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Cabaret
Albuquerque Little Theatre

Cabaret

Cabaret takes place in a decadent Berlin nightclub during the uneasy time just before the Nazis came to power in Germany. As the play opens at the Kit Kat Klub, sleaze is the rule. There is little hint at first of the dark Nazi cloud that is approaching. But the foreboding starts soon enough, and it is acted out by the Klub's Master of Ceremonies, or Emcee (Jacob Lewis).

As the story opens, Cliff Bradshaw (Ryan Jason Cook) has just arrived from America. He meets Ernst Ludwig (Dehron Foster), a German who offers Cliff work and suggests a rooming house. Cliff is on a strict allowance while he is in Europe trying to write a novel. He negotiates a weekly rate at Fraulein Schneider's (Carolyn Hogan) rooming house. She wants 100 marks, he can only afford fifty. She takes it rather than having an empty room.

Soon after Cliff arrives, two romances began to blossom in the midst of the Nazi emergence. Cliff visits the Kit Kat Klub and comes under the charm of Sally Bowles (Many Farmer), the nightclub's star. Meanwhile, the middle-aged Fraulein Schneider begins an affair with Herr Schultz (Ron Bronitsky), an elderly Jewish fruit shop owner.

Both romances are doomed as the dark cloud comes over Berlin and the city's culture shifts toward the Nazis. Cliff finds out that Ernst is a Nazi. He also finds out that the "work" he is doing for Ernst is furthering the Nazi cause. Cliff backs off in horror as politically naive Sally encourages him to continue. That's the first fissure in the relationship. We see further strain when Sally discovers she's pregnant and doesn't know who the father might be. Cliff wants her to keep the baby and move with him to America.

The love between Fraulein Schneider and Schultz—who have become engaged—takes a harsher turn. As Shultz's shop gets repeatedly vandalized because he's a Jew, Fraulein Schneider loses her nerve and breaks off the engagement. She knows her life with Schultz would be one of constant persecution, so she withdraws in horror.

Over Cliff's objections, Sally finally decides to have an abortion. She can't see herself in the American Midwest after life as a singer in decadent Berlin—she explains it quite well in the moving song, "Cabaret." Over the course of the play and two failed attempts at love, the city succumbs to the utter darkness of Nazism.

One of the advantages of the stage production over the 1972 movie is the additional music. The movie only included the songs that took place in the Kit Kat Klub. The stage version is a more traditional musical with songs interspersed through the drama.

While the music is very bright, dazzling even, the story is grim. Yet is wonderfully told, and the Albuquerque Little Theatre's production directed by Henry Avery, with music direction by William W. Williams, is spectacular. Here in Albuquerque, we're blessed by plentiful theaters and an overall high quality of performance—extraordinary for a city of its size. Even so, this production really stands out.

The gay transvestite Emcee is the center of the play. He represents everything that will be tossed in the trash by the squeaky clean and efficiently destructive Nazis. I can't say enough about Jacob Lewis's performance (he has great bona fides—he has just come off a stint in New York as a featured vocalist on the recent Jay Z and Kanye West album). He is the heart and soul of this production. Simply astonishing.

Though Lewis is a standout, he also has the meatiest role. Everyone is good in this show. I was prepared to be a tad let down when Mandy Farmer got to the song "Cabaret"—after all it's one of Liza Minnelli's signature songs. Thankfully, Farmer nails it, topping off a dynamite production.

Kudos to the sleazy female Klub dancers and singers (two of them are attorneys in real life). All of the lead performances are wonderful, all of the supporting performances are great. Likewise with the production crew. With a production this elaborate, I can't name them all (there are 22!). But thanks to all for a terrific show.

Cabaret, directed by Henry Avery, runs at the Albuquerque Little Theatre, 224 San Pasquale SW, through November 6. The play is rated R. Performances run Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm, Sunday at 2 pm, and Thursday, October 27 at 8:00 pm. General admission for adults is $24. For seniors 62 and up, $21. For students, $18. While the show is not recommended for children because of the R rating, children under 13 are $12. For reservations, call 505-242-4750, ex. 2, or purchase at the Theatre's website: albuquerquelittletheatre.org.


Photo: Courtney Wilgus

--Rob Spiegel



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