Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The musical by Joe Masteroff (book), John Kander (music), and Fred Ebb (lyrics) premiered on Broadway in 1966, but Olney is using the revised script from the revival that opened in London in 1993 and on Broadway in 1998. The main difference is the deeper examination of sexuality: mainstream audiences in 1966 were not prepared for a gay or bisexual character in a major role (based on gay author Christopher Isherwood, whose stories inspired Masteroff's book).
Wilson Chin's scenic design at first seems too grand for the seedy Kit Kat Klub in 1929 Berlin: opulent chandeliers (lighting design by Colin K. Bills), gilded proscenium and railings, Art Deco mirror, deep red draperies and bandstand for the entire 10-piece orchestra and conductor-pianist Christopher Youstra. But the action soon gets down and dirty when Mason Alexander Park insinuates his way onstage as a riveting, gender-fluid Emcee, resplendent in Kendra Rai's outré costumes and high-heeled boots.
Alexandra Silber plays Sally Bowles as a redheaded force of nature. (She previously worked with Paul as Guenevere in the Shakespeare Theatre's Camelot.) Heedless, caring only about the present and blind to everything outside herself, Sally dominates Clifford Bradshaw (Gregory Maheu), an affable American writer who has come to Berlin determined to write a novel. In her dialogue scenes no less than her singing and dancing, Silber's relentless energy seizes the audience's attention.
Donna Migliaccio and Mitchell Hébert are a joy, singularly and together, as Fräulein Schneider, Cliff's no-nonsense landlady, and Herr Schultz, a shy Jewish fruit seller who becomes Schneider's suitor. There's a gentleness to their scenes together, even when the threat of Nazism becomes a reality, and they present both grace and determination.
Spelman's choreography blends precision footwork with seamy and provocative elements, including a faux striptease during "Don't Tell Mama," the chorus in plutocratic tailcoats and top hats for "Money," and a number involving patent leather costumes and riding crops. The final image is almost hallucinatory in its power.
Olney Theatre Center