In the depths of Berlin, you will find the Kit Kat Club where, once you leave your troubles at the door, you might find yourself having the time of your life.
Opened in 1966, ‘Cabaret’ is a musical based on Christopher Isherwood’s ‘Berlin Stories’ and John Van Druten’s ‘I Am a Camera.’ The music and lyrics of ‘Cabaret’ are by the legendary duo John Kander and Fred Ebb, who are also responsible for the music and lyrics of ‘Chicago.’
‘Cabaret’ is set in Berlin, Germany, right before Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power.
Clifford Bradshaw (Sean Spann), a starving American writer, comes to Berlin and finds lodging, despite his empty pockets, from Fraulein Schneider (Sasha Harris). Not only does he find cheap lodging but he also finds Sally Bowles (Rebecca Tourino), the nightly star of the Kit Kat Club.
Fraulein, an the elderly landlady, is not without her own excitement, as she is being courted by Herr Schultz (Michael Morgan), who happens to be Jewish.
Both couples plan for the future but soon find that life isn’t always a cabaret, as the political situation with the Nazi Party soon comes in to crush their illusions.
From the beginning of the musical, the audience doesn’t even think about the political situation of the time, as they find themselves in a dark, smoky nightclub with scantily clad Kit Kat dancers, who lure us with their catcalls.
The stage is strategically and artistically well done with elevated platforms for dancers and sliding mobile platforms that switch the focus from the dim nightclub to brighter areas, such as Bradshaw’s room.
This is one musical where you will not find the orchestra in the pit, but rather on an elevated platform on stage to serve as the Kit Kat Orchestra, where even the musicians are in costume.
Immediately in the first number, ‘Willkommen,’ you know that this is going to be an entertaining musical which will hold almost anyone’s attention. It is also in this first number that we meet all the alluring dancers of the Kit Kat Club and the emcee (Louie Carazo).
Carazo, a talented actor who is not afraid to let go of all inhibitions, does an exceptional job portraying the bisexual emcee.
With ‘Don’t Tell Mama,’ we get the first real taste of the musical’s dancing as Tourino leads the other Kit Kat Girls in the number. The choreography is well suited for the jazzy nightclub style of the musical, and is also extremely reminiscent of the style of well-known choreographer Bob Fosse, who choreographed the film version of ‘Cabaret’ in 1972, starring Liza Minnelli.
Tourino’s portrayal of Sally Bowles is also commendable, including her singing and dancing, but Spann who plays opposite Tourino, was not as successful. He didn’t seem as comfortable with his character as Tourino or Carazo.
The audience is later introduced to Harris and Morgan, who play Schneider and Schultz in the number ‘It Couldn’t Please Me More.’ Both have great chemistry together as they play a cute, innocent, elderly couple.
Their portrayals of their characters are done so well that the audience truly hopes that they are protected from any harm the political situation might inflict and that things will work out for the couple, who have lived alone for so long.
Unfortunately, by the end of the first act, Nazism and political commentary sneak into all the fun with the patriotic number ‘Tomorrow Belongs To Me,’ which the entire cast performs incredibly well.
More political commentary finds its way into into the musical with the number ‘The Money Song,’ where various Kit Kat Girls represent the future countries involved with World War II.
As we move into the second act of the musical, the plot gets heavier as the Nazi Party gets in the way of characters’ plans, but the musical numbers are still entertaining and necessary.
Emotions heighten with Harris’ performance of Schneider’s song, ‘What Would You Do?’ which reflects the feelings of hopelessness she has toward her situation.
Carazo’s emotionally charged performance of ‘I Don’t Care Much,’ followed by Tourino’s performance of ‘Cabaret,’ which grows bitter and angry toward the end of the song, both reflect the results that are to come from the Nazi Party and World War II.
The grand finale of the production, which involves the entire company, ends the way it began, except with a slight twist which definitely reminds the audience that life may be great, but it isn’t always a cabaret.
Even with such a talented cast, there is always room for improvement, one of them being foreign accents. At times, the actors would slightly slip out of their accents or forget which country they were supposed to be from.
Furthermore, perhaps this production was supposed to closely reflect the original production with the same songs, but I was somewhat disappointed with the absence of ‘Maybe This Time,’ which I have always regarded as Sally Bowles’ anthem.
Even so, ‘Cabaret’ was extremely entertaining with its song and dance, and sexy as well as comical without lacking realism. Leave your troubles and inhibitions at the door and join the cabaret!
‘Cabaret’ will continue running with shows at 8 p.m. from Sept. 17 to 20 and matinee at 2 p.m. on Sept. 20 at the Claire Trevor Theatre.