Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Cabaret" at the Hasty Pudding

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note: entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark


"Cabaret"


Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Book by Joe Masteroff
Based on the play by John Van Druten
and
Stories by Christopher Isherwood

Directed by Julianne Boyd
Choreographed by Hope Clarke

Set Designed by Donald Eastman
Costume Design by Jeffrey Fender
Lighting Design by Victor En Yu Tan
Sound Design by John Sibley, Jim van Bergen
Musical Director Darren R. Cohen
Stage Managers Janet Howes, Jay McLeod

Conductor/Pianist.............Stephen Oremus
Reeds........................Holly Stevenson
Percussionist.................Stephen Giunta
Bass........................Siobhan Kelleher
Trumpet.........................Donna Gauger

Master of Ceremonies........Jonathan Hammond
Sally Bowles.....................Becca Ayers
Clifford Bradshaw..........Christopher Yates
Ernst Ludwig.................Patrick Emerson
Customs Officer...............Stuart Metcalf
Fraulein Schneider............Cheryl McMahon
Herr Schultz.....................Spiro Malas
Fraulein Kost..................Tina Stafford
Max...............................Seth Teter
Bobby......................Michael A. Ballos
Kit Kat Girls
Lulu.............................Pam Bradley
Fritzie...........................Marci Reid
Helga..........................Heather Ayers
Texas..........................Tina Stafford


It's not so much what's been added or subtracted that makes the Barrington Stage Company/Orpheum Theatre Foxborough/Cambridge Theatre Company production of "Cabaret" so effective; it's the way Julianne Boyd has shaped and nuanced the show to bring its essence and its plot into sharp focus. She makes it obvious that The Kit Kat Club's nightclub entertainment deals rather blatantly in sex, and the lives of all the people involved there, performers as well as customers (except for one asexual Nazi), are primarily concerned with who goes to bed with whom and why. But she has also made certain that every song in this production furthers the plot as much as the dialog, and that every word spoken or sung on the Hasty Pudding stage sounds new-minted and deeply experienced. No wonder the house was full on a Thursday night, and the run had to be extended.

This show has always owed much more to its directors than anyone else, and it has been accreting details like a snowball through its many incarnations. Though it may be apocryphal sour- grapes, it's rumored that Hal Prince originally cast Jill Haworth as Sally Bowles because he wanted to show that she actually had no singing or dancing talent. The real "star" of his production was Lotte Lenya as Fraulein Schneider, and the Holacaust was still a bright memory then, so she and her star-crossed elderly Jewish suitor Herr Schultz made more a romantic than a tragic pair.

Bob Fosse cast Liza Minelli as Sally for his film, cut that sub-plot so severely that Schultz appears only as a dead body in front of his smashed fruit-store, and played up Sally's temporary affair with the bi-sexual writer/narrator. Fosse's Sally could sell her songs, so Kander and Ebb gave her the character- defining "Maybe This Time" to work with. Fosse's punishingly physical choreography was made possible by mini-shots and hundreds of quick cuts that strung a series of movements together to make a composed whole.

Here Julianne Boyd has chosen to play the elderly lovers as kittenishly tender romantics doomed by reality, and allowed Becca Ayers as Sally Bowles to triumph in her stage appearances. She shifted her novelist-lover to decidedly American not English and cast solidly honest Christopher Yates to play him. Choreographer Hope Clarke kept some of the sinuously erotic hip- undulations from Fosse, and both Clarke and Boyd found every opportunity to point up the wickedly sexual innuendo possible in every line and gesture.

The vehicle for this sardonically knowing, sneering worldliness is of course John Hammond's Master of Ceremonies, who invests every syllable with tawdry knowingness, keeps his hands always framing his crotch, and takes every opportunity to involve the spectators in his salacious subtexts. You must be looking for sex of some sort, he suggests, or you wouldn't have come to this cabaret, would you? The fact that he twice walks into Sally and Cliff's bedroom to provide a transition to the club only makes a sadistic comment on their blighted affair.

For Boyd, it's not Cliff's homosexuality that dooms this affair, but Sally's featherheaded fascination with irrelevant surfaces. When "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" turns into a Nazi anthem, only Cliff's outrage drags her away from mindless participation, so it's inevitable that she will stay in Berlin till it's much too late to run.

That anthem, coming as it does at the end of act one to paint the engagement of Aryan Fraulein Schneider to Jewish Herr Schultz with prophetic hopelessness, has been deftly handled. There's only one swaztik arm-band, but as they sing the cast falls into stiff-backed close formation, each face lit with power-hungry intensity that says much more than arm-bands or goose-steps could about their frame of mind.

The playing space at The Pudding puts the Kit Kat's tables at the sides, with a silver-lame curtain behind the numbers, while a bed swings in and some background drops down to make the bedroom or the hall of the boarding-house. It takes two stage-managers and a flawlessly choreographed running crew to make these transitions quick, clear, and smoothly flowing. Like everything in this production, Don Eastman's sets, Jeffrey Fender's costumes, Victor En Yu Tan's lighting, and the sound design by John Sibley and Jim van Bergen are all so elegantly professional they amplify the whole without ever looking self-conscious or staged. And the same could be said for the fresh, inventively meaningful readings bringing every old line to new life.

It's not so much what's been added or subtracted that makes this production work; it's the way it's been shaped and nuanced by everyone touching it. Once more, a new crew has taken this old familiar classic and made it a whole new show, with more punch and pungence than it's ever had before.

Love,
===Anon.


"Cabaret" (till 4 January)
HASTY PUDDING THEATER
12 Holyoke Street, CAMBRIDGE
1(617)496-8400


THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide

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