Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Cabaret"

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note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Larry Stark


Book by Joe Masteroff
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Music by John Kander

Directed byJames Tallach
Choreography by Linda Sughrue
Musical Direction by Juri Panda Jones

Executive Producer Christopher Teague
Assistant Artistic Director Michelle M. Williams
Artistic Director Robert Case
Costume Design by Kimmerie H. O. Jones
Set Design by Waker von Berg
Lighting Design by John MacKenzie
Tech Crew Kristen Huberdeau, Matt Laurenza
Dance Captains Donald Gregorio, Julie Ann Silverman
Stage Manager Erica Gustafson

Emcee.................Michael Letch
Sally Bowles...........Tracy Nygard
Clifford Bradshaw.......Robert Case
Fraulein Schneider...Mary O'Donnell
Herr Shultz...........Harry Rothman
Ernst Ludwig............Adam Riccio
Fraulein Kost....Meredith Stypinski

The Kit Kat Dancers

Bobby.........John Farchione
Victor.......Donald Gregorio
Hilda............Lauren Hall
Klaus..............Gary Ryan
Heidi....Julie Ann Silverman
Elsa............Monica Stein
Gretel......Kimberly Suskind
Kat..........Rydia Q Vielehr
Texas...Kerri Nichole Wilson

Piano/Conductor...............Juri Panda Jones
Guitar/Keyboard...................Chris Takita
Synthesizer/2nd Keyboard....Ai Isshiki Higgins
Bass.............................Jon Hindmarsh
Drums...............................Ryan Jones

Fen you go to the Cambridge YMCA's Durrell Hall, MeDamen und Herren [TRANS: Ladiess und Chentlemen], leaf your preconceptions Outside! Forget Liza's movie, forget Lotte Lenya, forget every happy-time "Cabaret" you have effer seen. In here, all is Zerious! The characters are Zerious. Effen the Zex, is Zerious. You don't be-leaf me? Just ask Herr Tallach the Director! And if you don't zink these Girls are zerious --- Chust ask ze Boys!!!

In here, it is Berlin, the 1930s are beginning, and the world is falling apart. Nazis are winning elections, and a man who wrote a book in prison is standing on soap-boxes trying to make his fiction a reality. In the Kit-Kat-Club maybe all is glitter and giggling and girls and songs dropped in so Kander & Ebb can let Joe Masteroff's (and Christopher Isherwood's) people express their hopes for the candle of love in tornadoes of time.

Two different couples get engaged here. (Maybe two and a fraction; It's true that Meredith Stypinski's Fraulein Kost may never marry a sailor, though she does "get engaged" to several --- every evening!) Two of them are born in Germany but unmarried for years --- but would Fraulein Schneider (a self-proclaimed "survivor") actually marry a Jew at this time? Love, and pineapples, are one thing, but....

And then there's that English girl, singing in her scanties at the Kit-Kat-Club and keeping an American novellist from his typewriter. They may not have planned to marry, or to start a family, but she's been living in his one-bed room longer than she has with anyone else (except maybe Elsie), and it Is the early '30s and love and sex seem to start at different times these days. But they'd probably have to leave Berlin, wouldn't they, and she'd have to leave the Kit-Kat-Club almost certainly...

James Tallach --- he's that director, remember? --- has made these, and others, people you can Care about. Mary O'Donnell's Fraulein Schneider and Harry Rothman's Herr Shultz make a hesitantly hoping couple, Adam Riccio in Ernst Ludwig's long-lapelled suit (Thank you Kimmerlie H.O. Jones!) seems a serious, prosperous, busily smuggling businessman, till the swastika appears. And they aren't singers who act occasionally; these are actors who continue to act when they sing. It makes a difference. (And there are lots of quick cameo-roles. Gary Ryan in quick new costumes must play three of them in the first five minutes of the show!) And choristers of either sex are sizzlingly wicked in Linda Sughrue's dances.

Much of the acting centers on three people. First, Robert Case as the novelist is point-of-view character --- new to the city, ready to be swept along with the bubbly good-time crowd his singer/girlfriend introduces him to. However he has the moral center for the play, he's the only one aware that to ignore the Nazis is to join them. His arguments with Sally, his growing contempt for Ernst Ludwig, grow more heated throughout the play.

Then there is the bouncy, wickedly witty Encee, played by Michael Letch in breakaway trousers and (sorry for the pun) lecherous face-paint. He is not just an Emcee, but what was called in the American Katskills about that time a "tummler" --- a person paid to create tumult, to shake everything up and make things happen, a pied-piper of fun. [Danny Kaye started as a tummler. Honest!] His songs and jokes and comments pepper the action with sardonic glee, and whoever his follow-spot operator is certainly has talent.

Lighting is by John MacKenzie i.e., flawless; and Waker von Berg has designed a set that opens like a book of memories --- on stage-left to make a cramped bedroom, on stage-right to make a living-room, on both sides to make a party, and folded up to make The Kit-Kat-Club!

Ah, but of course it's Fraulein Sally Bowles everyone reall comes to see, and hear, isn't it? Tracy Nygard can make you forget every Sally Bowles you've ever seen. She's not as young an agile as the Kit-Kat Cuties, but her Sally is clinging to the only life that has ever made her happy --- even, as the narration points out, as the world is falling apart all around it, and around her. The finale-number "Come to the Cabaret!" in this production is not a joyous paean of praise for triumphant glitter and tinsel, but a trembling admission that, for all its hollowness, she has nothing else.

It's hard to believe that anyone could kick the beJesus out of this old warhorse and make it new again, but that's exactly what The Metro Stage Company has done. There are only two week-ends for you to get tickets, but they'll go fast --- and you can't sit in half the balcony because Juri Panda Jones put the damn BAND up there, where its rhythms are insidious! Get your order in now, before this whole damned Weimar world falls to flinders.

( a k a larry stark)

"Cabaret (7 - 15 September)
@ Durrell Hall, Cambridge YMCA, 820 Massachusetts Avenue, CAMBRIDGE MA
1 (617)524-5013

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