also happily amazed by the versatility of the set and its special effects. A few of my favorite effects were the ghost of Scrooge’s old business partner emerging from the bed, and Scrooge’s grave flipping down from a panel in one of the walls. The costumes were especially captivating; each one had its own special design to help stand out from the others. The costumes of the ghosts of Christmas past and present were sparkling and given lights to give off that spectral illusion.
The use of a puppet as the Ghost of Christmas Future took me by surprise. It was fascinating to see this larger than life specter towering over Scrooge as it showed him the darkest outcomes of the future. It really added an air of dread and menace to the final ghostly visit of the show. I did have an issue with the puppeteers, since I could see them controlling the puppet. It took away from the illusion for me; maybe a veil or something could have covered them.
In all, however, the performance of A Christmas Carol was simply spectacular. It was light hearted but was not afraid to be dark when it needed to be. Most of all, it stayed true to Charles Dicken’s vision to show what the Christmas spirit is about.