Theater Mirror Reviews "Cabaret!"

THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide


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note: entire contents copyright 1996 by Larry Stark


Book by Joe Masteroff
Based on the play by John Van Druten
on the stories by Christoper Isherwood
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Directed and Choreographed by Barry Ivan

The Emcee....................Jay Douglas
Clifford bradshaw.........Richard Roland
Sally Bowles..................Lea Lavish
Ernst Ludwig...............Tom Galantich
Fraulein Schneider..........Merle Louise
Herr Schultz..............Michael Ingram
Fraulein Kost................Jane Seaman
Kit Kat Girls: Michelle Lipman, Leslie
Jennings, Lori Leshner, Lisa Marie Garth
Adrienne Gibbons, Carol Schuberg, Susan
Mary Mitchell, Jennifer Turey

Scenic Design by James Wolk
Lighting Design by Tom Sturge
Costume Design by Alesia Sullivan
Sound Design by Andrew E. Skomorowsky
Music Director Connie Meng
Production Stage Manager David Dreyfoos

The title is the same, but people who remember either the original 1966 "Cabaret" on Broadway or the film starring Liza Minelli will see a darker and more coherent musical at the North Shore Music Theatre --- essentially the extensively revised Broadway revival the creative team remounted in 1987.

This is still Berlin with the Nazis on the rise, where the performers at the Kit Kat Cabaret either make scathingly satirical fun of political upheaval, or simply ignore it toally --- at least until it can be ignored no longer. But this production makes it clear that when the English entertainer Sally Bowles decides to continue her "career" in this tawdry night-club because for her "LIFE is a cabaret" she dooms herself to be swallowed up in the dark tides of history.

Here the young narrator-novelist Clifford Bradshaw finds himself in love with a woman for the first time --- a worldly wanton already pregnant --- only to see her choose abortion and "career" over a reformed homosexual eager to be the father of her child. Lea Lavish and Richard Roland make this awkward, unlikely love affair work despite the fact that Joe Masteroff's book forces them to maximum emotion with very few lines to work with. It's hard to articulate an entire novel and still have room left for some songs.

The parallel love-affair of the old-maid German landlady and a German-Jewish owner of a fruit-shop is also much more poignant here. There's no possibility of happy wedding-bells for these two; Fraulein Schneider the realist/survivor could never face life under the Nazis as the wife of a Jew. Merle Louise must sing two long pseudo Brecht/Weil hymns to pragmatism (obviously written originally for Lotte Lenya), but shines best in a long second-act scene where she regretfully defends her sad instincts to survive. With fewer lines, Michael Ingram informs every one of them with a tensely reticent sincerity. These two make both the blossoming of their late-life love and the bitter blighting of it completely comprehensible.

The eight Kit Kat Girls and Jay Douglas as their Emcee represent the tawdry dregs of the Weimar Republic with automaton- like dance routines of somnambulistic sexiness and sullen seen-it- all satire. And of course they serve as chorus for Lea Lavish's club-performances of "Don't Tell Mama" and "Mein Herr" --- though her "Life Is A Cabaret" is an evening-ending solo.

This musical, like the times it tries to reflect, is complex and oddly articulated. But the revised book attacks these complexities head on, and in this production even the most familiar songs glow with a whole new meaning that never shone forth before.



62 Dunham Street, BEVERLY
till 26 October

THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide