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BWW Review: CABARET at The Goodspeed

Review: CABARET at The Goodspeed

The iconic musical is running May 13th - July 3rd

Review: CABARET at The Goodspeed

Wilkommen, bienvenue, and welcome Cabaret to the Goodspeed Stage!

Goodspeed Musicals kicks off its first full season of musicals since 2019 with the spring production of Kander and Ebb's provocative and profound classic, Cabaret. The origin of this iconic musical is a true story by Christopher Isherwood, a British-American author who moved to Berlin in the early 1930s. With a book by Joe Masteroff, Cabaret is also based on the play by John Van Druten, featuring music and lyrics by Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award-winners John Kander and Fred Ebb, respectively.

Cabaret premiered on Broadway in 1966 and, as Michael Fling (Goodspeed's Artistic Associate) writes, "It is considered one of the first 'concept musicals' - meaning that it was more about its theme and central idea than it was about the narrative arc of its characters." It was revolutionary because the characters provide commentary via the musical numbers, rather than having the songs advance the plot.

Tallying Cabaret's original Broadway production (1967), three Broadway revivals, 1994 London revival, and three West End revivals, the show has received over 36 awards and many nominations. I was particularly excited to see the stage production as I had only ever seen the 1972 film, featuring Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, and Michael York. If you're in the same boat, be prepared: The stage production and film adaptation are dramatically different, but allow me to put your mind at ease - it's fantastic.

Our story is set in Berlin, 1929. Political tensions are mounting as the Nazi Party is positioning itself to ascend to power. It's also the height of the Jazz Age, so the curtain opens to showcase the hedonistic nightlife at The Kit Kat Klub. Our host is the mysterious, fun-loving Emcee who invites the audience to leave their troubles outside and remember that, "Life is beautiful." We meet the eccentric British nightclub singer Sally Bowles and seemingly mild-mannered American writer, Clifford Bradshaw, who quickly move in together and develop a relationship. Their boarding house owner, Fraulein Schneider and Jewish fruit vendor neighbor, Herr Schultz, also find romance, but face societal pressure as their friends fall prey to Nazi propaganda.

Cabaret quickly established a strong rapport with the audience, who laughed emphatically at the Emcee's one-liners and the Kit Kat Klub's raunchy dances. I struggled not to sing and dance along, and noticed many other audience members enthusiastically bobbing their heads along to favorite songs like, "Mein Herr." Despite our beloved Emcee's best efforts to keep the nightclub a place of levity, as the show goes on, Cabaret surreptitiously shifts our attention to the horrors unfolding outside. The production reeled us in and held fast: At the end of Act One, "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" sucked the air out of the room with its foreboding omen. Later, we collectively held our breath during Sally Bowles' heart-wrenching performance of "Cabaret".

The Goodspeed's director (James Vasquez) and creative team brilliantly planned and supported this unraveling effect by designing the show to purposefully, "deteriorate in front of our eyes." As the show progresses, the once-tailored costumes begin to show signs of wear, with rough, tattered edges, and the makeup becomes dull and smudged. In Act Two, The Kit Kat Klub dancers' smiles begin to fade and, by the end, it is clear that they're merely going through the motions (purposefully, of course). The impact is nothing short of fantastic. Cabaret took us on an unexpected journey, where the gravity of the political situation outside snuck up on us, in parallel with the characters' discovery on stage.

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Review: CABARET at The Goodspeed

The Goodspeed's production is especially remarkable as it features Bob Fosse's original choreography of "Mein Herr" as reconstructed by award-winning choreographer Lainie Sakakura, which required special permission from the Verdon/Fosse Legacy. It was only granted due to Sakakura's depth of knowledge of Fosse techniques and specialized training in his work. The choreography was wonderful and the cast made the kick line sequence look effortless. Aurore Joly (Ensemble) portrayed a rag doll in "If You Could See Her," and delivered a stellar performance that's not to be missed.

Review: CABARET at The Goodspeed

Cabaret delivers a strong all-star cast who captivated the audience from start to finish. Jelani Remy (Broadway: Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations!and Disney's The Lion King) plays The Emcee and knows exactly how to play to a crowd, livening up even a Wednesday night audience. Remy's his incredibly wide vocal range was a delight. Aline Mayagoitia (Off-Broadway: Notes From Now and Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation) plays Sally Bowles, with an incomparably perfect British accent, style and flair, and dynamic expressivity. Bruce Landry (Broadway: Les Misérables and Anastasia the Musical) charmed and intrigued us, bringing new layers to his character, Clifford Bradshaw. Jennifer Smith, a veteran of 15 Broadway shows including the original companies of La Cage Aux Folles, The Secret Garden, Victor/Victoria, The Producers, The Drowsy Chaperone, won us over Fraulein Schneider. Kevin Ligon plays Herr Schultz (Broadway: Hello, Dolly!, On The Twentieth Century, The Phantom Of The Opera) and his beautiful voice and sweet smile tugged our heart strings. The alluring Terra C. MacLeod (Broadway and West End: Velma in Chicago on Broadway and the West End) sang and danced beautifully as Fraulein Kost. Tim Fuchs (National tours of Something Rotten and 42nd Street) delivered an intense, commanding performance as Earnst. The ensemble is comprised of talented dancers, musicians, and actors, including Matt Allen (Broadway: Escape to Margaritaville, Something Rotten), Nicolas De La Vega (Radio City Christmas Spectacular), Shelby Finnie (Broadway: The Prom), Aurore Joly, Caroline Kane, Kathy Liu, Christian Elán Ortiz (Broadway: West Side Story), Antonia Raye, Adam Rogers (Broadway: Cinderella, An American in Paris) and swings Nathan Fister (Radio City Christmas Spectacular), Emily Larger, Georgia Monroe and Joseph Spieldenner.

The dialect coach, Jennifer Scapetis-Tycer (Goodspeed: Billy Elliot, Passing Through), deserves more than mere mention, as her impeccable instruction truly took us to another world.

The 7-piece orchestra is small, but mighty, lead by Goodspeed's resident music director, Adam Souza. The band is supplemented by multi-talented actors on stage who perform trumpet, banjo, and violin. Occasionally, the orchestra overpowered the actors, but it was forgivable: To quote the Emcee, "Even zee orchestra is beautiful."

Though I wasn't initially convinced by some of the casting choices, as I watched the production I quickly forgot my initial reservations: Cabaret is powerful, profound, and, most importantly, relevant. The Goodspeed chose to program a classic musical knowing it delivers a message that today's audiences need to hear. The production is brilliant, strikes a chord, and I highly recommend it.

Cabaret is on stage from May 13th - July 3rd, 2022. Curtain times are Wednesday at 2:00p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (with select performances at 2:00 p.m.), Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. (with select performances at 6:30 p.m.)

Photo credit: Diane Sobolewski

Review: CABARET at The Goodspeed

Review: CABARET at The Goodspeed

Review: CABARET at The Goodspeed

Review: CABARET at The Goodspeed

Review: CABARET at The Goodspeed Review: CABARET at The Goodspeed Review: CABARET at The Goodspeed

 



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