Also see Scott's recent review of Rent
In late October, many theater companies are busy preparing productions for the upcoming Christmas holiday season. However, as the first show in this season's Musical Theatre Workshop Series, the Human Race Theatre Company in Dayton, Ohio presents a rare musical revue appropriate for Halloween. Macabaret is an offbeat and wacky tribute to all things associated with the macabre, performed cabaret style.
Macabaret is a collection of mostly humorous new songs that spoof or poke fun at a large variety of topics, and always with a twist towards the morbid side. Murderous spouses, horror films, evil cows, supermodels, Madonna's "Vogue" video, the Andrew Sisters, and OJ Simpson are just a few of the things parodied during the hour-long program. Add to this the fact that the tunes are delivered by a "Corpse de Cabaret" of the undead and the show is truly a suitable match for Halloween.
The score is credited to Robert Hartmann and Scott Keys, based on a concept by Mr. Keys. With only a few exceptions, the 21-song revue consists of quick-paced patter songs and bluesy comical numbers. The music is fun and appropriate, but lacking enough variety in style. The lyrics range from extremely witty and hilarious, to intentionally corny, to uninteresting and repetitive. The opening "Macabaret" borrows liberally (and effectively) from the title song from the musical Cabaret and sets the tone well for the evening. Highlights from the score such as "Obsession #1" and "Obsession #2," which are respectively pronouncements of lust for Dr. Kevorkian and Stephen King, are laugh out loud funny. And "Broadway Elegy" is an ode to the "resurrection" of old (dead) musicals by means of revivals and is especially humorous to those familiar with the New York theater scene. However, other material is only mediocre and numbers such as "Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde" and "Boogie Woogie Boogieman" seem significantly under-developed. An attempt to provide some variety in topic and style is made in the form of four songs with more serious themes. These songs, "The Moon in the Window" (1 and 2), "Love Me In The Light", and "Long For This World", are melodically beautiful and show off the song-writing talents of this duo, but seem to be in conflict with the rest of the piece. Stylistically, the anthems and ballads are welcomed, but their content is in contrast with the comical tones of the other songs.
As usual, The Human Race Theatre Company has assembled a talented group of performers for this workshop presentation. Kevin Moore, Patricia Linhart, Kathy Clark, Michelle Zimmerman, and Jay Pierce each deliver the material with polished flair, good comic timing, and professionalism. Wearing outfits and make-up appropriate for the non-living, the cast maintains their creepy characters throughout. There are opportunities for each in the spotlight and everyone deserves praise for their efforts here. Sean Michael Flowers provides his always capable talents as pianist and musical director.
Marsha Hanna and Kevin Moore serve as co-directors and guide their performers in making the most of the show. The revue is presented at Thomato's Restaurant, an upscale Dayton eatery just doors down from the Loft Theatre where Human Race normally stages their workshops. The performers are wisely directed to use the entire performance space in the restaurant for some songs, much to the benefit of the production. The tone of each individual song is on target and the show, if uneven, is indeed entertaining due to good directorial choices and solid performances.
Macabaret is a fun, yet lightweight musical revue with some strong numbers that make the less attractive material worth sitting through. The Human Race Theatre Company presents a worthy production and the show is appropriate adult entertainment for Halloween. Human Race continues their Workshop Series of both new and rarely produced works in 2002 with a new musical, Convenience, in February and Stephen Sondheim's Pacific Overtures in June. Macabaret was presented on October 28 and 29.
-- Scott Cain