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Saturday, 05 July 2008 19:00

Cabaret

Written by Chris Gibson
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Cole Bean Bay Theatre Company

Through July 6, 2008
Reviewed by Chris Gibson

Cole Bean Bay Theatre Company has a new home in Sainte Genevieve, MO. The Orris Theatre, a renovated cinema, offers a comfortably fitting and technically sound venue for the group's sophomore season. Their initial offering is a lively and successful take on Cabaret (June 19th - July 6th, 2008). Kander and Ebb's dark and cynical examination of life in Berlin prior to Hitler's ascension is solidly performed by both the cast and the musicians portraying the Kit Kat Klub house band.

Cliff Bradshaw is a struggling American writer who stumbles across Ernst Ludwig. Ernst not only directs him toward a boardinghouse, but also provides him with income via English lessons and smuggling trips to Paris. He meets Sally Bowles, an English girl singing for her supper (which consists mostly of gin) in the decadent Kit Kat Klub, and she moves in with him. Sally's discovery of her own pregnancy comes at the same time as the Nazi's rise to power. As their tale plays out we are also witness to the ill-fated engagement of landlady Fraulein Schneider to her Jewish tenant and lover, Herr Schultz. Predictably sour and sobering results occur as the Third Reich takes control.

Landon Shaw is riveting as the androgynous Emcee, guiding the audience through the action beginning with the introductory tune, "Willkommen". Shaw's portrayal relies more on Alan Cummings' approach than Joel Grey's, and it's properly outrageous and intense. "The Money Song", "Two Ladies", "If You Could See Her", and the oft-cut "I Don't Care Much" all showcase fine vocal work.

Cody Heuer is good as Cliff. He displays a nice voice, and delivers a compelling performance. More problematic is the way Joe Masteroff's book treats the character. Cliff never denies his homosexuality, even when he's confronted with it. But, he never really confirms his bi-sexuality, unless you count his plea for Sally to stay when he sings "Don't Go". It's troubling because it makes his concern over the possibility of impending fatherhood, and his attempt to dissuade Sally from getting an abortion, ring false as plot points.

Nicole Trueman-Shaw is engaging as Sally Bowles, and she gives her rendition of "Cabaret" the emotional weight necessary to make it work. An early number, "Don't Tell Mama", is given a naughty charm, while "Perfectly Marvelous" finds her duetting to good effect with Heuer.

But, the real stars of the show are Rebecca McGraw and Ed Hanson as Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, respectively. It's their story that is truly tragic because politics and hatred destroy their chance at love. McGraw is exceptional and really steals the show. She's especially strong during "So What?" and "What Would You Do", where she explains the rationale behind her rejection of Schultz's proposal. Hanson is a pitiable figure of a man as the dejected Jewish fruit grocer, Schultz. The wistful tune "Marriage" provides them with a lovely and hopeful moment to share.

A talented supporting cast includes: Charles Davis, Betsy Bauer, Cory Cunningham, Ryan McDaniel, Maggie McVey, Erin Evers, Maggie Roach, Amanda Blalock, Stephanie Caplin, Emily Pittner, Luke Bridges, Carter Baird and R.J. Magee.

Landon Shaw's direction is sharply executed with focused performances and smooth scene transitions. Shaw's scenic design is appropriately grim and expressionistic. Nicole Trueman-Shaw's choreography has the cast oozing sexuality. Eli Polofsky's lighting scheme works well with the space, and enhances the dour mood essential to this show. Dyann Rozema's costumes add a dementedly bawdy touch.

Micheal Hopewell's musical direction is excellent, with the tight ensemble skillfully maneuvering their way through Kander and Ebb's catchy score. The band consists of: Hopewell, Cory Cunningham, Amanda Blalock (who also provides vocal direction), Carter Baird, Eric Bonnell and Miranda Roth.

Cole Bean Bay Theatre Company's next production is Fiddler on the Roof (July 17th "" August 3rd, 2008) at the Orris Theatre in historic Sainte Genevieve, MO. For ticket information go online to www.colebeanbay.com.
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