Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette
It is gonna happen, after all: Three Rivers Music Theatre is putting on its first cabaret show, in which a diverse array of singers tackle theatrical songs that are associated with roles they would probably never get to play.
Among the singers is Deborah Moore, who gave up on musical theater after hearing roles were not a good fit. She has rekindled that love and passed it on to her kids.
September 23, 2016 1:03 AM
Someone else's song no longer
Classics from stage get new voices in cabaret production
Keiara Carr | The Journal Gazette
If you go
What: “It’s Never Gonna Happen, Is It?” cabaret
When: 8 p.m. today and Saturday
Where: Three Rivers Music Theatre, 212 Pearl St.
Admission: $15 adults, $10 students with valid student ID; additional online fees; go to www.trmt.brownpapertickets.com
Growing up, Deborah Moore wanted to perform as iconic characters like Annie or Cinderella. The problem was, she never saw an Annie or Cinderella that looked like her.
“I remember being in middle school at Memorial Park, and we did a production of ‘Annie,’ and at that point in time, there hadn’t been a little girl (playing Annie) on the TV that was African American, so the thought was, I would love to audition, but when you look at the actual script, they already have a depiction of what the character is supposed to be,” Moore says.
“So you kind of get limited to a lot of chorus roles; you’re always in the background, kind of.”
Three Rivers Music Theatre’s cabaret show “It’s Never Gonna Happen, Is It?” crosses those boundaries of race, gender and age to give a group of local performers, including Moore, a chance to play the roles they never thought they would.
Director Andy Planck says theaters in larger cities often stage intimate cabaret shows in between their larger productions. With the new theater company having wrapped up its summer performances of “Hair” in July, Planck says he is testing out the cabaret concept on local audiences.
“I felt like there was enough of a market for it, and the downtown revitalization has made enough progress, that we could try our hand at something new. I knew we had the artists, I knew we had the singers, and so I guess we’ll find out if there’s an audience,” Planck says.
When it comes to cabaret, there’s no script, Planck says. The show is comprised of medleys connected to the show’s theme.
“The singers will sort of create their own banter to introduce each song if they have a personal connection to the song, or a story of why they’ll never get to sing this song,” Planck says.
“It’s a night to see the performers as themselves. As actors and singers, we so often have to put on a facade and play roles that are unlike ourselves, and cabaret gives us singers an opportunity to connect with an audience more intimately and to speak from our own voice.”
Performers include Reuben Albaugh, Billy Dawson, Renee Gonzales, Kat Hickey, Kayley Hinen, Stephanie Longbrake, AJ Lorenzini, Prentis Moore, Deborah Moore, Carleen Reynolds and Tommy Saul.
Albaugh will sing a mashup of iconic gender-centric songs, such as “I Enjoy Being A Girl” from “Flower Drum Song,” “I Can’t Say No” from “Oklahoma” and “I Feel Pretty” from “West Side Story.”
Albaugh comes to the cabaret with experience. A few years ago, he played the stepmother in Fort Wayne’s Civic Theatre’s production of “Cinderella.”
Despite their lyrics, Albaugh says all the songs contain elements that are relatable. For example, in “I Enjoy Being A Girl,” the character speaks about loving to get a new hairdo or being picked up for a date; Albaugh says those things are just as enjoyable for him, too.
“There’s an universal appeal to being able to connect with a character that you wouldn’t normally get the chance to play. I can still identify with some of those things,” Albaugh says.
And often, as a male performer, you miss out on some of the more emotionally driven numbers, Prentis Moore says.
During the show, Moore and Billy Dawson will perform the duet “Take Me or Leave Me” from the musical “Rent.” In the song, two of the show’s female characters demand from each other a decision on whether they should remain together or split up.
“I think it’s the challenge of being able to sing those songs as a male, because a lot of songs that ladies sing have a lot of heartfelt meaning. Not to say there’s not a lot of songs for men that are like that, but (women) have ballads that have a lot of heartfelt things,” he says.
“Like ‘Take Me or Leave Me’ – my wife is actually in the show with me, and she loves that song. And she said I would have definitely loved to have sung that song.”
Deborah Moore, who is Prentis Moore’s wife, has been getting back into local theater the past few years. She will be performing “I’ll Cover You” with Hinen. The song is another duet from “Rent” between a male and transgender character.
“When I saw that, I flipped my lid because it’s something that I could not imagine singing,” she says. “I got scared at first. We played it, and I said, ‘Am I supposed to sing it this low? Are we going to transition this is in any way?’ And my husband was like, ‘Debbie, chill out. You know the song.’
“It’s very different to try to embody what the character is and not put the sex stigma behind it. My goal right now is to put a new twist on it.”
Those feelings of not being the right fit for ‘Annie’ in middle school didn’t just disappear, Moore says. It was a recurring feeling of not being the right size or the right shade or even the right height as she auditioned during her days of show choir, band and theater.
It was disheartening, she says. After hearing she wasn’t physically right for the part “time and time again,” Moore stopped performing for eight years.
She says it was the Civic Theatre’s production of “Dreamgirls” that brought her back into local theater. She recently performed as Dionne in the Three Rivers Music Theatre’s production of “Hair.”
“It’s something that I tell my kids, now that they see us and have seen my husband in different things, from ‘Shrek’ to ‘Cinderella.’ They have picked up a love for theater and a longing to be a part of the arts,” Moore says.
“I say, ‘Although you may feel you aren’t fit for this part, you go and do your best.’ If it’s meant for you, it’s meant for you, but don’t shelter yourself because of the blindness of some people. That’s how (the writer) depicted it, but we can possibly depict it in a different way.”