Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Also see Rebecca's recent review of The Tempest
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 www.brtstage.org.