‘Cruise Ship’ musical finds a new port

ROCHESTER — How will “My Post-Traumatic Cruise Ship Cabaret” make its way to the bright lights of New York City? With a landing in Rochester, Vt., of course.
During its sold-out premiere at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater last spring, this cabaret-style musical was called “ridiculously fun, funny and sometimes touching” by the Times Argus. The review declared Vanessa Dunleavy, the show’s star and co-writer, “a multi-dimensional entertainer, an excellent singer in myriad styles, and a charming and witty comedienne.”
Dunleavy, who lives and performs in New York but hails from Middlebury, appears with one of Vermont’s busiest and best-loved bands, The Grift. The band not only composed the music but also makes its professional acting debut as a trio of musical exiles from the former Soviet Republic of Belarus.
“The Fleeing Boroshenko Brothers” may not speak English, but they keep a watchful eye over Vivi, their off-kilter leading lady who has made it her mission to create a cruise ship cabaret that truly matters.
“We had a hometown hit,” says playwright Dana Yeaton, whose last musical, “Swing State,” was a featured production at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. “But before we put this in front of potential backers in New York,” Yeaton says, “we have to know what strangers make of it.”
So Yeaton contacted friends in the White River Valley Players about presenting the show in Rochester, where it will run for three performances Jan. 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m., and Jan. 10 at 2 p.m.
To prepare for its next journey, “Cruise Ship” has acquired a new captain, New York director Guy Stroman. Stroman is perhaps best known as a creator of the Broadway hit “Forever Plaid,” a show he has now directed dozens of times.
With Stroman at the helm, the show has been retooled with new songs, new arrangements, and a stripped down storyline.
“This play represents what I love about theater,” says Stroman. “Here we have a naïve, young actress trying to make the most of her recent injury by turning it into a show that will not only save her, but all the other lost souls in a cruise ship bar at 2 a.m. It’s such a brave and terrible idea.”
The White River Valley Players are no strangers to producing original musicals; in fact, their most recent work, “Ransom,” toured to the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph and Town Hall Theater in Middlebury. Still, “My Post-Traumatic Cruise Ship Cabaret” will be their first experience presenting professional work.
“My Post-Traumatic Cruise Ship Cabaret” will be performed next month in the Rochester High School Auditorium, Route 100 South. Advance tickets ($16) are available online at whiterivervalleyplayers.org and in person at the White River Credit Union.
For more information, contact Virginia Scott Bowman at 802-767-3174, ext. 131, or [email protected].

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