Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Music department presents a double-billed fall musical



This past week Trinity’s Music Department presented its Fall musical theater production in the Austin Arts Centers’ Garmany Hall. Aptly directed by Music Professor Gerald Moshell, “A Cabaret” and “Colette Collage” cleverly featured a series of Broadway standards, followed by the first act of a two-act musical about the life of the French writer Sidonie-Gebrielle Colette.

The first act was performed smoothly enough, buoyed by the suitably energetic performances of its six cast members, and the variety of its fourteen numbers. The selections that comprised “A Cabaret” spanned the depth and breadth of the American musical theater catalog, with hits from well-known classics such as “Wicked”, “Godspell”, and “Chicago” running up alongside more esoteric selections and hidden gems. Minimally staged with simple costumes by Kathryn Durkin ’15, “A Cabaret” served to showcase student talent above all else. Overall, the six performers handled the material well, feeding off of each other in the group numbers while losing some steam in some of the solo and duet performances. Regardless, the performances were all very engaging, and the audience remained in awe throughout. Highlights included a rendition of the title number from the 1976 revue, “Starting Here, Starting Now,” a powerful version of “In His Eyes” from Frank Wildhorns’ musical, “Jekyll & Hyde,” by two of the evening’s most vocally seasoned performers Caroline Cannon ’18 and Lydia Haynes ’18, and a cheerful ensemble performance of “We Beseech Thee” from “Godspell.” Haynes’ sophisticated and gutsy performance of “Nothing” from “A Chorus Line” was a standout, funny, confident and altogether delightful.

While the first half provided an entertaining sampler of standard Broadway fare, the second act was a different beast altogether. An obscure one-act musical from the 80s, “Colette Collage” proved a strange and thought-provoking, non-canonical romp. Based eponymously on the life of the turn-of-the-century French writer Collete and her relationship with the literary scoundrel known by the pen name, Willy. The musical chronicles, Colette’s coming-of-age, her sexual awakening, her abusive relationship with Willy, and her foray into writing and performance. The musical’s themes of sexual self-acceptance seemed particularly appropriate given its run at the end of Pride Week. A bizarre highlight of the musical came in the form of its second to last number, in which Collette’s mother bleakly declares that “Love Is Not A Sentiment Worthy of Respect,” a curious and thought provoking note to end on.

The cast of “Collette Collage” served it well, and their commitment and enthusiasm for the project showed throughout the performance. Maggie Powderly’18 who played the title character as well as choreographed the show, admirably led the cast. The two men of the cast likewise delivered fine performances, with Malcom Moon ’15 playing the scheming, smooth talking literary figure, Willy, and Davis Kim ’15 as the free-spirited and wholly amusing, Jacques. The chorus roles played eloquently by Sarah Wallingford ’15, Adelaide Jenkins ’18, and Kira Mason ’15, also added another element of humor to the show. Kristan Bertschmann ’15 blew the roof off with her incredibly strong vocal performance as Collette’s mother Sido, rounding out the pleasingly robust cast.

Ultimately, this unique production found its strength both in Professor Moshell’s careful and loving curation and direction, and in the casts’ courage to find life and exuberance within the assembled pieces. It also very succesfully brought extremely talented freshmen singers and vocalists into the light.

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