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Broadway Cabaret

When the Debbie Reynolds Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas recently folded, both the Kenny Kerr Show and the successful musical Broadway ... off B'way! were forced to vacate. Kenny moved downtown and Broadway ... off B'way! reinvented itself in the form of Broadway Cabaret and is now playing at the San Remo Hotel's Parisian cabaret room. The San Remo is located just across the street from the MGM Grand and less than a minute's walk from the strip.

In previous columns I had stated that I was hoping the original production would move to a strip hotel as I felt it was one of the best shows in town with the most talented cast around these parts. The San Remo stage is small, thereby necessitating this scaled down, but only slightly different, version of the original show. With a cast of six very talented performers, Broadway Cabaret still retains the magic that made the original show work.

Christopher Tompkins, associate producer and the show's principal choreographer, took his original ideas and staging and restructured them for this cabaret venue. Five of the six cast members are veterans from the first production; as a result you'll find a highly polished show.

Broadway Cabaret is an evening of numbers from popular musicals from the Great White Way performed in costume, and backed up by an excellent band. The show starts with Mark Moschello as the M.C. in Cabaret singing "Willkomen". His M.C. is a little sleeker now, a little sexy and highly entertaining. He's joined by the rest of the equally talented cast to finish the number. We then meet Sally Bowles (Satomi Hofmann) for the "Money Money" number which is a clever reincarnation of the number from the popular film.

What is so much fun about this show is that it's a trip down memory lane. You'll see numbers from 42nd Street, Chess, Grease, Evita, Sugar Babies, Show Boat, A Chorus Line, Victor Victoria, and Pajama Game ("Steam Heat" from Pajama Game is done with a delightful twist and is a big crowd pleaser.) Every few months new numbers will be added and others retired, much in the same vein as Legends in Concert, another popular show in Las Vegas.

In addition to Moschello and Hofmann are JoLynn Scott (her "Le Jazz Hot" sizzles), Kathy Arianoff (lovely "What I Did for Love"), Russ Thomas (stirring "Old Man River"), and newcomer Todd White whose "Hand Jive" number demonstrates his considerable singing and dancing skills. Laura Akard is also listed as a "swing" performer. Arlene DeLuca (Associate Choreographer) brings her Rockette and Broadway experience to the show with Director/Choreographer Tompkins considerable talents.

If you're heading to Las Vegas, pay Broadway Cabaret a visit. From the opening number, "Wilkommen", to the stunning finale, "One" from A Chorus Line, the fast-paced show moves just like "Greased Lightnin'!"

(Monday through Saturday at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Ticket price is $24.50 which includes 2 drinks, one during the show and one after.)

Tidbits: A few months ago Carol Cling from the Las Vegas Review Journal did an article about Talkin' Broadway and as a result of that I got a stinging e-mail from a reader because I didn't think much of the theater scene in Las Vegas, especially community theater productions. Well, this is Talkin' Broadway and I didn't see any reason to talk about anything but Broadway related theater. (We'll be covering the Equity resident company in Las Vegas, Actors Repertory, in our new Regional section coming soon.) Because I split my time in Las Vegas and New York, I thought I'd venture out to a local Vegas community theater, just to see what's going on. Since I was in a cabaret mood I headed over to the Nevada Theatre Arts Company production of Broadway Sings the Best of the Best!. Needless to say, I was prepared to be taken to theater hell!

On entering the theater, the first thing I noticed is that the average age of the audience is about 82. I looked at the pictures of the cast on the wall and these cabaret performers could be the parents or grandparents of the cast of Broadway Cabaret. I looked at my fellow theatergoer and apologize, stating that we could leave at intermission and go to the Outback for a few beers.

While seated and waiting for the show to begin, I'm handed a piece of paper which is a program of musical numbers to be performed and the usual cast bio's. Fifty of the best songs from Broadway are going to be sung by the cast, everything from "There's No Business Like Show Business" to "Swanee."

I looked at the first bio, Gary Oakes. Now, I'm in a community theater and I can't believe what I'm reading. Gary was in 1776 on Broadway, did Oklahoma with Betty Buckley, Little Mary Sunshine off-Broadway and a ton of other credits. I took a look at the other four performers and each and every one of them have Broadway and Hollywood credits. Even the pianist, Joe Fernandes, has worked with some big names including Chita Rivera and Juliet Prowse.

The show was conceived and written by Gary and it's just one big tribute to Broadway musicals. I got the feeling after 10 minutes that I was on another journey down memory lane, this time going all the way back to 1917. Without going into great detail, let me just say that what I was prepared for was theater hell and I landed in heaven! Lillian D'Honau, Lou Garcia, Phyllis Craig and Lynn Stephens all turned in first rate performances. Because of their vast experience, each one knew how to sell a song. Gary's powerhouse of a voice was particularly effective in the Oklahoma! segment and Phyllis Craig, who has performed in everything from burlesque to Shakespeare, was a simple joy to watch. At the end of the evening, I got a sense that I had just completed a course in Broadway as every major composer was represented with some informative dialogue. Bravo to the Nevada Theatre Arts Company! The show runs next Friday and Saturday at 7:30. $10.00. Seniors, $8.00 ;)

The Rumormill: Word on the street about Footloose: The cast replacements are minor problems. The BIG problem is the book - in all the workshops, they were, in effect, using the movie script! Now that they have their own book, everyone pretty much agrees it stinks, but nobody knows how to fix it. The current solution is to add about six more musical numbers and cut the book down to the bare bones and hope nobody notices how bad it is. The under 30 crowd is still going wild over the show, regardless of the book problems. They have hope that it will be another Rent. The kids will give it a good run even after the critics slash it to bits and pieces.

What sopping wet Oscar winning actress has been asked to return next summer to the Upper West Side to star in a possible revival of the Michaels/Grossman/Hackady tuner GOODTIME CHARLEY? (Was Saint Joan a blonde?) And who - oh, who? - could possibly play the male lead (a young and horny Charles, Dauphin of France) originally created by the one and only Joel Grey?

See you Thursday!

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