Saturday, June 9, 2012

Doomsday Cabaret and the End of the World at the Fringe


Photo credit: Elle Garcia Photography
Nine random characters arrive in San Bernardino’s Community Center on December 12, 2012, the date believed by many to be the end of the world. There’s the rocker pyromaniac, the slut, the southern Christian couple, the Birkenstock bee environmentalist, the Web-bot obsessed nerd, the hippie messenger, the sleazy drugged-out emcee, and the New Age shepherd. Why they’ve gathered in this particular location is unclear, but each takes the mic and expresses his or her thoughts about life, philosophy, and the end of the world.

Michael Shaw Fisher's show uses a cabaret/emcee format, as the title suggests, with the singers backed by a terrific Doomsday Band (Jonathan Hurley on guitar, Gene Ketcherside on bass guitar, Jose Perez on percussion, and at this performance, Richard Levinson on keyboards). They are easily the show's highlight and the main reason I recommend checking out Doomsday. The way they rock out on Fisher's songs (with additional music, arrangements, and musical direction by Michael Teoli) is particularly satisfying.
Sarah Chaney and David Haverty

Vocally it’s an uneven effort with standout performances by NoHo Arsonist Kurt Billic (David Haverty), who rocks a lyric like John Fogarty from Creedence Clearwater Revival on “If You Love Me Light Your Car On Fire,” and uptight, religious Lorraine Dugan (Sarah Chaney), who belts out a strong Aretha Franklin vocal with plenty of attitude on the 60’s Gospel flavored, “Don’t Do Me Wrong.” J. Todd Howell, who plays her husband Nathan, also does nice work singing lead on their 50’s doo-wop duet, “Bible Code Gospel Hour.”

Acting choices generally play out at surface level though a stronger story line would give the ensemble greater purpose. As it stands, the book can best be described in the form of a jeopardy answer, 'what is, the surreal ideas people cling to when the world's about to end?'

The Lounge Theatre's intimate space makes it conducive to a fair amount of audience participation. The singers are already speaking to the audience from their individual soapboxes as if they were part of the San Bernardino Community Center crowd and I’d like to see them take it even further. When they go out into the house they have the opportunity to really connect with individual audience members rather than simply using the time to provide variety in director Chris Raymond’s staging.

Doomsday Cabaret is at its finest when the band is rocking hard and the erroneous beliefs of its odd characters are exposed in the unforgiving glare of the spotlight. When the final countdown begins it will surprise you to see who, or what, has the last laugh.

Click Here for tickets, showtimes and more info. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, CA.

Doomsday Cabaret
Book, music & lyrics: Michael Shaw Fisher
Additional music, arrangement, music direction: Michael Teoli
Directed by: Chris Raymond

Cast: Chairman Barnes (Jerry Cox), Michael Shaw Fisher (Eddy Suddick), Mark Bemesderfer (The Messenger), Jake Regal (Gale Reed), J. Todd Howell (Nathan Dugan), Sarah Chaney (Lorraine Dugan), David Haverty (Kurt Billic), Lauren Andrea Nelsen (Lady Vavoom), Sarah Kay (Deedra Witwit "Bee Girl").
Light design: Matthew Richter

Choreography: David Haverty
Assistant musical director: Tim Butterworth
Board operator/house manager: Ben Birmingham

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