Kat Robichaud’s Misfit Cabaret presents Horror! (photo: Patric Carver)
Once again, Kat Robichaud’s Misfit Cabaret brought a combined feeling of family and freak show to the stage at the Great Star Theater in Chinatown last weekend. Before the show, costumed audience members discussed their involvement in Kat’s productions.
“Yeah, that’s my bedroom,” said a woman dressed as Charlie Chaplin, using her cigar to point to a poster for Horror!, the evening’s event.
“Oh, yeah?” You remember the Whimsea show? That’s my tub. The picture for that was shot in my bathroom.”
Volunteers showed people to their seats, recognizing familiar faces who had been to previous Robichaud productions, bartenders remarked on audience members’ new haircuts, and friends gathered together in knowing anticipation of a good show. Newcomers were warmly embraced by regulars. “Oh, it’s your first show?” said a woman wearing a black poodle skirt and pumpkin applique top to a Wednesday Addams looking for the restroom. “Sugar, you are in for a treat!”
The set design had a community connection as well, constructed completely from pieces made by Hillsdale High School AP Art students under the guidance of educator Cindy Lynch. All of the pieces were impressive feats, creating the perfect backdrop for Robichaud’s misfits to run amok. I was particularly impressed by a piece displaying an eerie butcher shop named Fleet Street Meats. Like all of Misfit Cabaret’s productions, there was a detailed-oriented obsessiveness to the set that I appreciated. Everything was perfect for the show.
Last year, Misfit Cabaret’s Halloween show, A Very Bloody Misfit Cabaret, focused more on the coagulant-deficient supernatural, featuring homages to films such as Carrie. This year’s production, Horror!, was decidedly more in tune with the likes of King and Hitchcock. It focused more on the slash and gore that has an element of realism – the monsters that walk among us. In true cabaret style, this heady topic was frothed with levity; jokes made with every knife wound. Robichaud began the show with a brilliant cold open in the style of Scream, in which the ecru-sweatered heroine answers the wrong phone call amid making popcorn. Robichaud conjures up that original feeling of terror while peppering in jokes about Tinder, and then runs slow-motion style from the killer as the Chariots of Fire theme plays in the background. No joke runs too long, and nothing is too obscure or too banal. The humor is right in that sweet spot.
The killer was revealed to the Brendan Getzell, keyboard accompanist, music director of the Misfits, and straight-man sidekick to Robichaud. His transition from knife-wielding murdering to tickling the ivories was one of the most seamless and satisfying opening I’ve seen to a live show. Getzell always does great work with Robichaud, but his star seemed to shine a little brighter in this performance, which included a highly satisfying original piece of his. A modern work of vaudeville, Getzell sang this delightfully twisting song as members of Fou Fou Ha! danced as bewitching clown zombies. It was charming; enchanting. It was good to see Getzell having more of a presence on stage than in previous Misfit Cabaret productions.
As usual, Robichaud had assembled a thrilling cast of characters for the show. Fou Fou Ha! was integrated throughout the show playing positively possessive clowns, and Shovelman had two strange and mysterious performances. Burlesque performer JonBenet Butterbuns performed a hysterical tribute to the ill-fated Marion Crane from Psycho while Robichaud performed Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash” dressed as the epitome of momma’s boys, Norman Bates. All were impressive and entertaining.
The highlight of the show, though, was a blended act that started with drag master Johnny Rockitt playing a larger than life Marilyn-Manson-meets-Chernobyl character. The visual would be enough, with Rockitt towering over the crowd, his large frame and boots making it seem almost as if he was walking on stilts. However, Rockitt channeled a young Marilyn Manson, from his days when he seemed truly otherworldly, in the form of song. Rockitt’s voice is impressive, as is his stage presence, and he was the perfect demonic lead in for an Exorcist-themed contortion/aerialist act by Maia Adams. Adams, possessed by Rockitt’s devil music, terrorized the priestly Robichaud as she performed an original song, “What an Excellent Day for an Exorcism.” Crosses on the set actually spun as Robichaud and Adams duked it out spiritually. Robichaud’s voice sounded strong and expansive, even as she battled with the darkness. Adams’ body seemed to know no limitations. It was one of the most engaging acts I’ve seen, and I found myself literally on the edge of my seat.
The whole time, the house band, the Darling Misfits, played while their faces were encased in Jason and Hannibal Lecter masks, giving an extra eerie pall to the evening. At the conclusion of the night, Robichaud was still pumped enough to lead the crowd in an energized dance party version of “Thriller.” This was despite having danced herself though several costume changes, including a 19th-century murder victim and the troubled, moth-obsessed Buffalo Bill. Robichaud is definitely a star, but her tide is one that swells and carries all boats higher. All performers shined brightly as part of her show. Looking at the audience members dancing on stage at the conclusion of the show, it was clear that we were now shining, too.
Kat Robichaud’s Misfit Cabaret will be back at the Great Star Theater December 15 – 30 with a new show, A Very Merry Misfit Cabaret.