Even though “Cancelled” signs lined its doors, in-the-know queues formed around the Black Box Theater last weekend. The occasion was Brave Potato Productions’ musical theater cabaret, entitled Cancelled because it was produced after a planned production of Pippin was called off due to issues obtaining rights. Director Hannah Foerschler ’15 and choreographer Rosie Ouellet ’15 put together a clever production with engaging physicality, showcasing new and veteran talents of Kenyon’s student body and a strong ensemble across the board. Though it did not stand up as replacement for Pippin, it was a night of delight and whimsy for the small but lively audiences who attended.
The cabaret opened appropriately with the company singing “Magic To Do” from Pippin. The performers presented themselves right off the bat as a strong ensemble whose solid vocals and commanding stage presence more than filled the small venue. The song was all too soon interrupted by Foerschler’s announcement to the cast that they had lost the rights to Pippin and would not be able to perform it, and then went on to try to revive fallen spirits with “Whistle A Happy Tune” from The King and I. The song was sweet, though a little lackluster, and did not seem to fit quite comfortably with Foerschler’s voice.
Morgan Harden ’17 burst onto the stage with undeniable charisma and strong vocals in “Little Known Facts” from You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. Her humerous delivery and bold facial expressions gave a taste of what we have to look forward to in the next four years from this first year.
Lauren Melville ’17 gave a solemn turn to the cabaret with “Once Upon A Dream” from Jekyll & Hyde. Elana Spivack ’17 followed suit with another serious number, “Send In the Clowns” from A Little Night Music. The lights faded on her suppressed sobs leaving the audience hesitant to applaud. The rest of the company entered in perfect comedic timing to save the day by reminding her, with a number from Avenue Q, that “There is Life Outside Your Apartment,” in which Gibson Oakley ’16 made an appearance in drag, much to the audience’s delight. The show began to gain in speed and energy.
Oakley, still in his elegant blue satin dress and pearls, went on to perform “I Am What I Am” as Albin from La Cage aux Folles to thunderous applause. Peter Birren ’15 gave a committed and delightfully neurotic performance of “Betrayed.” J.P. McElyea ’14 provided additional comic relief on two occasions, once with Taylor Sweeney ’15 and Birren in “Big-Ass Rock” from The Full Monty and again as part of the comedic duo, along with Stuart Giles ’14, that performed “To Life” from Fiddler on the Roof. What they lacked in vocal perfection they more than made up for with comedy.
Henry Quillian ’17 gave a nuanced performance of “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” from My Fair Lady. This provided context for Aislinn McKeown ’16’s heart-wrenching rendition of “How Could I Ever Know” from The Secret Garden.
But it was arguably Sweeney who stole the show with the penultimate number of the event, as Pippin singing “Corner of the Sky.” He showcased an impressive vocal, emotional and dynamic range. For some, this may have been the Pippin fix they needed, but for most it just showed what was lost when the musical was cancelled. Sweeney had been cast in the title role.
For their finale, the company performed Avenue Q‘s “For Now.” The finale was an excellent choice, leaving the audience humming as they filed out of the theater.