Thursday, August 25, 2016

Cabaret special

Charlene Baldridge
Photo by Ken Howard
He’s not benign, the chilling presence (the Emcee, played by Randy Harrison) that hovers over every scene in Roundabout Theatre’s touring production of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret. With book by Joe Masteroff. Well worth seeing, the tour, which began this year, plays through Sunday at the Civic Theatre and comes to San Diego from Roundabout’s 2014-2015 Studio 54 production (a revival of one they originated in 1998, co-directed by Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall). The current production, directed by BT McNicholl, is part of Broadway San Diego’s 40th anniversary season. And, I might add, in celebration of Roundabout’s 50 years. How’s that for complicated?  That’s not all.

The 1966 Broadway production of Cabaret (directed by Hal Prince) was based on John Van Druten’s play, I Am a Camera, which was in turn adapted from the 1939 Christopher Isherwood novel, Goodbye to Berlin. The 1972 film starred Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles, the British performer protagonist Clifford Bradshaw (the Isherwood character) falls in love with at the Kit Kat Club. If you have not read the source material, it is recommended you do so at your leisure.

Sally and the Kit Kat Girls

Photo courtesy Broadway
San Diego 

The most extraordinary effect of the Roundabout production (which is inspired by that of Sam Mendes in 1993 at London’s Donmar Warehouse) is the onstage over above Kit Kat Orchestra of 25 or more, partially augmented by cast members, who scurry up and down spiral staircases on either side of Robert Brill’s set. They make quite a sound, framed at times in Brill’s askew rectangle with running lights.

Much darker than the original, this production underscores Cliff’s homosexuality, his abhorrence of fascism, and his fore-knowledge of what’s about to happen in Berlin, which is in love with its own Weimar era decadence, blind to the red arm bands and intolerance that appear more and more frequently in their midst.

Cliff is played by Benjamin Eakeley and Sally Bowles by Andrea Goss. He is tall and gangly, she, extremely petite. He is certainly a competent and convincing actor, and she makes nice vocal contrasts in the last song, "Cabaret."

The love affair between the landlady, Fräulein Schneider (Shannon Cochran) and the Jewish fruit market owner, Herr Schultz (appealing Mark Nelson), is exceptionally touching. Cochran is an excellent singer a la the great Lotte Lenya, who created the role in 1966. Fräulein Kost (Alison Ewing) and her host of Sailors (revenue stream) provide comic relief from Cliff and Sally’s love affair and its attendant problems, for one thing an unexpected pregnancy.

And then, my dears, there are the songs: “Willkommen,” “So What,” “Mein Herr,” “Two Ladies,” “Money,” “Married,” “If You Could See Her” the chilling “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” and the title song, “Cabaret,” sung by Sally, who refuses to leave Berlin, along with Herr Schultz, who will proclaim to the end, no doubt, “Nothing bad will happen to me. I’m a German.”

See this amazing musical history lesson. Hear the inspired score and see the spectacle. Tickets at or (619) 570-1100.

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