BWW Review: CARBARET at Alaska Center for the Performing Arts
Sexy and poignant, Plan-B Entertainment's production of Cabaret remains as relevant as it did when the show premiered in 1966. Cabaret-featuring classic music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Joe Masteroff-is the third and final musical of the season put on by the Anchorage Concert Association at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts.Welcome to the Berlin's popular nightclub, the Kit Kat Club. The year is 1930, Nazis are slowly gaining traction. The Emcee (Joey McIntyre from the 1990's boy band New Kids on the Block), and members of the Kit Kat Club beckon the audience to come inside ("Willkommen"). On a nearby train, an American writer Cliff Bradshaw (Bryan Porter) befriends a German, Ernst Ludwig (J.B. Bauersfeld,) who is smuggling in goods from France. Ernst recommends a boarding house for Cliff to stay at where he meets Fräulein Schneider (Eileen Barnett) and agrees to a boarding fee ("So What"). Cliff hits the Kit Kat Club for New Years Eve ("Don't Tell Mama"), where he meets the alluring Sally Bolles (Nicci Claspell). Love starts blossoming between boarder Herr Schultz (Joey D'Auria) and Fräulein Schneider ("It Couldn't Please Me More"), as well as Sally and Cliff ("Maybe This Time"). Can they keep their fun and loose lifestyles up as swastikas pop up in the least suspecting places?
The Atwood Theatre itself transformed into a cabaret. The first two or three rows were removed to accommodate cabaret-style seating. A very lucky few audience members sat at tables on the stage and were joined by different performers. The Kit Kat Band (the orchestra) sat at the back of the stage as if they truly were performing at a cabaret. The stage was intentionally absent of red, as if to punch the viewer in the gut when that color appeared. Another intriguing choice was the Emcee appearing in different scenes in a trench coat. Was the Emcee really there the whole time? Is the entire musical his memories? Is he a bad guy, or a good guy?
Anyone stepping into the role of Emcee is going to be compared to the iconic performances of Joel Gray and Alan Cumming. With a former boy band star in the lead, I admit, I was apprehensive. I didn't need to be. McIntyre completely delighted. He captures the audience with his comedic timing and charm. Claspell knows how to use her voice as an instrument, quiet and restrained at times, then she starts belting and you never want her to stop. She demonstrates this during her performance of "Cabaret." Schneider and D'Auria's added tenderness and love to their roles. The Kit Kat Girls and Boys bring it from the very first song. "Willkommen" is why you go to musicals; powerful voices belting out in perfect harmony while wowing with on-point choreography.
Leave your troubles outside and go to the Cabaret, old chum. Cabaret is playing now through April 29th. Tickets are available at CenterTix.net.
Photo courtesy of the Anchorage Concert Association.