Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Cabaret"

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entire contents copyright 1997 by Beverly Creasey

Cambridge Theatre Company's Cutting Edge


Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

If you've seen CABARET before, either film or stage version, and you think you know CABARET, you're in for a marvelous surprise. If you've never seen it now is the time, because you won't see a better production of the Kander and Ebb musical than the one now playing through January at the Hasty Pudding Theatre in Harvard Square.

Julianne Boyd directs this visceral version, which is based on a revised script from the '87 Broadway revival. Out, for example, is the song "Meeskite" from the '66 original; in is the show-stopping "Maybe This Time I'll Win" from the '72 Liza Minelli film. But what makes Boyd's production extraordinary is her concept for the Kit Kat Club. This cabaret is a place where cruelty masquerades as entertainment. Gone is the naive invitation to "Come here the Music Play". This is 1930s Germany where a seemingly innocent invitation can lead to the gas chamber.

Most productions favor humor over horror but Boyd restores the chill just below the surface in Joe Masteroff's script and places the shivers centerstage. In her CABARET you can see, and feel, just how a whole nation could let this terrible thing happen.

I can't remember a production of CABARET which brought the two love stories (old and young) into such vivid relief. Most people can recall only the Sally Bowles story. Boyd makes us care just as much about the romance between the gentile landlady and her Jewish suitor as we do about the impetuous singer and her American boyfriend.

From the opening spotlight on a Nosferatu-like master of ceremonies to the final bitter, sardonic "Willkommen" you'll feel the presence of evil. The remarkable Jonathan Hammond is the very embodiment of moral decay in death-white makeup as our clever host. He gives a finely nuanced performance: one minute you're terribly amused and the next you can hardly believe you went along.

Becca Ayers is the dynamo who personifies Sally Bowles, spunky and wounded all at once, and Ayers carries it off without a false note. Christopher Yates is the dashing American writer bewitched by this young mercurial singer. Cheryl McMahon gives a heartbreaking performance as the realist who knows she won't survive if she marries a Jew. Spiro Malas is her sweet suitor, who dismisses the violence as "pranks". Together McMahon and Malas almost steal the spotlight from the youngsters.

Wonderful supporting work too from Michael Ballos in several roles, but especially singing the faux-Nazi anthem; from Tina Stafford as the libidinous Frau Kost and as a Kit Kat girl; from Pamela Bradley, Marci Reid and Heather Ayers as the other cabaret girls; from Patrick Emerson as Ernst and from Seth Teter as Max. Kudos also to choreographer Hope Clarke, to costume designer Jeffrey Fender for the sumptuous period dresses, and to the "beautiful" orchestra.

"Cabaret" (till 4 January)
12 Holyoke Street, CAMBRIDGE

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