Book by Joe Masteroff
Based on the play by John Van Druten and
Stories by Christopher Isherwood
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Directed by David H. Bell
Music Direction by Ryan T. Nelson
Choreographed by Matt Raftery
At Marriott Theatre, Linconlshire
Directorial choices diminish the impact of Cabaret
Set in 1931 at the Kit Kat Club of Weimar Berlin, Cabaret.featuring the rich John Kander score with 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. In the 2014 Marriott Theatre production (now playing), director David H. bell and Choreographer Matt Raftery have made several questionable choices. it seems that they wanted to somewhat re-imagine Cabaret when audiences have grown to expect a mixture of the stage and film versions of the 1966 & 1972 productions.
To my eye, the Light Opera Works directed by Stacy Flaster last August set the standard for a dazzling Cabaret. Bell’s Marriott Theatre production doesn’t click well on their in-the-round stage and Raftery’s choreography is strange, even zombie-like in places. It rather lacks any hint of the Fosse style. The entire production seems to be different just to be different. That begs the question: why re-invent the wheel?
Cabaret’s opening, “Willkommen” (one of the best ever of a Broadway musical) must create the sleazy atmosphere of the 1930 Berlin club.Stephen Schellhardt evokes Joel Gray with his the eye-popping expressions and campy style. . He entices us 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.
Cabaret has two relationship stories—an American writer, Clifford Bradshaw (the bland Patrick Sarb) who falls in love with a wild English showgirl, Sally Bowles (the miscast Megan Sikora) and an older Greman woman, Fraulein Schneider (the terrific Annabel Armour) who loves a Jewish merchant, Herr Schultz (the empathetic Craig Spidle). The undercurrent in Gremany is the raise of the Nazis. Bradshaw is befriended by the German Ernst Ludwig (the charming Jameson Cooper) who lures Bradshaw into minor smuggling. When Sally moves in to Bradshaw’s boarding house, sparks fly despite between Sally and Cliff.. Add the flamboyant whore, Fraulein Kost (Christine Sherill) and Cabaret has enough story and unique characters to depict the decadence of 30′s Berlin.
Cabaret is filled with terrific songs. “So What?” is Fraulein Schneider’s ode to her loneliness. Annabel Armour is terrific as the older German woman starving for love. She effectively lands “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 romance and quite charming. Having strong actors play the elderly love interest was a fine decision by Director Bell.
Stephen Schellhardt, as the Emcee, delivers richly campy and satiric songs: “Two Ladies,” Sitting Pretty,” “If You Could See Her” and “I Don’t Care Much.” Schellhardt is hinted a Joel Gray but made it his own as the mood-setting Emcee who comments with body language and electrifying eyes on the story.
But Cabaret needs Sally Bowles to be a flighty, hedonistic and emotional insecure soul. Unfortunately Magan Sikora was miscast. Here squeaky voice wore thin and her vocals didn’t drive home the required emotional content necessary. She did deliver “Don’t Tell Mama,” with adequate sexuality but her rendition of “Maybe This Time” and her disjointed take on the 11 O’clock song “Cabaret” diminished the power of that anthem to hedonism. I also didn’t see enough spark between Sikora’s Sally and Sarb’s Cliff.
The hint at the troubles to come in Germany from the Nazis is evoked through the scary German patriotic song “Tomorrow Belongs To Me.” It sure that taps into the nationalistic pride of the Germans that the Nazi’s exploited.
While I question some creative decisions made here, I also believe that the production contains enough quality atmosphere and it hits the Kander and Ebb score nicely. Ther are some funny and poignant moments that will make folks enjoy this haunting decadent visit to the Kit-K at Club, circa 1931.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 22, 2014
For more info checkout the Cabaret page at theatreinchicago.com
At Marriott Theatre, Rt 21 & Rt 45 in Lincolnshire, IL, call 847-634-0200, www.marriotttheatre.com, tickets $40 – $48, Wed. at 1 & 8 pm, Thurs & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4:30 & 8 pm, Sundays at 1 7 5 pm, running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission, through March 16, 2014