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BWW Review: CABARET at The Playhouse

BWW Review: CABARET at The Playhouse

There is ofttimes a quality difference from non-equity versus equity tours. The former is comprised of young actors earning their stripes. For many it is their first tour. Any deviation from a highly professional, class A production was not evident with CABARET, at The Playhouse through March 18. This is a great, glam and gripping show - with a decided edge.

I think I understand the model of Prather Touring (management) and Apex Touring (Producer). It's quite ingenious. They take the original Creative Crew's direction and choreography and hire lesser known directors and choreographers to follow the creator's vision. In this case, Tony and Academy award winner Sam Mendes in 1993 transformed the original show into this more sexualized version. Co-Director and choreographer Rob Marshall has as many accolades as Mendes. Legendary Broadway costumer William Ivy Long's original costumes are part of this current endeavor as well.

Erik Schneider's Emcee channeled all the excesses of the androgynous Alan Cumming. Sometimes sinister and perverse, sometimes playful and charming, but always dynamic, charismatic and....eerily omnipresent.

Sally Bowles (Bailey McCall Thomas) reminded me of Jill Haworth, the very first Sally I saw in New York in 1969, petite with short blond hair. Thomas' singing and acting are superb. Her portrayal of this insecure, ADHD Cabaret singer who only lives for each day, who does not see the world crumbling around her was perfection. When she tells Cliff that not only did she have an abortion but also that she was not going to leave Berlin with him, we saw the anxiety and agony in her face.

The Kit Kat Girls (not a virgin among them! I cannot verify that pronouncement, but from their scant dress and provocative dancing, it's a good guess). The "Girls" excelled in "Mein Herr" as did Sally's voice. Sally's number with the girls, "Don't Tell Mama" exuded sexual energy. "Maybe This Time" was not in the original, but what a powerful, plaintive tune. Sally nailed it and made us all reflect on the 'maybe this times' in our own lives.

UD grad Carl Pariso's Cliff Bradshaw had both his tunes cut from the original. The chemistry between he and Sally was palpable and his frustration with Sally not realizing the world around her was in for a cataclysmic change was crystal clear.

A sub-plot involves the doomed romance between German boarding house owner Fraulein Schneider (Audrey Federici) and her elderly suitor Herr Schultz (Fred Frabotta). Their "It Couldn't Please Me More" was touching and poignant. Schultz's line "but I am German" was foreboding and hung in the air like Zyklon B.

Tours normally travel with a musician base of 4 and then hire contractors to round out the orchestra. Not so with this production. 16 pieces perched on a second story appropriately dressed for a cabaret. These musicians, under the baton of Erik Flaten, were really into their characters and created as much energy as the dancers under choreographer Jennifer Werner. I was unaware that 1931 German cabarets had a banjo player, but that addition certainly worked. Included also was a violin and viola. The orchestra's entr'acte guided us fluidly into Act 2. Even the Emcee came out into the audience to dance. Quite a hoot. The horn section in "Perfectly Marvelous", the duet between Cliff and Sally, was outstanding.

Lighting Design by Tony Award winner Peggy Eisenhauer could not have been more dramatic and added immeasurably to the production. Her use of reds riveted the audience. Take a look at the picture accompanying this review.

CABARET, unlike most musicals, does not conclude with a Kumbaya production number. The Kit Kat Klub serves as a metaphor for political developments in 1931. We all know about the Third Reich and what happened to those of the same religion as Herr Schultz.

Director B.T. McNicholl has quite a resume as well. He staged a finale that few will ever forget. David Temby's ominous sound design in this scene portended what was to become of Germany with Hitler's ascendance.

Call quickly! It leaves on Sunday. The Playhouse on Rodney Square 888.0200

Next Up: DIRTY DANCING April 3

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From This Author Greer Firestone