Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Cabaret"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2007 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Bay Colony Productions' current show is Kander and Ebb Tony Award winning musical "Cabaret" which is set in the tumultuous city of Berlin just before Hitler's rise to power. This show won it's first Tony 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. The action of the play takes place in the Kit Kat Klub where the show begins with the jazz number "Willkomen", as well as in Fraulein Schneider's boarding house and Herr Schultz's fruit shop. Cliff Bradshaw, a young American novelist arrives on the train to Berlin where Ernst, a German businessman, places his briefcase among Cliff's luggage at the German border and then uses the opportunity to make Cliff's acquaintance. This simple act will be 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 at the Kit Kat Klub. Far from the increasingly hostile streets of Berlin, the club offers the illusion that all women are beautiful and life is whatever anyone wants it to be. Cliff and Sally Attachment Converted: "c:\program files\qualcomm\eudora\larry\attach\briefly wonderful but ultimately heartbreaking affair, doomed by the=" begin a briefly wonderful but ultimately heartbreaking affair, doomed by theb with the complex narratives of Cliff and Ernst 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 all of them out of their innocence. The Emcee of this show is a pivotal character who interacts and reacts to the chaos in the world around him. As the show continues, the cabaret act becomes more political and the behavior 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 outstanding production is directed by Bill Cunningham, musically directed by Rob Goldman and choreographed by Dori Bryan with a "Perfectly Marvelous" cast who bring this show to life with their acting, singing and dancing, making it into a masterpiece of musical entertainment and the must see show of this summer. Bravo.

Bill picks the best performers to fill each of these roles and blocks them wonderfully on the checkerboard set designed by Dan Kozar with a second story landing with the Kit Kat Klub sign hanging on the upper wall.(Every set change for the show had the Kit Kat boys and girls become part of the furniture to show the intertwining of cabaret life with real life.) The show is like a chess game with the characters constantly evolving and changing. Rob not only conducts the gorgeous sounding orchestra but plays the piano.( He and his beautiful wife, Caitlin are expecting their second baby next year.) The vocalists sound excellent in their solos and with their harmonies in the duets, trios and group numbers, too. The choreography by Dori includes many dance styles including kick line, soft shoe, ballet, goose stepping and a chair dance by Sally and the Kit Kat girls and boys done to "Mein Herr". Dan also made the multitude of colorful costumes while Gail Gilman obtained the numerous props. The lighting design is by Michael Teixeira whose beautiful wife, Jess is expecting their second baby this November while sound is by Dramatic Sounds.

Leading this cast is Jeff Mahoney as the Emcee. He is a multitalented performer who plays the omnipresent Emcee and he gets a chance to speak directly to and go into the audience while uttering some hilarious ad libs.. Jeff is not only a superb actor but a fantastic singer and fabulous dancer, too and he stops the show numerous times with his spectacular performance. His voice soars in the opening song "Willkomen" where he welcomes the audience into the nightclub, "Two Ladies" where he agrees with the outside world's concept of free love with two women (Julie Lyon and Adrienne Paquin), "Sitting Pretty" from the original Broadway show and "Money" from the movie where he explains how everyone needs more money especially Cliff when he finds out Sally is pregnant with his baby,( Jeff dances fabulously with the chorus during it) "If You Could See Her " where he dances with a gorilla (played by Steve Goldman who also does some unbelievable flips during the dance numbers of the show) where they do some funny ballet moves and a soft shoe routine which reflects the growing anti-Semitic sentiment in Berlin and the finale where the Nazis herd the Jews off to death camps and Jeff is dressed as Hitler which delivers a powerful punch to the frightened audience. Jeff gets a chance to show off his serious side in the haunting ballad from the revival called "I Don't Care Much" where his carefree attitude about people being beaten up or killed in the outside world of Berlin has no effect on him at all. His transition from comic to serious figure is well done and proves he is one of the best performers around.

Jeff's real life wife, Aimee Doherty who is also a triple threat performer, plays the sexy, Sally Bowles. Her British accent is flawless and in her brunette bobbed cut wig, she looks like a young Catherine Zeta Jones. Aimee is sexy as hell and dynamite in her two opening numbers called "Don't Tell Mama", a funny one with the girls and "Mein Herr" with the boys and girls with the girls dancing on their chairs like the "Cell Block Tango" number from "Chicago". Her next song is "Perfectly Marvelous" where she convinces Cliff to let her move in with him.. Aimee's reflective narrative numbers which both stop the show are "Maybe This Time" where she contemplates settling down with the man she loves and "Cabaret" where she decides that the cabaret stage is the life for her. She does a spectacular job as this spitfire gal with her joie de vivre and handles the comic and poignant moments perfectly. Playing Cliff is David DaCosta who is one of the best actors around. He handles Shakespearean roles as well as musical roles with ease. David captures the essence of the writer who wants to succeed at his craft but must face reality with his carefree girlfriend and the Nazi threat closing in on him. He gets to show off his voice in "Perfectly Marvelous" duet and gives depth to the tragic ending of their relationship in the final scene with Aimee.

Elizabeth Morrell plays Fraulein Schneider, the elderly widow who runs the boarding house. Her strong acting takes place throughout the show as well as in her two character songs which show off her powerful singing voice. The first is "So What" where she shows how she went from riches to rags but she still will struggle to survive as she has always done and her second is "What Would You Do?" which is the terrifying solution she comes to regarding the Nazi takeover. (The latter song leaves the audience in tears at her dramatic rendition of it.) Her elderly suitor, Herr Schultz is played by Steve Dooner who gets to show off his wonderful tenor voice. He is the kindly fruit store owner who woos her first with a pineapple in their duet "It Couldn't Please Me More" and he decides to marry her to save her honor in the beautiful ballad "Married" which is my favorite song in the show. Both Elizabeth and Steve play their parts beautifully, giving the show its warmth with their love. The villain of this piece is Ernst Ludwig played by Bill Stambaugh. He is an expert at playing the bad guy and this one is no exception. Bill's character has some funny lines early on in the first act but in the last scene when he takes off his raincoat and exposes the swaistika on his arm, terror descends on the audience as the seriousness of the situation appears. He shows off his strong singing voice in the Nazi anthem "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" and the chorus joins him in the song with goose stepping precision. Christine Kasparian plays Fraulein Kost, the boarding house's resident prostitute who brings in sailors at all hours of the day and night. She is hilarious at first but soon reveals her true colors as a Nazi sympathizer when she tells Ernst that Schultz is a Jew and when she sings a tribute to Ernst as she belts out "Tomorrow Belongs to Me". (This song is heard in the first act and is sung on a recording by Andrew Purdy, a 9 year old who has a crystal clear and strong voice.) Kudos to the whole cast who did an excellent job. So for a phenomenal rendition of "Cabaret", be sure to catch Bay Colony's version before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Cabaret" (3 - 12 August)
Orpheum Theatre, 1 School Street, FOXBORO MA
1 (508) 543-ARTS x4

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide