Snacking on Actors 

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I can't remember the last time I had an evening of plain, old-fashioned, perfectly balanced entertainment, but "The Firehouse Theatre Cabaret" is hopefully a sign of things to come. Director Scott Wichmann and music director Ryan Corbitt put together a delightful banquet of entertainment -- a variety show of music, short plays and poetry.

It's the sort of program Richmond can use more of.

The cast consists of four actor/singers, Alia Bisharat, Jude Fageas, Lisa Kotula and Wichmann, performing with three musicians, bassist Trey Pollard, drummer CJ Wolfe and Corbitt on piano. The group creates a fine balance of serious singing with intellectual but light 10-minute plays and silliness to feed a wide audience. Wichmann is especially funny as Sir Laurence Olivier dressed in classic "Hamlet" costume and reciting the lyrics to the theme song of the hit TV show, "Diff'rent Strokes."

Fageas has natural stage presence and comedic timing that particularly shine as the nerd who turns an award ceremony into a revenge moment in Jeffrey Sweet's "The Award." Lisa Kotula is best showcased as the flaky but complicated woman in Cherie Vogelstein's "Date With a Stranger."

The showstopper, though, is Bisharat. This young actress/singer blew the audience away with her vocals and performances in various roles. Hers is a confident talent, bringing people to their feet to slow-dance to her version of "At Last," earning peals of laughter for her comic role as an ill-qualified job seeker in "Clowning Around" and shifting to a role as a tender mother in "Isabelle."

The Firehouse Cabaret is a fine way for Richmonders to see the range of local actors' talent in the course of one production. It's a variety pack on stage. S

"The Firehouse Theatre Cabaret" runs Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Firehouse Theatre Project, 1609 W. Broad St., through May 17. Tickets are $10-$25. Call 355-2001 or visit www.firehousetheatre.org.

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