Noah J Nelson on Monday, Jun. 11th
While Cabaret Versatile‘s Carpe Noctem is just a brief 45 minutes, this five woman, one man show is on the inside track for being the most fun I’m going to have at the Hollywood Fringe this year. Bold statement, I know, since we’re still in previews this week.
Thing is, I’ve suffered through a lot of sub par burlesque over the years, and this French Cabaret performance is so distant from the unimaginative bump and grinding that often masquerades as the real deal in the cabaret/burlesque tradition. Choreographer Lola OhLaLa brings an extensive background performing and studying in France to this production, with a company of talented dancers who can not only move, but bring strong characterization to their on-stage personas.
The show moves at a brisk pace, although a transition glitch on Sunday stalled us before OhLaLa got into her spotlight number, which casts her as the Hannibal Lecter of the dance hall. The highlight of the set, aside from the company coming together for a truly rousing and acrobatic Can-Can (what else?) at the end, had to be Annie Gaia’s solo for her character of Clumsy Lili. If anything I’d suggest to OhLaLa that they move Gaia’s number up a little bit in the production, if for no other reason than to communicate Clumsy Lili’s dynamic in the troupe. As things currently stand it’s not clear until her number why Gaia has a seemingly frozen smile and at points can’t quite keep up with the other girls. At least it isn’t until Gaia comes on stage and… well, that would be spoiler territory.
Gaia’s character becomes clear as the near-hour rolls, but it’s Alyssa Fuhrman’s seemingly bored Mlle Marlene who tips us off to from the start that this is more than a shimmy and shake show. The clarity with which her character came through from the first number onwards made me yearn for as concise of an attitude check from each of the other performers in turn. The whole of the troupe has the seeds of a strong dynamic, and subsequent productions could really pop if these ladies keep working together.
My one real gripe is with the venue. The Underground Uptown space is just way too small for this kind of show. It’s a silly thing to complain about, as this is the Fringe, and that is the nature of the beast. This belongs in a space like Fais Do-Do’s cafe stage. Perhaps if the right amount of buzz comes out of the Fringe this year, and the troupe is willing to put in the work to have a full evening length set, we’ll get to see exactly that.
Carpe Noctem has just two performances scheduled: June 15th & 20th, both at 8:30 PM at the Underground Uptown 1312 N. Wilton Place in Hollywood. The Hollywood Fringe Festival opens on June 14th and runs through June 24th.