BWW Reviews: Perfectly Marvelous CABARET
Simply put, that's what the production of CABARET at Minneapolis' Pantages Theatre is. A collaboration by Theatre Latte Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust as a part of their Broadway Re-Imagined series, it has high production values, top talent and a story that retains relevance more than 40 years after it first premiered.
From the moment he dropped into the audience at the top of the show, the Emcee, played by Tyler Michaels, was the highest point (both figuratively and literally) of a show with many. Remarkably talented, this actor could do it all -- he tapped, did acrobatics, sang and provided a constant reminder during the narrative story of the overarching idea that you cannot turn a blind eye on what's happening around you. His nearly constant presence on stage, except a couple of very quick changes of costume, was welcome. Michaels connected with the audience immediately; with knowing looks, winks and a wide grin, he let us in on the fun, and shared the deep sadness of what was really going on around the characters as the Nazis influence was seeping into their risque and rampantly wild lifestyles. If you went to see this show for nothing else, catch this young star in the making. You read it here first: Michaels is going places. But hopefully not too soon - Twin Cities audiences should take every opportunity to watch this performer on our own turf.
Luckily, he's not the only reason to see the show, however. The rest of the cast is a high-energy, strong singing, dazzling dancing troupe under the smooth direction of Peter Rothstein, nationally acclaimed director who also directed last year's production of AIDA by the same collaboration. The ensemble is tight, as are their sexy costumes, and with the choreography of Michael Matthew Ferrell, they make it all look almost too easy. Without curtains masking the backstage area, the actors were also a constant presence who flowed in and out of the scenes, seamlessly. The entire staging was so smooth, it was like they'd been doing it for years. Kate Sutton-Johnson's set is a multi-level playground for the performers sliding down firemen's poles, staircases and Michael's trapeze. A sliding panel hid the on-stage orchestra when not in the Kit Kat Club and punctuated a bit from the Emcee when it lifted to reveal the musicians were dressed in Cabaret-style, too.
Sally Wingert, who needs no introduction in Minneapolis, and was the 2013 Artist of the Year according to the Star Tribune, played Fraulein Schnieder. Not known as a musical theatre actor, she brought her usual brand of feistiness to her character and carried the tunes well enough. Love interest Herr Schultz, played by James Michael Detmar, softened the hard edges of his lady love and was sweetly charming. Their scenes were touching and full of heart.
Kira Lace Hawkins was a strong presence as Sally Bowles., with powerful vocals on the theme song, "Maybe This Time" and "Mein Herr." Sean Dooley's Clifford Bradshaw, probably due partially to his character's ambigous sexual preferences, did not connect with Sally emotionally. His fight scene with the other male cast members was probably the only chink in the armor of the overall inpenetrable production, where one actor was hitting his own hand too far from Dooley's face to appear as a strike.
But that's a minor thing in a show that shined from top to bottom. From "Wilkommen" to the Finale, the familar Kander & Ebb tunes were full of life and the "Perfectly Marvelous" local talent that put it there was every bit as good as any touring production you will see down the street at the Trust's Historic Orpheum or State theatres. Keep your eye on this company; Rothstein and his crew are doing theatre worth watching here in our midst.
CABARET plays now through Feb. 9, 2014, at the Pantages Theatre, 710 Hennepin Ave. For more information and tickets, visit www.hennepintheatretrust.org or call 612-339-7007 or 1-800-982-2787.