Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Company"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Alexander Wright


"Company"

Reviewed by Alexander Wright

Music and Lyrics by John Kander & Fred Ebb, Book by Joe Masteroff
Director: Sam Mendes
Co-Director and Choreographer: Rob Marshall
Musical Director: Patrick Vaccariello, Keith Thompson

Set Design: Robert Brill
Costume Design: William Ivey Long
Lighting Design: Peggy Eisenhauer, Mike Baldassari
Production Stage Manager: Michael John Egan

Emcee...................................Norbert Leo Butz
Sally Bowles.........................Teri Hatcher
Clifford Bradshaw................Rick Holmes
Ernst Ludwig........................Andy Taylor
Fraulein Schneider................Barbara Andres
Fraulein Kost.........................Jeanine Morick
Herr Schultz...........................Dick Latessa

Kit Kat Girls
Rosie.....................................Jessica Perrizo
Lulu......................................Alison Ewing
Frenchie................................Lisa Ferguson
Texas....................................Shana Mahoney
Fritzie...................................Jeanine Morick
Helga....................................Susan Taylor

Kit Kat Boys
Bobby...................................Michael Curry
Victor...................................Thomas Cannizzaro
Hans......................................Paul Lincoln
Herman.................................Corey Brill


When a director, actors, and designers can take previously produced material that is over 30 years old and breathe new life into it so that we're tricked into thinking it's an original work, the result is pure unadulterated theatrical magic. The newly launched national touring company of Cabaret at the Colonial Theater handsomely accomplishes this daunting task and provides its audience with a delightfully decadent and sinfully rich taste of early 1930's Berlin that guiltily sticks in your mouth long after you've left the theatre.

Cabaret appeared on Broadway originally during the 1966-67 season and a few years later went on to become a very successful movie with Joel Grey and, of course, Liza Minelli. This reincarnation is the traveling equivalent of the equally successful 1997-98 Tony award winning Broadway revival that is currently running in what used to be Studio 54.

The musical is set in Berlin, Germany during the rise of the Nazi party. The action bounces back and forth between the boarding house of Fraulein Schneider and the seedy dive of the title known as the Kit Kat Klub. The main plot traces the relationship of one of the cabaret's prime headliners, Sally Bowles (Ms. Hatcher), and American writer abroad Clifford Bradshaw (Mr. Holmes). These two become so lost and absorbed with each other and the hedonistic atmosphere of the Kit Kat Klub that before they know it, the Nazis have taken a strong hold over the city and things are, to say the least, politically tense. Their individual reactions to this event serve to eventually disintegrate their relationship.

Director Mr. Mendes and choreographer Mr. Marshall have extracted all of the dark elements of the book and score and magnified them with a myriad of sexual entendres and lascivious playfulness which serve as a metaphor for political indifference and as a smoke screen for the impending political doom. Every element and detail of this highly watchable production embraces this approach including the members of the ensemble (doubling as the orchestra) who begin emerging from the backstage area and prowling around the stage fifteen minutes before curtain.

For the national tour, television and motion picture personality Ms. Hatcher portrays Sally Bowles. While she certainly isn't the worst choice for the eccentric nightclub entertainer, she also isn't the best. Miss Hatcher at least acceptably integrates herself into the overall artistic concept of the show, but her characterization is simply too one-dimensional to take full advantage of the mesmerizing desperate outrageousness Sally Bowles often exudes. Her vocal skills are most aesthetically pleasing when she sings softly and seductively rather than blaringly loud. Unfortunately, it seems that her greatest asset is her public visibility and her ability to sell tickets to the "average Joe on the street" while this show is on the road.

Mr. Holmes, as Clifford Bradshaw, bisexual love interest of Sally Bowles, does a credible and convincing job. Not quite sure what to make of the atmosphere in Berlin, we see him get swept into romance with Sally as well as into the hedonistic refuge of the Cabaret. When confronted with the growing influence of Nazism, Mr. Holmes projects the appropriate inner turmoil and concern for what is happening to the "marked" members of society. The audience can empathize with his Clifford as we genuinely feel his helplessness.

The Emcee as played by Mr. Butz has definitely moved from being more of a satanic clown to being more of a bad ass hip game playing party boy. Even if his hair is now blond, the Emcee of Mr. Butz retains most of the dark elements of the character. He's just a lot more fun, in a very lewd way. The only distraction of this kind of interpretation is that his Emcee sometimes seems to not quite fit into early 1930's Berlin, but I found that quite forgivable.

The true standout performance comes from Ms. Morick, as Fraulein Kost. She takes the supporting role of this lady of the night, partial to sailors, and shades it with such nuance that every moment she is on stage your eye is drawn to watching her. She has an equally lovely voice that enhances what is undeniably a remarkable and exquisite presentation.

Ms. Andres as the boarding house landlady Fraulein Schneider and Mr. Latessa as the Jewish Herr Schultz provide the right chemistry and characterization to admirably make their subplot believable, entertaining, interesting, and tense. Ms. Andres made me feel her pain of being caught between a rock and a hard place as she must decide whether or not to marry a Jew and be subject to possible persecution or end the relationship and remain safe, but alone.

The ensemble of this production is absolutely incredible. They are equally adept at helping to create the overall antics of the Kit Kat Klub as they are at providing the musical instrumentation for the show. The battered, worn, tired, and run of the mill look of many ensemble members really helps to emphasize the political indifference which made it possible for the Nazi party to come to power.

The set design by Mr. Brill allows for much freedom of movement and distinctly adds to the overall artistic concept. One of the most effective elements of this two tier cold metal monster is the large off-kilter frame on the second level. It serves as a sort of marquis in rot. Many of the characters observe and witness the action of the musical through this frame.

Cabaret is one Broadway in Boston theatrical experience that should not be missed. This is a revival that is markedly different from previous incarnations. With the emphasis on the bawdy sexual behaviors and the carefree mixing and matching of sexuality presented as part of the entertainment at the Kit Kat Klub, it is easy to see why someone would want to use this atmosphere as pure escapism rather than face the harsh realities of life. We can clearly understand how those drawn to such an escape suffer from a dulling of the senses and at the end of this spectacular production you too may feel a bit of guilt for having enjoyed it so much.


"Cabaret" (till 16 June)
COLONIAL THEATRE
106 Boylston Street, BOSTON
1(617)931-2787, PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND
1(401)456-8090

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