I’ve watched “CABARET” many times in many places. This is one of the finest productions of the Kander and Ebb musical, about the horrors of German life as the Nazi’s came to power in the 1930’s, that I have seen. The show is intended to be in-your-face confrontational, and this production certainly is.
It was directed and choreographed by Todd Underwood, who is the Associate Artistic Director of the Playhouse. The set (Dan Nischan) recreated a stylized image of Berlin’s Kit Kat Club, with the live orchestra (directed by Michael Morris) always on stage, and wreathed in ingenious circles of lighting (Marcus Abbott) that could bring scenes forward or fade them into the background as locations within the story changed. The scenic transitions were generally smooth, and helped by characters who were on stage but not involved in the immediate action freezing and holding still around the edges.
I haven’t begun to let the production go. It resonated in my mind through the weekend. Which images stand out? What won’t leave the memory alone? It could be the wonderful costumes of the emcee (Sam Given), who is resplendent both in garb for men and also in amazing dresses and evening gowns (Kate Bunce). It could be the pineapple Herr Schultz (John Little) gives to Fraulein Schneider (Carolyn Popp), and their tender duet, “Marriage!” Or Sally Bowles (the splendid Katie Mack) and her fur coat. Or Bobby (Taavon Gamble) and Cliff (Andy Tighe) in that deep kiss. Is it Kost (Carolyn Connolly) leading the company in a haunting reprise of “Tomorrow belongs to You,” and inviting the audience to sing along? Fraulein Schneider realizing that so many people are quietly agreeing that Jews are not Germans? The magnificent rendition by a staggering Sally of “Cabaret?” Or the final scene when suddenly the whole company is wearing the pajama-like costumes of the death camps?
They all stand out. Connolly was almost too good in her invitation for us all to join in. The song might be beautiful; she certainly made it so. But its association with the Nazis is not beautiful at all. Persons who get that want to gag rather than applaud.
That, of course, is what Kander and Ebb wanted us to do, and why this fast moving and fluid production deserves so much praise. Go if you can get tickets. www.ivorytonplayhouse.org, or 860-767-7318.
Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre August 10, 2019