Cabaret – Review by Marlene S. Gaylinn

Norwalk’s Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC) ends this season’s offerings with “Cabaret,” an excellent production under Artistic Director Kevin Connors that is full of emotional impact. The 1966 original, award-winning show was made into a film in 1972 and revived numerous times on Broadway. It’s apparent that “Cabaret” is being revived today because it reflects on our current, political climate. Be sure to read MTC’s program notes. It’s ironic to learn that the devastating impact of World War II is quickly fading on the world’s population. For those of us who personally remember this period of world history, that’s a terrible thing to contemplate.

The original production by John Kander and Fred Ebb takes place in pre WWII Germany when 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 “… in here …everything is beautiful…life is a cabaret.” This grotesque, face-painted clown continues to entice us as his Cabaret’s increasingly decadent shows mirror the changing, foreboding attitudes of German society. Before we begin to realize what is happening, like the world outside, the nightclub develops into its own kind of hell.

Without going into too much detail, the parallel world outside the Cabaret concerns a naïve, American writer who is directed to an inexpensive, boarding house in Berlin. The boarding house represents Germany’s economic conditions before WWII. Here he meets his widowed landlady who rents rooms to anyone for whatever amount she can get, and her Jewish sweetheart who woes her with expensive fruit. Another tenant is a prostitute — who entertains multiple sailors at a time so she can pay the rent. At the Cabaret world, the writer meets a British singer who moves in with him and the couple fall in love. How these characters’ lives change during the initially unnoticed rise of Nazi Germany is what “Cabaret” is about.

Although MTC’s scaled-down version of “Cabaret” is a professional production featuring a starring cast, we did miss a larger number of sexy, nightclub dancers and the important satire called, “Money, Money” (“… it makes the world go ‘round”) which were unfortunately dropped from MTC’s original presentation. However, MTC’s new production places greater emphasis on the irony of unsuspecting individuals and the final plight of Jews as well as homosexuals.

Eric Scott Kincaid, who played “The Emcee” in MTC’s 2012 successful production of “Cabaret,” continues to hold the spotlight as he mesmerizes the audience with his expressive, body language. Nicolas Dromard sensitively plays the handsome writer, “Cliff Bradshaw.” Desiree Davar is the vivacious Cabaret singer, “Sally Bowles.” Anne Kanengeiser, the elderly landlady, “Fraulein Schneider,” and Jim Schilling as her Jewish fiancé, “Herr Schultz,” render strong, character performances — their duets will move you to tears. Andrew Foote, who recently played the title role at MTC’s “Jekyll and Hyde,” is the hated Nazi here. Hillary Ekwall, along with her sneering smile, is the Cabaret dancer and prostitute. Tony Conaty and Alex Drost are the actor/dancers who take on several roles with finesse. The musical Director is Thomas Conroy.

You should certainly come to the Cabaret at MTC!

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