The River City Players are trying to turn the River City Yacht Club into a seedy little smoke-filled cabaret.
They want it to be a place that hums with the allure of showbiz glitz and hedonistic abandon. They want to make it a place where the audience is part of the show.
As they will strongly remind you, "Life's a cabaret."
That's the drive behind the amateur theater group's production of Kander and Ebb's "The World Goes'Round" musical review. This isn't a Broadway-quality production, but it's a fun and intimate romp through some classic tunes.
The entire room above Port Cape Girardeau becomes a stage for an hour and a half during the show, and each member of the audience sits somewhere on that stage.
But if there's one element that seems ideal for dinner theater, it's audience involvement. The close quarters, the relaxed atmosphere that comes with a meal -- they all invite a format that goes beyond something on the stage to look at.
This effect is keenly accomplished by every member of the ensemble, but to varying degrees. There are some that will totally capture every viewer's attention, whether the performer be sitting at the table with them or parading around on stage, extolling the virtues of the bawdy show life or pining for a lost love.
This ambiance, this recreation of a house of ill-repute (but not to the point of indecency), is established at the very beginning, with an MC that looks and acts like a less-than-scrupulous owner of a 1940s New York bar. He smokes, he drinks liquor, and he's aggressive, telling people they'll have their legs broken for having cell phones on.
This MC's actual name is Curtis Prichard, and he's a newcomer to the theater game, but his character puts a touch on the show that helps pull together the lounge-style atmosphere.
The creative team, including six directors, worked with the seven-actor ensemble to allow each performer freedom and artistic license on solo numbers.
A few lucky audience members may even find themselves sitting at a table with a cast member offering a serenade.
The cast does feature some wonderful voices, even if sometimes they may be hard to hear because the prerecorded piano is turned up and the singers aren't hooked up to mics.
Whether it be the product of voice director Bryan Parker or the inherent talents of the cast members themselves, the outcome is the same -- some very good performances that demand attention, such as Parker's "Mr. Cellophane" or Megan Edmonds, Michelle Prichard and Pamela Bell, along with the ensemble, on "All That Jazz," both songs from Chicago.
Of course, while watching it's good to keep in mind that the performance is a community theater effort, not a professional theater troupe or a university that has many thousands of dollars and human resources to throw at the production.
These people are volunteers, and given that fact, they put on one fun Broadway review.
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