Thursday, February 15, 2018

"Cabaret" Bowles You Over a Cliff

(NOTE: is not letting me upload publicity photos right now.  I'll try again later.)

At a theatre where I worked, there was a flat with graffiti on the back.  It said, “Life is a cabaret – long, boring and full of Nazis.”  Katie Spelman’s production at the Paramount contradicts two of those items.

At the end of Willkommen, the opening number of Cabaret, you pretty much sit there slack-jawed and ready to go home, thinking, “Okay, I got my money’s worth.”  It wasn’t just the best Willkommen I’ve ever seen, it’s one of the best stagings of an opening number I’ve ever seen; and this is the fifth or sixth Cabaret I’ve sat through.  It begins with the nominal hero, Cliff, starting to type out his story, which is a nice bookend placed by Spelman, whose work throughout is riveting, vital and it moves.  The wrap-around for If You Could See Her is jolting.  I can’t say enough about her work here.  Just stunning.

When casting Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, precedence is usually given to acting; if they can sing, it’s icing on the cake.  This cake is fully frosted.  Hollis Resnick and Ron E. Rains both have beautiful voices, and play the most sympathetic characters in the show, an advantage they seize and run with.  Both actors are brilliant and heartbreaking.

Kelly Felthous is an excellent Sally Bowles.  She’s funny, talented and lovable (which is crucial when playing a shallow character; more on that in a separate post.)  And her casting gets around the Tricky Part: Sally is working in a sleazy nightclub because she’s not all that good.  Felthous’ voice quality is quirky without being bad – she’s an amazing performer.  She doesn’t have a stereotypical “showgirl” body, but she’s tremendously sexy.  Her performance works.

As Cliff Bradshaw, Garrett Lutz is saddled with one of the most impossible “heroes” in theatre.  The original non-musical version was called I Am a Camera – the character was mainly an observer; to say Cliff is not proactive is like saying Donald Trump is unknowledgeable.  A vast understatement.  Anything unsatisfying about Cliff is on Joe Masteroff’s (the librettist) shoulders, not Lutz’s.  Lutz is (sorry if this description gets tedious) an excellent performer.  Overqualified for the role.  He deserves more.

The Emcee is generally played as and made up to be androgynous.  And you always know it’s a Guy in Dainty Makeup.  But when I saw a captionless photo of Joseph Anthony Byrd, I thought, “Wow.  A female Emcee.  That’s interesting.”  And I still thought it during Willkommen.  It wasn’t until Byrd did a song with his suit coat off that I saw his arm muscles and realized how well everybody here did their jobs.  Byrd is an outstanding Emcee.  Powerful singer and dancer.  And I promise I’ll tone down the raving now.


Forgot that the Goddess Meghan Murphy is in this.  You’re in for more raving.  Fraulein Kost the hooker is usually a very minor supporting part that you remember (if you remember her at all) under the heading of, “Okay… yeah… she was good.”  Spelman wasn’t satisfied with that and cast Kost as a towering force of nature.  Murphy dominates every scene she has, and I wish to god somebody would cast her in Gypsy.  I’ve seen her in several shows and, frankly, catching her name on the cast list for this was what tipped the decision about buying tickets.

Brandon Springman as Ernst Ludwig was great.  And there was a very interesting acting choice near the end.  During Cliff’s confrontation with Ernst, the actor usually plays Ludwig as clueless regarding Cliff’s change of heart.  Here, Springman builds to it not as, “But Cliff, I’m your friend!” so much as a hard, “I’m your friend, motherfucker – and you’d better remember that.”  Very nicely done.

Ensemble is one of the best I’ve ever seen.  I wish I had something bad to say about the performances, to make this more interesting; but I don’t and I’ll have to live with that.

Set, orchestra, everything else – all top notch.

Was there anything I didn’t like?  Yes.  There was something I hated.  Passionately.  And you’ll find that discussion here, since it involves spoilers: Don't Give Iago a Puppy

However, for those of you who don’t have that problem, this is the best production of Cabaret you’re ever going to see.  Which is par for the Paramount these days.  Actually, I don't think I raved quite enough about Kelly Felthous.  Really outstanding.  My wife and I saw the Broadway production with Alan Cumming.  Spelman’s production is ten times better.  Plus, Meghan Murphy.
Cabaret runs through March 7 at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora.  Info here:

No comments:

Post a Comment