The Musical Theatre Society Fall Broadway Cabaret

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.

Twelfth Night

As they say, Shakespeare was meant to be performed.

For most college students, spending their Saturday at a Shakespeare play probably wouldn’t be ideal. However, for a group of English majors, myself included, the prospect of seeing one of Shakespeare’s works come to life was more than enticing. So, on a Saturday in February, several of us ventured to the O’Reilly Theater in Pittsburgh to see Twelfth Night.

The plot: Twelfth Night tells the story of Viola, who is separated at sea from her twin brother, Sebastian. Disguising herself as a man named Cesario, she finds herself working for the Duke of Orsino in the land of Illyria. Orsino is in love with Olivia, a wealthy, beautiful woman, but she doesn’t return his affections. Cesario courts Olivia on Orsino’s behalf, but Olivia falls in love him instead (he is, remember, Viola dressed as a man). Complicating the love affairs even further, Viola falls in love with her lord Orsino. Later on, Sebastian comes to Illyria and reunites with Viola. I’ll stop here, so as to not give the ending away.

I had never seen a Shakespeare play before, so I didn’t have a clue what to expect. Upon walking into the theater, the backdrop, made of beautifully-crafted, picturesque houses, immediately caught my attention. When the play began and the actors entered, it was clear that we were all in for a good show. Every actor that came on stage played his or her character true to form, speaking each word with conviction and passion, which easily entertained the audience. The costumes were very impressive. Olivia wore an array of elegant, black dresses and the men, including Cesario, sported extravagant suits. Overall, Twelfth Night was a great production in every aspect.

Sir Toby, Olivia’s drunk uncle, and Malvolio, Olivia’s steward. They had the audience hysterically laughing more than a few times.

The two crowd-pleasers, and maybe most memorable characters, were Sir Toby, Olivia’s drunk uncle, and Malvolio, Olivia’s steward. They had the audience hysterically laughing more than a few times. Throughout the entire play, Sir Toby was always drunk and always hilarious, and loved to sing and dance. He enjoyed pranking people, and his abuse of Malvolio proved to be comedic relief. In one scene, Malvolio, a usually morose character, came out wearing yellow stockings, smiling and crowing about his happiness. He thought that wearing the absurd stockings would make Olivia love him, but the audience knew it was a prank orchestrated by Sir Toby and others. He was “most notoriously abused.”

Reading Shakespeare’s work is a vastly different experience than watching the play. When reading the play, the words can appear lifeless, and it’s more difficult to understand contexts. However, the play on stage was easy to follow. The ability to see the actors’ gestures and listen to their tones of voice gave me a deeper comprehension of not only the characters but also the language. As they say, Shakespeare was meant to be performed. What a treat.

A Christmas Carol

Scrooge truly appeared to be a bitter, old man.

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.

Mr. Cratchit hopes for a raise from the bitter, old man. Photo courtesy Rebecca Dietrich. Here are more photographs from the production.

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.