BWW Reviews: CABARET Sizzles and Sears in Mad Horse Theatre-Razer Entertainment's Production
The new production of Cabaret mounted by South Portland's Mad Horse Theatre together with Razer Entertainment, sizzles with tension and sears with emotion. The dark,edgy Kander-Ebb musical presented in this intimate space allows the audience identification in a manner so powerful as to make one feel he is seeing the work for the first time.
Following on the heels of the hugely successful Grey Gardens, director-choreographer Raymond Marc (Ray) Dumont and the Mad Horse company have ventured for the second time this summer into musical theatre, and the results are stunning! Not only is it refreshing to hear a musical unmiked, but the fifty-seat black box allows for an experience that is up close, personal, and unsparingly gripping.
Dumont brilliantly probes the darkness and decadence of the drama without sacrificing the brief moments of joy and hope. Beginning the rehearsal process as a workshop, Dumont has inspired his actors to probe the depths of their characters, to embrace the dangerous and the daring, and to find the vulnerability and transcendence. His staging masterfully uses the space and, as always, his choreography is inventive, intricate, and expressive. The pacing is fluid and fast moving, punctuated by lyrical moments which make the play's revelations that much more jarring.
Tucked into a tiny alcove, Music Director Rebekkah Willey skillfully leads the three-person orchestra, providing sympathetic accompaniment and an appropriately transparent sound suitable to the venue. All the cast members are accomplished vocal stylists able to deliver a song as an outgrowth of speech, and it is exciting and moving to be able to hear some of these familiar numbers performed with a range of dynamics that move from a whisper to a belted outburst.
Tommy Waltz heads the ensemble as an electric Emcee - part satyr, part hollow-eyed gamin from Picasso's Blue Period. He moves with a lithe, insinuating, malevolent, yet ingratiating grace; he delivers his songs with a haunting Sprechgesang, and he plays with the audience in a provocative, mesmerizing manner.
Rachel Lotstein's Sally Bowles has both panache and depth. She manages the theatricality of the brash Cabaret performer, as well as the vulnerability of a lost woman yearning for love. Her rendition of the final "Cabaret" is all the more compelling in its driving intensity because of the subtler style of her earlier numbers.
Matt West as Cliff Bradshaw makes a believable innocent abroad. Not only does he sing with a melting lyric tenor, but he also captures the young writer's naiveté, idealism, and flirtation with decadence which make his eventual comprehension of Germany's accelerating rush to destruction both heartfelt and powerful.
Barbara Laveault brings a strong vocal and dramatic presence to Fraulein Schneider. She is more wistful and weary, more sad and touching than some of her predecessors in the role. Paul Machlin complements her beautifully as a painfully optimistic and doomed Herr Schultz. Kyle Robert Dennis is a subtlely menacing Ernst Ludwig; Lucy B. Sullivan a lusty Fraulein Kost. The ensemble is rounded out by the four Kit Kat girls, Meredythe Dehne, Kacy Woodworth, Caroline O'Connor, and Joanna Clarke, and by their cheeky men, Brandon Dale O'Roak and Travis Doughty, all of whom etch sharp characterizations of seductive decadence. The entire ensemble is to be complimented on their facility with the accents and on the authenticity of their sprinkled German and French phrases.
Desiray Roy's costumes are suitably tacky, sexy, and stylish by turns. Sam Rapaport balances the sound design skillfully, and Florence Cooley's lighting design - despite the aging electrics of the house - evokes both the garish glare and the shadowy realm of the script.
Once again the Mad Horse Theatre and Ray Dumont have demonstrated that a small company can give new life to musical theatre. Together they offer the audience an unforgettably haunting experience: a disturbing look into the chiaroscuro of this timeless work.
Photos Courtesy of Razer Entertainment, Logo and Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schlutz photos by Tommy Waltz, Emcee and Sally photo by Desiray Roy