|Adam Gardner as the Emcee in the Midland Center for the Arts production of "Cabaret"|
review and photographs by janet i. martineau
Midland’s production of “Cabaret” is scary...very, very scary.
Yep, it is set way back there in Berlin 1931, as the Nazis rise to power.
And the Kander and Ebb musical, which won a slew of Tony and Oscar awards, dates back to 1966.
Enough time has passed that it will come off as history, right?
Um, no, actually. We won’t get all political on ya, but headlines in the news recently make it all too relevant, familiar, sad....and scary.
“What Would You Do?” as one of songs poignantly asks.
Or, says the Emcee as he dances with a gorilla, if you could see her as he sees her “she wouldn’t look Jewish at all.”
Director Keeley Stanley-Bohn has assembled herself a fine cast in this Midland Center for the Arts musical, opening tonight and running through March 28. But what she also got was an excellent choreographer, Kelli Jolly.
This show MOVES. The dance numbers are athletic (especially the one involving chairs), deliciously naughty (the Kit Kat Klub is a model of depravity), inventive and the hallmark of the show. We want more, even though there are plenty.
And the singing matches the choreography. Outstanding. Be they solos or ensemble numbers.
Richard Bronson, cast as the American Cliff Bradshaw, has very little singing but oh my word WHAT A VOICE.
And Adam Gardner as the seedy Emcee, Emily Anderson as Brit Sally Bowles and Carol Rumba as Fraulein Schneider, who owns a boarding house, raise hair on the neck as well.
To give you a clue...toward the end Rumba sings an impassioned and determined “What Would You Do?” followed by Anderson’s meltdown in “Cabaret.”
We have no pictures to post from those two numbers because they grabbed us by the throat immediately and we were caught up so totally in listening to and seeing the emotion on their faces we forgot to click the camera.
Gardner, as usual, was superb in everything -- singing, acting, dancing. Does this man ever falter in a role? The show has him all over the place as a silent witness and as a vocal participant.
It was fun, too, watching Anderson, who normally plays sweeties (like Maria in “Sound of Music”). This show stretches her tremendously and she captures Sally’s grit very well in the acting part and totally in the song and dance department.
Other strong performances are delivered by Kaitlyn Riel as the sailor-loving prostitute Fraulein Kost and Colin Russell as the hidden Nazi Ernst Ludwig.
The German and British accents are strong and consistent. And the show moves moves well, with cast members quickly moving set pieces on and off.
But there are a few negatives. Like some detailing....don’t think there were plastic hangers in 1931 and a line about being balding by an actor with a thick head of hair. Some annoying offstage noise. A totally blown ending.
And the curious set by Evan Lewis. In an interview the director said its purpose was to capture Berlin’s cultural decline and that it was set in an abandoned library (Nazis being book burners) with the orchestra ON the circulation desk.
If I had not read this I would not have had a clue what it was trying to say. And while parts of it were intriguing mostly it jarred the eye on a variety of levels -- chiefly in making the orchestra too visible and in leaving an odd gaping hole at the left. But hey, at least it tried a new concept.
And thankfully the power of the show itself, Jolly’s choreography and the vocal power overcome those issues.
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