Desert Rose Playhouse's NITE CLUB CONFIDENTIAL More Than Lived Up To My Â"High HopesÂ"
With so many theatrical offerings and special events in the desert during "high season" it is easy for a smaller production, without the benefit of a hefty marketing budget, to get a little overlooked. This seems to be the case with a little gem of a musical playing at The Desert Rose Playhouse, and it is a shame. Nite Club Confidential is a campy send up of the film noir genre set in the smoky, dimly lit night clubs of Paris, New York and Hollywood in the 1950's and the DRP's iteration is both "on point" and highly entertaining. The little playhouse just east of Palm Springs, in neighboring Rancho Mirage, is perfectly suited for this production because it, too, has the aesthetic of a smoky little Night Club. (I kept wishing they had set up the room with cocktail tables and the glow of candles upon them, because it would serve both the venue and the play very well.) The Desert Rose Playhouse is intimate, to be sure, at less than 99 seats, and it was a crime to see so many of them vacant. The cast of Nite Club Confidential deserves an audience.
Joey English is at her finest as Kay Goodman and perfectly embodies the over the top, has-been Night Club Singer who has her sights on both reviving her career and on the man that can do it for her. She was in superb voice and this was really her songbook - she can truly bring the torch to a torch song. Her "The Long Goodbye" in Act Two was a standout moment as the drunken Kay tries to reclaim her career and, in one fell swoop, her man. John Ferrare is striking and charismatic and brings some rather nuanced and necessary subtlety to his performance. He is the show's narrator and the "anchor" to the evening at hand and he has a strong command of the room. The audience always feels like they are in good hands. Ryan Dominguez and Mark Ziemann play "The High Hopes" and are both capable singers and performers. The harmonies are, for the most part, quite polished and Dominguez handles one of the most difficult solo-turns in the show, "Crazy New Words" with great aplomb. They do seem a bit uneasy and out of their element with the choreography, but it is a minor distraction. Kathy Paveo brings a lot of energy and youthful optimism to her Dorothy.
Jim Strait's staging and direction is clean and inventive and he makes great use of the small space. He is also credited with scenic and sound design and both elements support the production successfully. Musical Director Steven Smith receives kudos for guiding his actors through some very tight and difficult vocal harmonies with apparent ease. His handprint on the show's success is obvious. Phil Murphy's lighting is just right and supports the story at every turn.
Nite Club Confidential is rife with intelligent humor and has a decent score that features both original songs by creator, author and co-composer Dennis Deal, and some great standards like "That Old Black Magic", "Cloudburst", "Goody Goody" and "Something's Gotta Give". It is rarely produced and, I think, a perfect choice for this little theatre. All they need now is a few more "behinds in seats".
Nite Club Confidential plays through February 23 at The Desert Rose Playhouse in Rancho Mirage. For tickets visit www.desertroseplayhouse.org.