Today, I went downtown to a little place called The Keegan Theatre
for their production of Cabaret
. I had never seen the musical end-to-end before, so this was a real treat.
I went into it knowing that this was not going to be an uplifting, happy musical, so wasn't disappointed on that count. What I enjoyed was how small and intimate the musical was as it touched on important social themes of budding-Nazi Germany.
In solid contrast to the iconic Joel Grey (1966 Broadway and 1972 film versions), who was powerful yet mysteriously androgynous, the Emcee played here by Paul Scanlan was distinctly and unabashedly masculine. Scanlan's presentation was omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnisexual. He was the one-man Greek chorus throughout the show, regardless of scene or set placement. Scanlan also was missing that air of menace that I recall from the clips of Grey's performance. I enjoyed this version of the presentation very much, with Scanlan's attitude of superciliousness in the first act being eroded by drugs, social pressures, and eventually the rise of the Nazis at the end of the second.
For me, the show was made and won not by Maria Rizzo (playing Sally Bowles) or by Bradly Foster Smith (playing Cliff Bradshaw), but by the most amazing performance turned in by Jane Petkofsky as Fräulein Schneider. I was absolutely in love with her range of emotion and emphasis in some painfully varied songs. "So What?" and "What Would You Do?" were neither happy songs. They were songs of resignation, of lost opportunities, of lost horizons. In comparison, the tentative out-reaching of emotions in "It Couldn't Please Me More" and "Married" were that much more tender for their tenuous nature. The casting of Stan Shulman across from her as Herr Schultz was genius. He was the perfect little grandpa character, with a pleasingly strong character appearance and some excellent mannerisms for each scene.
This was the opening weekend for Keegan's Cabaret
, and there were still some rough edges. A few people flubbed lines and cues, and there were some mis-steps here and there. The girls in the chorus line were not distinctly polished, but that was easy to overlook. The small orchestra upstairs was solid, on key, and on cue. What the ensemble lacked in smooth polish it made up in power and enthusiasm. The person running the stage left spotlight could definitely use more practice, though. It was a bit distracting to have people be cut off or half-lit as their cues came up. I also couldn't tell if Sally's lost wig just before the final "Cabaret" was through accident or on purpose. Rizzo bullied through her final number with strength and didn't let on that there was any problem, though, so I was left wondering.
Even with that set of small errors, it was a good show in a nice theater.
I definitely recommend this version of Cabaret
to anyone who would find the show or the subject to be of interest.
As we were leaving, the woman with whom I attended the show commented on how ... apologist? ... excusing? this musical was of Americans. Cliff (America) tried to get people (Fräulein Schneider) to stand up to the bad guys, and to flee (Herr Schultz) the bad things, and so when Cliff leaves by himself in tatters, he shouldn't be blamed for how bad Germany got, right? ... It's an interesting perspective. I will have to consider it, and maybe research the evolution of the play itself from the original book.