Music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb
Produced by: Broadway By The Bay
Featuring: Alex Rodriguez as The Emcee, Amie Shapiro as Sally Bowles, Jack Mosbacher as Clifford Bradshaw, Karen DeHart as Fraulein Schneider, Stuart Miller as Herr Schultz, Warren Wernick as Ernst Ludwig and Melissa Reinertson as Fraulein Kost
Kit Kat Boys: RJ San Jose, Aejay Mitchell, Spencer Williams, Matt Lee
Kit Kat Girls: Melissa Reinertson, Erin Lafferty, Elizabeth Curtis, Nina Feliciano, Kayla Berghoff, Kathryn Fox Hart; understudy is Rosie Ortega
Directed by: Brandon Jackson
Musical direction by: Sean Kana
Choreography by: Kristin Kusanovich
When: September 13-29, 2013
Where: Fox Theatre, 2215 Broadway, Redwood City
Tickets: $35-$55. Call 650-579-5565 or visit broadwaybythebay.org
at Broadway By The Bay
"Cabaret" is a great and important musical, and the sweet thing is, it is getting a production at Broadway By The Bay that is in every way worthy of that greatness.
"Cabaret," at its debut on Broadway in 1966, broke a lot of traditions for musical theater, opening doors to the ongoing development of the form.
The show has fabulous music (by John Kander) and great lyrics (by Fred Ebb); it's hilarious and romantic and thrilling, and becomes touching and horrifying. It's based on the play "I Am Camera," by Sandy Wilson, which was based on Christopher Isherwood's novel, "Goodbye to Berlin," and other Isherwood stories.
It takes place in Berlin, in 1931, as the Weimar Republic was collapsing and the Nazi Party was on the rise. Sally Bowles, a 19-year-old British expatriate, is a performer/hooker at the decadent Kit Kat Klub. She meets a young American writer, Cliff Bradshaw. She moves in with him, but both of them continue having sex with others.
Meanwhile, the landlady, Fräulein Schneider, has a romance with an elderly shopkeeper, Herr Schultz.
Sally gets pregnant. Who's the father? Who knows? Cliff wants to marry her. The landlady agrees to marry the shopkeeper, but is warned by a Nazi that she should not do so: Schultz is Jewish.
Overseeing and commenting on all this is the Emcee, a garish, sexy and ambisexual character.
The songs are fabulous: "Wilkommen," ""Two Ladies," "Maybe This Time," "Money" and "Cabaret" are all tunes that carried from the stage into popular consciousness.
Broadway By The Bay has done this production right, with an excellent, eight-piece band (conducted by Sean Kana), and a fabulous cast of excellent singers. Who can also dance, act, and get the jokes across.
The show is a great two and a half hours, no moments wasted.
Alex Rodriguez is the steel-cored, gold-plated heart of the play as the Emcee, with fabulous pectorals and a face that tells us everything, helping guide us through this comedic then tragic tale with leers and knowing looks.
The original Broadway show had a simple set with a huge mirror that looked back at the audience reminding us all that this play, with all its decadence and denial, is really about us.
Rodriguez does that with his face, watching for us and always reminding us of the truth.
"Leave your troubles outside!" he tells us in the highly ironic "Wilkommen." "So life is disappointing? Forget it! We have no troubles here! Here life is beautiful ... The girls are beautiful ... Even the orchestra is beautiful!"
Amie Shapiro has a huge, powerful voice, which is good, because Sally Bowles' key songs especially "Maybe This Time" need it. Shapiro's great in the role, and really delivers, as an actor, singer and dancer.
The show has all good singers. Particularly enjoyable were the fine tenors of Jack Mosbacher as Cliff, and Stuart Miller as Herr Schultz. It's always good to see Warren Wernick in a show. In this case, he has the most odious part, Ernst, the friendly German who turns out to be a Nazi. Wernick delivers with subtlety.
The Kit Kat Boys are all good, but the Kit Kat Girls are fabulous, in wild numbers that often include a lot of fondling, crotch-diving and cleavage and excellent choreography, by Kristin Kusanovich.
The scenic design by Margaret Toomey is more functional than fabulous, but probably as good or better than the original show in the 1960s. It's good, it works. Toomey also did the costume design, and it makes for a fun part of the show, given that the show is mostly about the wild party life of Berlin in 1931.
I was a little disappointed when Shapiro first showed up in a Kit Kat Klub number, and remarked in my notes that her Sally Bowles costume could have been worn to a Bible Belt church. An exaggeration on my part, but not by much. Throat to upper thighs, all covered.
But in later Kit Kat Klub numbers, plenty of cleavage shows up, for Shapiro and all the other Kit Kat Klub dancers, and the choreography is all sexy, all the time.
The show is a huge metaphor for what was going on at the time. World War I never really ended for Germany, especially given the impossible economic demands placed on it by the victorious Allies. Poverty and anger fed the development of extreme politics, and extreme decadence among the party crowd. But the party crowd, like many other people, had to wake up or die as the Nazis took over. Cliff the writer leaves. Sally the party girl stays. It does not end happily.
But wow, what a fun ride, till that sad end.
A great play, and this is a great production of it. Hats off to director Brandon Jackson, who's done an excellent job bringing this timely work to the Fox.