Friday, September 20, 2013

CABARET • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Rep is starting its 47th season with a stunning production of "Cabaret", winner of eight Tony Awards when it premiered in 1966.  The original source material for "Cabaret" was Christopher Isherwood's 1939 semi-autobiographical short novel, "Goodbye to Berlin".  This was adapted into John Van Druten's play, "I Am a Camera" in 1951.

There have been many takes on this classic about 1930's Berlin and the excesses enjoyed by the free-spirits at the Kit Kat Club whose eyes remain shut to Hitler's rise to power, but this Rep production, brilliantly directed and choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge, is absorbing and vibrantly fresh with an ominously beguiling tone.

Liz Pearce (Sally Bowles) and Hunter Ryan Herdlicka (Cliff).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Clifford Bradshaw (Hunter Ryan Herdlicka), a young American writer, has travelled to Berlin for inspiration for his novel.  After finding a cheap boardinghouse, he finds himself at the Kit Kat Club, where he becomes fascinated with the uninhibited freedom he finds within its walls, and falls for one of the club's headliners, Sally Bowles (Liz Pearce).  While he drinks in the offerings of this new self-indulgent world with Sally, political powers in Berlin are shifting.  Cliff eventually sees what's coming, but Sally refuses to acknowledge the Nazi threat that lurks like a shadow on the doorstep.  The Emcee (Nathan Lee Graham), our "one-man Greek chorus", is our host at the club, and from the electric opening number "Willkommen", to his "Money Song" to "I Don't Care Much", Graham glides through these, sometimes with goose-steps at the end, in grand style, and chilling indifference.

Michael Marotta (Herr Schultz) and
Mary Gordon Murray (Fräulein Schneider).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
The most compelling connection is the one between Fräulein Schneider (Mary Gordon Murray), the owner of the boardinghouse, and the doomed romance with her Jewish boyfriend, Herr Schultz (Michael Marotta).  The relationship between these two is where the imposing Nazi threat becomes most clear, and Murray and Marotta deliver charming, funny, and heartbreaking performances.  Herdlicka and Pearce also turn in solid performances as Cliff and Sally.  Pearce's powerful, "Maybe This Time", included from the film version, and "Cabaret", are highlights in an alluring performance as her free-wheeling Sally Bowles.  Herdlicka provides a nice counter-point as Cliff, the bi-sexual American novelist, whose vision of the future is clearer.

Nathan Lee Graham (the Emcee).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Fabulous costumes were provided by Angela Wendt and Michael Schweikardt's scenic design handsomely accommodates a few different locations, and features an upper level walkway and an illuminated Kit Kat sign.

I'd never seen "Cabaret" before (what?!), and only remember snippets of the 1972 film with Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli.  If there was any production that I'm glad was "my first", it's this one.  Go see it!  It's playing until the 6th of October.

Liz Pearce (Sally Bowles), Hunter Ryan Herdlicka (Cliff),
Michael Marotta (Herr Schultz), Dana Winkle (Fräulein Kost) and
Blake Ellis (Ernst).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Book by Joe Masteroff
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Music by John Kander
Directed and Choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge 
Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road
through October 6 | tickets: $16.50 - $76
Performances Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesday to Friday at 8pm, selected Wednesdays at 1:30pm, Saturdays at 5pm, selected Saturdays at 9pm, Sundays at 2pm, selected Sundays at 7pm

Nathan Lee Graham (the Emcee).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Hunter Ryan Herdlicka* (Clifford Bradshaw), Nathan Lee Graham* (The Emcee), Bradley Benjamin* (Kit Kat Girl Rosie and Ensemble), Angelica Richie (Kit Kat Girl Lulu, Telephone Girl, Two Ladies and Ensemble), Jolina Javier* (Kit Kat Girl Frenchy, Two Ladies and Ensemble), Dana Winkle* (Kit Kat Girl Fritzie, Fräulein Kost and Ensemble), Blake Ellis* (Ernst Ludwig), Timothy Hughes* (Customs Officer, Max and Ensemble), Mary Gordon Murray* (Fräulein Schneider), Michael Marotta* (Herr Schultz), Liz Pearce* (Sally Bowles), Carl Draper* (Bobby, German Sailor and Ensemble), Sean Maddox* (Victor, German Sailor and Ensemble), Blake Clendenin (German Sailor and Ensemble), Dennis Kenney* ("Her", German Sailor and Ensemble)
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Musical supervision by Christy Crowl; scenic design by Michael Schweikardt; costume design by Angela Wendt; lighting design by John Lasiter; sound design by Acme Sound Partners; stage manager, Glenn Dunn; assistant stage manager, Shannon B. Sturgis.

Conductor/keyboard, Henry Palkes; drums, Erin Elstsner; bass, Ann Muehlmann; woodwinds, Elsie Parker; trombone, Marquita Reef; trumpet, Mary Weber.

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