In the pitch black Paul Green Theatre, a single spotlight shines on the deranged face of the Kit Kat Klub’s Emcee, portrayed by Obie Award-winner Taylor Mac.
After bidding the audience “Willkommen” to the seedy dive, the Emcee introduces the scantily clad girls and boys of the cabaret.
Performance: Saturday, April 6 at 7:30 p.m.
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He then offers up the beautiful Sally Bowles, played by Lisa Brescia, to the audience, urging them to return her after they’re done with her.
Brescia, burdened with Liza Minnelli’s memorable portrayal of Bowles, shines in the role with her booming-yet-polished vocals — not to mention her sparkly flapper dress.
Bowles’ romantic counterpart, American novelist Cliff Bradshaw, played by John Dreher, remains suave even when submerged in the destructive cabaret culture.
The real show-stopper, however, is Mac’s Emcee.
Mac appears to lose himself in the role, completely surrendering himself to the level of character acting required for such a ridiculous role.
Every single facial expression, syllable and motion is over-stressed, creating a farcical and memorable character.
Accompanying the spot-on acting is the intricate and genius stage design by Marion Williams, the show’s scenic designer.
A square, raised section of the antiqued wooden floor gives way to a bed, allowing the scene to shift to Fraulein Schneider’s boardinghouse, where much of the non-club action takes place.
Furthermore, the live orchestra, led by Mark Hartman, the show’s music director, is encased by a giant, tilted frame studded with the same light bulbs around the stage’s perimeter.
Encompassing the orchestra is a circular, rotating floor that is utilized by effortlessly wheeling props and actors around.
The upper tier of the stage consists of four square boxes, which act as vignettes of both the club as well as a train.
The clothes, by costume designer Jennifer Caprio, transport the audience to 1930s Berlin and are sharp and detailed, with Bowles’ garbs stealing the show.
The dismal political landscape of Germany on the cusp of Nazi rule is starkly contrasted with the raunchy musical numbers of the Kit Kat Klub.
Songs like “The Money Song” place the Emcee and Cabaret Girls in a choral role, commenting on the harsh reality outside the club’s doors.
The choreography was always in-sync, and even the kick line did not miss a beat.
The one part of the play that moved at a slower pace was the love story between Herr Schultz and Fraulein Schneider.
What first begins as romantic relief in an overtly sexualized play slowly builds to a forlorn relationship, calling for characters to question the status quo — only to show that blissful ignorance is not blissful at all.
Bowles proves to be the true tragic character of the production, having been pulverized by the escapism of the Kit Kat Klub.
It becomes hard to watch her sing her final ditty, “Cabaret.”
Bowles is completely unraveled, and her downfall is followed by Hitler’s rise to power and the beginning of the Holocaust — something even the oblivious nature of the Kit Kat Klub cannot refuse to acknowledge.
Left alone on the stage, Bowles captures the show in one single lyric: “Life is a cabaret.”
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