Review: CABARET at Orpheum Theater

Running Through May 22nd At The Historic Orpheum Theater

By: May. 13, 2022
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Review: CABARET at Orpheum Theater

The Premiere Playhouse production of CABARET is a mixed bag of incongruities. This is not just a story of debauchery in 1929 Berlin nightlife. It is also a political commentary of the early days of Nazi extremism that begin to wear away at the fiber of the country and the people of Germany. It is in the opening moments of this show, that the audience is put on a sort of visual warning that there will be scant few limits on the lengths this show will go to "shock" the patrons.

We are introduced to the concept of the place and time with some glaring missteps in costumes. While it is not always an easy task to costume a period play, we're talking about a place and time nearly 100 years ago, and the choices of costuming for this cast are clearly of more a modern-day dominatrix bent for the men in the cast. It's "in your face" outrageous. The costumes for the women in the cast were less dicey to digest.

The vocal performance of Patrick Simonsen as the Emcee was strong. His physical presence was compelling. He moved with lithe steps and strides, seemingly stroking the stage with his presence. There were times when his character provided props or scenic elements to a scene and his "ants in your pants" hip bouncing, just detracted from the scene. While his hair and make-up were artfully accomplished, his gay dominatrix-like attire was inappropriate for the character of the Emcee in this period of history. Put some pants on.

The role of Sally Bowles, portrayed by understudy, Madison Lukomski, was quite well done, considering she was the "understudy" on opening night. Her voice was appropriate for the character and the only times it seemed she may have been challenged, were on the low, low notes. She had some good vocal power and captured the audience's attention and imagination. Her ability to engender the "joi de viv" of a Kit Kat Klub performer with energy and enthusiasm was a highlight of the evening.

Clifford Bradshaw, as portrayed by Tristan Chasing Hawk, is another highlight of this show. He is especially effective in his youthful, somewhat naïve portrayal of an American "adventure seeking" novelist. He manages the physical and vocal requirements of this role with confidence and emotional maturity.

Fraulein Schneider, played by Julie Sauer, and Herr Schultz played by Casey Kustak had a good rapport in act one and were a fun diversion, but their pace in act two was glacial. It seemed under-rehearsed. There were some difficult topics to deal with and they missed the mark. I was impressed with Ms. Sauer's vocal ability and her ability to sell those mostly unmemorable melodies from this show. She provided some nice contrast to the younger, more flighty characters on stage. The set dressing in the engagement party at the fruit stand was disappointing. How much could it cost to buy some real fruit, or get it donated, so the audience doesn't feel like they're looking at the "fake fruit bin" at a thrift store?

Josh Allen, playing Ernst Ludwig was the surprise of the evening, with his vocal power and commitment to character. I thoroughly enjoyed his every moment on stage, even the uncomfortable ones. The character of Fraulein Kost, played by Alexandra Thong Vanh, was a very good portrayal of the manipulative entrepreneur of the flesh, and had some very nice vocal moments in this show.

Overall, the stage picture is good with the use of lighted silhouettes and a subtle, and stylized Nazi Eagle on the front of the platform center stage, but the doors not staying closed during scenes or coverings coming undone was an annoyance to the players and to the audience. The choreography also seemed under-rehearsed and not very synchronized considering its' simplicity. The facial expressions of the dancers seemed bored and unengaged with the songs at times. They had an "Intimacy Director" listed in the program, but, perhaps "seductive facial expression during dancing" didn't get covered under that umbrella.

In a nutshell, this cast mostly delivers the feel of the Kit Kat Klub in 1929 Berlin, but this show is not for everyone. I highly doubt any changes in costuming will occur as a result of this review and "that" visual trigger will be a "constant" in this production. Tickets are available at 605-367-6000 by phone or online at Cabaret plays through May 22nd at the Historic Orpheum Theatre in Downtown Sioux Falls.


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