The Roundabout Theatre Company’s moving and thought-provoking production of Cabaret will play eight performances at the Durham Performing Arts Center on April 19-24. With writing by Joe Masterhoff, music by John Kander, and lyrics by Fred Ebb, prior productions have enjoyed major acclaim. This revival, directed by B.T. McNicholl and choreographed by Cynthia Onrubia, is an even darker take on a bleak time in world history — just before the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany.
For those unfamiliar with Cabaret’s plot, the story swirls around an American writer, Clifford Bradshaw (played by Lee Aaron Rosen), who arrives in Germany on New Year’s Eve 1929, with very little money in his pocket. He has a plan to be an English tutor and finally to complete a novel that he has been working on.
A German whom Bradshaw meets on the train, Ernst Ludwig (Ned Noyes), suggests that Bradshaw stay in a low-rent boarding house run by Fräulein Schneider (Shannon Cochran). Because it is so cheap, Fräulein Schneider’s renters are mainly prostitutes.
Looking for some diversion, Bradshaw goes to the Kit Kat Klub for some “adult entertainment” This is where Bradshaw meets a singer and dancer, Sally Bowles (Andrea Goss); and before he knows it, she has wheedled her way into his bed and his apartment.
This is no sparkly Broadway show. It is not meant to be. The tone starts out dark and just gets darker. Randy Harrison guides us through the production as The Emcee, and he is flawless. When the curtain goes up, there Harrison stands — bare-chested in a bondage-inspired outfit and hat. He is a cross between Heath Ledger’s Joker in the The Dark Knight Batman movie and Queen’s frontman Freddie Mercury.
The Emcee welcomes us to the Kit Kat Klub, and tells us to leave our troubles outside. “We have no troubles here,” he says. “Life is beautiful, here!” Yet it is not. The milk has already started to sour.
We feel from the very first song that we are coming into the room at the tail end of the party. The dancer’s corsets and hose are ripped. Their makeup is smeared and their hair is out of place. They look tired.
Peggy Eisenhauer’s lighting deftly moves us from the dance hall, to the boarding house, to the streets of Berlin, with The Emcee smiling menacingly at us the whole way. He becomes props — a table, holding a pineapple, and a lamp, serving as a silent witness — in some scenes, and Nazi military men in others. He is a chameleon.
The Emcee feels charming, yet dangerous. We realize that his smile has been a façade, hiding malice. By the end of the show, when he stares angrily and says to us again, “We have no troubles, here!” in his thick German accent, these words have become an ominous command from a glowering Nazi.
Cliff Bradshaw is the objective observer from another country who slowly realizes the danger and takes a stand, but he is unable to shake his German friends awake. “The party is over!” he screams. But folks are too busy dancing to listen. And some who know that trouble has arrived are too afraid to do anything about it.
There is a softer subplot between Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz (Mark Nelson), the local Jewish fruit salesman. The courtship between these two elderly and kind people, who found each other late in life, gives the audience hope for their future; but as we know too well how the war goes, we fear the worst.
While the mood of Cabaret is dark, it makes for wonderful theater. There are many funny moments. Alison Ewing is a delight as Fräulein Kost, a prostitute staying at Fräulein Schneider’s boarding house, where she hides customers from her landlady. The Emcee made a sly joke after the intermission that he went to use the restroom; but they wouldn’t let him in, referring to House Bill 2. The crowd went wild.
We had a good time. The music was spectacular, as was the singing.
This touring version of Cabaret is a very thought-provoking production; however, with its sexual content, it is not for prudes. (In fact, some patrons left at the intermission). Don’t be surprised if Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2016 national tour of Cabaret stays with you long after the final curtain falls.
