Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

Goodspeed Musicals
Review by Fred Sokol

Also see Fred's reviews of The Approach and Queen

Jelani Remy and Cast
Photo by Diane Sobolewski
The opening scene for Goodspeed Musicals' production of Cabaret, continuing through July 3, is sensational. Director James Vásquez has reimagined and reinvented with startling results so that this group number sets a very high bar for the evening. In all, the current rendering both honors and energizes a classic show.

Cabaret finds its source in Christopher Isherwood's "Berlin Stories," as dramatized by John Van Druten in his play, I Am a Camera. Joe Masteroff wrote a book to combine with Fred Ebb's lyrics and John Kander's music, and Cabaret opened on Broadway in November, 1966.

The action, and there is much of it initially, begins at Berlin's Kit Kat Klub at the very end of 1929. It's a time of both jazz and impending Nazi presence. The Emcee for Goodspeed's smashing beginning at the nightlife joint is played by Jelani Remy; his dreadlocks frame one side of his face as he walks down the theater aisle, mounts the stage, goes into "Willkommen," and is joined by Sally Bowles (Aline Mayagoitia) and ensemble performers. Remy has vocal range and he relishes an audience.

Costumer Lex Liang is one unseen star of this presentation–his wardrobing of Remy's Emcee is audacious, with sequins on his jacket and tights, and his chest bearing a red, tight vinyl-looking contraption. Remy fills the stage and the house with his presence, especially during songs which feature most or all of the company, all of them dressed to the hilt.

Clifford Bradshaw (Bruce Landry) is a youthful American writer spending time on his novel. The extraordinary singer based at the club is Sally, who sports what was once dubbed a Buster Brown haircut, or a pageboy. She and Clifford have some kind of relationship, even as Sally boasts about all the men with whom she's slept. Frëulein Schneider (Jennifer Smith) operates a boardinghouse, whose occupants include Sally and Clifford, and she finds herself gently pursued by an elderly Jewish man named Herr Schultz (Kevin Ligon), who owns a fruit store. One truly hopes the romance between Schneider and Schultz will succeed, and they combine voice beautifully in the first act on "It Couldn't Please Me More." Smith and Ligon are each endearing. But a feeling of doom hangs above the couple during this politically ominous period, as Hitler's ascension and grip threaten.

One never really believes that Sally and Clifford, as an involved pair, will last, since any sort of chemistry between them is lacking. They are evidently mutually attracted, but where is any sexual facet or characteristic? Aline Mayagoitia showcased her talents for New England theatergoers last summer with a winning performance in A Crossing, at Barrington Stage Company. At Goodspeed, she and Landry are fine and that is all. When Mayagoitia, though, gets the spotlight for herself near the end of her performance of the title song, she comes through with an exciting vocal.

Choreographer Lainie Sakakura received permission from Bob Fosses's daughter Nicole Fosse to recreate his "Mein Herr" based on his film version. Dance for the production is gymnastic and uplifting, with fresh approaches and a cast more than up to spirited demands. Music director Adam Souza (conducting and on keyboard) and six other musicians vary tone and atmosphere. Michael Schweikardt's settings appropriately indicate faded decadence.

All surely does not end well as this story unfolds. A place, a country, a world will soon fall prey to the distorted vision and tyranny of an evil dictator. Cabaret catches people during moments just before the descent into darkness. Jelani Remy, a singular Emcee, lights up the stage at Goodspeed Musicals.

Cabaret runs through July 3, 2022, at Goodspeed Musicals, 6 Main St., East Haddam CT. for tickets and information call 860-873-8668 or visit .