Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Also see the 2011 Carbonell Award Nominations
It is the tale of a young, would-be author named Cliff (Bruce Linser) from America in search of his first novel in 1929 Germany. Cliff finds a troubled but charming cabaret singer named Sally Bowles (Kate Shindle) from England working in the troubled but charming Kit Kat Klub in Berlin. Their meeting is set amidst the pivotal historic backdrop of the rise of the Third Reich. Cliff is torn by both his sexuality and his political conscience, and Sally by her inability to let go of the perpetual party that she believes is her life in spite of what is happening all around her. The doom of their relationship is mirrored by the relationship between their elderly boarding house owner, Fraulein Schneider (Angie Radosh), and her Jewish suitor Herr Schultz (John Felix), as they face the impending Nazi regime and the possibility of their new life together.
Cabaret examines the social impact of the complexity of the political issues of the time from within the microcosm of one cabaret club and a boarding house. It is no accident that Sally's character asks, "What does any of this have to do with me?" and Cliff later responds, "Either you are against all of this, or you are part of it". Cabaret's book, compellingly written by Joe Masteroff, stands on its own, even without the songs of Kander and Ebb. However, the cleverly written score by the team of John Kander and Fred Ebb makes even clearer the commentary at hand in songs such as "What Would You Do?" and "If You Could See Her." The first song is plaintively sung by Fraulein Schneider as she determines to break her engagement to her Jewish fiancé. The second is a comically sung explanation of why the Emcee (Christopher Sloan) loves his girlfriend despite the fact that she is Jewish.
Christopher Sloan nears perfection in his portrayal of the Emcee. As lewd as his character may be, there is just enough of an impish twinkle in his eye to make him almost endearing. He propels the show forward by weaving scenes together. Kate Shindle is equally well cast as Sally Bowles. Her acting and accent work is wonderful. Her Sally is neither the most beautiful nor most talented girl at the Kit Kat Klub. She is, however, the most vivacious and hungry for lifethe girl who bowls men over with her charm and leaves them lost in the flurry of her drama. Shindle appropriately gives us a Sally that is a hot mess in the end. Her rendition of the title song is not a sequined and spot-lit eleven o'clock number, but a tortured song of self loathing and revelation. As Cliff, Bruce Linser brings a great deal of clarity to a role that is often played as boyish and callow. The thoughtfulness of his acting beats brings needed depth to the character and his observations of what lies ahead for those around him.
Director BT McNicholl has structured many of the scenes and focus changes as cleanly as a camera take in a movie. Five musicians are assisted by nine cast members playing instruments on stage. This nicely reinforces the feel of a nightclub, particularly in the entr'acte at the top of act two. Supporting actress Angie Radosh is compelling as Fraulein Schneider, with some nice moments with John Felix as Herr Schultz; however, he does not fare well vocally. Though it is regrettable that their dancing is not stronger, tattered costumes, harsh makeup, tattoos and track marks help create the tawdry and desperate feel of the Kit Kat Klub girls and the world around them. Very strong performances by Sloan and Shindle, and a solid ensemble make this production of Cabaret the show to see.
The original Broadway production of Cabaret opened on November 20, 1966 at the Broadhurst Theatre, eventually transferring to the Imperial Theatre and then the Broadway Theatre, closing after 1,165 performances. The success of the production, which received eight Tony Awards, gave rise to the 1972 Academy Award winning film version starring Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey. Minnelli as cabaret singer Sally Bowles is the oblivious party girl, and Grey as the Emcee is mischievously androgynous. Film director Bob Fosse managed to keep the same feel for the piece as original Broadway director Harold Prince, despite some plot revisions.
True to the 1998 Broadway revival, this production's hedonistic depiction of the 1920s (Kit Kat Klub) nightclub setting surrounding the characters is an accurate portrayal of the long-standing cabaret tradition existing in cities such as Berlin. Frequented by the upper and industrialist classes as places of indulgence and indiscretion, they survived in the underbelly of an ordered German society, despite social and political changes. The Kit Kat Klub Girls are not painted and provocative dance hall girls, but bruised and drugged prostitutes.
The collaborative works of composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb include the musicals Cabaret, Chicago, Woman of the Year, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Rink, Zorba, 70, Girls, 70, The Happy Time and the films New York, New York and Funny Lady.
Cabaret will be appearing at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre through January 29, 2012. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre is a 550-seat, nonprofit, community-based Equity regional theatre belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, and the Florida Professional Theatre Association. This theatre employees both local and non-local Equity and non-union cast and crew members. The theatre is located at 1001 Indiantown Rd. (just off of A1A) in Jupiter, Florida. For tickets and complete information on the theatre's offerings, contact them by phone at 561/ 575-2223 or 800/ 445-1666, and online at www.jupitertheatre.org.
* Indicates member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actor's and Stage Managers
^Designates member of United Scenic Artists
+Designates member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society