Some musicals entertain, some leave with things to ponder and some, like CABARET now playing at the Coronado Playhouse through April 28th, manage to do both.
This production proves that Kander and Ebb’s musical (winner of 8 Tony awards in 1966) is still as relevant as it was then; relationships, love, and having a good time meets up against politics and the rise of nationalism. Told with some of their most popular songs like “”Don’t Tell Mama”, “Money”, If You Could See Her”, and the title song “Cabaret”, it’s like a fun house mirror of a musical; where you are having fun but the off kilter sensation and warped reflections add a sense of barely hidden menace to the proceedings.
A friendly and multilingual “Willkommen” is given to the audience from the Emcee (Hunter Brown) who promises that we can feel good and forget our troubles outside. Surrounded by the bevy of beauties that are the male and female Kit Kat Club dancers this nightclub is the hottest place to be.
American writer Cliff Bradshaw (Gabriel Macedo) has just arrived in town, and thanks to his new friend Ernst (Andrew Shane Walters) has a place to live at a boarding house run by Fräulein Schneider (Susan Boland). He finds himself in Berlin and the Kit Kat club as he searches for inspiration for his novel. What he finds instead is Sally Bowles (Sarah Alida Leclair) an English cabaret singer.
It could be said that love is in the air; Fräulein Schneider finds romance with her tenant Herr Schultz (John Garcia) , Cliff and Sally find something that is an approximation of love, and Fräulein Kost (Deanna Cali) makes money selling a different kind of love, but it’s the growing obsessive love of country, and only those deemed “acceptable”” that are the catalyst for the story.
Everyone is too busy trying to have a good time or survive (one or the other, never both can be had it seems) to care about what might be happening until it’s too late.
Hunter Brown is excellent as the Emcee, who has an outrageous if slightly sinister way of flirting with the characters and the audience that brings to mind Tim Curry in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. He’s here for a good time and he might go to extremes to make sure nothing ruins that without thinking of the future consequences.
Leclair as Sally brings has the voice, and the world weariness for the character; she has dreams of what may be but is also a realist on what she needs to do to survive. Her “Maybe This Time” is a more contemplative, and her “Cabaret” is an anthem that she will have a good time come hell or high water.
Macedo has the dreaminess of a budding novelist but doesn’t hold up against Leclair’s Sally as well as he could. Walters is excellent as Ernst who after helping Cliff find room, boarding, entertainment, and a job is baffled that a little thing like the Nazi party can get in the way of their friendship.
Boland and Garcia bring the heart of the piece with their characters budding romance between the landlady and the fruit seller. It is their journey that brings the emotional cost most vividly to light.
The direction by Julia Cuppy keeps everything sharp, all sentiment is undercut with a sly wink or a grit of the teeth as the story turns in more ominous directions.
Coronado Playhouse is an excellent venue for the show, turning the space into both stage and club as performers interact with the audience as they arrive. With stairs leading up to talented band, led by Musical Director Ian Brandon, everyone has a front seat view to watch what unfolds onstage.
CABARET has all of the standard musical requirements; an amazing score, dramatic scenes, and entertaining numbers, all supplemented with some social and poltical commentary from 53 years ago that still feels modern.
CABARET is playing at the Coronado Playhouse through April 28th. For ticket and show time information go to www.coronadoplayhouse.com