BWW Review: All the World's a Stage in CABARET at the Cape Playhouse
So true are the words that debutante Sally Bowles sings to the patrons of the Kit Kat Club: life is undoubtedly one heck of a cabaret, and all one can do is become a part of the fun before it is no more. Even though the party has only just begun at the Cape Playhouse - although the drinks have just been poured, the orchestra tuned for the first time and the Kit Kat Klub gloriously lit for business, there is already a buzz focused around the party that is Cabaret: a yearning, as Sally Bowles insists, to seek the splendor of what has been brought to the Cape with such a bang. So now must we all become like the Emcee and partake in the fun that is happening all around us while also fulfilling our duties as the distant voyeurs, watching how the party suddenly sprints into an ever-grotesque reality.
This is the wonder of Kander and Ebb's masterpiece that is Cabaret, now brought to the Cape Playhouse in what can only be described, in the words of Fraulein Bowles, as "perfectly marvelous," although even that would be an understatement for such a show presented by this beautiful professional theater in the heart of Dennis Village now presents to a Cape Cod audience.
Hunter Foster seems to have taken the hint from his success directing last year's sold out production of My Fair Lady on The Playhouse stage, returning this summer to produce this exquisite production of Cabaret that is rich in everything from visual beauty to talent. Based on the play I Am a Camera by John Van Druten and Christopher Isherwood, with a book by Joe Masteroff, music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb and the winner of twelve Tony's and eight Academy Awards, Cabaret is one of the most unique shows that a person can see performed on stage, and an experience that should be had by everyone at least once. It is fantastical, realistic, silly, serious, at times frightening and entertaining all at the same time. It is a mesmerizing show to behold: dark in its nature, but the depth of the plot is ensconced in the absolutely wonderful time everyone seems to be having at the end of the 1920's in Berlin.
Cabaret takes place during the rise of Hitler's Nazism, a persistent underlying factor of the plot trying to eat its way to the surface the throughout the entire show. The musical also recently enjoyed a run on Broadway featuring Alan Cumming, which I had the pleasure of seeing quite a few times and which led me await The Playhouse's production with such anticipation; boy, was I not even close to disappointed in what I saw!
Cabaret is a show within a show, telling of both bidding war and the lives of characters like English nightclub employee Sally Bowles, American novelist Clifford Bradshaw, Fraulein Schneider and the rooms she lets, her admirer Herr Schultz, and of course the Emcee and the Kit Kat Klub "girls and boys" whose acts once mimicked this idea that life should be enjoyed in the fashion of a giant celebration, only then to serve as a reminder that the so-called "party" is only here for so long. The nature of the show turns from joyous to almost mocking, as performance gradually turns into reality - all without so much of an inkling of how sharply things will turn sour until those involved begin to see the repercussions of what they thought could never hurt them. Only the Emcee, who stands forever watchful anticipating what is to come, can possibly participate but never truly become integrated in what is happening; this is what makes Cabaret so magnificent a show, a personal favorite of mine.
With songs like "Wilkommen" and "Maybe This Time," to "Mein Herr" and "If You Could See Her" and of course the title song "Cabaret," this show has a little bit of everything that will bring audiences to their feet because of the simple grandeur of it all.
The Playhouse does a wonderful job with this production: from the cast to the elegant and elaborate set (the crimson drapes the audience sees as it walks in are beautiful), this show is yet another triumph to add to the theater's already lengthy list of them. I'm not sure if this is something only I experience whenever I see this show, but there is a certain "feel" that Cabaret has - something that makes audiences acknowledge that they have stepped foot into a whole other world that is very different from that of other shows. This is not only true in relevance to its plot; there is a palpable excitement experienced when the lights go down and that drum role permeates the air (the same drum roll that ends the show but on a much different note), and when this show is done correctly, there is little anyone can do but become one of the spectators who watch everything unfold.
The show itself is well cast, although Kim David Smith as the Emcee tries so hard (and succeeds) to be overly expressive as the loved Master of Ceremonies, but with all his effort does he seem to lose the depth that his character is meant to have. He is extremely talented, without doubt, but there was that feeling of dark seclusion missing - that which makes the Emcee so likeable a character but one who must never come into contact with anyone other than those he performs with; the beautiful loneliness of his character wasn't there, if that makes any sense. Other than that though, he really did bring something quite new to this role and a different way for me to perceive the character.
Stephanie Gibson as Sally Bowles is amazing - what a voice! I believe her performance was enhanced tenfold as sang such chilling numbers as "Cabaret" and "Maybe This Time." She is joined by Nick Spangler as Clifford Bradshaw, Tally Sessions as Ernst Ludwig, Toni diBuono as Fraulein Schnieder, Jennifer Cody as Fraulein Kost, Lenny Wolpe as Herr Schultz, Rhyees Stump as the Nazi youth and Katie Anderson, Karen Burthwright (also the production's dance captain), Gregory Dassonville, Jennifer Geller, Joshua Keith, Chris LeBeau, Evan Mayer, Hillary Porter, Madison Turner and John T. Wolfe - the wonderful members of the Cabaret ensemble, many of whom work at the Kit Kat Klub and give the audience such entertaining and awe-inspiring group performances.
Much credit must also go to Assistant Director/Assistant Choreographer Amanda Kloots and Assistant Choreographer Jesse Robb. The dancing in this show is wonderful and so perfectly performed that those moments one may worry the actors may bump into each other or won't make it to their ending poses just doesn't happen; everything was perfectly choreographed to be seamless and wonderful for portraying the risqué yet still artful form that are these these cabaret performances.
Scenic Designer David Arsenault, Costume Designer Gail Baldoni, Lighting Designer John Bartenstein and fantastic orchestra conducted by Paul Masse must all be praised for their valiant efforts in making this quite the sensation to see this summer. As I've said, the fun can only go on for so long, and I truly hope that many of you can see Cabaret before it is no more.
Cabaret began performances at the Cape Playhouse (located at 820 Main Street in Dennis Village) on August 9th and will continue thru August 20th. Tickets range from $39 and may be purchased by calling the box office at (508). 385.3911 or by visiting capeplayhouse.com. The performance schedule is as follows: Mondays thru Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. and Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., with a 2:00 p.m. matinee performances on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Enjoy the show!
Photo Credit: Michelle Kazanowski