Tuesday, June 16, 2009

review - CABARET

book by Joe Masteroff; music by John Kander & lyrics by Fred Ebb
based on the play I Am a Camera by John Van Druten
directed by Judy Norton
Musical Theatre of Los Angeles
@ The Met Theatre
through August 9
This show is a classic in every sense of the word. Its sustained dark & forboding atmosphere of pre-Nazi Berlin and its celebrated Kander & Ebb score are but two glowing attributes. One, of course, cannot deny Bob Fosse's brilliant 1970 film, but, it was totally different from the Broadway show, as it became more of a showcase for Liza Minnelli's unique talent. The musical play is really an ensemble piece with the emcee (Eduardo Enrikez) weaving his way in and out of the plot as a symbol of evil about to break loose. Musical Theatre of Los Angeles under the stellar direction of Judy Norton, has turned The Met into the Kit Kat Club with front tables and sexy waiters serving up drinks - and plenty of skin - before the show. This Cabaret is by no means flawless but is without a doubt a very entertaining production, topped off by some terribly memorable performances.
In your face and astounding is Enrikez, making the Emcee every inch his own creation. He's bold, raunchy, electric and scary, but deliciously so. Annalisa Erickson as Fraulein Schneider gives a heartbreaking and vibrant portrayal of the aging apartment owner who is forced to look out for herself alone. Also touching is Jayson Kraid as Herr Schultz. In supporting roles Josie Yount as the hooker Fraulein Kost is gritty and unforgettable , as is Craig Bachmann as Nazi Ernst Ludwig. Michael Bernardi plays Cliff Bradshaw with clean and direct intent. Kalinda Gray is still working through the curious and complex behavior of Sally Bowles, perhaps the most difficult role to play, but makes a dynamite splash with "Cabaret" and in her final moments. The Kit Kat ensemble of boys and girls are energetic and appetizing.
Norton is a fine director and defines 2 wonderful moments in which Enrikez plays with a flower, eventually crumpling it to bits at the finale of Act I. I found his upper stage right appearance during Schneider/Schultz's duet "It Couldn't Please Me More" somewhat distracting, though, to the amusing, yet tender feelings of the aging couple stage center. The threat of doom to come is obvious, but maybe this upstaging is too blatant.
Set by Victoria Bellocq is fascinating in its almost 70s hippyish quality of color and design with mirrored doors just perfect. Also it is interesting to note that it copies popular artist Paul Klee who was considered degenerate and banned by the Nazis. Quite a remarkable detail!
Wondefully appropriate costuming, particularly the flimsy and tattered outfits for the dancers by Ann Mcmahan, ungaudy lighting design by Derrick Mcdaniel and lively musical direction by Greg Hakke add blasts of fun to the dark concoction.
I love revisiting a classic, especially a musical. Kander & Ebb's optimistic music is enough by itself to put bodies into the seats - and "Maybe This Time", originally written for the film and Minnelli is now a permanent part of the stage score. And, another reason... appreciating the message of Cabaret, to live for each and every moment, is more timely now than ever, and MTLA's ensemble reechoes that individualistic spirit.
4 out of 5 stars


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