The Taxi Cabaret at Crepe de Paris
Mills' primary characters (each actor plays several incidental roles) are aspiring writer Scott, kindergarten teacher Karen, on again/off again couple Mark and Sara, closeted gay businessman Zach, and struggling actress CC. They all interact to some degree, but no strong narrative thrust really develops. Instead, we get some fairly humorous monologues and agreeably forgettable songs commenting in rather generic terms about what it is to be young, single, and struggling in the Big Apple. Though I have heard some charitable references to Mills' score as being "Sondheim-like," I would venture to say that even in his earliest solo Broadway score Saturday Night, Mr. Sondheim showed far more melodic complexity, and lyrical dexterity in his songs than Mills (a 2002 Jonathan Larson Performing Arts foundation recipient) does inThe Taxi Cabaret.
Happily, director Britton has cast some really talented, expressive and funny performers who elevate the material quite a bit. Lisa Bohn as CC is a comic force to be reckoned with, and has the lungs of a Merman and the sass of a Midler. This bright new face is one that casting folks at Seattle's big musical theatre houses need to get acquainted with. As Karen, lovely Michele Gray (a bright spot in the title role of Gigi at CLO awhile back), has the show's best comic monologues, and puts them across with the same charm and confidence as she does her vocals. Tanesha Ross as Sara is another strong singer, with a sassy stage presence, deserving of better material than she gets here. Marc delaCruz is an appealingly funny actor and an engaging song and dance man as Zach, the gay man who (briefly) breaks Karen's heart. Jadd Davis as Scott has a voice that promises musical theatre leading man status, once he gets a better handle on his physicality. As Mark, Brian Claudio Smith sings pleasantly but shows modest acting ability, and there is little chemistry with love interest Ross.
Given the scantly lit confines of the Crepe, it is odd that Britton brings cast members off the stage and into the dark house periodically, where their expressions and movements get lost. He might also have reined the cast members' tendency to play the show as if they were in a proscenium house. Musical director/pianist Chris Fresolone plays the score adroitly, but the piano volume should be scaled back, as several times we lose lyrics from the unmiked singers. Kathryn Van Meter's zesty choreography adds punch, within the confines of the limited stage space.
The Taxi Cabaret plays through Sept. 4 at The Crepe de Paris in Rainier Square 1333 5th Ave., downtown Seattle. For reservations call (206) 623-4111.
Photo: Jessica Fresolone