Music by John Kander
Directed by Dan Kelley
“Come Hear the Music Play…”
The audience rose, as one, at the stunning conclusion of this superb production, to bestow a well-deserved standing ovation. This revival of the 1966 musical, on which the famous 1972 award-winning film was loosely based, is a highly satisfying, moving experience both for those who have, and for those who may not have seen Joel Grey, Michael York and Liza Minnelli on the big screen.
Cabaret on stage is a different — but equally provocative and exciting — experience from the celebrated, somewhat sanitized, film. Even before the play opens — as tall, willowy showgirls from the seedy Kit Kat Klub, garbed in colorful kimonos, leisurely stroll the boards — stretching and exercising as they spread their limbs — the mood is immediately and excitingly more tawdry and vulgar. Throughout the Klub routines, the carnal gestures are appropriately lewd in this very adult presentation.
Another difference is in the placement of songs, many of which were not in the movie. In the film, all are confined to scenes at the Klub. On stage, they also weave into the lives of the characters — to explain and elaborate relationships. In both versions, the grotesque, yet magnetizing routines at the Klub play out against the darker side of what is happening off stage in the real world.
The plot is based on the somewhat autobiographic 1939 “Berlin Stories,” by Christopher Isherwood and the 1951 play “I am a Camera,” adapted from the same book. Briefly, innocent bi-sexual, would-be author Cliff Bradshaw (Pierre Tannous), visits decadent Berlin in the 1931, the days of the Weimar Republic. There, he meets and is seduced by fascinating cafe signer Sally Bowles (played by charismatic Katie Amadeo), whom he impregnates, and befriended by charming, neo Nazi Ernst Ludwig (Ben Prayz). Both open his eyes to unpleasant realities, and he will ultimately leave Berlin much sadder but also wiser for knowing them.
A touching relationship between his elderly landlady, Fraulein Schneider (Elissa Solomon) and the Jewish owner of a nearby fruit store, Herr Schultz (Michael Small), parallels and underscores the younger couple’s ill-fated romance.
Holding everything together is the wonderful Emcee played by Ronen Bay with as much verve and skill as Joel Grey gave to the film. Bay is exceptional, and for this reviewer sitting in this Florida theater, a certain satisfaction lies in learning that he graduated Summa Cum Laude from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He is well worth watching as he exudes decadence with every gesture, every nuance.
Kudos to director/costume designer Dan Kelly, choreographer Ben Solmor, and to the large and skilled — 17-member — cast which never misses a beat and does justice to Kander and Ebb’s songs which are just as wonderful — and chilling — as they were the day they were written. These include “Willkommen,” “Mein Herr,” “Two Ladies,” “Money,” “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” and — of course — the one that reflects the theme of the show — “Cabaret” — with its plaintive cry:
What good is sitting alone in your room?
Come hear the music play.
Life is a Cabaret, old chum,
Come to the Cabaret.
Beverly Friend, PhD.
Member, American Theater Critics Assn.
Broward Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Coral Springs, Fl 33065. 954-344-7765 Tickets $38-42, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, through March 15