Bar Harbor Times, July 5, 1990
Not the standard restaurant fare, for sure, but at the Unusual Cabaret, both the desserts and the Death they dish out are uncommonly good.
This newcomer to the Mt. Desert Island live entertainment scene is the best thing to come along the Maine Pike in a long time.
To start with, there's the dinner music - mostly 40s pop and jazz tunes, sung and played by the wait staff - all of which goes down very nicely with the excellent, if somewhat unusual, Italian cuisine.
But the real fun arrives with the coffee - or brandy. At around 10 p.m. every Wednesday through Sunday, the Unusual Cabaret players perform their own original musical play Escape From Eldorado.
Rarely has a postage-stamp-sized stage, an ancient piano and a single spotlight been put to such good use. The action ranges from a secret science lab to the destruction of ancient Pompeii - well, sort of. And director/singer/actress Gina Kaufmann and choreographer Alyson Job have neatly managed to cover this time and territory without a hitch.
Escape From Eldorado is a simple story of love, death, a beautiful but insane scientist, secret agents, a really nice angel, germ warfare, Annabelle Lee, lounge lizards, a suicidal wizard, rainbows, volcanic eruptions, musical interruptions and a rather sadistic storyteller. And yes, there are a number of fatalities. But, in the audience anyway, they all die laughing.
Any attempt at trying to describe the plot of Eldorado is futile - but it starts with this goop that looks like lime jello and ends up with peace on earth and goodwill toward mankind. The in-between stuff just has to be seen to be believed.
Suffice it to say that author Jeff Goode and composer Jon Price (with a little help from Edgar Allan Poe) are an astonishingly talented team. Their Eldorado is clever, complex, accessible and variously reminiscent of Sondheim, Webber and Rice, and the Beach Boys, while remaining throughout as fast paced and hilarious as a great Saturday Night Live skit.
Like a good SNL cast, the exuberant ensemble performance here is so well balanced it's difficult to single out individual performers - but what the heck.
Inger Hatlen's comic timing and delightful voice as Claudette are matched only by Michael Graziano as Claude, her fellow spy, who is almost as cute as Claudette and also plays a wicked sax.
Cheryl Snodgrass as the storyteller has a big beautiful voice that could fill Carnegie Hall or blow away the first row of tables if she felt like it. But she keeps all that power under marvelous control. The Pirendello-ish nightclub act of Finch and Tucker, engagingly played by Dinah Steward and John Kaufmann, make for a classy couple of musical interludes. Pasta cook (really) Craig Chesler stops the show with his haunting folk/rock ballad of Poe's Annabelle Lee and Jeff Goode is a wonderfully seductive Death. Even poor Wally (Bruce Vieira), who fatally misjudges Death's patience with sappy songs about butterflies, has a bright, albeit brief, moment upon the stage.
As if all that weren't enough, the company has two other shows in rehearsal which will eventually alternate with Escape From Eldorado. And Monday night is Open Mike Night, where visiting talents can take a turn in the limelight. A great idea, but a word of warning to possible participants: the Unusual Cabaret is a hard act to follow.