There are many, many stories from World War II, some heroic, some horrific, but in my opinion few can match "Cabaret" for allowing us to see the formation and motivation behind the unthinkable idea of good people doing nothing.
The infamous Kit-Kat Club in the heart of Berlin is the home of a cast of shady characters led by the outstanding Nathan Lee Graham. Mr. Graham somehow conveys an eerily clown-like persona while at the same time, often dropping his jolly act to allow us to see the frightening creature behind it. His character, Emcee, is the stuff of which nightmares are made. Emcee is the “house manager” of the cabaret along with his silent and sinister partner, Max played by Timothy Hughes. Max is creepy just moving around the stage.
The Club’s main attraction is the cloyingly sophisticated Sally Bowles. Liz Pearce is Sally, a singer/hostess who flirts and giggles her way through life hoping to separate the male patrons from their wallets. She has ambition but no plan; she has talent but no drive. She doesn’t care what is happening in her city and to her neighbors as long as she can have a good time.
Young idealist Cliff Bradshaw stumbles across the Club one New Year’s Eve and is instantly captivated by Sally. Cliff, played by Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, is trying to be a novelist and thinks perhaps Berlin will give him the inspiration he seeks. They fall into a doomed relationship.
Equally doomed are Fraulein Schneider and her suitor, Herr Schultz played by veteran actors Mary Gordon Murray and Michael Marotta. Their scenes are tender and evocative, showing the excitement of discovering and losing love later in life. Both have astounding voices, full and rich and emotional. In my opinion theirs is the most tragic of the two love stories.
But don’t think for a minute this musical is a downer. It is loud and raucous and filled with some of the most talented dancers you’ll ever see. The music takes on a new life thanks to Music Supervisor Christy Crowl and the talents of the Cabaret All Girls Band.
The ensemble cast is wonderful. Singing, dancing, engaging us, they never missed a step or a note that I could catch. Their energy and talent light up the stage.
Notable also are Dana Winkle as Fraulein Kost, a young lady with a preponderance of male “relatives”; all the Kit Kat Girls, Bradley Benjamin, Angelica Richie, the aforementioned Dana Winkle, and Jolina Javier; Blake Ellis as the slimy, smiling smuggler Ernst Ludwig; and the talented waiters and German sailors who sing and dance and are easy on the eyes.
Scenic Designer Michael Shweikardt has created a dazzling set and Lighting Designer John Lasiter surprised us several times, and the costumes by Angela Wendt are not to be missed.
My measure for a play or musical is: “Do I feel like I’m in a theatre or can I loose myself in the production?” I didn’t move until intermission.
"Cabaret" continues through October 6th. For more information: repstl.org.