By Leah Wright
Willkommen to Cabaret!
Based on the revival from Roundabout Theatre Company and directed by BT McNicholl, Cabaret begins with a glittery, shiny backdrop covering the upper portion of the stage before it devolves into a dark and often shocking analysis of Germany as the Nazis come to power. For those who are familiar only with Liza Minnelli’s Cabaret, the production will come as a surprise. The show is partially staged at The Kit Kat Klub, a seedy cabaret with a dark, sexual undertone and unspeakable goings on in the backstage area. Sexual innuendo and simulated sexual acts are littered throughout the production to delight and surprise the viewer, while adding depth to the storyline of a sinful and decadent Berlin in 1930.
Alongside the story of The Kit Kat Klub is also the story of Cliff Bradshaw, a vanilla writer from the US arriving for his first visit to Germany. He meets the German Ernst Ludwig, the cabaret performer Sally Bowles, and Fräulein Schneider, the grandmotherly owner of the boarding house he was sent to by Ernst. He is innocent, blindly so, and soon finds himself in a relationship with Sally, while he is perhaps dreaming of another, one of the cabaret boys. The production does not explore Cliff’s sexuality beyond a kiss and a few references to Sally not being his type, but perhaps that is being saved for a later revival.
Knoxville native Bailey McCall Thomas brought the character Sally to life, but it seemed the blond hair lent an innocence to the role when her actions and vocalizations alluded to something much more dirty. She and the other cabaret girls oozed sexuality in their movements, and the disjointed and slightly unsynchronized dance routines added to the abrasive and often rude nature of the story.
Erik Schneider, appearing in his first national tour, is superb as the Emcee. He is raunchy, raw, sexy, and obscene, just as the Emcee should be. He expertly uses his mannerisms to outcreep even some of the biggest names that have appeared as the Emcee in past productions and brings a grittiness to the role that is typically not seen from someone of his age and experience. As the Emcee, he has two modes — front and center with all eyes on him or lurking in the shadows to casually drop a prop onto the set or appear when you least expect him to do so. He punctuates the scenes with aplomb and stuns the audience into silence in the final scene.
Paramount to everything else happening in Cabaret is the story of the Nazi uprising and how it changes life in Berlin. As the story progresses, so does the set and the feel of the story. It transitions from glitter and jovial excitement to hate, depression, and anxiety over what the world will become and the changes to relationships. From a societal view, it forces the audience to question whether they would fight the uprising, join it, or choose to ignore it, if placed in a similar situation.
Cabaret is a wonderful production with a stunning cast that will make you think, laugh, and gasp with shock. It is not Liza’s Cabaret, but a much more adult, sensual portrayal of the story. It is not appropriate for children, prudes, members of the clergy, sensitive gorillas, or anyone with a serious heart condition. It is appearing at TPAC through March 4 and $25 rush tickets are available for every production. For more information, visit www.tpac.org.