Theatre Mirror Reviews - "CABARET"

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Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Community Players first show of their 96th season is the Tony Award winning "Cabaret" by Kander and Ebb. The show is set in the tumultuous city of Berlin before the rise of Hitler to power. This musical won its first Tony Award for best show in 1967, the second Tony for best revival in 1998 and is based on Christopher Isherwood's "Berlin Stories" and John Van Druten's "I Am a Camera." This version is the 1998 revival version where the audience is greeted at the Kit Kat Klub by the omnipresent Emcee with the jazz number "Wilkommen.'' Then Cliff Bradshaw, a young American novelist arrives on the train to Berlin where he meets Ernst, a Nazi sympathizer places his briefcase among Cliff's luggage and this is the catalyst for the friends Cliff will make, the place he will live and the woman he will love in Berlin, Sally Bowles, a wild and sensual British cabaret performer. Far from the increasingly hostile streets of Berlin, the club offers the illusion that all women are beautiful and life is anything you want it to be. Cliff and Sally begin a briefly wonderful but ultimately heartbreaking affair doomed by the complex events in an increasingly dangerous city. Neighbors Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz also find it possible to love each other, but the reverberation of the rising Nazi party shakes them all out of their innocence. The Emcee of the show is a pivotal character who interacts and reacts to the chaos in the world around him. As the show progresses the cabaret act becomes more and more undesirable and at the end of the musical, the anthem of the Nazi's "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" anticipates the rise of Hitler and the shocking political turmoil on the horizon. This version of the show ends with a frightening montage that will leave you breathless at its emotional impact. This outstanding production is directed by Paul Morin, musically directed by Ron Procopio and choreographed by Tim Reid with a "Perfectly Marvelous" cast. They bring the show to life With their acting, dancing and singing, they make this one of the must see shows this season.

Paul casts it perfectly and obtains stunning performance with his blocking, making the boys and girls do the set changes which keep the show in constant motion. In his director's note, he states "In today's political climate, "Cabaret'' is just as relevant as when it was first written because of its universal message: Wake up and take action against the intolerance and hate around you. But to stand up and be that first voice to say that we need to change." Ron not only conducts his orchestra, he plays lead keyboards for the show. The brass section is astounding. Ron taught the cast their solos, duets and group numbers wonderfully. Tim's dances include soft shoe, kick line, goose step, ballet and a chair dance by Sally and the girls to name a few. Brian Mulvey designed the two story set in which the orchestra plays from the top of it ala "Chicago" while the authentic costumes are by Johnny Cagno.

Leading this talented cast is Ed Benjamin III as the Emcee. He is a multitalented performer who plays the omnipresent Emcee. Ed is not only a marvelous actor but a terrific singer and dancer, too and he stops the show several times with his brilliance. His voice soars in "Wilkommen" where he welcomes the audience into the nightclub, "Two Ladies" where he agrees with the outside world's concept with two ladies played by Bethany Giammarco and Michael Shallcross in drag, "Money" song from the movie where he explains everyone needs money especially Cliff when he finds out Sally is pregnant, "If You Could See Her" where he dances with a gorilla well played by Stef Rodger where they do some funny ballet moves and a soft shoe routine that reflects the anti-Semitic sentiment in Berlin and the finale when the Emcee does the unthinkable that shocks the crap out of the frightened audience. Ed displays his serious side when he sings "I Don't Care Much" as his and Sally's life disintegrates by show's end and Cliff's being beaten senseless in alley. His transition from comic to tragic figure is magnificent to behold, proving he is one of the best performers around. Ed and his wife, Laura's nine year old son, Chase plays the young boy who sings "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" excellently.

Erica Green who is also a triple threat performer plays the sexy, Sally Bowles. She has a British accent and wears a short red headed wig. Erica is dynamite in all her first songs. Her first two numbers are "Don't Tell Mama", a funny song with the girls and "Mein Heir" with the girls dancing with chairs ala "Cell Block Tango." In "Perfectly Marvelous" she convinces Cliff to let her stay with him. Erica's two reflective and narrative numbers which both stop the show with power and punch are "Maybe This Time" when she contemplates settling down at last and in "Cabaret" when she disintegrates into a drunken mess to finally abort the baby changing the course of her life. She does a marvelous job as this spitfire gal who has a joie de vivre and handles the comic and dramatic moments splendidly. Austin Venditelli is excellent in the underwritten role of Cliff by bringing a depth and power to the character. His scenes crackle with intensity. He captures the essence of the writer who wants to succeed at his craft but must face reality with his carefree girlfriend and the growing threat of the Nazis. He displays his topnotch singing voice in "Perfectly Marvelous" duet and gives great depth to the tragic ending of their relationship in the final scene.

Sue Staniunas plays the elderly widow, Fraulein Schneider who runs the boarding house excellently. Her strong acting takes place throughout the show as well as in her two character songs. Her powerful voice is heard in "So What" where she shows she went from riches to rags but she will struggle to survive as she always has and "What Would You Do?" which is the terrifying solution she arrives at due to the Nazi takeover. This latter song leaves the audience in tears. She also has two duets with her elderly suitor Herr Schultz played wonderfully by Mark Lima. He displays his tenor voice in "I Couldn't Please Me More" when he woos her with a pineapple and in my favorite song "Married" when he decides to save her honor by proposing to her in front of the boarding house's resident prostitute Fraulein Kost played by Kim Harper. Sue and Mark bring warmth to their two roles balancing out the coldness of the Nazis. Kim displays her voice in "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" a scary end to Act 1 as well as the German version of "Married" while Sue and Mark dance to it. The villain of the piece, Ernst Ludwig is well played by Sandy Remington who has some funny lines to begin with but by the end of Act 1 when he reveals the swaistika on his arm the true motives of his character become apparent. He and Kim lead the chorus in the goose stepping "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" which sounds like the German national anthem. Kudos to the whole cast and crew for doing a spectacular job. So for a phenomenal version of "Cabaret", be sure to catch Community Players version. Tell them Tony sent you.

CABARET (15 to 30 October)
The Community Players, Jenks Jr. High Auditorium, Division Street, Pawtucket, RI
1(401)726-6860 or

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