Theater & Dance

By: Book by Joe Masteroff, music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb
Produced by: Hillbarn Theatre
Directed by: Erica Wyman-Abrahamson
Choreographed by: Riette Burdick Fallant
Music direction by: Joseph Murphy
Featuring: Melissa WolfKlain, Keith Pinto, Brad Satterwhite, Linda Piccone, Paul Araguistain, Patrick Brewer, Danny Martin, Russell Ward, Noelani Neal, Rachelle Abbey, Christine Baker, Catrina Manahan, Jessica Maxey, Jessica Whittemore, Gabrielle Traub, Doug Greer, Jon Schneider, Leo McMahon
Running time: 120 minutes, one intermission
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; January 19 through February 5, 2017
Where: Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 East Hillsdale Boulevard, Foster City
Tickets: $20-$48; viait

Jessica Maxey
Mark & Tracy Photography / Hillbarn Theatre
Jessica Maxey as Frenchie in Hillbarn Theatre's stunning production of "Cabaret." The show runs January 19 through February 5, 2017.
Hillbarn Theatre excels with
fabulous production of 'Cabaret'
Keith Pinto is a brilliant Emcee; Melissa WolfKlain delivers a moving Sally Bowles; entire cast, orchestra are excellent
January 22, 2017

From the opening number — "Wilkommen" — I was wishing I had at least two extra pairs of eyes in my head, so I could pay more individual attention to the amazing members of the awesome cast.

This is an amazing show, with great actors, great singers, great dancers and fabulous choreography, driven by an excellent orchestra.

The choreography by Riette Burdick Fallant and direction by Erica Wyman Abrahamson, and a cast full of beautiful women and handsome men, make every movement compelling and powerful.

And intense.

Neal, Pinto
Mark & Tracy Photography / Hillbarn Theatre
The extremely lithe Noelani Neal as Fritzie, left, and wild-eyed Keith Pinto as the Emcee in "Cabaret."

These women especially, the Kit Kat Girls of the Kit Kat Club, are both the victims and the celebrants of the decadent times at the end of the failed Weimar Republic, when the Nazis were just taking power.

As such, their eyes are often filled with anger, and challenge, and sometimes defeat as they stomp their heels and spread their legs and grab their crotches.

And, what a cast. Yes, the feature roles of Melissa WolfIKlain as Sally Bowles, Keith Pinto as Emcee and Brad Satterwhite as Cliff are fulfilled with excellence, but even these chorus dancer/singers are amazing.

Jessica Whittemore as Texas and Jessica Maxey as Frenchie are both scary intense, challenging and overwhelmingly sexy in eyes and movement; Noelani Neal is as beautiful of body and face as is humanly possible, and also adds a fine touch with some bits of humor as the woman who entertains sailors.

Many in the chorus, including those three, are people who have filled featured roles in even larger theaters than Hillbarn, and it is absolutely amazing to see so many powerful performers in such roles. They all know their roles and act them out in every moment.

And it's not a huge theater; all these fabulous performers are practically in our laps.

Pinto is the bomb.

It's not just the eye make-up that makes his Emcee so powerful — it's the great light of craziness in his eyes, as he leads us through the wild abandon and decadence of his tunes, especially in the numbers with the Kit Kat Girls and Boys.

Pinto's singing is powerful, and his movements are stunning and confident. What a wild ride, to watch him! My only cavil about him is I wish he was on stage more. The Emcee is the ambassador, the tour guide, for the audience, and he could be there more to guide our reactions to this stunning show.

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WolfKlain, who was an excellent "Funny Girl" on this stage in 2014, is a fine Sally Bowles, delivering Sally's shaky bravado that eventually becomes brokenness. She has the voice to power through Sally's ballads and up-tempo numbers, and is a very good actor.

Satterwhite is excellent as Cliff, the struggling American writer who is quick-talked into taking Sally as a roommate and then lover, even though he generally prefers men.

Paul Araquistain, who was a great Patsy in Hillbarn's 2013 production of "Spamalot!" is very charming as Herr Schulz, who has a kind of crush on Fraulein Schneider, who is played by Bay Area theater stalwart Linda Piccone.

They have a lovely little romance including a very nice slow dance, but it's doomed.

