Entertainment » Theatre

Cabaret

by Clinton Campbell
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Apr 18, 2018
Kimberly Fife, Katrina Pavao, Phil Tayler, Joy Clark and Caroline Workman in Moonbox Productions' "Cabaret." Photographer: Sharman Altshuler
Kimberly Fife, Katrina Pavao, Phil Tayler, Joy Clark and Caroline Workman in Moonbox Productions' "Cabaret." Photographer: Sharman Altshuler  

In seven short years, Moonbox Productions has proven themselves to be an adventurous and dedicated theater company - earning several awards along the way. With "Cabaret," their premiere production at the BCA's Virginia Wimberly Theater, they prove that they are not only here to stay but also ready to make their mark.

Kander and Ebb's "Cabaret" is easily one of the greatest musicals of the latter half of the 20th century. Premiering in 1966, it's a musical adaptation of the play "I Am a Camera" which was in turn based upon one of Christopher Isherwood's Berlin novellas chronicling his time in Weimar Germany. It has won numerous awards both in New York and London over the years as well as spawned the Oscar-winning 1972 film by Bob Fosse that solidified Liza Minelli's star power.

For many, providing background on this seminal musical seems redundant. However, audience reactions to Saturday's performance proved that (somehow) the work is still unknown to many. The number of gasps at various plot points was somewhat amusing at first but ultimately underlined why this work is so important and so important at this moment in our history.

Director and Choreographer Rachel Bertone has created a "Cabaret" for today's upside down world. A world where neo-Nazis march on college campuses and propaganda has replaced news and facts.

It's a dark and disturbing production that manages to walk the fine line of offering nods to acclaimed productions of the past while maintaining its own unique voice. It's a bit sexualized and tongue in cheek like the acclaimed Broadway revival while retaining much of the earnestness of the movie. The choreography references Fosse while only occasionally lifting directly, and even then only specific and (no pun intended) isolated movements.


Tracy Sokat, Caroline Workman, Joy Clark, Aimee Doherty, Kimberly Fife and Katrina Pavao in in Moonbox Productions' "Cabaret." Photographer: Tom Shoemaker  

Additionally, the production design of Janie Howland's sets and Marian Bertone's costumes is heavily influenced by the angles and colors of the visual artists of the Weimar period - especially those labeled as "degenerate" by the Nazi regime which lends a sense of historical grounding.

Phil Tayler's Emcee is one to be experienced. He is both menacing and engaging. He gives the impression of a wounded animal that could either attack or hide at any moment. He seems to carry the weight of the era on his shoulders. For all of Sally's drama, it is the Emcee that sets the emotional tone for this production. Wound to the point of snapping, he is both tragic and noble in his ability to keep going.

Tayler's "Money" is one of the most chilling moments of the night and his "I Don't Care Much" one of the most heartbreaking.

As the star of the Kit Kat Klub, Sally Bowles, Aimee Doherty is extraordinary. The role, most widely identified with Liza Minnelli's Oscar-winning performance, is undoubtedly one of the most daunting for any actor yet Ms. Doherty makes it her own. As a counterpoint to the Emcee, Sally chooses to be willfully ignorant of what is happening all around her. It is this unflappability that makes her moments of near collapse all the more powerful. Her performance of "Cabaret" is one of the most striking in recent memory.

As for the remainder of the cast, all are outstanding. Jared Troilo gives another fine performance as Cliff and Maryann Zschau and Ray O'Hare as the doomed Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz are incredibly touching. And as Nazi Ernst Ludwig, Dan Prior's impeccable tenor soars to provide a spine-tingling finally to act one.

For those unfamiliar with "Cabaret," there is no better time to see it. For those unfamiliar with Moonbox Productions, there is no better time to be introduced. In short, see this production.

"Cabaret" continues through April 30 at the Virginia Wimberly Theater, Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, Boston, MA. For tickets and more information, visit the Moonbox Productions website.


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