Review: A Dazzling, Haunting, and Relevant CABARET Opens at Asolo Repertory Theatre

Their season opener being the stunningly beautiful, sexy, and haunting work of Kander & Ebb, and a production none other than Cabaret.

By: Nov. 20, 2022
Review: A Dazzling, Haunting, and Relevant CABARET Opens at Asolo Repertory Theatre

"I used to love pretending I was someone else..." - Sally Bowles

"Would you guess I was terrified?"- Sally Bowles

"...There was a Cabaret and there was a Master of Ceremonies and there was a city called Berlin in a country called Germany and it was the end of the world..." (Cliff).

Saturday's opening night crowd was all a buzz as they stepped into the halls of the Asolo Repertory Theatre for the opening of their 2022/2023 season. Their season opener being the stunningly beautiful, sexy, and haunting work of Kander & Ebb, and a production none other than Cabaret.

This was my first experience at the Asolo, and after what I saw Saturday night, I will be back again and again. First off, let me start by saying that there is truly nothing like sitting in an audience of 400+, with everyone sharing the same excitement, all leading up to the moment the lights descend and we are plunged head first into a world much different from our own, but also very similar all the same.

At start the set is bare minus the dressings and proscenium, and a solitary black coat lit merely by a single spotlight, floating high in the air, a symbol of what's to come. The Emcee comes center stage the coat ascends down to him, and our story begins.

"Willkommen, Bienvenue, welcome! Fremde, Etranger, Stranger, Glucklich Ze Sehen, Je Suis Enchante, Happy to see you, Bliebe, Reste, Stay..." (Emcee)

The snap of a finger, the flick of a wrist, every movement precise down to the finest of details. From the second the Emcee stepped onstage I was left with one word, Haunting. That is the feeling I'm still stuck on even the next day. Anyone who's ever seen Cabaret always has a sense of uneasiness about the situation unfolding, but the stunning work presented here, is so haunting, so masterful, and so precise in every aspect I had goosebumps from first light to final bow.

The story of Cabaret is set during the fall of Germany's Weimar Republic in the early 1930s. Cabaret was first produced on Broadway in 1966, and then following many adaptations and revivals became the third longest-running revival on Broadway following the revival of 1998 which starred Alan Cumming and Natasha Richardson.

With music by John Kander, and lyrics by Frank Ebb, the hauntingly beautiful work that is Cabaret is based on Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories, a semi-autobiographical story about Cliff Bradshaw a Bisexual American Novelist, and his affair with the "Toast of Mayfair" Sally Bowles the hottest singer at the Kit Kat Club. Throughout the story, we learn of the rise of the Nazis to power, its affect on the Jewish Population, and how it affects the relationship of an older German Couple, one of which is Jewish.

Though we fall in and out of love with both Cliff and Sally, and follow their roller-coaster romance through every dip and turn, its not the love story that lures everyone in a chokehold and doesn't let go. What we find most alluring, most intriguing, is the antics of one "Master of Ceremonies," (Emcee) and the Boys and Girls who make up the gainfully employed of the seedy and almost jarring Kit Kat Club.


Director and Choreographer Josh Rhodes has assembled a stunning cast both in beauty and talent that bring the world of 1930s Germany to the forefront of our current circumstance.

Leading the cast is the enigmatic, powerful, seductive, and captivating Lincoln Clauss. Lincoln proves his worth with every moment he's onstage. He captures your attention from the beginning and never lets us go. His Willkommen brings the audience into the world of the story being played out before us. he completely entrances everyone in the audience, and you want to watch where he goes next, as you do not want to miss a beat. His energy burst off the stage, not just in the rousing moments, but also the heartbreaking ones. His rendition of I Don't Care Much, is one of the finest versions I have seen to date. There is a moment within the number that is so stunning to watch, you are afraid to blink for you might miss the magic. He has this aura about him, and his Emcee is almost method in moments that it's frightening, enticing, and scandalous from beginning to end.

As Sally Bowles, Iris Beaumier is exquisite. She is completely recklessly abandoned in the right moments, and sultry/seductive the next. Her Mein Herr, hoisted high above the company is exceptional both in staging and performance. Her voice is strong in all the right moments and tender when it needs to be. You feel for her plight, and she delivers so much gusto in Don't Tell Mama, that you can hardly stay in your seat. Her rendition of Cabaret is heartbreaking and a stirring rendition.

