October 28, 2009
By Alan Bresloff
For those of you unfamiliar with the Silk Road Theatre Project, this is a newer theater company that showcases playwrights of Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean backgrounds that relate to the "Silk Road". Their purpose is to promote dialogue among multi-cultural audiences to entertain as well as educate along the way. The current production, which has a run far too short for a show this solid is the World Premiere of "Silk Road Cabaret: Broadway Sings The Silk Road". This marvelous 80 plus minutes of pure talent brings us some of the finest music from Broadway productions in a very intimate cabaret setting at their home located at 77 West Washington Street, the lower level of The Chicago Temple Building.
The theater has been set up with three stage areas and the seats have been replaced with small tables and chairs to give us the cabaret feeling. The music chosen, some 24 songs are done by a very solid cast of performers/singers and they weave the stories of their lives and the music they present to us. Directed by Elizabeth Margolius with a cast of seven dynamic singers, this show is far too good to only be offered to a portion of Chicago's theater audience. Someone needs to take this production by the hand and lead it to a larger venue for a greater run. Just think, music from "South Pacific," "Pacific Overtures", "Bombay Dreams", "Miss Saigon", "The King and I", "The Mikado","Chess" and many more shows that have some connection to the "Silk Road".
Jamil Khoury has put together a marvelous song book with lots of surprises and with the cast they have on board, each song has the true feeling that an audience would expect from the lyrics and music as written by the composer. Between the pieces, we are told of stories that are in fact, happenings in the lives of those on stage. They bring to us a bit of who they are and these anecdotes add something very special for those of us in the audience. We are allowed into their lives and from these stories have more feeling towards the performers and the interpretations of the songs they sing.
Gary Powell's musical direction makes the music work to perfection. For me, this was a marvelous afternoon of music. The cast is composed of favorites such as Joseph Anthony Foronda, who just won the Jeff Award as Best Performer in a Musical for his portrayal of the Engineer in "Miss Saigon," singing his "The American Dream" as no one else can. Christine Bunuan's "Something Wonderful" from "The King and I" will bring a tear to your eye. Erik Kaiko, who is more often than not seen in ensembles, gets a chance to shine in this production. Govind Kumar is a newcomer to our theater community, but an actor/singer making waves.
The charming Dipka Cherala does a wonderful rendition of "Surpanaka's Tango" from "Sita Ram". David Rhee's Broadway story is as wonderful as his "Stranger in Paradise". And the powerful Katherine L. Condit will knock your socks off with her "Life Is" from "Zorba". They are all marvelous as individuals and in harmony, which is what makes this a warm theatrical experience for all. To top off the show, what better encore than "Shalom" from "Milk and Honey"? Shalom has many meanings: Hello, Goodbye and Peace. How perfect is that for an ending (and possibly a beginning).