Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
Masteroff's splendid book fuels the show, which is based on John Van Druten's play and Christopher Isherwood's stories. Musical director Angela Steiner leads a spirited group of musicians who are positioned on stage. The versatile instrumentalists (including a nifty accordionist) are key contributors. Alan Paul's imaginative and thoughtful imprints prevail as his interpretation and texturing distinguish the exceptional performance.
The Kit Kat Klub of Berlin in 1929-1930, features ensemble members who sashay and shimmy down the Boyd-Quinson stage aisles and mingle with a few theatre patrons. Throughout, this presentation is immediate, and anyone sitting in proximity of the performance space will feel thoroughly a part of the scene. Call it a full immersion if not engulfing experience. The Emcee (Nik Alexander) leads singer/dancers in a sinewy "Willkommen" and the journey begins.
Clifford Bradshaw (Dan Amboyer) is a youthful American wannabe novelist who moves into a boarding house run by Fraulein Schneider (Candy Buckley). Sally Bowles (Krysta Rodriguez) is an English singer who, with the Kit Kat group, brings us "Don't Tell Mama" and "Mein Herr" early on. Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz (Richard Kline), seasoned individuals, share romantic inclinations and combine voices on "It Couldn't Please Me More." The classic words of "Tomorrow Belongs to Me," a song that foretells of the Nazi threat to human existence, fills the theater twice before intermission. The eclectic mood shifts much darker.
The second portion of the show, after the dexterous Kit Kat Band introduces with the "Entr'acte," finds dancers who star through their flexibility and coordination. Choreographer Katie Spelman's work is inventive and embellished. The two primary relationships, that of Cliff and Sally as well as Schneider and Schultz, are in jeopardy. Rodriguez's Sally delivers "Cabaret" with grit and heartfelt emotion. Dictatorial, life-altering Germany hovers and looms. Fear and depression dominate as an exhausted yet magnificent collection of actors close the proceedings.
Alan Paul allows for hope and love during the time Berlin was a center of excitement. Toward the conclusion of the first and longer component of the musical, the precursor of totalitarianism through the Nazi regime becomes increasingly evident. Anti-semitism is no longer covert but incrementally relentless and haunting.
Performer Nik Alexander, as the Emcee, is penetrating through his searching eyes and wiry body. He's a combination of energy and, perhaps, malice. Alexander's rendition is nothing short of transfixing. Krysta Rodriguez plays Sally as one who, always on edge and on the edge, is passionate and confident. The entire cast is commanding, empowered, and vehement as they step and then hurtle forward.
Paul does not hurry his actors and each individual entices observers to vicariously experience the Kit Kat Klub. Later, however, the director moves toward a disturbing vision, one filled with agitation and potential horror. Taken cumulatively, this Cabaret is thematically impassioned.
Rodrigo Munoz's costuming (bold and sometimes revelatory) actively shapes mood as the dancers' outfits precisely reflect time and place. The choices inspire. Philip S. Rosenberg's lighting, too, is assertive, varied, glaring and flaring. Ken Travis' percussive sound design influences with dramatic effects at precise moments.
Barrington Stage's Cabaret transforms from decadence to the precipice and promise of tragedy. Paul, coordinating and coaching a brilliant orchestral cast of performers, permeates with a galvanic, absolutely engrossing event.
Cabaret runs through July 8, 2023, at Barrington Stage Company, 30 Union St., Pittsfield MA. For information and tickets, please call 413-236-8888 or visit barringtonstageco.org.