BWW Review: CABARET at Candlelight Theatre
Candlelight's stunning production on CABARET forces Aisle Say to ponder if he has ever seen a more polished and thoroughly professional production at this venerable Arden barn. Phenomenal casting across the board, frenetic and imaginative choreography by Dann Dunn, climatic and intense light design by Matthew Kator, great sound by Dennis Mahoney and inventive period costume design by Moira Miller - most notably the Kit Kat Girls & Boys (not a virgin among them. I cannot verify that of course, but from the look of the costumes and the attendant bumps and grinds, it's a safe bet). Aisle Say is delirious over the stockings in the opener "Wilkommen".
Next we visit the period props by Amanda Gilles (where oh where did she get Cliff's typewriter), a spare but effective set by Jeff Reim, a fantastic band situated 10 feet up directed by Chris Tolomeo and, less we forget, very realistic wigs (the most authentic worn by Fraulein Kost) by none other than the inimitable and legendary Clayton Stacey!
Academy award winner Sam Mendes 1993 took the original 1972 production and completely rethought it. (A political analogy on the differences would be matching Obama's scandals (0) with those of Trump (how high is up?)?.
The most significant change was the character of the Emcee. The role, as played by Joel Grey in prior incarnations, was an asexual, tuxed-up edgy character masquerading in white face with dollops of rouge. With Alan Cumming in '93, the portrayal was more decadent, leering, ghoulish, flamboyant and most decidedly androgynous, all of which was perfectly channeled by Dann Dunn. This Emcee was sometimes sinister and perverse, sometimes playful and charming, but always dynamic, charismatic and...eerily omnipresent. Dunn owned this character.
(Sally Bowles), newcomer Mackenzie Newbury, displayed a 'perfectly marvelous' English accent which matched her perfectly marvelous voice and dance moves. Fosse dance is a precise, learned experience and she and the KK Girls & Boys executed the many production numbers exquisitely. Her portrayal of this insecure, ADHD cabaret singer who only lives for each day and who cannot see the world crumbling around her was absolute perfection.
Aisle Say has seen CABARET countless times and the choreo tends to be similar in all productions. With this show, though, Dunn's original (but Fosse-based) numbers were highly inventive and evocative.
It was a touch of genius to have Kaylan Wetzel and Collin Haber dance and sing "Two Ladies" with the Emcee, further substantiating the androgyny and bi-sexuality of the characters in this tumultuous time.
The "Girls" excelled in "Mein Herr" as did Sally's voice. Her production number with the KK Girls, "Don't Tell Mama" exuded sexual energy. "Maybe This Time" was not in the original show or movie, but Newbury nailed this plaintive and mournful tune. Her "Cabaret" was snarling, growling and show stopping.
It was terrific to see Max Redman as Cliff in a substantial role with teeth; one that finally exhibited his considerable acting ability. The chemistry between he and Sally was palpable and the two were perfectly marvelous in their duet. Through Redman's eyes we saw Cliff's torment as he explained to the unsuspecting Sally that her world - in fact, the WORLD - was on the precipice of cataclysmic change.
It was a risk by Director Bob Kelly to stay true to the script and inject Cliff's bi-sexuality in the character. Understanding Candlelight's older demographics and possible aversion to this, Kelly went for it and was rightfully rewarded. His staging was fast paced and kept us all involved in the action. And, timing is everything. The production comes on the 75th anniversary of The Holocaust. I'll give credit to Kelly on that one!
Sophie Jones' character, Fraulein Kost was a way long way from Guinevere, her last starring role at Candlelight. A fabulous singer, Jones presented an unerring German accent and, in fact, sang her portion of "Married" in that language. Kudos to her. (I can see that attribute going on her resume).
The most touching and poignant moments came from the interactions of Fraulein Schneider (Donna Dougherty) and Herr Schultz (Ed Emmi). Their duets "It Couldn't Please Me More" and "Married" were not only sung perfectly but acted wondrously. Their accents were divine. The Fuehrer would have been pleased. Emmi's line "I am German", was so very prophetic and yet so naïve, for the audience knew very well the outcome of his fervent -though misbegotten - belief. Dougherty's "What Would You Do" was magnificent as she poured out her soul in this heart-wrenching cry for understanding.
The Kit Kat Klub serves as a metaphor for political developments in 1929. And we all know what the future held for Germany. CABARET, unlike most musicals, does not curtain-drop with a Kumbaya production number. In fact it concludes with a frightening foreboding; robbing the cast of a deserved Standing Ovation.
Tisa Delle-Volpe once again with outstanding photos.
The gourmand side of Aisle Say gives a 3.5 rating (out of 4) for the piquant mashed potatoes. (A snippet more garlic might raise the grade to 3.8), Huzzahs to chef David Ramirez and long time buffet stalwarts Loretta Leech and Maryanne van Neerden.
Aisle Say suggests you leave your troubles outside. Enjoy the best theatrical value in the state. Life is a cabaret, my friend.
Through February 23. Candlelight Theatre. 302.475.2313
Next up: SOMETHING'S AFOOT March 14