Florida ReviewsMUST SEEREVIEWSTom Williams

Cabaret at The Theatre at the Center

Music by John Kander.

Lyrics by Fred Ebb.

Book by Joe Masteroff.

Directed & Choreographer by Linda Fortunato.

Music direction by William Underwood.

Terrific lead players make TATC’s Cabaret an outstanding production.

Linda Fortunato’s production of Cabaret features her husband, Sean as the Kit Kat Klub’s Emcee, a bold move since we have seen Sean Fortunato in classic plays including Shakespeare and various dramatic plays. But it has been awhile since he has done a musical. But I must say that Sean is a marvelous versatile actor who gives the role of the Emcee just the right dose of dedicance, sexiness, and showmanship to become one of the most amazing Emcees I’ve seen in that role!

Linda Fortunato’s production of Cabaret an emotional edge that catapulted us back to the 1930 Kit Kat Kub of Weimar Berlin in 1930.  Featuring the rich John Kander score on Fred Ebb’s biting lyrics, Cabaret is a multi-layered musical of decadence and desperation. Based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel, Berlin Stories, Cabaret from its 1966 Broadway opening (winner of 8 Tony’s) and the 1972 film (winner of 8 Oscars) has been mounted often to varying levels of success. This production is a winner in all phases. It sings marvelously, dances well and is acted expertly.  In short, this production deserves packed houses—it is that good!

Cabaret’s opening, “Willkommen” (one of the best ever of a Broadway musical) must create the sleazy atmosphere of the 1930 Berlin club. Sean Fortunato is powerfully enticing as the Emcee. He uses the eye-popping expressions and campy style to make his Emcee the featured persona at the Klub. He welcomes us into his world. With the terrific Kit Kat Girls  and the sweet Kit Kat Boys; the Kit Kat Club has a staff of deliciously sexy performers. Linda Fortunato’s opening choreography was innovative and original.

Cabaret has two relationship stories—an American writer, Clifford Bradshaw (Patrick Tierney) who falls in love with a wild English showgirl, Sally Bowles (the fabulous Danni Smith) and an older German woman, Fraulein Schneider (Iris Lieberman) who loves a Jewish merchant, Herr Schultz (Craig Spidle). The undercurrent in Germany is the raise of the Nazis. Bradshaw is befriended by the German Ernst Ludwig (Christopher Davis) who lures Bradshaw into minor smuggling. When Sally moves into Bradshaw’s boarding house, sparks fly despite the hints of gay feeling in Bradshaw. Add the flamboyant whore, Fraulein Kost (Casiena Raether) and Cabaret has enough story and unique characters for the backstory. One of the unique features of Cabaret is that all the Kit Kat Klub songs are derived as a reaction to the backstory’s action rather than having the songs move the story along.

Cabaret is filled with terrific songs. “So What?” is Fraulein Schneider’s ode to her loneliness. Iris Liberman is truthful as the older German woman starving for love. She knocks out “What Would You do?” with a haunting feeling that goes to the heart. Her duets with Craig Spidle (Herr Schultz) “It couldn’t Please Me More” and “Married” were pure heartfelt romance.

Sean Fortunato, as the Emcee, delivers several campy and satiric songs: “Two Ladies,” “Money,” “Kick Line” (with the boys and girls), “If you could See Her” and “I Don’t Care Much.”

Patrick Tierney’s Bradshaw is effective. But Cabaret needs Sally Bowles to be a flighty, hedonistic and emotional insecure soul. Danni Smith gives a major performance as Bowles. She combines her acting chops with her rich voice and her sex appeal to become a most memorable Sally Bowles.  She nails “Don’t Tell Mama,” “Mein Herr” and “Perfectly Marvelous” with fine sexuality. Her haunting ballad “Maybe This Time” was truthful. Smith brings deep emotions to the signature tune “Cabaret” that caps off a terrific performance. Danni Smith has made Sally hers.

This powerful production is emotionally riveting as it reaches audiences deeply. It hints at the troubles to come through the scary German patriotic song “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” that taps into the nationalistic pride of the Germans. Cabaret is a wonderful musical with a warning about repressive government that could be relevant today. TATC’s Cabaret is wonderful.

Highly Recommended.

Tom Williams.

Date Reviewed: May 7, 2017.

Jeff Recommended.

For more info checkout the cabaret page at theatreinchicago.com.

At The Theatre At the Center,  1040 Ridge Road, Munster, IN, call 219-83603255, www.theatreatthecenter.com, tickets $40- $44, Wed. & Thurs. at 2 pm, Fridays and Saturday at 2:30 pm, Sundays and select Thursdays evenings, running time is 2hours 20 minutes with intermission, through June 4, 2017.