"If you had no budget restraints, what type of show would you put together to spotlight your talents?"
That is one of the questions I always ask each cast member at the dinners I sponsor on cruises. It is designed to ferret out how the performer views his or her best talent -- and to determine what type of dreams they have for their careers.
Last Monday (casting bread on the water), I asked that question, and received some not very surprising answers. But I received no hint that my question would actually be acted out on the ship's stage yesterday afternoon.
Three members of the cast put on a show for us. And not a regular show.
Most of the production numbers on board have been constructed far from the ship, and the cast are assigned roles. They play parts imagined by people divorced from the cast's individuality.
For "Unscripted," two dancers and one singer chose material that showcased their special skills. And each hit a home run.
Laura Mellin is an attractive redhead from Wales. During the first production show, I noticed she had an interesting combination of classically-trained skills mixed with contemporary dance moves.
She brought that same combination to her jazzy, but balletic, number yesterday afternoon. The sea was a bit rough, but she performed each step with the type of athletic grace that good dancers possess.
The kid knows his moves. And he knows how to hook an audience. His "aw shucks" onstage persona is a cross between Jimmy Stewart and Bill Clinton. To every grandparent in the audience, he was the grandson they wished they had.
Having grabbed the audience's sentiment, he won their praise with tap number after tap number that helped restore some of the vaudeville-tarnished image of the art form. His rhythm challenge with the orchestra's drummer was a class act.
And then there was Melanie Lewin. She is the cast's lead female singer, and has won over most of the passengers with her fluid and wide-ranging voice.
Yesterday, she shone with a Dusty Springfield medley and a Whitney Huston finale. The danger of performing music so closely associated with another singer is that the performance often wanders off into either a voice impression or a parody.
Melanie escaped that trap by making each of the songs her own. Twisting and teasing them into something that was distinct to her personality.
The fact that she makes an almost Robin Wright stunning appearance on stage simply complements the richness of her voice.
This cruise is almost over. Usually, I am sad to see the cruise nearing its end. Not so before yesterday's show. I would have been happy if the cruise terminated at noon. I was cruised out.
"Unscripted" literally added a bit of zest back into my step. I am now looking forward to the cast's last production show on Sunday night.
Then, the cruise can end.