Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cabaret- a review

I would like to start this review by saying that we have season tickets to American Musical Theater of San Jose. We have been season ticket holders since the day before we got married (January 8th, 2005), and it is something special that Andrew and I do together that we both enjoy. We're both musical theater geeks.

Being a season ticket holder means being exposed to shows that we wouldn't necessarily have bought single tickets to- but we've enjoyed immensely. Some shows are real stinkers (ahem, Lord of the Dance), but we've had the pleasure of seeing some incredibly good local performances as well as some really good touring shows.

I've seen Cabaret three times (including Saturday night). The two previous performances were the minimalist, dark version that Alan Cummings starred in. Last night's was a different interpretation.

Let's start with the colors- everything on stage was RED. Blinding, bleeding, red. I was suffering from a horrendous migraine, and the red annoyed me. Even if I hadn't had a migraine, I think it would have annoyed me. The previous versions we've seen had a lot of black, dirty white underwear, and very white skin. Lots of very white skin.

The singing was good and there was a lovely a cappella version of "Tomorrow Belongs to Me", but the most troubling thing- in my eyes- was how obvious and in-your-face they made everything. From the beginning, the audience knows that Cliff is smuggling for the Nazis, where in the other version, the audience finds out when Cliff finds out. Leave a little mystery, people!

I felt like they had dumbed down the whole show to make everything totally clear. Herr Schultz being Jewish is made so incredibly obvious from the beginning (to leave no doubt as to why he can't marry Frauline Schnieder), where in previous versions, it's more subtle.

In this cast, the Kit Kat Club girls were real-sized women. Politically speaking, I love this. Realistically speaking, the Kit Kat Club was not a high-class establishment. It's a sex club / whorehouse.

The girls should look like they have to work hard for the monay, so hard for the monay. Curvier, well-fed girls aren't realistic in post WW1 Germany. I also noticed that this cast wore expensive, matching lingerie, where in the previous versions they wore dirty, ripped stockings and regular underwear. It's a totally different socio-political statement, dig?

Another weird change was that they changed the keys of all the songs in the first act from Minor keys to Major keys. I suppose it was to make everything sounds less dark, but Cabaret is a show about Nazis. This isn't Springtime for Hitler.

I felt that this version of Cabaret was heavily sanitized- one could easily bring a small child to this production and not have to worry about explaining sex, prostitution, Nazis, or abortion. Even the Emcee had a distinctly Mr. Rogers-esque quality.

But, what can you expect from a show that recycles costumes? Sally's fabulous fur coat was a recycled prop from Gypsy. Yeah, Sally Bowles was wearing Mama Rose's coat. If that coat had any fur on it, I'll eat my hat.

The show isn't all bad; the performers were good, and there was a favorite of mine in the cast. Noel Anthony played Ernst Ludwig, and as always, he was terrific. (We've seen him in Jane Eyre, Guys and Dolls, and Little Shop of Horrors, among other things.) I'd like to see him in more productions, and since he seems to be a local actor, that's pretty likely.

In short, if you've never seen Cabaret before, and you have delicate sensibilities, this is the show for you! I hate to pan a show, but this interpretation smacked of family values wholesomeness.

When the world is falling apart, and despair is the word, it's not appropriate to have June Cleaver serving milk and cookies.

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