March 30, 2017
On Friday, March 24 and Saturday, March 25, LHU’s University Players presented “That’s Life”, a 2017 Spring Cabaret in the Sloan Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. The show was directed by Mary Beth Ruggiero and vocally instructed by Austin Miller and Katie Fitzgerald.
I attended opening night with low expectations, having seen almost nothing beforehand, but was pleasantly surprised by the whole of it. While the squeaky piano that had to be tediously pushed on and offstage multiple times seemed to be the star of the show, and a good portion of the performance was dominated by shaky voices and flat notes, a few acts caught my attention.
The beginning act was “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent,” sung by the whole cast, and while it was obvious that some of the actors were clearly not singers (stick to your day jobs, guys,) the overall product was nice to listen to and a charming opening number.
Katie Fitzgerald and Tirzah Hosler did an excellent job with their dance set to “Ships in the Night,” and an even better job recovering from the few slip-ups that no doubt had to be from nerves. A key component to any good performer is their recovery time after a mishap, and while Katie and Tirzah were prime examples of this, I couldn’t say the same about a few others.
Stuart Harsch, singing “I Will Survive” was funny and flamboyant, something common for him both on and off stage. He wore a dazzling chainmail dress and heels, all while dancing and flailing dramatically across the stage. Stuart was a savior with his comical relief all throughout the show, and I say ‘comical relief’ because the silences from the audience were, at times, suffocating.
Karlita McCarty and Morgan Beatty sang “Take Me or Leave Me” from “Rent” and I was impressed with the strength of their voices and the little bits of acting they included. Karlita, playing the logical and calculating half of a lesbian couple, had a powerful voice and strong stage presence. Morgan, Karlita’s sexy second half, was playful and easily able to reach some of those higher belting notes. When asked if she felt prepared for opening night, Karlita McCarty just laughed rather maniacally, something that voiced her panic and stress before the show. “I think some of us have worked much harder than others,” she continued after calming down from her fit of laughter, and Austin Miller, a junior with an accounting major, agreed. “No matter what you do there’s always going to be someone who’s better than you. I don’t think we’re all equal here in this cast,” he confessed. “Are there better singers? Sure. But at the end of the day, we have a really great show that we’re putting on and that’s what matters.”
Karlita was not the only cast member exposed to stress though. I hopped around from actor to actor, trying to get a read on what the energy would be like for the performances, and the consensus seemed to be that although they felt prepared and ready to give the audience a great show, they were all very, very nervous.
“I’m stressed,” director Mary Beth Ruggiero revealed to me. “But I know that [the cast] is ready and they’re prepared and my crew is amazing.”
Tyler Shertzer was a breath of fresh air, after four acts dedicated to singing, when he performed pieces from his magic show. I had the pleasure of being a volunteer at one of his dress rehearsals, and was not disappointed in the slightest by his card tricks. After letting his three volunteers pull a random card from the pile, he had us hold up our cards. At the time our cards were seven, three and four, something that didn’t have any significance to us until we looked at the clock and realized that it was 7:34 p.m. When Tyler did this trick for an audience, the entire crowd went completely nuts, screaming in shock. One of the onstage volunteers threw her card to the ground as if she refused to believe it.
After the ten-minute intermission, Mia Mormando and Stuart Harsch opened the second half with an edited version of “Anything You Can Do”, which was silly and funny and very easy to listen to. Mia’s clear and rounded voice was seriously contrasted by Stuart’s hilariously out of key notes, and the audience was laughing the entire time.
Maxi Estrada came out on stage in a bathrobe and slippers for her performance, and proceeded to put on a skit/song for the audience about a woman threatening to jump off a building because her husband won’t pay attention to her. Despite its dark connotations, Maxi made the scene laughable when screeching at her offstage “husband.”
Alexandra Drake played “Let it Go” from “Frozen” as a piano piece and her moment was made even more heartfelt when the audience joined in to sing along. The highlight of the evening was when a young boy in the front row burst into song, seriously off-key but completely dedicated to the words.
The final act was another group number, in which the entire cast surrounded the audience and sang “In My Life” as a sort of goodnight and goodbye to the seniors who would not be returning next year. Stuart Harsch and Mia Mormando, two such seniors, stood onstage holding hands while singing, which was touching, if not a little cheesy.
Overall, the three-dollar ticket fee was a great deal for the quality of show audience members were receiving, and I applaud the cast members for their performances. Ramona Broomer once said “if they [the audience] could do it better, they’d be up there!” and I couldn’t agree more. Well done!