Welcome to the Kit Kat Klub. Enjoy the Cabaret!
by Ann Marie Cusella
Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome!
Life is a Cabaret, Old Chum
Cabaret begins and ends with the Emcee, who is the heart and soul of this melange of decadence, innocence, naivete, credulity, and ultimately, evil. That is, if a being as debauched as the Emcee, played with chilling menace by Joe Russi, can be said to have a heart and soul. He is virtually feral as he prances and purrs, slithers and slinks, and lures us into the tawdry little world of the Kit Kat Klub. Even his hands become snares that tempt and entice as he draws us in with the exhilarating Willkommen. What order of creature is he? What exactly is he offering us? And when we enter his world, how will we be changed when we leave?
2nd Gen Theatre has mounted a stellar production of this classic musical first produced on Broadway in 1966. Everything in this production shines, from the Emcee, to the orchestra, to the Kit Kat Klub girls and boys, and the players whose whole lives are irrevocably changed by the people and events in 1930s Berlin. The entire production drips decadence and a feeling of being caught in a world spiraling further and further out of control. People continue living their lives, going on as always, as a monster lurks in the corner, and creeps around the edges of their world.
Even the Orchestra is Beautiful
Director Kristin Bentley, Choreographer Kelly Copps, and Musical Director Allan Paglia have shown just how talented they are in creating an absorbing, at times mesmerizing world on a small stage that never feels contained or confining. Set Designer Primo Thomas placed cocktail tables, each with a phone, spilling out onto the floor, stage right and left, while the entire place has the feel of a nightclub way past its prime. The bright lights of the Kit Kat Klub sign are missing bulbs, courtesy of Lighting/Sound/TD Designer Chris Cavanagh. The Production Staff have created a slice of the times that showcases the underbelly of a decadent, impoverished culture ripe for the ravings of a demagogue.
Clifford Bradshaw (Dan Urtz), a starving American novelist arrives by train to Berlin where he meets Ernst Ludwig (Steve Brachmann), a young German entrepreneur (read, smuggler) on the make who sweeps him into the rooming house of Fraulein Schneider (Pamela Rose Mangus) and the demi-monde of the Kit Kat Klub, where he meets the English chanteuse, Sally Bowles (Cassie Cameron).
As played by Dan Urtz, Cliff is an earnest young American who has never experienced anything quite like what he witnesses on stage at the Kit Kat Klub. He becomes romantically involved with Sally, although he also has an eye for Bobby, one of the Klub boys he knew in London. As he begins to understand what is happening with the rise of the fascists and is horrified by it, the lights of the Kit Kat Klub dim for him as he struggles with his own internal demons about his writing, his sexuality, and his future.
On the other hand, Cassie Cameron presents us with a Sally who will not, absolutely refuses, to see past her green fingernails and desire to be a star, darling. Her belief that she is a sultry temptress that leaves men panting in her wake is at first amusing, and eventually because of her cavalier attitude toward life, love, and the troubling events around her ( “Politics! What has that to do with us?”), Sally loses her luster and devolves into pathos as she sits drinking gin, makeup smeared all over her face. In her final song, Cabaret, we are left wondering if she believes what she is singing with such determination, or if somewhere in there she is doubting her own bravado.
Pamela Rose Mangus brings her considerable talents to her role as Fraulein Schneider, the spinster landlady who is disgusted by her boarder, Fraulein Kost. Amy Jakiel has just the right amount of cynicism for the role of the prostitute who brings sailors home in ones, twos, or threes. Steve Jakiel as the Jewish grocer, Herr Schultz, is charming in his pursuit of Frau Schneider and clearly expresses the naivete of those who believed the unthinkable would never happen. Steve Brachmann’s devious Ernst does a fine job of fooling Cliff as to his real motives.
The company of Kit Kat Klub girls and boys are excellent dancers and acrobats, and quite compelling in their oozy, sleazy sexuality. Costumed by Lise Harty in various stages of undress and ripped fishnets, they embody the amorality of the time. Love is definitely a four letter word to them and their leader, the ever present Emcee.
Cabaret is playing from June 10th through June 26th.
Bliebe, Reste, Stay!
The songs and story in Cabaret are as timely today as they were over fifty years ago when it was first produced, and The troubling Tomorrow Belongs to Me, sung first by an unknown child on an old record player, then as the first act closing number by Fraulein Kost and the company, is a portent of what was to come in Germany, and how dangerous it is when societies see “gorillas” in mosques as well as synagogues.
Second Generation Theatre’s Cabaret is a raunchy cautionary tale, a bit overwrought at times, if that is even possible with this show. It is very well-acted and produced, highly entertaining, and very disturbing in its depiction of the German mindset just before Hitler’s rise to power.
Cabaret is at Shea’s Smith Theatre through June 26th, and is worth every minute of its 2-½ hours.
Dates, Tickets and More Information
Cabaret is playing @ Shea’s Smith Theatre June 10th to June 26th, 2022.