Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
One of the most arresting aspects of this production is how effectively the director has made full use of the wide stage. He often has actors sinuously poised in the two door frames at either end of the proscenium (the glorious set design is by Daniel Nischan), and fills the stage with overflowing dance numbers that are simultaneously gorgeous and more than a bit frightening. It's quite a good-looking show, with wonderful work by costume designer Kate Bunce and especially lighting designer Marcus Abbott. The onstage band, led by the sublime musical director Michael Morris, is terrific.
This Cabaret is also remarkable in the casting of all the lead characters. Sam Given, who stood out in Ivoryton Playhouse's recent staging of Godspell, is even better here, given free rein to haunt this show, and his performance is full of wicked humor. Right from the opening number, "Willkommen," it is obvious that the role of the Emcee fits this actor like a glove and he takes full advantage of his every moment onstage.
Katie Mack is equally good as Sally Bowles. With a large tattoo on her arm and an air of mystery, Mack is great with all of Sally's songs, especially the title number. She also brings wonderful freshness to the song "Maybe This Time": it is presented here as a rather desperate, but hopeful, inner monologue, with Mack making the number more powerful than I have ever seen before. There is a darkness in her portrayal that makes the character all the more complicated and riveting.
Andy Tighe is rather buttoned up as Cliff, but that quality is just right for the part and, even without a solo to call his own, he has excellent chemistry with Mack's Sally. His Cliff is very much changed by the end the show. Carolyn Popp and John Little are just right as Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, respectively, and they make the most of their touching musical numbers. The relationship of this couple, and its outcome, proves to be quite moving.
In smaller roles, Carlyn Connolly is fine as Fraulein Kost, leading the devastating "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" at the end of the first act, as well as standing out in her brief but beautiful solo during the song "Married." Will Clark is an ideal Ernst, so initially fun-loving and endearing in his portrayal that his later transformation is all the more heart-stopping. The rest of the cast are just about perfect and they all shine during the many dance numbers.
Underwood clearly knows what makes this show tick and he supplies such stunning and unexpected moments as the Emcee making a sly appearance during "It Couldn't Please Me More" and staging Sally's final words to Cliff in a manner that is heartbreaking. This is not to say that the production isn't a great deal of fun, for it certainly is. But the chilling last moments will make you choke on the laughter that has been summoned up. Ivoryton Playhouse's Cabaret is truly an outstanding show.
Cabaret, through September 1, 2019, at Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St., Ivoryton CT. For tickets, visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org or call the box office at 860-767-7318.