Piccone, who is an excellent actor and has a fine voice for singing, didn't nail the accent for her character. That's surprising, given her usual excellence. Her accent wandered from Berlin to, say, Iowa.

Hillbarn regular Russell Ward solidly delivers as Ernst Ludwig.

The 11-piece orchestra is on the second level of Steve Nyberg's set, behind the glitzy curtain of the Kit Kat Club stage. "Even the orchestra is beautiful," the Emcee sings, and at least they are costumed, and sometimes seen.

McMahon, Pinto
Mark & Tracy Photography / Hillbarn Theatre
Leo McMahon as Boy sings the bone-chilling "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" in front of Keith Pinto as Emcee in "Cabaret."

And heard, with excellent musicianship, without being a problem. Zak Stamps nails the sound design, keeping the balance just right, so dialog and lyrics are easily heard over the orchestra.

Pam Lampkin's costumes are outrageous and excellent, from the not so dainty underthings of the sexy Kit Kat Girls to the conservative suits of Cliff and Ernst. Christian Mejia's lighting design was a dramatic part of the show.

The story is of Berlin toward the end of the horrible years after World War I, when the German economy was in ruins. There was a breakdown in society, which would allow the rise of the Nazi party.

Decadence is a way of life for some. Sally, a expatriate Brit, revels in it. Cliff, the sharp-eyed American, dips into it, but rejects it as he recognizes the coming Nazi regime for what it is.

Poor Ernst's heart is broken, when he learns his dreams can't come true because he is a Jew.

It is coincidence that "Cabaret," which is a clarion call to warn of the dangers of fascism, is being staged just as America has elected a man with clearly fascist, racist and sexist leanings as president. The show was scheduled more than a year ago, long before the election results could have been imagined.

As Hillbarn Executive Artistic Directer Dan Demers said in his program note, "The theme of the show is as timely and urgent now as it was 50 years ago when Joel Grey first interpreted the role of the Emcee. The musical's warning about the temptations of fascism, nationalism and prejudice echo through time being, even to this day, relevant."

It's an amazing show, as Demers noted, "one of the best and most important musicals of the 20th century."

It's funny, it's touching, it's sexy, and ultimately it's as serious as death.

Yes, it's great to have fun while we can, but there are fascists lurking in the shadows, and light must be shown on them. That's what this show does.

Email John Orr at

Melissa WolfKlain
Mark & Tracy Photography / Hillbarn Theatre
Melissa WolfKlain as the wishful drinking Sally Bowles in Hillbarn Theatre's stunning production of "Cabaret." The show runs January 19 through February 5, 2017.
Kit Kat girls
Mark & Tracy Photography / Hillbarn Theatre
Entertaining at the Kit Kat Club in "Cabaret" are, from left, Catrina Manahan, Noelani Neal, Gabbi Traub, Melissa Wolfklane, Rachelle Abbey, Jessica Maxey, Jessica Whittemore and Christine Baker. The show runs January 19 through February 5, 2017, at Hillbarn Theatre.
Maxey, Pinto, Martin
Mark & Tracy Photography / Hillbarn Theatre
It could be said that gender equality is celebrated in the Hillbarn production of "Cabaret," as Keith Pinto, center, sings "Two Ladies" with Jessica Maxey, left, as Frenchie, and Danny Martin as Victor.
Martin, Whittemore
Mark & Tracy Photography / Hillbarn Theatre
Danny Martin is taken for a walk by Jessica Whittemore in Hillbarn Theatre's stunning production of "Cabaret."
Ward, Pinto, Satterwhite
Mark & Tracy Photography / Hillbarn Theatre
Russell Ward as Ernst, left, welcomes Brad Satterwhite as Cliff in Germany under the watchful eyes of Keith Pinto as the Emcee in Hillbarn Theatre's excellent production of "Cabaret."
Piccone, Araquistain
Mark & Tracy Photography / Hillbarn Theatre
Linda Piccone as Fraulein Schneider, left, and Paul Araquistain experience a charming but doomed romance in Hillbarn Theatre's stunning production of "Cabaret."
Cabaret orchestra
Mark & Tracy Photography / Hillbarn Theatre
The excellent orchestra for Hillbarn Theatre's production of "Cabaret," led by Joseph Murphy, at right. The show runs January 19 through February 5, 2017.