A Perfectly Cast “Miscast”

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// Kenya Nagisawa

On the surface, “Miscast” makes no sense  —the show’s concept is such that actors perform roles that no casting director would ever dream assigning them. By definition alone, it seems like it would be a poor gimmick. After all, there is a reason why “Cell Block Tango” is performed by a group of scorned women, and why “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” is sung with a testosterone-fueled punch. But “Miscast” rejects these stereotypical inflections entirely, instead showing that atypical voices can give these numbers the same spine-tingling feelings we know them to have.

The idea of “Miscast” comes from the annual Broadway gala of the same name. The gala has seen Jonathan Groff perform “If Mama Was Married,” from “Gypsy,” and Sierra Boggess transform into Javert from “Les Miserables.” In a similar twist of events, those in Calhoun Cabaret this weekend will witness, amongst others, Tom Stilwell ’16 become the sultry Mama Morton from “Chicago” and Christian Probst ’16 reveal his inner Elle Woods in “Some Better Thing” from “Legally Blonde.” There are few differences as stark as the ones presented in “Miscast,” and each of them are joyfully celebrated.

Frankly, I was surprised. I thought I would cringe at stereotypical renditions of Broadway classics, performed by actors who could likely never do the song justice. After all, how could I anticipate that “I’m Not that Girl” from Wicked would still bring a tear to my eye when sung by a man? Such is a nod to director Samantha Pillsbury ’15 and, ironically, her keen eye for casting: the voices seemed oddly appropriate for the roles they seek to fill.

“Miscast” is, thus, above all, a demonstration of the incredible voices present on Yale’s campus. Nine of the actors have stepped right out of the world of a cappella, with cast members coming from Whim ‘n’ Rhythm, The Duke’s Men, Mixed Company and Shades. And with that in mind, it is understandable why 90% of the show is sung. The music is the center of the show, and any dialogue is more like a commercial break for the actors.

The actors host the show, introducing each performance and providing quirky banter between scenes. Unlike a normal musical, cast members do not adopt a specific role, instead telling off-the-cuff, comedic anecdotes. We are left to guess how much of them are true, leading me to believe that it would be funnier to watch this if you knew each cast member individually. While Pillsbury succeeds in the difficult job of showing how the songs chosen differ from the cast members singing them, the seemingly unscripted musings of the actors provide some useful explanation as to why the show is so “Miscast.”

“Miscast,” ultimately, defies its very premise. Rather than being faced with a random assortment of both singers and songs, we are presented with something far more thoughtful and intelligent. The show strikes a compelling balance between exaggerating the “miscast” aspect of the song and staying true to its original spirit. The overall production of each song captures the essence of what would be expected from a sophisticated musical chorus—consequently, the show moves from being a simple cabaret evening to a distinguished show from the Yale Drama Coalition.

So, for those of you lucky enough to be holding a reservation, be sure to use it. “Miscast” will make you laugh out loud, warm your heart, and let you believe in the fantasy we all have — that we do not have to do, or be, what everyone tells us to.

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