Today’s hottest topics: bigotry, abortions, homosexuality, debauchery, political despair and ignorance all made an appearance at the current tour of Cabaret, Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall’s revival of the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production. Audience members fidgeted in their seats, relating the onstage hedonism and despair at the seedy Berlin Kit Kat Klub to our modern world. It’s one of those shows that stays with you, and shouldn’t be missed.
The love story focuses on nightclub singer Sally Bowles (Andrea Goss) and struggling American novelist Cliff Bradshaw (Lee Aaron Rosen) in the 1930s, with the rise of the Nazi party. The Kit Kat Klub serves as the ultimate escape where the sarcastic, raucous Emcee (Randy Harrison) convinces visitors in Willkommen that in his job as host this is the place to forget troubles and the evil lurking just beyond the front door. And while life is disappointing, inside the Kit Kat Klub, life is beautiful.
The Emcee balanced the uneasiness that crept into the show, with If You Could See Her (The Gorilla Song) and shocked the audience with Two Ladies. He kept the impending tragedy at bay, convincing two audience members to dance on stage, drawing the audience even deeper into the experience.
Bright lights frame the bisected stage keeps eyes focused on the stage’s action and atop the top section cleverly perches 17 musicians. (The beautiful boys and girls double as the band.) The dancers don’t match our over-produced expectations of a showgirl. These ladies’ clothes hang sadly and their movements exude a distinct weariness and rawness that conveys more than any twerk, bump and grind can do.
Featuring music by John Kander, and lyrics by Fred Ebb, the ill-fated relationship between Cliff, who struggles with his sexuality and writer’s block, and Sally, who desperately tries be anything but normal, is heartbreaking. Outside of the Kit Kat Klub, The German landlady Fräulein Schneider (Shannon Cochran) and Herr Schultz (Mark Nelson) make the production with their romantic, mature mating call which are highlighted by It Couldn’t Please Me More (A Pineapple) and Married. Ultimately, Schultz’s Jewish culture ends their engagement, leaving the audience fearful of what history will offer for the couple.
At the bleak finale, the Emcee asks with a demented grin, “Where are your troubles now?” It’s a serious question, fitting for our times.