KPBS AIRDATE: March 07, 2003
Musical theater comes in all flavors, the airy, sweet fluff of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” or the rich, nourishing bite of “Cabaret.” Both are very well served on San Diego stages; it’s all a matter of taste. If you savor theater fare of the frothy and succulent type, you’ll relish “Love-Perfect.” A series of songs and vignettes, it looks at relationship from first date to death, with all the heartthrobs and heartaches in between. Not much new ground being broken, but the script requires a wildly versatile cast, and the Starlight performers deliver, in spades; it’s an outstanding ensemble, with endless charm, tremendous talent and exceptional vocal ability, creating an ever-changing cast of colorful characters. Director Brian Wells has given it just the right, light touch; not smarmy and self-satisfied like some productions. This one has no pretensions; it’s high-fructose fare, with a dash of the bittersweet. Chameleon powerhouses Leigh Scarritt and Joy Yandell are a hoot, trading wonderful wigs and terrific star-turns, meshing perfectly with comical David Brannen and adorable David Humphrey. Like Kathy Auckland’s riotous costumes, the show, in the new, state-of-the-art Sycuan Theatre, is a wholesome, high-energy treat.
“Cabaret” is theater for a very different palate. It’s a tart musical about a time and place that was garish and wanton, and doomed to collapse. A time, in some ways, not unlike our own. The mirror that faced and reflected the audience in the 1966 original would be well-placed now. The North Coast Repertory Theatre production is an amalgam of that version, the film and the subsequent Broadway revivals, the most recent of which made the ending more harrowing and horrific. That would’ve been a nice addition here. But director Sean Murray has chosen instead to downplay the encroaching Nazi menace in his view of debauched 1930 Berlin. The Kit Kat Club is suitably seedy, but the fear factor is so subtle it loses potency. The production is solid, but the acting far overshadows the singing. Most of the principals would do better to talk through their songs, rather than straining at them. K.B. Mercer makes a pathetically upbeat, delusional Sally Bowles, and Jeremiah Lorenz is spectacular as the ominous, androgynous emcee. The rest of the cast is compelling in this gut-wrenching story with a glorious score, which should, but doesn’t quite, take your breath away.
Now, for another glimpse of life lived in brutal times, don’t miss world-renowned South African playwright Athol Fugard, reading from his new work, tomorrow night, as a benefit for the Black Ensemble Theatre, in conjunction with their production of his “Master Harold… and The Boys.”
There’s a theater feast around you; dig in and pig out!
©2003 Patté Productions Inc.