BWW Reviews: Arvada Center's CABARET
And now, meine dahmen und herren, ladies and gentlemen - it's time for true confessions of a critic. I admit I was feeling a bit under the weather when I saw Cabaret at the Arvada Center. When the first number got off to a shaky start, I immediately became defensive and overcritical (I won't show you my notes, just trust me on this). Then, like a slap upside the head halfway through the first act, my fabulous neighbor friend leaned over and said, "this is just wonderful, thank you so much!" At that moment I looked around and saw... smiling faces? People singing along and seat-dancing? People laughing? People enjoying themselves?! Then, after some self-scolding and a quick attitude adjustment, I began to see what they were seeing - an entertaining, energetic, sassy show!
The City of Arvada is renowned for supporting their performing arts center, and it was heartening to witness this in person. Given the middle-age demographic of the audience on this particular evening, I was also impressed that the producers didn't go for a PG-rated, Disney-fied version of this historically spicy show. There were men in booty shorts and girls in skimpy lace teddies, and the ending was so dark and shocking it made the audience gasp (no spoilers here - go see the show!) The ensemble did a fine job of remaining onstage, in The Shadows, while the main plot unfolded like a kinky carnivale found only on the colorful streets of renaissance Europe. Several cast members played instruments, which complimented the interactive experience. Signature musical numbers, under the music direction of David Dyer, included It Couldn't Please Me More (Pineapple Song), Money Money, I Don't Care and, of course, Cabaret.
As emcee, Leo Ash Evens drove the plot forward, interacting with delighted onlookers. While I had thought his performance was a bit over the top at times, the spectators were eating him up like he was warm apfel strudel. Brett Aune as Cliff was instantly likeable and knocked everyone's socks off in his first musical and singing role in his career. KendAl Hartse as Sally Bowles took some time to grow on me (her performance and accent seemed forced in the beginning), but I commend her for nailing the title song and making it her own. Hands down, the best performance of the night was the enchanting Billie McBride as Fraulein Schneider. Her scenes and songs with Herr Schultz (played by the talented Wayne Kennedy) were so tender, as well as heartwarming and heartbreaking.
Major kudos to director Christy Montour-Larson for seamless, flawless scene transitions that kept the show rolling along smoothly. The simulated fog, while mystical and atmospheric for the musical numbers, got to be a bit much for the acting scenes, but that's an easy technical fix. The choreography by Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck was Fosse-esque and complimented the show well. Designer Brian Mallgrave's set is lovely and simple, with the cabaret stage at balcony level, populated with several live band members, and the main plot performed on the stage below. The intimate seating at the Arvada Center (less than 500) made the entire experience more personal, lending an appropriate 'cabaret' feel.
Cabaret is the highlight of the Arvada Center's season. The musical is playing now through April 17th. For tickets and information, call the box office at 720-898-7200 or visit online at www.arvadacenter.org.
PHOTO CREDIT - P. Switzer
Leo Ash Evens as the Emcee
KendAl Hartse as Sally Bowles
The Kit Kat Girls
KendAl Hartse as Sally Bowles
The cast of CABARET