Steamboat Springs “Cabaret,” the annual community music and comedy review where Steamboat Springs points fun at itself, has been around for decades. In fact, at one point in this year’s edition, master of ceremonies Kris Hammond recites the vast number of business sponsors that have come and gone over the years since “Cabaret” began.
It all began in the Deport Art Center, lo those many years ago, and this year
“Cabaret” returned to its roots in that historic building on 13th Street. Although magically no trains appeared during the Friday evening performance, the Depot has a rich and storied performance tradition that this year’s “Redneck Hunger Games” restored once again.
Many past “Cabarets” have had the odd comic bit that has gone on too long or fallen flat, and there were a couple of those this year, too. But the inventiveness of the songwriting and the quality of the musical performances more than made up for the occasional weak writing. The drunken cowboy horseback attack on various downtown businesses (how exactly did that horse get up the stairs and into the Old Town Pub, anyway?) was a popular theme for two musical numbers, with Chris Walsh and Steve Jones hitting all the right notes about a news event that once again put Steamboat on the map for all the right reasons. The rap number written by Kelly Anzalone (president of the Steamboat Arts Council, which sponsors “Cabaret”) and Hammond called “Frackin’” was clever and hilariously funny, alternately poking fun at the music genre, the petroleum industry and the greed that lurks behind or under every gas- and oil-filled rock.
Among the comedy skits worthy of note were Paula Salky reliving her nights, days and afternoons with the steamy bestseller “Shades of Grey”; Hammond reviving his one-liner zipping mailman; and visiting guest artist Andy Pratt honestly answering the question “Does this outfit make me look fat?” His answer — “Big Butts” — and the irony of the question every single man in Steamboat asks, yearning to find the love of his life, were told in story and song skillfully and cleverly. John Fisher told another story of aging in graceful ignorance in his song “Senior Moments,” a particularly powerful one for me as I walked out of the house to attend the show wearing my bedroom slippers.
The closing musical number, “Steamboat Pie” — with Hammond leading the whole cast in a tribute to the only day of skiing really worth remembering in the 2011-12 season — was a fitting end to the evening’s festivities. It was a ski season to forget, but somehow this cast found a funny and emotionally touching way to put it all in perspective. Isn’t this what the Arts Council’s “Cabaret” is really all about? The shows asks us to reflect on a year of memorable events and find a way to connect with everybody in the audience at some level, hopefully offending a few stuffy shirts from time to time, and mark another year of our lives in Steamboat with all the pain, suffering and good-ole-boy plain fun that it brings.
The star of the show was the Depot itself. The facility lends all the comfort and informality a show like “Cabaret” requires (and that was missing in the plastic and modern conveniences of the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, The Steamboat Grand and the Strings Music Pavilion). All that was missing was a timely visit from one of the Denver and Rio Grande Western’s finest coal trains to come rumbling down the tracks. I am sure Hammond and company would have had an appropriate snappy comeback for even this diversion.
Stuart Handloff is a Steamboat Springs resident and the artistic director of the Great American Laughing Stock Company.