Written by Daniella Litvak
Cabaret debuted in 1967 and has endured in the public’s consciousness ever since. The original and its revivals have garnered 12 Tony Awards. It was adapted into an Oscar-winning film starring Liza Minelli and Michael York. Now it’s STAGEStheatre’s turn to utter the lines,
“There was a cabaret, and there was a master of ceremonies… and there was a city called Berlin, in a country… and it was the end of the world.”
Of course when young, American Cliff Bradshaw (Sam Kostka) comes to Berlin in 1929, he didn’t plan on witnessing the end of the world. All he wanted to do was find a cheap place to live and write his novel. Those plans get derailed when he discovers the decadent Kit Kat Klub and meets the vivacious Sally Bowles (Tatiana Alvarez). While their relationship deepens, the changing political climate is about to complicate things for Cliff, Sally, and all their Berlin friends.
Alvarez does well in the role of Sally Bowles. Although Sally may seem like nothing more than a promiscuous party girl, there is more to her than that, and Alvarez is able to convey her character’s hidden depths to the audience. Her Sally is brash, flirtatious, and –underneath the bravado –innocent. While her earlier numbers were likable, Alvarez really shines during her rendition of the title song.
Sally is a fun character and sings some of the musical’s best songs. So it’s not surprising when she becomes the face of the show. What is surprising is how peripheral she and Cliff are to the story. Not helping is the fact that the relationship between the two is ill defined. Are they a love story, a convenient arrangement, or something else entirely? Frustratingly, the show doesn’t provide answers. Equally frustrating are the uneven Vocal performances. Whenever the lyrics were in German, they came across as mumbled. However, the choreography –which includes back flips and cartwheels –is impressive.
The real heart of the show is the love story between Fraulein Schneider (Becki Daher) and Herr Schultz (Forrest Robinson). Not only are they the emotional center, but they’re also the ones who move the plot forward.
The visuals are one of the strengths of the show. The set design compliments the story. The backdrop is black most of the times. But there’s a big Cabaret sign in lights that is front and center and also gets lowered and raised quite a few times. Details like the ornate chandeliers, old-fashioned phones, and a typewriter add to the charm. On both sides of the stage are two small tables where audience members can sit, which enhanced the nightclub feel of the set. This does mean that the people seated at those tables –as well as the tables in the front row –are in for some audience participation.
Cabaret isn’t perfect. Some of the story beats felt off and there’s a severe mood whiplash at the end. But it’s also thoughtful and provocative.
August 14th – September 20th
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