BWW Review: CABARET at Wilmington Drama League
In 1966, while political activism was increasingly finding a voice, CABARET hit the stage with a message of its own. Hal Prince, the original director, had never crafted a concept musical (a show in which the story is secondary to a central message or metaphor). In the Early Stages of creating CABARET, Mr. Prince traveled to Russia and witnessed a provocative, confrontational theater piece that, "...was traumatizing, in a good sense." From that point on, Mr. Prince tended to choose works that challenged audiences, made audiences feel uncomfortable, and required audiences to confront the world they lived in.
In Stage Director's Dominic Santos' program notes he states, "My goal for this production is to evoke conversation." And, regardless of the venue, the performers, the costumes, the choreography, the set, the musicians, CABARET is a story that reverberates worldwide throughout decades. It seems fitting Wilmington Drama League chose to present this show at this time.
Much of the action takes place in a Berlin nightclub, The Kit Kat Klub, at the start of WWII. The Kit Kat Klub's star performer, Sally Bowles, represents those who wish to remain unaware and keep their eyes shut to the changing world around them. The American novelist, Clifford Bradshaw, represents those not afraid to engage in activism against a government ignoring the will of its people. Fraulein Schneider opposes what is happening but feels powerless to take action against it. Herr Schultz is foolishly optimistic, believing a government would never expel or persecute its own countrymen. And, keeping the four main characters revolving is Emcee, the unfettered, uninhibited, and unbelievably entertaining narrator (of sorts). Emcee says what he feels, behaves however he wants and makes no excuses for anything.
Cara Clase is spirited in her portrayal of the complicated, damaged, unsecured cabaret performer, Sally Bowles. Ms. Clase touches upon the multi-dimensional realm of the character but just misses fully developing the character's voluminous complexities. Strong vocals are required by the score and Ms. Clase turns in an attractive performance. Jason Tokarski as Cliff Bradshaw performance is serviceable.
Brian Hylton as Emcee has very large shoes to fill with the likes of Joel Grey and Alan Cumming filling our minds and ears with their respective portrayals. Mr. Hylton brings his own style to the role but remains rooted in the basic concept of wisecracking anarchist. I, along with my companion and a few audience members, wished for a bit more attention to diction.
Kyleen Shaw as Fraulein Schneider and Alfred Lance as Herr Schultz are wonderful and engaging. From their sweet, tender courtship to their unfortunate love demise, you care about them without hesitation. Their duet, "It Couldn't Please Me More (A Pineapple)," brings a smile to your face and an audible "aww" from the audience.
The remaining cast members nicely created the background environment of The Kit Kat Klub. Their ensemble singing and dancing dynamically enhances the overall tone of this production. The cast is kept moving with lively and often slinky choreography courtesy of Director/Choreographer, Dominic Santos. The pit band located on stage visible to the audience, under the director of Caty Butler, complimented the production nicely with brisk (sometimes too brisk) tempos. Sound levels were unbalanced at times and I'm uncertain if it was due to the pit overwhelming the space or body microphones not working.
The Drama League's CABARET touts a modern spin on the classic musical based on the book Goodbye to Berlin, but does so only by casting predominately black actors.
The originally conceived persons, places and time have not been altered. If you are looking to take in a local production of CABARET, don't worry that the Drama League's offering may be unrecognizable or unfulfilling. This production accomplishes to posit one of the show's central messages - it could happen here.
Book byJoe Masteroff
Based on the play by John Van Druten
and stories by Christopher Isherwood
Music by John Kander Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Stage Director - Dominic Santos
Music Director - Caty Butler
Wilmington Drama League
10 W. Lea Boulevard
Wilmington, DE 19802
Runs Jan 27 - Feb 5