Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Cabaret"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2009 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at Granite Theatre is Kander and Ebb's Tony Award winning musical "Cabaret" which is set in the tumultuous city of Berlin 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". Their 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 "Wilkommen", as well as in Fraulein Schneider's boarding house. 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 is 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 what anyone wants it to be. Cliff and Sally begin a briefly wonderful but ultimately heartbreaking affair, doomed by the world around them. "Cabaret" juxtaposes the cabaret songs in the Kit Kat Klub 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 acts becomes more political and the behavior more undesirable. At the end of the musical the Nazi's anthem "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" anticipates the rise of Hitler and the shocking political turmoil on the horizon. This wonderful production is directed by David Jepson, musically directed by Fred Frabotta and Audrey Kaiser,choreographed by Lisa Clough with a "Perfectly Marvelous" cast who brings this show to life with their acting, singing and dancing, earning them a standing ovation at the end of the show.

David picks the best performers for these roles and blocks them wonderfully on his set of cabaret stage with silver peanut shell, with an apartment setting behind it for Cliff's room and Schneider's hallway. Fred not only plays the piano for the show but he and Audrey taught all the intricate songs to the cast. The choreography by Lisa includes many dance styles including kick line, soft shoe, ballet, goose stepping, fox trot and a chair dance by Sally and the Kit Kat girls done to "Don't Tell Mama". David's wife Beth made the multitude of costumes and Beth and Francesca Wish also stage manage the show while the lighting and sound is handled by Tai Scavetta

Leading this cast as the Emcee is Matthew Royality-Lindman He is a multitalented performer who plays the omnipresent Emcee and gets a chance to speak directly to as well as go into the audience while uttering some hilarious ad libs. Matt is not only an excellent actor but a wonderful singer and dancer. His voice is heard first in the opening song "Willkomen" where he welcomes the audience into the nightclub, "Two Ladies" where he agrees with the world's concept of free love with two women (Hilary Gothberg and Ashley Rodriques ), "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, ( Matt dances with the chorus girls during it) "If You Could See Her" where he dances with a gorilla (played by Lisa Clough in a pink tutu) where they do some funny ballet moves and a soft shoe routine which reflects the growing anti-Semitic sentiment in Berlin and in the finale Matt delivers a powerful punch to the frightened audience. Matt 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 (Cliff) 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 topnotch performers around. (He won an acting award from Motif magazine in May.)

Heidi Beckmann, a statuesque gal, 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. Heidi is sexy as hell and dynamite in her two opening numbers called "Don't Tell Mama", a funny one with the girls dancing with 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. Heidi's reflective narrative numbers which both stop the show are the fabulous "Maybe This Time" where she contemplates settling down with the man she loves after she finds out she is pregnant 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 Brian Olsen who recently directed "Don't Dress For Dinner" at the Granite. Brian 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 them. He usually plays comic roles but this one gives him a chance to show off his serious side. Brian gives depth to the tragic ending of their relationship in the final scene with Heidi.

Deb Bacewicz 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 singing voice. The first is called "So What?" where she shows how she went from riches to rags but she still will struggle to survive as she has always done while the second is the very powerful "What Would You Do?" which is the terrifying solution she comes to regarding the Nazi takeover. This latter song leaves the audience in tears at Deb's dramatic rendition. Her elderly suitor, Herr Schultz is played by Arthur Pignataro who gets to show off his tenor voice. He is the kindly Jewish 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. The villain of this piece is Ernst Ludwig played by Chris Maxwell. His 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 becomes apparent. Chris shows off his strong singing voice in the Nazi anthem "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" and the chorus joins him in this frightening song. Mary Sue Chiaradio plays Fraulein Kost, the resident prostitute who brings in sailors at all hours of the day and night. She wears a blond wig, is hilarious at first but shows off her true colors as a Nazi sympathizer when she tells Ernst that Schultz is a Jew and then belts out a tribute to Ernst with "Tomorrow Belongs to Me". (This song is first heard in the first act sung by the Emcee and men's chorus.) So for a topnotch rendition of "Cabaret", be sure to catch Granite's version of the show.

"Cabaret" (16 October - 22 November)
1 Granite Street, WESTERLY RI
1 (401) 596-2341

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide