CABARET -- A Unique Experience at MTC
By Marlene S. Gaylinn
Forget the original show! Forget the film! If you haven’t seen “Cabaret” at Westport’s Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC), you haven’t had the same emotional experience that this professional theatre offers. While this production is rendered on a much smaller scale than we are used to, this theatre’s intimate environment brings the audience directly into the action. It’s like being seated in an actual cabaret. We can feel the characters’ energy as they swish by and if we dared to reach out we could almost touch them. In other words, the audience is the fourth wall -- the imaginary boundary between reality and imagination.
The story takes place in pre WWII Germany where satirical cabaret acts often reflected events in real life. In this case, we have “The Emcee” who welcomes the audience to his nightclub while wickedly assuring us not to worry as he tells us that in here “...everything is beautiful...life is a cabaret.” But ironically, the Cabaret’s decadent, amusing shows become increasingly uncomfortable as they mirror the foreboding attitudes of German society. Ironically, the place develops into a kind of hell. This enticing, yet terrifying, devilish clown is lying to us.
Meantime, the parallel world outside the Cabaret concerns an American writer who enters Germany. He meets a crafty, German smuggler who directs him to a boarding house where he meets its elderly landlady, her Jewish sweetheart, and a resident prostitute. At the Cabaret, he meets a savvy, British entertainer who slyly manages to move in with him. How these characters’ change during the rise of Nazi Germany is what “Cabaret’s” story is really about.
MTC Director, Kevin Connors, worked with a well-seasoned, professional, all-star cast in this excellent production. It’s amazing what one can do with a tiny space and a very creative imagination. The actors are so talented and absorbing that one doesn’t even miss a large, Broadway chorus or an orchestra. David Wolfson covers everything perfectly on his piano.
Eric Scott Kincaid plays “The Emcee” who moves easily and looks each audience member directly in the eye while holding the spotlight. The American writer is handsome, Ryan Reilly who also sings and dances with Melissa Price -- she plays the vivacious Cabaret singer, “Sally Bowles.” Dorothy Stanley who plays the landlady, “Fraulein Schneider” and Stuart Zagnit, as “Herr Schultz,” her Jewish fiancé, give heartwarming performances. Particularly enjoyable are the numbers, “It Couldn’t Please Me More” and “Meeskite.” Marty Bongfeldt plays the prostitute, “Fraulein Kost,” and she doubles as other characters. Johnny Orenberg plays “The Waiter” and some Nazi parts. Robert Daniel Sullivan, who was a hit when he played McMurphy in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” at Ivoryton Playhouse, is “Ernst Ludwig,” the sinister, Nazi smuggler that everyone loves to hate. His character can give you nightmares.
Costumes by Diane Vanderkroef, features eye-catching outfits. Lainie Munro is credited for the lively chorography that miraculously fit a very tiny space. Andrew Knapp arranged the set and provided some attractive, Cabaret paintings.
Come to see “Cabaret” and hear the wonderfully rendered songs written by John Kander and Fred Ebb. This is a very entertaining and worthwhile production at MTC.
Plays through November 20
This review appears in “On CT Theatre/Nov.2011”