Review: CABARET at Omaha Community Playhouse: Welcome to the Kit Kat Klub!

Performances run February 23-March 30, 2024.

By: Feb. 24, 2024
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Review: CABARET at Omaha Community Playhouse: Welcome to the Kit Kat Klub!
Laurence Katz and Mackenzie Zorn

Velkommen to the decadent Kit Kat Klub in 1930s Berlin.

CABARET, with book by Joe Masteroff, music by John Kander, and lyrics by Fred Ebb has provoked some of the most memorable images and musical refrains in the history of Broadway. Even those not normally theatre-goers will recognize the titular song, “Cabaret,” most likely in the voice of Liza Minnelli.

Opening on Broadway in 1966, the musical was met with audience walkouts due to perceived immoral content, but later went on to grab a fist full of Tony Awards. The subsequent 1998 revival earned several more.  It was recently announced that the West End production would transfer to the August Wilson Theatre in New York City in the spring of 2024. CABARET is not an “enjoy yourself and leave feeling good” kind of show. This musical shocks and awes, burrowing into your brain.

The story revolves around a seedy nightclub with a Master of Ceremonies orchestrating the performances of several young women and men. The headliner, Sally Bowles, has set her sights on an American novelist, Clifford Bradshaw, primarily for a place to sleep. Bradshaw is residing in a boarding house owned by spinster Fraulein Schneider who is cautiously developing a relationship with an elderly Jewish man, Herr Schultz. A German smuggler, Ernst Ludwig, befriends Bradshaw, then serves as the catalyst for chaos as the plot continues.

Omaha Community Playhouse previewed its production of CABARET Friday night in an intimate setting in the Howard Drew Theatre. Directed and choreographed by Alex Rodriguez, you are pulled in immediately. Scenic Designer Jim Othuse has created a smoky, moody cabaret set with a few cocktail tables scattered in front. Ensemble members roam the audience, playfully interacting as if with real cabaret clientele, while an exceptional orchestra conducted by Jim Boggess plays seated above the stage. These are excellent musicians. An excellent musician herself, Ejanae Hume steps out of character as Lulu and joins the orchestra with her violin in the opening scene.

Alex Rodriguez has chosen some strong actors to play complicated characters. Laurence Katz is perfectly cast as Clifford Bradshaw. His acting style is natural and unaffected, and he takes you with him on his journey of awareness. His beautiful voice is the cherry on top. He is a great counterpoint to Mackenzie Zorn as Sally Bowles. I wasn't compelled to believe Zorn is a desperate entertainer living a sordid life in the underbelly of German society. Her appearance and persona came across to me as more wholesome. Her melodic voice finds its sweet spot in the emotional “Maybe This Time.” 

Roderick Tilmon is in his element as the colorful Emcee of the Kit Kat Klub. His strong vocals fill the house and his emotional range impresses. His intensity at the finale is fierce.

Judy Radcliff (Fraulein Schneider) and her romantic partner, Jack Zerbe (Herr Schultz) are endearing. They feel real. And they effectively relay their joy and pain to the audience through their emotional interactions with one another. 

James Verderamo (Ernst Ludwig) draws us in, then repels with a polar opposite force as an anti-semitic Nazi. He’s the guy you love to hate. The perfect antihero. A symbol of all that is wrong in the world. And he's good at it.

Musically, CABARET is a jewel. The songs are appealing and memorable. Jim Boggess brings out the best. 

Molly Davis steals the spotlight with golden vocals as the prostitute Fraulein Kost.

Startling in its simplicity and beauty is the angelic voice of Jack Reilly, who appears on a screen, being, as he says, “not old enough to see this production for himself.” The image of his innocent face larger than life conflicts sharply with ominous dark figures in the aisles. It is numbing.

This Kit Kat ensemble is a captivating group of dancers with interesting choreography. They are fun to watch. Costuming by Lindsay Pape is unusual in style and fabric, giving the cabaret performers a wicked contrast to their fresh, youthful faces.

CABARET is something you will not regret spending your money on. It isn’t just entertaining; it is thought-provoking. I find myself mulling it over as I write, treasuring each bit of it. Don’t miss this one.

Performances run February 23-March 30, 2024. Showtimes are at 7:30 pm Thursdays through Saturdays and 2:00 pm on Sundays. There is scheduled an audio-described performance on Saturday, March 9. Tickets are available at the button below or avoid online fees by visiting or calling the OCP box office at 6915 Cass St, Omaha (402) 553-0800.

Photo credit: Robertson Photography