Robbie Kenney of Little City Musical Theatre is a beautiful and excessively talented woman who had a simple idea for a late-entry Piccolo Theater Series show: Put together a loosely themed revue that pokes gentle fun at the foibles of artistes and gives festival-goers some deserved comic relief.
Kenney and her crew of musical theater enthusiasts provided plenty of talent and a surplus of goofy charm Sunday night, but I left with the frustrating feeling that I’d watched a good show that stopped just shy of greatness.
Let’s talk about the good things first: Kenney is probably the most versatile package of stage talent in Charleston. Kenney the director doesn’t put herself front and center, but she’s the one playing the piano and the synthesizer, she’s the one behind the glasses singing Stephen Sondheim’s “Instructions to the Audience,” and in the “Celtic Almost Women” skit, she’s the redhead sawing wildly at her fiddle. In baseball they’d call that “hitting for the cycle.”
Kenney also gets credit for recognizing vocal talent and finding ways to showcase it. This is a “little festival” show with a “big festival” roster of classically trained singers. In a cabaret with this many performers cycling across stage, you expect at least one of them to step on a duck, but it just doesn’t happen.
Two are worth particular mention: Anna Kristin (“Krissy”) McKown is a performer who seems custom-built for musical comedy. It’s a show full of singers who act, but McKown is an actor who sings, and singing “in character” just isn’t that easy. The other standout, singer Jacqueline Beaumont, demands your total attention. I wish I had a recording of her sultry rendition of “At Last.”.
Now, the critical stuff: The show settles for goofy fun mixed around musical numbers, and there were moments when the audience at the half-filled Footlights wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. People seemed to enjoy it, but too many punchlines went unnoticed and the humor wasn’t buoyant enough to offset the weight of the serious pieces (namely Jimmy Flannery’s excellent “What More Can I Say?”).
The promise of this show is also its burden, but they’ve got a week to tweak it. With just a few improvements, “Little City Cabaret” could become must-see Piccolo royalty.