Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cabaret—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego

"All the World’s a Stage…”

This classic musical has music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb and is based on Christopher Isherwood’s short novel, “Berlin Diaries,” and the play, “I Am A Camera,” by John Van Druten.  It is directed by Ron Daum, musical direction by Beth Noelle (also keyboard), and choreography by Laura Hiszczynskyj.  It is playing at their space, 368 S. State St. in Lake Oswego (parking lot in the rear), through October 15th.  For more information, go to their site at www.lakewood-center.org or call 503-635-3901.

The above quote of my title, from the Bard, concludes that we are all performing a part in someone’s else’s  grand design and seemingly have no recourse but to play out our allotted roles to the bitter end, which is simply the absence of our material existence, “…sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”  This story seems to follow that dreary hypothesis to some extent.  But, “in the meantime, in-between time, ain’t we got fun.”  When you’ve got this, somewhat contradictory, volatile mix of these two ingredients, you’ve have, perhaps, “Cabaret.”

The story is based on Isherwood’s (in this guise, the character of “Cliff”) memories of his time in Berlin in the 1930’s.  The main body of action follows Cliff (Jon Gennari), a naive American, wannabe, writer, who lands in Berlin at the inopportune time that Hitler is moving into politics and the Nazis are beginning to strong-arm the German people, especially the Jewish population, into their own obscene brand of a totalitarian government.
A young German, Ernst (Chad Dickerson), who desires to learn English, befriends him and introduces Cliff to life at the Kit Kat Club, a type of underground amusement parlor, where anything, and anyone, can be available, for a price.  The oily, Max (Adam Elliot Davis), the owner of the club is bedding down with his star attraction, Sally Bowles (Kelly Sina), a popular belter of racy tunes.  But the one who runs the show, is the Emcee (Chuck Ketter), the musical narrator/commentator of the Cabaret lifestyle, in which everyone has their roles to play.

Cliff is housed into one of the boarding houses near the club, in which Sally Bowles is also a resident.  The owner of the establishment is the fastidious, Fraulein Schneider (Maggie Chapin), who has a romantic relationship with one of her boarders, a Jewish fruit seller, the kindly, Herr Schultz (Ron Daum).  Also in residence is the naughty, Fraulein Kost (Sydney Webber), who has hot-and-cold running sailors in and out of her room.  Love will make its mark with the golden-agers, as well as with Cliff and Sally and, under normal circumstances, there would be happy endings. 

But this is not the time nor place for that.  Smuggling, corruption, decadence, prejudice and cruelty are the orders of the day here.  Their world is held up to a mirror, broken several times in many places.  This mock world will trample the good, make demi-gods of the bad, and reflect the ugliness of a not-too-distant time and place of yesteryear.  And, perhaps, heed the warning nowadays, if we haven’t solved the mistakes of the past, we are bound to repeat them.

Although the play could be considered a bit of a downer story-wise, it does reflect well of a by-gone era.  And the songs from this musical are outstanding, both in writing and delivery.  The chorus numbers with the gals and guys and the Emcee, Sally and Bobby (Ethan LaFrance), “Don’t Tell Mama,” “Two Ladies,” “Sitting Pretty,” “If You Could See Her” and, of course, “Cabaret,” are fun.  The chilling, “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” by the company, is always a show-stopper.  And the dance numbers (Hiszczynskyj), “Telephone Dance,” “Tiller Girls/Kickline,” “Willkommen,” et. al., are well executed and exciting.

Both Daum and Chapin have beautiful and powerful voices, as can be evidenced by their rendition in their duets and solos.  Whenever the Emcee (Ketter) takes charge, they are showstoppers with him at the helm.  And Sina, as Sally, is amazing, both as an actor and singer.  Her powerful rendition of “Cabaret,” at the end, is haunting and heart-breaking, a searing moment.  The actors are in top form and they have voices to match.

Daum and Noelle, both seasoned pros, have produced a show that is thought-provoking, scary and professional in scope.  I predict his will be one of the top shows for this Season in theatre!  I highly recommend it.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.