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The undeniably sensually erotic Broadway classic has made its way to town! Greeting audiences with the sexy and seductive “Willkommen” number sung by that flamboyantly colorful iconic Emcee, the show begins as one should expect from a show called CABARET. While the first act remains mostly cheery, energetic and full of exotic numbers, Cabaret’s second act may find audiences in darker not-so-happy place. Regardless of structural issues stemming from the source material, this production of Cabaret is polished with a solid cast and top-notch performances.
Leaving a slightly sour taste in theatergoers mouths by lights out, those that may not know what they are getting themselves into will leave the theater scratching their heads. Cabaret is not the musical you’ll be leaving uplifted and skipping away to your car humming away to the beat of any reprise. Rather this 1966 classic invigorates non-expecting deeper thought out of an unlikely type of musical.
Originally hitting Broadway in the 60s that would later spawn to a 1972 film starring Liza Minnelli, Cabaret has been followed up by a long stint in London, Broadway revivals, and countless national tours. The shows leading lady Sally Bowles has been played several famous actress other than Minnelli including Molly Ringwald, Judi Dench, Michelle Williams and even Emma Stone. It’s safe to say there is a definite clear audience for this musical, but it’s not without some structural flaws and a difficult ending.
Taking place around 1930s Berlin, Cabaret features the carefree sexually curious side of Germany just prior to the Nazi takeover. The first half focusing heavily on an unsuccessful novelist from America and an unwanted starlet from the Kit Kat Club. When their paths meet, they are remain tied together with their need for a place to stay. Living in an old apartment-like complex owned by a stickler of a landlord, Fraulein Schneider, their stories get interwoven and convoluted with Faulein’s new love interest and the antisemite politics that struck Germany.
Strangely enough the second half of Cabaret plays vaguely familiar to the second act of The Sound of Music, which was last played here, but without the upbeat fun-loving musical numbers from Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Every musical number is well-sung and well-choreographed nearly outshining any dialogue heavy moment as the stories progression can be oddly paced, and at times rushed. At times reprises seem long and unwarranted. Sally and her unbelievable love interest, Clifford, fall for one another truly out of the blue. The love affair never felt right, although at times its meant to feel forced, it still never worked for the two characters.
Fortunately, the MC or ‘Emcee’, played by Randy Harrison (“Wicked”, TV: “Queer as Folk”), is astonishing; absolutely phenomenal. While I’ll admit I am not as familiar with any other production including the film, I cannot deny how good Randy Harrison was throughout the show. His mannerisms and well-timed humor was spot on. His eccentric style and voice holds true to that of what I know of the character. I cannot ask for it to be played any differently! Holding the entire show under his wing, the role of Emcee is absolutely vital to the overall feel of the show. This guy alone is reason enough to see this show.
It’s worth noting the Emcee’s role is crude and sexually blunt. This is not a show to take the kid and may be incredibly uncomfortable for any situation with older teens and their parents. With that being said, this unadulterated musical doesn’t hold back, and there are no qualms about that.
The production features a relatively simple set design. While lighting plays an integral role, you will find yourself staring mostly at the same scenic design through the shows entirety much like “Chicago”. The beautiful band is on display throughout the entire show and even play several characters within the show. The level of intricacy to have the these musicians leave their music chairs several times to play a part and get back to playing their instrument is impressive.
Cabaret remains hot and steamy, but takes an odd turn by intermission and escalates quickly. While the beginning makes the audience believe it will be one type of show, the latter half can come at an unwelcoming surprise for some. The performances were all astounding and for those that know the show, this is not a production to miss. I cannot knock a shows story structure that has been playing to audiences for 50 years, but I do wish that some day that the shows ending wont be so abrupt. However, now knowing a little of what to expect, Cabaret may be just the show you have been waiting for. It’s not your everyday musical.
Cabaret is playing at the Segerstorm Center for the Arts until August 21st. LGBT Night at CABARET, Friday, August 12!
More details are available on SCFTA.org.