Taunt­ing, ter­ri­fy­ing ‘Cabaret’ siz­zles

THEATER RE­VIEW Re­vival il­lus­trates the dan­gers of dem­a­goguery

The Dallas Morning News - - ARTS & LIFE - By NANCY CHURNIN Theater Critic nchurnin@dal­las­news.com

Af­ter 50 years, Cabaret re­mains a cau­tion­ary and crit­i­cal re­minder of what can hap­pen when you keep par­ty­ing or look away as dem­a­goguery rears its ugly head.

Taunt­ing, teas­ing and ul­ti­mately ter­ri­fy­ing, the AT&T Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter pre­sen­ta­tion of the na­tional tour of Broad­way’s Round­about Theatre Com­pany’s re­vival siz­zles on the Win­spear stage. The Tony Award-win­ning show is a hyp­notic mas­ter­work of John Kan­der, Fred Ebb and Joe Mas­teroff.

The story of Sally Bowles, the Bri­tish per­former who sings in Ber­lin’s Kit Kat Klub, obliv­i­ous and dis­dain­ful of pol­i­tics and per­se­cu­tion as the Nazis rise to power, is fa­mil­iar from stage and film. The Round­about Theater di­rec­tion, re-cre­ated by BT McNi­choll from the orig­i­nal work by Sam Men­des and Rob Mar­shall, of­fers a skill­ful blend of songs that worked well in other in­car­na­tions (in­clud­ing the film’s wrench­ing “Maybe This Time”) with ef­fec­tive vis­ual images that add in­ter­pre­tive depth, in­clud­ing ref­er­ences to gays who would be one of the many groups tar­geted un­der Hitler’s reign.

Too of­ten Sally’s ti­tle song, “Cabaret,”

is mis­in­ter­preted as an up­per — an homage to some­one de­ter­mined to love life no mat­ter what. As vul­ner­a­bly and de­fi­antly per­formed by An­drea Goss, we feel the grow­ing tragedy of some­one who knows she is head­ing to the abyss, but can’t bring her­self to stop or re­verse course, not un­like the world of those who went on with their lives while mil­lions died.

Sim­i­larly, Randy Har­ri­son brings a youth­ful, brash and hy­per­sex­u­al­ized de­liv­ery to the Em­cee. Sport­ing criss­crossed sus­penders over a bare torso, he’s si­mul­ta­ne­ously a Greek cho­rus, shift­ing from per­former to ob­server, and a court jester, whose sar­donic wit will not save him from the rulers’ wrath for­ever.

A riv­et­ing cast and scant­ily dressed on­stage or­ches­tra (I won­der how sub­scrip­tions for the Dal­las Sym­phony Or­ches­tra might jump if they tried Wil­liam Ivey Long’s torn stock­ings and corsets?) help this crisp show fly through 2 hours and 40 min­utes.

Robert Brill’s set in­fuses in­ti­macy, with mu­si­cians play­ing on an up­per level, some­times viewed through a gi­ant, sus­pended, askew dress­ing-room-like mir­ror frame flash­ing with bulbs. In the lower level, ac­tion un­folds against a room­ing house back­drop with three dingy doors that stand like ques­tion marks, re­mind­ing us of the im­pact of choices as char­ac­ters choose one or the other.

Lee Aaron Rosen brings heft to Clifford Brad­shaw, the per­plexed, sex­u­ally con­flicted writer who comes to Ber­lin look­ing for a story and finds a darker one than an­tic­i­pated. One of the most af­fect­ing vi­gnettes be­longs to Mark Nel­son as Herr Schultz, the kindly, older Jewish fruit seller, and Fräulein Sch­nei­der, played by Shan­non Cochran with a brit­tle, pa­tri­cian aura of loss that melts, slowly and sweetly, un­der the warmth of Schultz’s ador­ing at­ten­tions.

Their duet, “Mar­ried,” of­fers a ten­der al­ter­na­tive to Sally’s tem­pes­tu­ous “Maybe This Time” with the lines “How the world can change/It can change like that — Due to one lit­tle word: ‘mar­ried.’ ”

The irony, of course, is that their world did change. Sadly, it changed into one where two peo­ple who loved each other could not get mar­ried, which turned out to be an early step to­ward the avalanche of hor­rors ahead.

Pho­tos by Allison Slo­mowitz/Spe­cial Con­trib­u­tor

The na­tional tour of Round­about Theatre Com­pany’s re­vival of Cabaret con­tin­ues through Sun­day in the AT&T Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter Broad­way Se­ries.

Lee Aaron Rosen (left) brings heft to the role of a sex­u­ally con­flicted writer. Shan­non Cochran con­veys a brit­tle, pa­tri­cian aura of loss and Mark Nel­son por­trays Herr Schultz, the kindly fruit seller.

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