Review: 'City Lights' a hit in the making

01:36 PM, Mar 25, 2013

Mark Bradley Miller, Nicolette Hart, Tom Deckman and Grace Wall star in the revue 'City Lights' at Downstairs Cabaret Theatre. (Photo provided by DCT)/

Written By Debbie Waltzer

Opening night of Downstairs Cabaret Theatre’s City Lights started out bumpy. The theater’s producting director Chris Kawolsky had just begun his welcome speech to the audience on Saturday when the fire alarm went off and everyone had to evacuate the building.

The culprit was the fog machine, and the audience of nearly 200 was back inside within 10 minutes.

Without any more technical issues, the show started — and what a show it was.

City Lights is an original musical revue, conceived and created by Nicolette Hart, a 1992 Penfield High School graduate who has found success on Broadway and national tours (she played Maureen in the 2009 production of Rent that hit Rochester), and Joey Murray, a Manhattan-based stage director.

Through nearly 30 songs performed by Hart and three fellow performers — fellow Rochesterians Tom Deckman and Mark Bradley Miller and Californian Grace Wall — the show depicts the lure of New York for aspiring actors and singers, juxtaposed with the tug for the comforts of home, wherever that may be.

Deckman had an adorable rendition of “When You’re Good to Mama” from Chicago, complete with a hot-pink boa. Wall peformed a sultry version of “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret. Miller sang a soothing “Autumn in New York,” made famous by Billie Holliday. And Hart gave a powerful delivery of “The Money Tree” from The Act by composers Kander and Ebb.

Powerful four-part pieces included a well-harmonized version of “Now You’re In New York,” by Alicia Keys, and a hilarious take on “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago, with original lyrics that shout out to Wegmans, Kim Kardashian and Facebook.

Specific observations: Hart is magnificent, one of the best this reviewer has watched. Deckman has a precious and expressive face, and wholly fills the stage, despite his diminutive physical stature. Miller has a sweet voice; thankfully, he was allowed to transition from an overload of ballads during Act One to more powerful numbers during the second act. Wall’s voice is strong, yet she seems to lack confidence as an actor. My advice to her would be to loosen up and let go. Your body’s energy would no doubt rise.

Two areas for improvement: The actors need to spend more practice time on the four-part pieces so that intonation will be tighter. And someone needs to give DCT some money for a better sound system.

City Lights is a hit. Go see it.