BWW Review: CABARET at Fairfield Center Stage
I had the pleasure of seeing CABARET as put on by Fairfield Center Stage, at the Trevi Lounge in Fairfield, CT. Fairfield Center Stage has yet again put on a well known production in a brilliantly unique way that audiences would not get to experience anywhere else. Fairfield Center Stage gets the perfect cast for the roles, and furthermore finds the perfect venue for each production, to provide the ambiance appropriate to the show. The Trevi Lounge creates a wonderful intimate atmosphere for the cabaret show within the CABARET show. The stage is at the same level as the audience, with audience on three sides of the stage. The fourth wall does not exist, and neither do either of the side walls, as various cast members enter, exit, and act among the audience on all three sides, while some entrances and exits also come from backstage.
Under the musical direction of Ben McCormack, the talented live orchestra also features Clay Zambo on keyboard, McNeil Johnston on bass and violin, and Gabe Nappi on drums. The songs are written by John Kander, with lyrics by Fred Ebb. My favorite song in this musical is the comedic "Don't Tell Mama."
This ensemble cast is phenomenal. Seeing them all in close proximity, I get a great sense of how much they are enjoying their roles, and how tight their stage chemistry is with each other. Their facial expressions reveal their thoughts, everyone staying in character at all times and responding convincingly to the words and actions of the other characters. The accents, German or otherwise are spot on. Director Eli Newsom and choreographer Lindsay Johnson bring out the best in these highly talented cast members who also bring out the best in each other, while performing together as a cohesive unit.
Matthew Casey excels as the comical Emcee of the Kit Kat Club, where the cabaret performances take place. He goes on to introduce the Kit Kat Girls named Rosie, Lulu, Frenchie, Texas, Fritzie, and Helga who are wonderfully played by Emily Frangipane, Bonnie Gregson, Kristen Digilio, Anne Collin, Monica Castillo, and Claire Kenny, respectively. Complementing them are the Kit Kat Boys named Bobby, Victor, and Herman who are excellently played by Bobby Henry, Timothy Smith, and Patrick McMenamey, respectively.
The show is set in Germany in the year 1929, crossing over into 1930. The central protagonist is Clifford Bradshaw, an American writer who is over in Germany to teach English, while working on his own writing. Ben McCormack is masterful as Clifford, truly becoming this character. Clifford encounters a smuggler named Ernst, who is finely portrayed by Nick Kuell. Ernst helps Clifford acquire some more money through some smuggling. Clifford's love interest becomes Sally Bowles, a very promiscuous Kit Kat girl who ends up moving in with Clifford, and sharing a bed with him in a rather bizarre romantic relationship that does not seem to be exclusive, at least not on Sally's end. Arielle Boutin shines in this role of Sally, both in acting and singing, sometimes with Ben McCormack, as Clifford, on piano. The relationship between Clifford and Sally gets closer when Sally tells Clifford that she is pregnant, and Clifford responds with enthusiasm to raise the baby with her, even though by Sally's open and rather nonchalant admission, she can not guarantee that the baby is Clifford's, openly and unapologetically offering a multitude of other possible father candidates, a concept that strangely enough does not seem to faze Clifford.
Another romance starts brewing in this show, between an older couple Herr Schultz and Fraulein Schneider who are remarkably performed by Steve Benko and Marilyn Olsen, respectively. Always entertaining Alexis Willoughby skillfully portrays Fraulein Kost who pays rent to Fraulein Schneider, rent acquired by prostitution with sailors, something Schneider admonishes Kost for, until Schneider realizes that it enables Kost to pay the rent, in which case the admonishment is reduced to essentially not letting Schneider catch Kost bringing any sailors around. The next time Kost is caught by Schneider, however, Herr Schultz comes out of Schneider's bedroom, making Kost feel as if she no longer has to even remotely try to hide what she is doing. Herr Schultz comes to Schneider's aid, however, by claiming that he and Schneider had plans to get married. Soon after Kost leaves, Herr Schultz proposes to Schneider for real, planning for the wedding to take place only three weeks later.
Virgil Watson, Jane Barnes, and Kayla Smith make the most of their cameo appearances as Max/Rudy, a Customs Official, and an additional dancer, respectively.
As the story continues, a party in celebration of the Schneider-Schultz wedding to come reveals that Ernst is a Nazi, and Herr Schultz is Jewish. It is soon revealed that there are some more Nazis among the Kit Kat performers. Schneider is advised that it would be bad for her to be married to a Jewish person, especially if the Nazis win an election and rise to power. This starts placing apprehension into Schneider's thoughts, as to whether she wants to follow through with the wedding. Coming from an American perspective, then not seeing the potential danger, merely the beauty of the love that Schneider and Schultz could share, Clifford encourages Schneider to follow through with the wedding.
Will Schneider take Clifford's advice and follow through with the wedding? Will Clifford want to flee Germany and return to America after learning more about the political landscape of Germany at the time? Will Clifford's own attitude more reflect that of the Nazis or will it be one of respect for Jewish people? If Clifford expresses a desire to return to America, how will Sally react to this first man who she ever felt as if she truly loved? Will Clifford and Sally get married? Will they even stay together or at least raise the child together? Come to the show to find out!
This show, with book by Joe Masteroff, based on the play by John Van Druten and stories by Christopher Isherwood is highly thought provoking. Even though it was written in 1966, it addresses concepts that are relevant in the modern day, like how we may be unaware of the serious injustices going on across the world, until they directly impact us or someone we know.
For Mature Audiences, I highly recommend CABARET as put on by Fairfield Center Stage, which is scheduled to continue to run at the Trevi Lounge in Fairfield, CT, through September 28, 2019. For times and tickets, please go to Click Here; Life Is Beautiful Photo by Kate Eisemann Pictures