CABARET – Music by John Kander; Lyrics by Fred Ebb; Book by Joe Masteroff; Directed by Bernie Cardell; Musical Direction by Tanner Kelly; Choreography by Adrianne Hampton. Produced by Vintage Theatre Productions (1468 Dayton, Aurora) through October 22. Tickets available at 303/856-7830 or vintagetheatre.org.
“What would you do?” asks Frau Schneider as she faces the impossible task of choosing between giving in to the forces of evil invading her home from within or giving into a dangerous love found late in life – her last chance. A “take sides” situation that brings fear no matter the choice. A situation that still exists for thousands in a thousand ways – large and small – in the world today. Mary Campbell gives a compelling performance as this sweetly sentimental survivor. She is a shrewd businesswoman, an almost giddy lover, and a woman profoundly aware of and confused by the changes in her world. Her rendering of “What Would You Do?” obviously breaks her heart. And yours too.
She is ably matched with Brian Trampler as the ever-optimistic boarder Herr Schultz who “shares a little schnapps” with her occasionally. His bouncy energy is a charming contrast to her more mellow persona. His shyly coy setting up of assignations with his lonely landlady is delightful.
Director Bernie Cardell, while regaling his audience with the music and madness at the Kit Kat Klub, gives great emphasis to the scenes at the boarding house that bring together and separate two pairs of lovers we grow to care for. The young lovers face the same decision but for different reasons leading to the same painful solution. In light of the rise of the Nazi party in pre-war Germany, both couples are suffocated by the pressure.
The younger lovers – Grant Bowman as Cliff, the struggling author and babe in arms in the society he finds himself dropped into, and Aynsley Upton as Sally Bowles, the chanteuse at the Kit Kat Klub who revels in the decadence, cannot make their relationship work as well, despite the fact that they both – in their heart of hearts – want the same thing. It was hard to believe that Ms. Upton was the understudy for this role, stepping in at the last minute for the ill Abby McInerney, the actress cast in the role. She performed with ease, sang songs both cheeky and soulful, adjusted to new places in the dance choreography with grace (her usual role is Frenchie, one of the Kit Kat dancers), and, in general, became Sally at least for one night.
As the Emcee, eden origin moves the story along from gay decadence to thoughtful realization of what was coming. His over-the-top flamboyant performance during the first half of the show salutes his recognition of what is expected of him at this time in that place. But as the production progresses, his recognition of what is happening begins to show. At about the time he is performing “If You Could See Her” – doubt and fear begin to reflect in his eyes. His final song “I Don’t Care Much” is the only time we get to see his personal despair and acknowledgement of a doomed future. It is a subtle but beautiful performance.
Musical director Tanner Kelly and Choreographer Adrianne Hampton have done an exemplary job of training the Kit Kat Kuties – girls and boys and those who like to go back and forth – for the complicated routines on the small (but ever-growing) stage at Vintage. They fill it to overflowing, sometimes even splashing down into the audience. They are appropriately sultry, fun-loving and sinister as the song demands. Special kudos go to Samantha Barrasso as Fraulein Kost, the boarder who needs a little help from the Russian Navy sailors in paying the rent. Her lion-sized voice in “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” startles and emphasizes the anger of the common folk toward those they believe controls their world. A sort of “I want my piece of the good life dammit!” Unfortunately, that golden tomorrow so rarely materializes the way it is hoped for – even today.
A moving performance of a well-known and favorite catalog of music reenacted by a talented group of performers – what more could you ask for on a Saturday night?
A WOW factor of 8.75!!