Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Bristol Riverside Theatre
Review by Rebecca Rendell

Also see Rebecca's recent review of The Tempest

The Cast
Photo by Mark Gavin
Gritty and utterly unforgettable, Bristol Riverside Theatre's production of John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Joe Masteroff's Cabaret is a rousing theatrical experience. Featuring one of Broadway's most memorable scores, including iconic songs such as "Willkommen," "Maybe This Time," and the title song, Cabaret has been dazzling audiences since its debut in 1966. This production is directed by Keith Baker and is based on the epic 1998 revival co-directed and choreographed by Rob Marshall with co-director Sam Mendes. Baker has put together an excellent ensemble featuring a superbly intense performance by Christian Elán Ortiz as the Kit Kat Klub's Emcee. Immersive lighting and clever set designs transport the audience to a world on the very brink of madness.

Set in 1929-1930 Berlin, Cabaret revolves around the relationship between American writer Cliff Bradshaw and English cabaret performer Sally Bowles. Cliff is new in town and ready to experience everything lively and liberated Berlin has to offer. Sally is the headliner at the Kit Kat Klub and a veteran party girl. Together they dance into a glorious fog of music, drugs, liquor and sex, but the rise of the Nazi party makes the increasingly toxic political climate impossible to ignore.

Many of the show's outstanding musical numbers take place in the salaciously splendid Kit Kat Klub. Ortiz emits fierce energy as the night club's bawdy Emcee, shifting the mood from exuberant to malevolent with a twist of his smile. Raw and wild, Jenny Lee Stern is remarkable as desperately optimistic Sally Bowles. Another superb performance comes from Danny Rutigliano as quietly charming Herr Schultz. The scenes between Rutigliano and Jo Twiss as Fraulein Schneider are some of the most powerful in the show. Twiss plays Schneider with an appropriate and compelling down-to-earth attitude that makes her enduringly sympathetic.

Joe Doran's vibrant lighting designs are captivating. Jason Simms scenic designs are clever and effective, if not particularly original. Doran and Simms create the perfect space for Stephen Casey's creative high-energy choreography. Linda B Stockton takes the production to the next level with her costumes, especially the racy ensembles worn by the Kit Kat Klub's girls and boys.

The stagecraft, performance and music synergy is as epic and edgy as a wild night in Berlin. The message is powerful and distressingly relevant in this moment when drag show performers and trans people in America find themselves facing a future as uncertain as any of the characters in the cabaret.

Cabaret runs through April 16, 2023, at Bristol Riverside Theatre's mainstage theater, 120 Radcliffe Street, Bristol PA. For tickets and information, please call 215-785-0100 or visit

Jenny Lee Stern: Sally Bowles
Chris French: Cliff Bradshaw
Danny Rutigliano: Herr Schultz
Jo Twiss: Fraulein Schneider
Bob Stineman: Ernst Ludwig
K. O'Rourke: Fraulein Kost
Christian Elán Ortiz: the Kit Kat Klub's Emcee
Gabrielle Impriano: Gorilla
Christopher McHugh: Max
Meredith Beck, Hannah Catanoso, Amy Chen, Adam Hoyak, Whitley Locks, Kristina Lodestro, Damien DeShaun Smith, and Shan Williams II: the Kit Kat Club performers

Director: Keith Baker
Choreographer: Stephen Casey
Musical Director: Douglass Lutz
Scenic Designer: Jason Simms
Costume Designer: Linda B Stockton
Lighting Designer: Joe Doran
Sound Designer: Damien Figueres
Video Designer: Michael Long
Fight Choreographer: Oliver Donahue
Production Stage Manager: Michele Begley
Assistant Stage Manager: Miranda Sage Rhode
Assistant Stage Manager: Carolyn Fast