Review: Drury Lane Oakbrook’s “Cabaret”

Drury Lane’s “Cabaret” needs some dirt
underneath it’s green fingernails

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Drury Lane Oakbrook (map) presents:

Cabaret
By Joe Masteroff (book), Fred Ebb (lyrics) and John Kander (music)
directed by Jim Corti
thru October 11th (buy tickets)

Reviewed by Oliver Sava

cabaret01Drury LaneOakbrook’s production of Cabaret is pretty, but afraid to get dirty. Jim Corti’s choreography  is tight and the singing is more than serviceable, but it lacks the pulse and frantic energy that have made this show a postwar classic. The desperation of post-World War I/pre-Nazi Germany is never truly captured, and the end result doesn’t quite have the political punch that the book and music deserve.

When American novelist Clifford Bradshaw (Jim Weitzer) arrives in Berlin, he and the audience are greeted by the over-the-top theatrics of the post-World War I cabaret, but director/choreographer Sam Corti‘s vision of the Kit Kat Club feels tame. Yes, there is plenty of sex and booze flowing, but the atmosphere feels more Cole Porter than Kander and Ebb. The nature of the cabaret, an underground pleasure den where German citizens could escape the hardships of reality, seems to be lost as grit is replaced with glitter. The Master of Ceremonies (Patrick Andrews), takes the stage with a boyish delight, but Andrews struggles to find the darkness in the character that symbolizes the Nazi party’s rise as a legitimate political force.

cabaret02 Zarah Mahler has a similar struggle with the darker thematic elements of the show in her portrayal of Sally Bowles, the English songstress that can’t balance her love for Clifford with the frivolity of the cabaret at the same time. The chemistry between Weitzer and Mahler never quite ignites, making the relationship between the two seem forced and putting even more pressure on Mahler to show Sally’s desperate need for affection, a feat that is finally accomplished in her rendition of the musical’s title number.

cabaret02 Unlike the 1972 film, the stage version of Cabaret devotes much more time to the ascent of the Nazi party and the consequences it has on ordinary Berlin citizens. In a heartbreaking subplot involving Clifford’s landlady Fraulein Schneider (Rebecca Finnegan) and her Jewish beau Herr Schultz (David Lively), the cruel and pervasive nature of Nazism provides the motion that the production needs. When Fraulein Kost (Christine Sherrill), Schneider’s bitter prostitute tenant, leads the denizens of the cabaret in a rousing version of “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” at the couple’s engagement party, the tension is nerve-rattling. The scene shows a glimmer of the Cabaret that could have been, a terrifyingly exciting examination on the appeal of true evil in a desperate world.

Rating:  ««½

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Rave reviews for Theo Ubique’s “Cabaret”!!

Cabaret Poster

Looks like Theo Ubique Theatre has a big hit on their hands up in Roger Parks’ No Exit Cafe.  Across the board, the reviews have been stellar, including:

Beverly Friend from the Pioneer Press:

The magic begins as the audience enters the No Exit Cafe, now reincarnated as Berlin’s 1930’s decadent Kit Kat Klub complete with cast members waiting tables and — for those who include dinner in the evening’s festivities — bringing out brimming plates of knockwurst, sauerkraut and spaetzel or vegetable pot pie. The hot, tasty food provides as much nourishment for the body as the story line nourishes the heart and soul…

If you haven’t seen any version of “Cabaret,” what are you waiting for? Get going. It doesn’t get any better than this!   
Read the entire review here.

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And Tom Williams over at ChicagoCritic.com opines:

Director Fred Anzevino sure knows how to stage a musical on his tiny No Exit Cafe stage. His skillful blocking and smart use of the tight knocks and crannies gave his production of Cabaret an emotional edge that catapulted us back to the 1930 Kit Kat Club of Weimar Berlin. Featuring the rich John Kander score on Fred Ebb’s biting lyrics, Cabaret is a multi-layered musical of decadence and desperation. Based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel, Berlin Stories, Cabaret from its 1966 Broadway opening (winner of 8 Tony’s) and the 1972 film (winner of 8 Oscars) has been mounted often to varying levels of success. Theo Ubique’s production is superb in every aspect. It sings well, dances expertly and is acted richly. In short, this production deserves packed houses-it is that good!

Read the entire review here.