Cabaret Theatre West Kicks Off Third Season With A Blast

By Jack Lyons Theatre and Film Critic

The local performing group known as Cabaret Theatre West, moved into new digs for the 2012 Season.  New York producer Jane Friedlander Treacy (now a desert resident) and producing partner Dr. Audrey Reed have set up shop at the beautiful Indian Wells Theatre located on the campus of California State University San Bernadino, Palm Desert (CSUSBPD) on Cook Street in Palm Desert.

     The first production of the 2012 Season is a high-powered delight called “Hooray For Hollywood” and features a cast of eleven adult singer/actor performers and seven children/youth performers singing and dancing in fifty-three production numbers.  It’s an eye-popping, cabaret style show written and directed by Cabaret Theatre West’s Artistic Creative Director Trini Garza, who also leads the musical accompaniment.  Garza is a one-man creative team who sings, acts, dances, and directs, and a real find for Treacy’s organization.

     The move to the 300 plus seats of the Indian Wells Theatre gives the organization the opportunity to show off the professional talent of its cast to its best advantage.  The large stage offers Garza and company the creative space it needs to maximize their choreography skills and to take advantage of the professional lighting and sound technician skill set offered at the Indian Wells Theatre.  Although, the actors wear body microphones, the songs (for me) have more richness and clarity when the performers use hand-held mikes, as in some of the production’s specialty numbers.

      The “Hooray for Hollywood” theme lends itself to the creative strengths of the show’s visual designer Leanna Bonamici.  Bonamici is a movie industry professional and owner of Casablanca Studios, who selects just the right movie clips and moments to support the live, on-stage action of a very talented company of performers.           

       It’s a credit to the dedication of the backstage crew and dressers who ensure that the show’s many costume changes appear seamless to the audience.  Bravo to Costume Designer Cathy Gallick for a ton of colorful and creative costumes.  Also, kudos to director Garza for the swift and snappily paced on-stage action and music which blends perfectly into a single, cleverly staged musical production.  Even though the company lists itself as a Cabaret performing organization, the show is far more than just a cabaret act.

     There are too many high-octane moments to list here – fifty-three numbers in all – but the Company, which includes, Michael Criste, Lori Dina-Power, Joshua Lee Evans, Doug Graham, Sarah Hagar, Chad Hardy, Nikki Hock, Vicky Knight, Azhia Martika, Cliff Plummer, and Kaley Smith, are all individual stars, who not only shine in their specialty numbers, but form the backbone for a series of lovely 4-part harmony ensemble numbers.

      In support of the adults, the Youth cast of Fiona Andersons, Samantha Collis, Xander Higholt, Xavier Higholt, Alab Papunsan, Taylor Schlicht, and Ethan Waters, are delightful to watch as they perform with “professional” skills not normally found in children so young.  Two are only eight years of age, and one only seven.  According to their Bio notes they’re already veterans of the stage with some beginning at just two and three years of age!  Wow!

   I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the outstanding numbers performed by the excellent cast.  For example:  Cliff Plummer’s “Singin’ In the Rain”, Vicky Knight and Doug Graham’s duet of “I Remember it Well” from Gigi, Lori Dina-Power’s “Over the Rainbow number sung with the company, and the entire Judy Garland Medley segment featuring Sarah Haggar, Nikki Hock, Lori Dina, Kaley Smith, and Azhia Martika

     Also so very entertaining is the “Hard Knocks Life/Tomorrow” from “Annie” performed by the Youth members, along with Sarah Haggar and Lori Dina Power’s haunting renditions of “Papa Can You Hear Me?” and “The Way He Makes Me Feel” respectively; both from the movie “Yentl”.  Another highlight segment was the Medley from the show “Chicago” that features Doug Graham, Lori Dina, Azhia Martika, and Nikki Hock.

     Demonstrating the beauty of four-part harmony group singing is Michael Criste, Joshua Evans, Chad Hardy, and company members.  Also, Cliff Plummer and Nikki Hock are a made-for-each-other duo in the number “Suddenly Seymour” from the “Little Shop of Horrors” medley.  The Trini Garza musicians of Garza, Mikael Jacobson, and Matthew Howe provide the toe-tapping musical accompaniment.

Cabaret Theatre West 2012 has a new home. The fabulous Indian Wells Theatre!! Located on the Palm Desert Campus of the California State University, San Bernardino~ Photo by Robert A. Whitehead

  PDC Gala Reception Indian Wells Center for Educational Excellence and Indian Wells Theater Photo by Robert A. Whitehead California State University San Bernardino

Cabaret Theatre West has launched its third season in the valley with a thoroughly enjoyable show.  Don’t miss it!  “Hooray For Hollywood” performs Fridays and Saturdays at 7 pm, January 27, 28, February 3, and 4, at 7 pm.  For reservations and ticket information call 760-568-0024 or go online at www.cabarettheatrewest.com .

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