Review: The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier (Permoveo Productions)

| September 10, 2017

Katherine Condit as and Delia Kropp star as Old Albert and Nurse in Civility of Albert Cashier, Permoveo            
      
    

The CiviliTy
  of Albert Cashier

By Jay Paul Deratany (book/lyrics),
   Joe Stevens, Keaton Wooden (music/lyrics)
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
thru Oct 15  |  tix: $40  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets    
     


    
  

Though more work needed, compelling story and strong performances make world premiere recommended

  

Billy Rude, Cameron J. Armstrong and Dani Shay star in Civility of Albert Cashier, Permoveo

    
Permoveo Productions i/a/w Pride Films and Plays presents
    
The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier

Review by Lauren Whalen

Not much is known about Albert Cashier, an Irish immigrant and Illinois resident who lost his parents as a teenager. Cashier fought in over 40 engagements in the Civil War, at one point escaping capture of the Confederate Army. When Cashier was older and experiencing dementia, medical professionals discovered the veteran was hiding a secret: Albert Cashier was born Jennifer Hodgers. Cashier was then prosecuted for impersonating a soldier. Playwright Jay Paul Deratany discovered Cashier’s story on a website devoted to historical human rights issues, and worked with composer and director Keaton Wooden, and trans composer Joe Stevens to set Albert’s story to music. Though it’s been workshopped in two different locations, The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier still feels a bit rough and unfinished. However, two incredible lead performances and a compelling story overcome some, if not all, of the musical’s faults.

Katherine Condit as and Delia Kropp star as Old Albert and Nurse in Civility of Albert Cashier, PermoveoAgain, Albert’s story is not in any history book, and details of his life are scarce. To our knowledge, Albert never married and largely lived a solitary existence after serving the Union. The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier imagines many of the key figures in Albert’s life, from his fast-talking soldier buddy Jeffrey (Billy Rude) to a sadistic nurse (trans actress Delia Kropp) who oversees Albert’s care after a car accident. Albert himself is portrayed by two performers: Katherine Condit plays Albert as an old man in 1914, and Dani Shay portrays Albert as a young soldier with a secret. Shay, a nonbinary trans performer and activist, is best known for their stints on “America’s Got Talent and “The Glee Project 2,” and their nonprofit organization Be More Heroic.

Albert Cashier’s story is both incredible and remarkable, and should be told anywhere and everywhere. It’s clearly a passion project for Deratany, Stevens, Wooden and everyone involved. The production is lovely in many ways, with a gorgeous score that boasts mostly original songs intermixed with historical tunes from the Civil War. Choreographer Derek Van Barham crafts excellent battle sequences, and G. “Max” Maxin IV’s projection design is a haunting backdrop to the story, with real-life images of Illinois towns and various battlefields, as well as Albert himself. Both Condit and Shay are phenomenal as the complex, proud individual that was Albert Cashier; Shay in particular has the vocal stylings of a celestial being.

Chuck Quinn IV, Cameron J. Armstrong, Billy Rude, Dani Shay, Josiah Robinson and Roy SamraDani Shay and Katherine Condit star as Young Albert and Old Albert in Civility of Albert Cashier

Though Albert Cashier has many strengths, it has an equal amount of weaknesses. While Van Barham’s battle staging is strong, his group number choreography is reminiscent of high school show choir. Albert’s dementia, very prominent in the first act, seems to disappear completely in the second. Rude is a sweet and charming Jeffrey, but I do wish the director had worked with the actor on diction, because at times he’s very hard to understand. And while I appreciate the inclusion of a soldier of color, and actor Cameron Armstrong is fantastic, the character’s storyline is very paint-by-numbers and cliché. Ditto Kropp’s nurse, who is written as such a cartoon villain that it’s difficult to take her seriously. Finally, the production is about half an hour too long, with several songs that could easily be cut without detracting from Albert’s story.

The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier has the bones of a solid production: a sad but compelling true story, dynamic lead performers and a beautiful score. However, it still feels like a work-in-progress, and hopefully the necessary changes will be made. Despite its flaws, The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier is well worth your time: in light of the Trump administration’s active discrimination against trans members of the military, Albert’s story is more vital than ever.

  
Rating: ★★★
  

The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier continues through October 15th at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map), with performances Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7pm, Fridays and Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 4pm.  Tickets are $40, and are available by phone (773-327-5252) or online through Stage773.com (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at AlbertCashierTheMusical.com(Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes, includes an intermission)

Dani Shay stars as Old Albert in The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier, Permoveo Productions

Photos by Cole Simon


  

artists

cast

Dani Shay (Young Albert), Katherine Condit (Old Albert), Delia Kropp (Nurse), Billy Rude (Jeffrey), Cameron Armstrong (Walter), Chuck Quinn IV (Billy), Gabriel Fries (Collins, Kirby), Jordan Dell Harris (Joe, u/s Jeffrey), Jonathan Stombres (John, Confederate Soldier), Roy Samra (Bugle Boy, Ensemble, u/s Billy and John), Josiah Robinson (Hearing Officer, Ensemble, u/s Joe and Collins/Kirby), Laura Ebsworth (u/s Old Albert, Young Albert and Nurse), Curtis Bannister (u/s Walter), Wesley Dean Tucker (Swing)

band

Jon Schneidman (piano, conductor), Hillary Bayley (fiddle), Will Gumbiner (upright bass), Joe Stevens (guitar), Connor Zagrans (drums)

behind the scenes

Keaton Wooden (director, creative producer, co-composer), Jay Paul Deratany (writer, lead producer), Derek Van Barham (choreographer), Jon Schneidman (musical director), Jeremy Hollis (scenic design), Uriel Gómez (costume design), musa “hex” bouderdaben (lighting design), G. “Max” Maxin IV (projections design), Alexa Borden (orchestrations), Joe Palermo (sound design), Christopher Pazdernik (associate producer), Kevin Spellman (general manager), Mary Zanger (production stage manager), Tim Smith (business manager), Robert J. Ulrich (casting director, producer), Tim Smith (marketing, sales manager), David Zak (creative consulting producer), Manny Ortiz (technical director), Collin Henlou (lighting design consultant), Jennifer Kules (production consultant), Melissa Kay Hunter (props assistant), Molly Weaver (asst. stage manager, house manager), Shain Longbehn (asst. music director), Zachary Stinnett (sound engineer), Christopher Young (asst. choreographer), Anna Aguiar Kosicki (asst. director), Cole Simon (asst. director, photos)

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Category: 2017 Reviews, Lauren Whalen, Musical, New Work, Pride Films and Plays, Stage 773, Video, World Premier, YouTube

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