Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern

A Preview of Boca Raton Theatre Guild's Cabaret

Also see John's review of West Side Story

Following their recent successful production of Neil Simon's Broadway Bound, The Boca Raton Theatre Guild continues its season with the Kander & Ebb musical Cabaret. The storyline of Cabaret is based on both the 1951 play I Am A Camera by John Van Druten, and Christopher Isherwood's "Berlin Stories." It is the tale of a young would-be author named Cliff from America in search of his first novel in 1929 Germany. Cliff finds a troubled but charming cabaret singer named Sally from England working in the troubled but charming Kit Kat Klub in Berlin. Their meeting is set amidst the pivotal historic backdrop of the rise of the Third Reich. Cliff is torn by both his sexuality and his political conscience, and Sally by her inability to let go of the perpetual party that she believes is her life in spite of what is happening all around her. The doom of their relationship is mirrored by the relationship between their elderly boarding house owner, Fraulein Schneider, and her Jewish suitor, Herr Schultz, as they face the impending Nazi regime and the possibility of their new life together.

The book for Cabaret, compellingly written by Joe Masteroff, stands on its own, even without the talents of the prolific team of composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb (their impressive list of collaborations include the musicals Cabaret, Chicago, Woman of the Year, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Rink, Zorba, 70, Girls, 70, The Happy Time and the films New York, New York and Funny Lady). Cleverly written song lyrics drive home the social and political commentary of this piece in songs such as "What Would You Do?" and "If You Could See Her." The first song is plaintively sung by Fraulein Schneider as she determines to break her engagement to her Jewish fiancé out of fear of retribution. The second is a comically sung explanation of why the Emcee loves his girlfriend (a gorilla) despite the fact that she is Jewish.

Cabaret is probably best known by the 1972 Academy Award winning film starring Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey. Film director Bob Fosse managed to keep the same feel for the film as original Broadway director, Harold Prince, despite some plot revisions. The 1996 Broadway revival of Cabaret, directed by Sam Mendes, took a slightly different approach. In addition to some song and plot changes from the original, the characters' edges are sharpened and their appearances less polished. Sally Bowles is more desperate and knowing, and the Emcee more leering and raunchy. The Kit Kat Klub Girls are not painted and provocative dance hall girls, but bruised and drugged prostitutes. This hedonistic depiction of the 1920s nightclub setting surrounding the characters is an accurate portrayal of the long-standing cabaret tradition existing in cities such as Berlin. Frequented by the upper and industrialist classes as places of indulgence and indiscretion, they survived in the underbelly of an ordered German society, despite social and political changes. Cabaret examines the social impact of the complexity of the political issues of the time from within the microcosm of one cabaret club and a boarding house. It is no accident that Sally's character asks, "What does any of this have to do with me?" and Cliff later responds, "Either you are against all of this, or you are part of it."

This production of Cabaret is directed by Keith Garsson, musically directed by Roger Blankenship, and choreographed by Stacey Einhorn. "Cabaret presents a unique opportunity for casting," Says Garsson. "Two couples separated by years of experience and tied together at the Kit Kat Klub by one of the most iconic figures in musical history: The Emcee. We are fortunate to have some of South Florida's finest musical theater performers, two veterans of national tours and three young local professionals you will soon be seeing everywhere."

Cabaret's cast includes: Jeffrey Bruce (Herr Schultz), a seasoned actor who is a charter member of Zoetic Stage; Gail Byer (Frau Schneider), whose long list of credits include appearances in Broadway musicals all over the world; Joe Harter (Emcee), whose credits include Pan in Bat Boy (Slow Burn Theatre Company) and Matthew Loyd in Bare: A Pop Opera(Broward Center for the Performing Arts); Mary Kate McMullen (Sally Bowles), a current FAU student; Peter Librach's (Ernst Ludwig), whose credits include the national tours of Godspell, Oliver!, Cabaret, Fiddler on the Roof; Nate Lauar (Clifford Bradshaw), last seen as Billy Bigelow in BRTG'S production of Carousel. Garsson is thrilled to have the opportunity to direct one of musical theatre's most memorable and beloved shows: "Once again lyricist and composers Fred Ebb and John Kander prove they can write a musical score suited to any time period, in this case: the Roaring Twenties including the Charleston and Honky-Tonk."

This Boca Raton Theatre Guild production of Cabaret will be appearing February 25 —March 15, 2011 at The Willow Theatre. The Willow Theatre is located inside Sugar Sand Park at 301 South Military Trail in Boca Raton, Florida. Performances are Thursdays - Saturdays at 8:00pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00pm. All tickets are $18, and are on sale now. Student tickets (with I.D.) are $10 on February 25th only. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Willow Theatre box office at 561-347-3948. For Group Sales call 561-948-2601. For more information please visit the Boca Raton Theatre Guild's website at:

Photo: Carol Kassie

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere

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