SECOND OPINION: April 20th Durham, NC Herald-Sun review by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/review-cabaret-a-show-to-make-you-think/article_884f1da8-073c-11e6-9dea-d71a5a9a0ab3.html and April 14th preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/news/life-as-cabaret-roundabout-theatre-s-artistic-director-talks-about/article_87e2fe78-01c1-11e6-b660-b3059fec3ff3.html (Note: You must subscribe to read these articles); April 20th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh review by Jeffrey Kare: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-CABARET-National-Tour-at-Durham-Performing-Arts-Center-20160420; April 13th Burlington, NC Times-News preview by Rachel Teseneer for “Teens & Twenties”: http://teensandtwenties.com/greensboro-native-embraces-role-in-cabaret/; and Dec. 10th New York, NY Playbill.com preview by Adam Hetrick and Michael Gioia: http://www.playbill.com/article/cabaret-national-tour-introduces-its-emcee-and-sally-bowles-com-375005. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the April 5th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/04/on-april-19-24-dpac-will-host-a-decidedly-darker-version-of-the-divinely-decadent-musical-cabaret/.)
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents CABARET at 7:30 p.m. April 21, 8 p.m. April 22, 2 and 8 p.m. April 23, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. April 23 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $30-$145 (including fees). Click here for DPAC Special Offers.
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), tickets@DPACnc.com, or http://www.DPACnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1889427.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.DPACnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
THE SHOW: http://www.DPACnc.com/events/detail/cabaret and https://www.facebook.com/events/409967565874673/.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: http://cabaretmusical.com/about/#videos and https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLugacF8gXLxLDr2uhl1r2oUBG7rqM8buV.
STUDY GUIDE: http://cabaretmusical.com/pdf/cabaret.pdf.
THE TOUR: http://cabaretmusical.com/, http://www.ibdb.com/Production/View/500934, https://www.facebook.com/CabarettheMusical/, and https://twitter.com/Cabaret_Musical.
TOUR CAST: http://cabaretmusical.com/cast-creative/.
TOUR CREATIVE TEAM (scroll down): http://cabaretmusical.com/cast-creative/.
DPAC NEWS RELEASE: http://www.DPACnc.com/news/detail/four-season-shows-on-sale-saturday-matilda-the-musical-cabaret-42nd-street-and-ifthen.
2015-16 SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: http://www.DPACnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series-2015-16.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.DPACnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 21st, and 8 p.m. Thursday, April 23rd, performances.
Goodbye to Berlin (1939 short novel): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodbye_to_Berlin (Wikipedia).
Christopher Isherwood (English novelist, 1904-86): http://isherwoodfoundation.org/ (Christopher Isherwood Foundation), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/4836 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0410877/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Isherwood (Wikipedia).
I Am a Camera (1951 play): http://www.ibdb.com/Show/View/4590 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_a_Camera (Wikipedia).
John Van Druten (playwright): http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/6910 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0886668/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Van_Druten (Wikipedia).
I Am a Camera (1955 film): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/78756/I-Am-a-Camera/ (Turner Classic Movies), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048188/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_a_Camera_%28film%29 (Wikipedia).
Cabaret (1966 Broadway and 1968 West End musical): http://www.ibdb.com/Show/View/2338 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabaret_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).
John Kander (composer, 1927-): http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/6837 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0437218/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Kander (Wikipedia).
Fred Ebb (lyricist, 1928-2004): http://www.fredebbfoundation.org/ (Fred Ebb Foundation), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/5654 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0247939/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Ebb (Wikipedia).
Joe Masteroff (playwright, 1919-): http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/6762 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0557646/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Masteroff (Wikipedia).
Cabaret (1972 film): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/21780/Cabaret/ (Turner Classic Movies), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068327/ (Internet Movie Database), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabaret_%28film%29 (Wikipedia).
Cabaret (1998 Broadway revival): http://www.ibdb.com/production.php?id=4848 (Internet Broadway Database) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabaret_%28musical%29#1998_Broadway_revival (Wikipedia).
B.T. McNicholl (director) http://cabaretmusical.com/cast-member/creative/id/15 (tour bio), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/70538 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0574008/ (Internet Broadway Database).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.