Book by Joe Masteroff
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Directed and Choreographed by Jim Corti
Music Director Doug Peck
At Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre
Highly conceptualized production of Cabaret is a masterpiece of musical theatre.
Executive producer at Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre , Kyle DeSantis, trusts his director’s vision for a work. That has served him well over the last year or so and it sure worked with Cabaret, now in a dazzlingly moving production at Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre. Jim Corti’s stylized production hits the mood of decadence of post war Germany ripe with political unrest. This is the finest, most truthful remount of Cabaret, I’ve witnessed. From the fabulous steel set (by Brian Sidney Bembridge) with the vivid lighting (by Jesse Klug), Cabaret unfolds as a hauntingly portrait of the decadent world of the early 1930’s Germany. Based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel “The Berlin Stories,” Cabaret tells the story of an English nightclub singer, Sally Bowles (Zarah Mahler), an American writer, Clifford Bradshaw (Jim Weitzer) as each struggles to for personal fulfillment. There is the landlady, Fruelian Schneider (Rebecca Finnegan) who falls for Herr Schultz (David Lively), Jewish shopkeeper. Each of theses folks find their destinies linked as their futures become uncertain as the rise of the Nazi’s looms.
Moving from the Kit Kat Klub, a Berlin sleaze night club back and forth to the Berlin boarding house–we are greeted by the Emcee (Patrick Andrews) who charms and sets the sexy tone of escapism predominant in Berlin of 1930 in a most memorable version of “Willkommen.” Patrick Andrews was fabulous as the Emcee blending a boyish charm with a sexy naughtiness. The fabulous score (by John Kander) on telling lyrics (by Fred Ebb) fuel the tone, emotions, and feeling of the principal characters. Doug Peck’s musical direction evokes Kander’s ’20’s style music with the folksy Germanic tones.
Fraulein Schneider presents the feeling of many Germans of the time in “So What” unflinchingly belted by Rebecca Finnegan–whose performance as Fraulein Schneider was deeply truthful. Her love interest, Herr Schultz, is a kind yet lonely older gentleman. David Lively was believable as he deftly delivered the telling “Meeskite” (meaning ugly) song. The sweet chemistry between Finnegan and Lively powerfully emotes the sadness of the coming political tragedy.
The ensemble at the Kit Kat Klub sang and danced a collection satirical, parody and ironic songs that deepened and underscored the themes and actions of the play. Director Corti brilliantly staged great numbers such as the enticing opening “Wilkommen, ” the sexy “Telephone Dance” and the funny “Two Ladies.” The ensemble work here was first-class. The mood is subdued when the patriotic folk tune “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” resonates underlying power of German nationalism. Cabaret effectively foreshadows the horrors to come in Germany.
Cliff and Sally both are fooling themselves into believing their fantasies. Zarah Mahler, as Sally, lands a moving and nuanced rendition of the title song, “Cabaret” that she exudes her pain as she struggles for personal identity. Mahler reaches deep levels of angst seldom seen in Sally. The escapism and hedonism of German youth is aptly depicted by the Kit Kat boys and girls all of which love their drugs and booze. Brandon Dahlquist plays the Nazi operative, Ernst Ludwig, as a most likable, charming soul.
This most moving and stylistic production of Cabaret is a great evening of theatre. Seldom do you see such outstanding production values in a show so effectively cast and staged for a top ticket price of only $38. This is a world class production of one of the finest Broadway musicals ever-Cabaret-which nails the moods, meanings and emotions of the lost souls of Berlin in 1930. Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre’s mesmerizing production is a ‘must see’ show.
At Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, IL