Cabaret – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

In Berlin’s Kit Kat Klub in the 1930’s, the singers sang louder and the dancers were busy tapping their shoes to the beat of the moment while partiers swirled faster to avoid noticing the changes outside the door. Times were darkening, storm clouds were gathering and the atmosphere was becoming increasingly oppressive. But if you never looked past the door, you could deceive yourself that the Nazis were not ready to pounce and make the world decidedly different forever. More than five decades ago, Fred Ebb and John Kander captured Joe Masteroff’s book and John Van Druten’s play and the mood of this troubled era, as World War II was about to explode Hitler’s plans, in the Tony Award winning musical “Cabaret.” Until Sunday, July 21, the Connecticut Repertory Theatre will flaunt this Broadway hit in a spectacular production at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre in Storrs on the campus of the University of Connecticut.

This production, which combines Equity actors with students is worth the trip to Storrs. Laura Michelle Kelly is striking as Sally Bowles, the transplanted cabaret singer from Britain who refuses to acknowledge the growing threat of Naziism as she lives in her dream world of fantasy. She plays opposite her American lover, the would-be novelist Clifford Bradshaw, who is captured with precision by drama student Rob Barnes. While Cliff tries to write his novel, he innocently gets involved with Ernst Ludwig (Aidan Marchetti) who urges Cliff to smuggle in money for his cause, while Fraulein Kost (Leslie Blake Walker) uses her time to finance her own pursuits.

Equity performers Forrest McClendon as the masterful emcee and Jonathan Brody and Dee Hoty as the older love interests, one Jewish and one German, are excellent in their demanding roles. Scenic designer Alexander Woodward creates a fascinating set which is filled with Fan Zhang’s kaleidoscope of costumes. Director Scott LaFeber and choreographer Christopher d’Amboise keep the action moving forward dramatically.The scantily clad dancers are sensual, sexy, seductive and slightly shocking while the music ranges from the intoxicating “Willkommen,” to the tantalizing “Don’t Tell Mama,” to the sweet as a pineapple “It Couldn’t Please Me More.” Each song has a distinct place in the storyline.

For tickets ($48 and up), call the CT Rep, Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre, Storrs, on the campus of the University of Connecticut (exit 68 off I-84) at 860-486-2113 or online at Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. There is a 2 p.m. matinee on Wednesday, July 17.

Watch the world wake up and discover the party is over in this thought provoking look at one of the darkest times in our recent history.

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