Theatre Mirror Review>"Cabaret"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Wilbury Theatre Group closes its season with the acclaimed Kander and Ebb's 1966 Tony Award winning musical "Cabaret". This musical is set in 1930 Germany as the Nazi party closes in on its rise to power and is based on Christopher Isherwood's novel "Goodbye to Berlin" which was subsequently adapted into the play then the film version of "I Am A Camera". The seedy Kit Kat Klub, with its enigmatic Emcee, is a den of decadent celebration where a young writer Clifford Bradshaw, meets British cabaret singer, Sally Bowles. As the two of them pursue a life of pleasure in Weimar Berlin the world outside begins to crumble as the Nazi party rises to power. Presiding over it all, from the decadence to the destruction, is the ever-ambiguous, magnetic Emcee. Meanwhile Cliff's elderly landlady becomes engaged to a Jewish greengrocer, Herr Schultz not an easy decision due to the Nazis influence in Berlin. Cliff's friend, Ernst tricks him into delivering packages to Paris for him, unwittingly helping the Nazis. All of this comes to a head as the curtain falls at the end of the show. In the midst of these dark proceedings is the comic Fraulein Kost, the resident prostitute who sneaks sailors into her room, angering her landlady. This stunning, electrifying musical is well directed by Tom Gleadow, musically directed by Michael Savignau and choreographed brilliantly by Shura Baryshnikov who bring the "Perfectly Marvelous" musical to life.

Tom gives the show high energy from start to finish, picks the best performers for these roles and blocks them splendidly, too. The minute you walk into the theater, you are entering the Kit Kat Klub. Tom's keen insight into the evil and vile behavior of the Nazis frightens the audience with the transformation of the nightclub from life is beautiful to the eventual hell they wrought on Germany and the world. The ending of Act 1 scares the crap out of everyone with "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" and at the ending of the show with its fabulously poignant conclusion. Mike does a splendid job with the cast and his 3 piece orchestra. Shura's choreography is splendid and excellently executed by the cast. Some of the dance numbers include a kick line, Charleston, waltz to name a few.The set is by Kathryne Hecht while the costumes are by Sylvi Re and the splendid mood lighting is by Dan Fisher. Leading this talented cast is Jo-an Peralta as the Emcee. He is a very talented performer who captures the essence of this omnipresent character. Jo-an speaks to and goes out into the audience as does the whole cast. Not only is he a splendid actor but a terrific vocalist and dancer, too. His voice soars in the opening number "Wilkommen" where he welcomes the audience into the nightclub, "Two Ladies" where he agrees with the outside world's concept of free love, "The Money Song" with Sally as he explains how everyone needs a larger income especially Cliff when he finds out Sally is pregnant with his baby,"If You Could See Her" where he dances with a gorilla which displays the growing anti-Semitic sentiment in Berlin and in the scary finale. His transition from comic to serious figure is excellently done. The ending of the show is absolutely gut wrenching, keeping you glued to your seat as the horrors of the impending World War II become apparent.

Katie Travers, a gorgeous red head plays the sexy Sally Bowles and is fantastic in this role. Her British accent is topnotch. Katie is terrific in all of her numbers. Her opening song "Don't Tell Mama" is a comic one doing a dance with girls that is astounding while another number "Perfectly Marvelous" is a duet where she convinces Cliff to let her move in with him. Katie's reflective narrative numbers are stunning, too. "Maybe This Time" where she contemplates settling down with the man she thinks she loves and "Cabaret" where she finally decides the that the cabaret stage is the life for her. Joshua Andrews is fantastic as Cliff. He captures the naivete of the character and the essence of the writer who wants to succeed at his craft. Cliff eventually understands he must face reality with his carefree girlfriend as the Nazi threat closes in on them. Joshua displays his powerful voice in "Perfectly Marvelous" and in the poignant "Willkommen" solo at the end of the show. Also poignant is when he pleads with Sally to stay with him. Joshua gives a lot of depth to this role especially in the tragic ending of their relationship. I have watched both Katie and Joshua make the transition from URI students to mature performers with ease. Their expertise makes them shine in these roles.

Maria Day-Hyde plays Fraulein Schneider, the elderly widow who runs the boarding house. Her strong acting prowess takes place throughout the show with her heartfelt performance as well as in her two character songs which display her powerhouse singing voice.The first is "So What?" where she tells Cliff how she went from riches to rags but how she will survive despite all obstacles and in the second "What Would You Do?" which is the terrifying solution she reaches at the Nazis taking power. This latter number leaves the audience in tears at her dramatic rendition. Her two numbers are the heart and soul of this show. Maria delivers a brilliant and poignant performance in this role. Her elderly suitor, Herr Schultz is wonderfully played by Roger Lemelin. Schultz is the kindly fruit store owner who woos his lady love with a pineapple in their first duet "It Couldn't Please Me More" and in the second decides to save her honor by proposing to her in the prettiest ballad in the show, "Married" which is my personal favorite. Roger also sings the comic "Meeskite" song near the end of the first act. Maria and Roger show great chemistry as these two characters.

The villain of the show is Ernst Ludwig played wonderfully by Brien Lang. His character has some comic lines in Act 1 but at the close of the act when he enters to reveal the swaistika on his arm, is when terror descends on the audience as the seriousness of the situation becomes clear. Brien displays his voice in the Nazi anthem "Tomorrow Belongs to Me", it is reminiscent of the German national anthem. Rachel Dulude plays Fraulein Kost excellently. She is hilarious at first when sneaking the sailors in and out but later becomes a Nazi sympathizer when she reveals that Schultz is a Jew to Ernst and belts out a tribute to by leading the chorus in their theme song. Kudos also to all the Kit Kat girls and boys for doing a splendid job with their singing and dancing skills. So for a fabulous thought provoking rendition of this classic musical, be sure to catch "Cabaret" at the Wilbury Theatre Group. It is one of the must see shows of the spring season. Run do not walk to the box office. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Cabaret" (15 May - 7 June)
@ Southside Cultural Center, 393 Broad Street, PRIOVIDENCE RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide