From the Deep Archives – Cabaret at Warehouse Theatre

I’ve been listening to a book that’s been on my radar – and in my Hoopla queue – for years: Fosse by Sam Wasson.

It’s fantastic. I read (and wrote about) another book about Fosse many, many years ago, but this one’s even better.

I reached the section detailing the filming of Cabaret, and began thinking about the immersive, beautifully acted, and powerful production of the musical I saw at The Warehouse Theatre several years ago. I dare say it remains the definitive stage version of Cabaret for me.

Cabaret-Floor-694x400
Photo by Stephen Boatright, via Warehouse Theatre

There are dozens of shows that I’ve seen in local theatres that continue to stick with me, sometimes for the overall effect, sometimes simply for a few standout moments or images or performances or even just feelings. As much as I love bus and truck shows – and the touring production of Wicked remains the single most affecting theatrical experience I have ever had – there’s nothing like local theatre to stick with you for the long term.

Sadly, the review I wrote of that stellar production of Cabaret lived on a website that no longer exists. So I thought I’d dig it out of my archives and share it. Because that show was glorious.

CABARET REVIEW

What good is sitting alone in your room? Come to the Cabaret, old chum!

There. I had to say it, so I did.

The nice part is, I really mean it.

The Warehouse Theatre’s staging of the classic musical Cabaret opened this weekend, and it’s a rousing, gorgeous, thoughtful, and entrancing production.

The story of a young American writer in pre-World War II Berlin, Cabaret introduces us to the Kit Kat Club, a seedy dive filled with beautiful dancers and beautiful music. Soon the young writer finds his life and livelihood becoming entwined with debauched neighbors, political intrigue, and, most fatefully, the Kit Kat Club’s star attraction herself, Miss Sally Bowles,

Shannon Robert does a great job directing a stellar cast, led by upstate favorite Will Ragland as the Emcee. Ragland presents the Emcee as both a Chaplin-esque jester and a creepy hovering presence, almost Nosferatu-like in pallor and appearance. He’s loose and bawdy and funny and disturbing and simply a joy to behold. Though in many ways Cabaret is really another character’s story, the show revolves around the Emcee, and Ragland owns the part.

Similarly, Katie Rockwell makes a strong impression as Sally Bowles. With a warm, sultry voice and deceptively girly manners, Rockwell portrays Sally as a woman torn, vividly living in the present while simultaneously flirting with a future that, in her heart, she knows will never come.

The other performers are uniformly good, including Matthew Merritt as Sally’s conflicted friend, Cliff, Jason Shipman as the beguiling Ernst Ludwig, Boyd Galloway as kindly Herr Schultz, and Cindy Mixon, demonstrating a powerful voice as Fraulein Schneider. The rest of the ensemble slink their way in and out, sometimes in multiple roles, every one singing and dancing with aplomb.

April Schaeffer both performs as a Kit Kat girl and choreographs, both to great effect. The dance numbers all sizzle with energy, and some, like the delightful “Money,” are bravura showpieces, melding sly nods to the legendary Bob Fosse with a style and creativity all their own.

The band, led by Joe Wehunt, is simply terrific, both from a performance and sound standpoint – the music never overpowers the lyrics but also never gets lost in the mix. The rest of the production also wows, from Shannon Robert’s stunning set to Tony Penna’s dynamically effective lights to the sexy costume designs of Kim Grannar and Elizabeth Floto-Flagg.

Everyone involved deserves the standing ovation the show received.

What’s more, the show itself stands apart. Cabaret gives us much more than big production numbers. This is theatre with a conscience. Simmering beneath the sexually charged atmosphere are hot button issues that continue to resonate and nearly fifty years since it first arrived on Broadway, Cabaret still packs a mighty wallop.

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