With an award winning Broadway revival still doing well in New York and a completed Equity national tour featuring stars such as Joely Fisher, Teri Hatcher, and Lea Thompson, it is no surprise that the non-Equity tour of the musical Cabaret is an attractive draw to many smaller markets around the country. The Kander & Ebb musical currently being presented in Dayton, Ohio may be too risqué for some audience members in such a conservative Midwest town, but the production is solidly performed and is theatrically potent.
Cabaret is set in Berlin in 1929. American Clifford Bradshaw arrives in Berlin to be inspired to write a successful novel. At the Kit Kat Klub, he meets singer Sally Bowles and other creatures of the seedy nightclub life. Cliff, a bisexual, is swept away by the advances of the sexy, yet tragic Sally. Their elderly friends Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz likewise undertake a courtship, but their future together is tested by the impact of the growing power of the Nazi regime. This compelling story is told through the framework of the cabaret, with the Emcee serving as narrator and social commentator.
The score by Broadway legends John Kander and Fred Ebb includes well-known tunes such as "Willkommen," "Don't Tell Mama," "Money," and the title number. These and many other well-constructed songs are both musically attractive and dramatically effective. Joe Masteroff's solid book provides significant insight into each main character, and he successfully uses the Emcee to commentate on the characters, culture, and atmosphere of 1929 Germany. In this revival version, however, some material has been altered from the original Broadway production, and the motivation behind the relationship between Clifford and Sally is not as clearly defined.
The cast of this tour is generally strong and is likely to be one of the better non-Equity ensembles around. As the Emcee, Christopher Sloan is nearly ideal. His take on the role is not as dark as some of his recent predecessors, but he possesses the confident stage presence, professional comedic timing, and raunchy and edgy delivery that are required for the role. In addition, during songs such as ""If You Could See Her" and "I Don't Care Much," Mr. Sloan displays a beautiful tenor voice that would surely be the envy of many Broadway singers. John Byron Holley is convincing as Clifford, showing significant range as an actor. He has an attractive singing voice, but is unfortunately provided with little musical material to show off this talent in this version.
In the pivotal role of Sally Bowles, Allison Spratt turns in the show's most disappointing performance. While she sings and dances the roles sufficiently, Ms. Spratt falls somewhat short in capturing the needed playfulness and flightiness of this character who lives life for today, without caring about the future. As Fraulein Schneider, Lucy Sorlucco recovered well after a few initial flubs of lines on opening night to provide one of the musical's best performances, excelling in both acting and singing. P. Brendan Mulvey and Benjamin Eakeley, as Herr Shultz and Ernst Ludwig respectively, perform suitably, if not remarkably. The talented Gina Shmukler makes a lasting impression as Fraulein Kost. As in the current Broadway version, each of the ensemble members play instruments in the Kit Kat Band in addition to using their wonderful talents as actors, singers, and dancers and each does well.
BT McNicholl is credited as Director for the tour, but this is clearly a near duplication of the work by revival director Sam Mendes. The show flows extremely well and all elements of the story, be they humorous, touching, or dramatic, are winningly executed. Rob Marshall's choreography for the revival is likewise recreated adequately by Susan Taylor. Ross Scott Rawlings capably leads the Kit Kat Band, which is wonderfully highlighted in the "Entr'acte".
The set design by Robert Brill and costumes by William Ivey Long are fortunately also holdovers from the Broadway revival and are appropriate and attractive.
The non-Equity national tour of Cabaret wisely recreates much of what has made the current revival a success, and the cast, as a whole, does well in bringing the tense and seedy atmosphere and story of this solid musical to life. The show continues in Dayton through November 18, 2001 and tickets can be obtained by calling (937) 228-3630.