The Sacramento Choral Calendar
Spring Cabaret - March 16, 2013
by Dick Frantzreb
This is the fifth High Voltage performance I’ve seen in the past couple of years, and the fact that I don’t want to miss one of these shows says something about what I perceive as the quality of the entertainment – and the freshness – present in each of their productions. It’s 20 young performers dancing and singing their hearts out, sharing a wide variety of Broadway numbers from shows old and new, familiar and not-so-familiar. (Click here to open the program in a new window.)
During this evening's show (as is usual), most of the selections were introduced by someone speaking from offstage and setting the scene. This was helpful in understanding the emotional content of the song because some of the plot situations were quite complex. It was all presented in a mix of solos, duets, small ensembles and full ensembles. There were no sets for the 30 very different songs, but there were a lot of props and what seemed like new costumes for each number. (How could they manage that?)
There wasn’t a lot of ensemble singing in harmony, but what there was of it was solid. And the quality of the individual singing was outstanding – almost without exception – and many demonstrated big Broadway voices with professional styling. Most importantly to me, the lyrics were uniformly clear. I had just seen Shrek the Musical performed at Three Stages. Coincidentally, two of the 30 songs performed this night were from that show – and I was finally able to understand the words.
You can hear a solo or a duet in a choral concert, but what sets High Voltage apart is that each of the songs they present is acted – and acted well. I wasn’t hearing a song sung, so much as I was seeing a scene from a Broadway show. And although so much talent was on display, I particularly enjoyed the excellent comic acting in selections like the following: “Agony” from Into the Woods, “The Ballad of Farquaad” from Shrek the Musical, “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” from Kiss Me Kate, and “Moses Supposes” from Singin’ in the Rain. It was also a delight to be introduced to some outstanding songs I’d never heard before like “There’s a Fine, Fine Line” from Avenue Q (brilliantly sung, by the way) and “Mama Who Bore Me” from Spring Awakening. And what fun to hear some old favorites performed so professionally – like “Ya Got Trouble!” from The Music Man or “December 1963” from Jersey Boys.
As always for me, the dancing was a highlight: elegant ballroom style to tap to elaborate choreographed routines whose style I can’t classify. And I constantly saw exciting dance moves that I don’t remember having seen before. Furthermore, as has been the case in the past in these shows, there were numbers that showcased dancing, such as “Hot Honey Rag” from Chicago with original choreography and amazing coordination, and “Moses Supposes” from Singin’ in the Rain, in which the dancers did a remarkable job in channeling the spirits of Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor.
I don’t like calling out the individual performers for outstanding efforts like the preceding dance duos (you’ll find the names in the program), because pretty soon, I’d find myself listing all 20 of these young people. Fundamentally, I love this ensemble as an ensemble, working together to put on a great show. I’ve seen people from one number join the next number in the middle because of a difficult costume change. I’ve seen people cover for one another, help the person next to them up after a fall, etc. To me, it’s evidence of an esprit de corps that no doubt helps explain the quality of these performances, though the principal explanation of the quality – besides the talents of those on stage – lies in the professional training and direction these young performers get from Debbie Wilson (Director/Choreographer) and Jennifer Wittmayer (Vocal Director).
The only thing that surprises me more than the talent on display at these shows is the fact that thousands of people from the greater Sacramento area aren’t clamoring to attend, selling these shows out and forcing multiple performances. Those of us who are regulars agree: it’s one of the best shows in town.