Review: Paula Tiberius, Pop Culture Blogger

Musical theater begs for satire, and who better to execute it than the performers of Miscast, the five-year-old musical comedy show that lives by the credo: “Right singer, wrong song,” and takes place at Sterling’s Upstairs at The Federal.

As I understand it, the mischievously adorable Mandy Kaplan has been assembling a group of new and returning actor / singers every few months to showcase about a dozen musical send-ups each time, and this was their 16th show. And all this happens in North Hollywood where, as many of you know, I fear that nothing ever happens.

Krista Sutton was indeed miscast terribly as Billy from Carousel singing  Solioquy the long and winding song about his unborn child. Krista got busy hilariously milking all the sexist male 50’s clichés, only to have Mandy Kaplan burst in telling her she’d gone on long enough and she had to get off the stage already….play within the play! We were loving it. Later, Krista re-surfaces, sneaking back on stage to finish her epic number and gets chased all over the room by Tom W Metz III who had previously belted out the whitest Ain’t Too Proud to Beg you’ve ever heard.

One of my faves was the four-foot-ten Miki Yamashita, who immediately declared her gratitude for being “nowhere near the stage when the Miss Saigon number was on.” She proceeded to embody the character of Walter Lee Younger from Raisin – the musical adaptation of the Lorraine Hansberry play A Raisin in the Sun – basically a grumpy African-American dude complaining about women. Hilarity ensued!

I think everyone’s favorite might have been the final number where Will Collyer – being as white as he could – belted out Circle of Life from The Lion King, complete with the African style shouting at the beginning. The middle aged African-American guy in front of me was laughing so hard his glasses were slipping off his face.  It was funny. And the laughs kept coming as all the actors from the evening proceeded to parade around Collyer pretending to be wild animals while he played a – wait for it – recorder solo!

And speaking of music, the piano player / singer who never left the stage throughout the whole hour-plus show was Brett Ryback. He tirelessly and flawlessly executed the music for all the performers to the point where I forgot he was there half the time. Then suddenly a second voice would materialize in a call-and-response song and I’d realize again, “Right, all this music is live.” Impressive.

And as if THAT weren’t enough, the proceeds from the show go to Project Angel Food. Win-win, people. I’ll see you there next time.

By: Paula Tiberius, Pop Culture Blogger


Review: MISCAST, A Marvelous Evening of Great Vocals and Kooky Comedy

The mark of a good cabaret song is its ability to hook you with its story and a good cabaret singer always knows how to work that song and draw the audience in. MISCAST: Right Singer, Wrong Song, produced by Mandy Kaplan, is a series of hour-long cabaret shows full of standard music theatre songs that tell new stories with their unique spins on the traditional, allowing the audience to appreciate them in a whole different light. Performances feature a rotating cast and take place every couple of months at Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal with Kaplan acting as host.

For the latest MISCAST on Monday, October 20, it was a night of high comedy and plenty of laughs as ten singers performed a variety of songs they wouldn’t normally get to sing. Few among this bunch would ever be cast in The Book of Mormon so their spunky version of “Hello” from the show was a fun and fitting opening. From there the set list moved to a series of solos, duets and trios that highlighted each singer’s individual sense of humor.

Justin Michael Wilcox and Kaplan offered a great spin on Kristin Chenoweth’s famous “Taylor the Latte Boy” with two versions, each from a different point of view. Wilcox sang it Kristin style the first time, as the girl secretly in love with the boy who makes her lattes, and then Kaplan did it again, this time as the coffee boy singing about the crazy girl who comes in and stalks him. Rewriting some of the lyrics to play up the gender switch, Kaplan referred to Wilcox as “Kristin, the sucker chick” and created a character that was completely believable within this scenario. Another plus for this section of the show was getting to hear Wilcox’s exceptional tenor voice, one of the loveliest of the night.

“Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” from Showboat, originally sung by a woman who is half black and half white was sung by Ewan Chung, an Asian man who insisted that torch songs weren’t only for the ladies. Chung and Kaplan also switched genders and ethnicities for “Sarah Brown Eyes” fromRagtime, which was originally sung by Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell. Chung and Kaplan’s version featured strong vocals and an amusing dance break full of choreography through the ages that was all kinds of silly fun.

Ladies choice found two singers dialing it back to the ‘60s with Mary Jo Mundy turning into the sadistic Orin Scrivello from Little Shop of Horrorsfor “The Dentist” and Stephanie Anderson (with back-up girls Kaplan and Rosoff) channeling her inner teenager for “I Can Hear the Bells” fromHairspray, while Wendy Rosoff took on Sondheim, singing all three vocal parts in his tricky trio “Getting Married” from Company. The rapid-fire patter in this particular song can make a singer crazy and Rosoff made it look easy. From the back of the room I could understand every word and that is quite an accomplishment.

But the MVP award for this round of MISCAST goes to JP Karliak for his 5-minute tour-de-force performance of the entire score of Evita in which he brought to life one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most passionate divas -- white gloves, death scene, iconic poses and all. I’ve never seen him perform before so I don’t know if he regularly encapsulates musicals in this manner but there’s an entire floorshow in there just waiting to bust out and I hope he puts it together because he was hilarious!

Kaplan makes a charming host for the fast-paced, comedy-rich evening and musical director Kathryn Lounsberry brings out the best in all of the singers with her great arrangements. Final answer: MISCAST is for you if you like it fast, funny, and full of surprises. Next show is January 25, 2015 so mark your calendar now.