Set in pre-World War II Berlin, Kander and Ebb's Cabaret brings the audience into the world of Berlin's cabarets, the rise of the Nazi party, and a sweet and touching love story featuring two misfits who find acceptance within each other. The musical begins with an opening number by the show's emcee, played quite seriously by Travis Pfeifer. Pfeifer's overall performance was fair, although he definitely felt more at ease with the drama and seriousness of Act II over the decadence and frolicking of Act I. His character came alive as the show neared its end, making me wish there were an Act III in which to really see Pfeifer at his best. The free-spirited and enticing Sally Bowles was played with enthusiasm and gusto by Caitlin Mickey, who stole the show with her strong voice, emotional facial expressions, and dramatic physicality. Mickey's beautiful voice was matched only by the voice of Judith MacDonald, who deserves kudos for her portrayal of Fraulein Schneider. MacDonald's voice filled the theater with its warmth and bravado, and her physical comedy added wit and ease to the first few scenes.
Despite several strong performances, this production was lacking in many areas. The entire first scene was plagued with sound trouble. The rustling of the microphones were not only distracting, but was like fingernails on a chalk board, making it difficult to focus on anything else. The choreography was strong, but the female Cabaret dancers had difficulty staying together in their numbers. Their facial expressions as a whole often appeared as though they were not sure where they were or what they were supposed to be doing. Finally, I must reiterate that there were no programs. I would love to commend the excellent band, the set designer, or the costumes, but I wouldn't know whom to commend.
The production grew increasingly stronger as the night progressed, and the finals scenes in Act II were the strongest of the show. Unfortunately, those strong scenes were not enough to make up for the rough beginning. Cabaret continues Thursdays thru Sundays through June 27 at the Ivory Theater. For more information, you may call 314-631-8330.