As Cliff, Alan Chandler is wonderful. He takes a lifeless character such as Cliff, and gives it texture and nuance. He so skilled in the in between, that you want to know where his mind will take him next. His moments with Sally are beautiful and painful as any rollercoaster relationship would be.

Abby Church, as Fraulein Kost/Fritzie is a great addition. Her moments with Schneider add some comedic elements to an otherwise dark world.

Kelly Lester's Fraulein Schneider is outstanding. Her vocals are top-notch and her rendition of What Would You Do in Act 2 is one of the best moments of the night. I enjoyed her moments with Herr Schultz, and It Couldn't Please Me More is a great moment between the couple.

Philip Hoffman as the Jewish Fruit Store Owner Herr Schultz is a joy to watch. His moments in It Couldn't Please Me More, and Married, are great features.

Ernst, played by Blake Price is the epitome of villains. You sense he's up to no good from first meeting. The scene in which he reveals his politics is a powerful moment. He has a chilling moment in Act One when he reprises Tomorrow Belongs to Me.

Rounding out the company are the Cabaret Boys and Girls. Gabe Amato as Victor, Annelise Baker as Texas, Emily Bordley as Frenchie, Yoni Haller as Herman, Leeds Hill as Hans, Emily Kelly as Rosie, Corrine Munsch as Helga, Natalia Nieves-Melchor as Lulu, Michael Seltzer as Bobby, and Christian Douglass as Max. All of which bring the zest, and sex appeal to the taudry Kit Kat Klub. The high energy group numbers explode off the stage with choreography that is so precise in every step.

Josh Rhodes assembles an exquisite production with the finest of hands steering the ship. There are so many interesting concepts and things happening every second that you never want to look away. The use of the band up above the company on a balcony was a beautifully rendered concept, it allowed them to be an integral and immersive part of the show. The entrances and exits, and the use of the staircases allowed for seamless transitions. The "Brick" moment was stunningly captured, and done so in a way I have yet to see before. I really enjoyed the change of the Gorilla moment to a Pig for If You Could See Her. The moon suspended high above the company for Mein Herr was a beautiful moment. The Choreography was expertly timed, and masterfully sought out. Full of precision and explosive energy, the group numbers burst off the stage. I really liked the addition of the Cabaret tables down front which allowed for a more immersive night club feeling. All in all, I think the final moment is the one I'm still thinking about the next day. The power, the shock, is so stunning I can still vividly see the image created when I close my eyes. Josh Rhodes is a master at his craft and here is no exception. Hands down this is the most cohesive, well-rounded, fully conceptualized staging of this musical that I have seen to date. My friends, this is how you do Cabaret.

From a technical standpoint this production of Cabaret is unmatched. From its unique Scenic Design by Tijana Bjelajac that completely encompassed 1930's Germany, to working hand in hand with the exquisite lighting design by Cory Pattak that evoked the gritty world in which the Kit Kat Klub resides nothing was held back. The stunning costume work by Alejo Vietti was perfectly marvelous and rendered to the finest of fashion. Angela Steiner's Music Direction helped blend the company to a cohesive unit, and created a beautiful sound that should be produced in a cast album. Ken Travis Sound Design helped blend the physical with the other surrounding senses to create an overall cohesive world for the characters to reside.

Many reasons are evident when choosing to see Cabaret. The most important one of all is to support the work being brought on the stage. The absolutely, mind-bending, beautifully rendered concepts behind Asolo Rep's production of this Kander & Ebb Classic, solidify the reasoning behind why this is truly my favorite musical. That is one question I am asked over and over, time and time again, "What is your favorite musical?" After seeing Asolo Rep's production, I can say CABARET! I love the beauty, the mystery, the grittiness just below the surface. Most of all I love that no matter where you place it, in whatever shape or form, Cabaret itself will always mirror the time and place in which you produce it. I think that is the biggest reason most of all, that a classic story such as this, remains timeless, and as relevant as ever, even more than we may realize. So leave your troubles at the door, and escape for awhile, who knows what you may find.

Tickets for Cabaret can be purchased by visiting Click Here. Hurry, for like the train to Berlin tickets won't be around for long, and shows are already selling out! Onstage now through December 31st,2022.

"Leave your troubles is disappointing? Forget it! In here Life is Beautiful...."


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