Monday, November 13, 2006

Nite Club Confidential (Kalliope Stage)

Kalliope’s ‘NITE CLUB CONFIDENTIAL’ short on substance

Since its inception three years ago, Kalliope Stage has had many exciting and well executed shows such as ‘THE SUMMER OF ‘42,’ OPAL,’ ‘CABARET’ and ‘BABY.’ Unfortunately, their latest offering, ‘NITE CLUB CONFIDENTIAL’ can’t be added to that list.

The shallowness of the show is surprising since, according to program notes, the show, as directed by Kalliope’s artistic director Paul F. Gurgol, was nominated for five Barrymore awards in Philadelphia. How? I’m not sure. The story line is weak, many of the songs in the cabaret-formatted script are bland, and the staging lacks dynamism.

At the start, the theatre goes black. Three shots are heard, sirens sound, the lights come up and a body is sprawled on the stairs. The corpse rises and he tells us that we are going to view a dramatic parody that highlights an Eisenhower administration/jazz-era time period musical, and have a glimpse of club glamour of the times.

‘NITE CLUB CONFIDENTIAL,’ with book by Dennis Deal and songs and arrangements by Deal and Albert Evans, revolves around the fading career of Kay Goodman, a Sinatra wannabe Buck Holden, and a group named The High Hopes.

The score includes “Comment Allez-Vous?,” “Love Isn’t Born, It’s Made,” “Nothing Can Replace a Man,” “The Canarsie Diner,” “He Never Leaves His Love Behind,” and “Crazy New Words.” Never heard of them,? Don’t worry, you haven’t missed much. On the other hand, “Goody Goody,” “I Thought About You,” and “That Old Black Magic” may be familiar.

The story doesn’t hold together well, the lines are often corny, the reprises are excessive and the personalities don’t ring true.

Gurgol’s directing doesn’t help much. Segments drag, the choreography is stilted, and the characterizations are often flat. With the exception of the song “Cloudburst,” the song renditions aren’t memorable. At intermission a jazz aficionada was overheard commenting on the lack of effective arrangements.

The cast is uneven. Slight, handsome Steve Parmenter fails to create a believable character as Buck, the manipulating limited in talent singer/dancer who attempts to sleep his way to the top. As with the script, Parmenter is more show that substance.

Trudi Posey tries too hard as the washed up former star. She is quite unbelievable. There is no sexual energy between her and Parmenter, a requisite for the parts. The same can be said for Parmenter and Liz O’Donnell, who portrays Trudi, supposedly Buck’s real love. O’Donnell comes out as the strongest performer and singer in the production. Charles Statham and Mark Ludden sing well but are less than convincing as the remaining members of The High Hopes.

Technically, the show is solid. Kim Brown’s costumes, especially the women’s dresses are smashing. Lance Switzer and Steven Shack’s lighting design and Krystyna Loboda’s red and black tacky set works well. Musical Director Michael Hamilton and his orchestra are quite good.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Kalliope Stage has proven it is so much better than their present staging of ‘NITE CLUB CONFIDENTIAL.’ Let’s hope the real talent of the director and the cast comes forth in their next production.