On the evening of Oct. 25, the Hinman Production Company (HPC) hosted its second-ever virtual cabaret, “Broadway’s Darkside.” Originally founded in 1979 as “The Hinman Little Theater,” the completely student-run HPC is one of Binghamton University’s most widely renowned theatre groups.
COVID-19 has changed many facets of life, including theatre. Nevertheless, the group’s shift from the traditional to the virtual stage serves as an ode to the most famous showbiz quotes of all: The show must go on!
The event was hosted on YouTube, with the site’s “Premiere” function allowing audience members to react to the performances in real-time. Things kicked off with a brief, warm welcome from Sydney Perruzza, a senior majoring in psychology and HPC’s event coordinator.
Some performances epitomized our most well-established, “evil” notion of villains. Among these were Eliana Sastow, an undeclared freshman, who sang “Evil Like Me” as Maleficent from “Descendants.” Morgan Orzeck, a sophomore majoring in psychology, sang a rendition of “All Falls Down” as Hedda Hopper from “Chaplin.” Nicole Fauci, a sophomore majoring in theatre, told the nightmarish scary story of a prom gone very wrong in her chilling performance of “The Ballad of Sarah Berry” from “35MM: A Musical Exhibition.” Katherine Quinn, a sophomore majoring in English, did not hesitate to go full Ursula in her performance of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” from “The Little Mermaid,” batting her violet eyelashes and displaying pelagic props.
Other students explored the descent into madness, such as Joshua Curry, a sophomore majoring in human development, who performed “Alive (Reprise)” from “Jekyll & Hyde.” His widened eyes and crazed grin evinced an unhinged alternate personality’s sense of maniacal joy. Dani Collins, a junior majoring in English, took a different approach to this same idea with “The Mad Hatter” from “Wonderland,” a jazzier, up-tempo piece certain to get the audiences’ hearts racing right along with the pulsing hi-hats and fast-paced vocal runs.
Yet other students demonstrated other, unconventional aspects of villains such as their funnier sides. Nick Erb, a senior majoring in business administration, performed “Freeze Your Brain” as J.D. from “Heathers the Musical,” a song centered around a 7-Eleven slushy, with the memorable line “Happiness comes / when everything numbs / who needs cocaine?” perfectly accented by a swift gesture to his nose. Parker Chafetz, a senior majoring in psychology, dazzled as King George from “Hamilton” with his rendition of “You’ll Be Back” wrapped in his blanket as a royal robe. The subtitles amplified the already-comical lyrics for an awesome performance worth laughing out loud.
Also defying our conventional idea of a “villain,” but portraying a different George, was Perruzza’s own rendition of Regina George’s “Someone Gets Hurt” from the show Mean Girls, sporting Regina’s infamous pink attire. Jamie Berger, a junior majoring in psychology, performed “Dear Theodosia” from “Hamilton” which also gave her villain, Aaron Burr, a rounder characterization — the sweet ballad let the audience see another, non-dueling side of Burr.
While all the performances were truly stellar, there nevertheless seemed to be a few audience favorites. The first of these was Allison Sanel’s, an undeclared freshman, performance of “Mother Knows Best” as Mother Gothel from the Disney movie “Tangled.” Sanel conveyed the suspenseful, underlying motive beneath the lyrics which, at first glance, may appear to reflect nothing but a mother’s standard protective tendencies. Her voice and facial expressions constituted an overall performance that demonstrated inarguable talent.
“I kinda only chose Mother Gothel because I watched Tangled a few weeks ago and the song was stuck in my head,” Sanel said.
Maggie Koekkoek, Student Association (SA) executive vice president and a senior majoring in biomedical engineering, Tessa Livingston, a senior majoring in integrative neuroscience, and Amram Zeitchik, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering, portrayed characters known as “The Cheerios” from the television show “Glee.” The seniors acted as Quinn, Brittany and Santana, respectively. The three employed costumes, choreography, dialogue and scene changes in their performance. This fun was not exclusive to the performers, however. The new level of production allowed the fun to diffuse to the audience as well, making it feel like an actual show.
“We had purchased the costumes for Halloween, so we thought learning the dance and performing it would be a really fun way to get involved in cabaret,” Zeitchick said.
Julianne Darden, a sophomore double-majoring in theatre and sociology, gave a noteworthy, poignant performance of “Hellfire” as Judge Frollo from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Her beautiful voice raised every hair of the audience, even through the screen.
“I picked Frollo because he has to be, in my opinion, the most underrated Disney villain there is,” Darden said. “His character is so incredibly complex and I definitely wanted to challenge myself acting-wise to see how I’d be able to portray him.”