Monday, September 19, 2005


Between 1929 and 1933, Christopher Isherwood lived in Berlin, which formed the backdrop for stories he wrote on his return to London, published as “The Berlin Stories.”  One such story, that of writer Clifford Bradshaw and cabaret singer Sally Bowles was dramatized by John Van Druten as the play, “I am a Camera” (later made into a movie). 

In 1966, John Kander and Fred Ebb won a Tony with their musical version, which they called “Cabaret.”  The musical, of course, was made into a very popular film vehicle for Liza Minnelli and Joel Gray in 1972. 

In 1993, director Sam Mendes revived the Kander and Ebb musical for his cabaret theater and gave it a darker, harder edge, emphasizing the decadence of the period.  By the time the show moved to Broadway, where it enjoyed another successful run, the production, while still maintaining the darker feel, had lost a bit of the “edge” that it had in the smaller venue.  The tunes were so familiar to the American public that it was difficult to keep them down for two hours.

The Davis Musical Theater Company opened its 2005-2006 season with the Kander and Ebb version of “Cabaret” this weekend.  It was to have been a gala opening at the new Hoblit Theater on Pena Drive, but again there have been delays, and Cabaret opened once again at the Varsity Theater.

Set in Berlin in 1930, just before the Nazis come to power, the action takes place at the Kit Kat Club, a seedy nightclub where one goes to escape the reality of life.  “Leave your troubles outside,” invites the Emcee (Ryan Adame).

While not actually a part of the story itself, the Master of Ceremonies (“Emcee”) is the unifying character that brings all of the action together and Ryan Adame is perfect in the role.  With a garish white clown-ish face and lascivious manner, he commands attention.

Cliff Bradshaw is played by Ryan Favorite, last seen as Lun Tha in “The King and I.”  While we caught a hint of Favorite’s talent in “The King and I,” he really gets to shine in “Cabaret.”  The character of Cliff has gone through many permutations over the history of this story, being heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual, depending on the particular version or the decision of the director.  Director Steve Isaacson’s Cliff is unquestionably heterosexual and the chemistry between himself and Sally Bowles (Jessica Hammon) is real and believable.

Hammon is a bubbly Sally Bowles with a huge smile.  Her British accent isn’t always spot-on, but she inhabits the character and has a terrific voice, especially when belting out the title song.  She needs to learn about stepping into the spotlight, however, as half of her big number was sung with her face in shadows.

DMTC veteran Mary Young delivers the kind of performance we have come to expect from her as Fraulein Schneider, who runs the boarding house where Cliff takes up residence.  Frau Schneider has a larger role to play in the stage version of this story and her romance with her boarder, Herr Schultz (William Hedge) is very tender, especially in their lovely duet, “Married.”

Hedge is making his DMTC debut, and is very good as the old Jewish greengrocer whose heart is given to his landlady.  He gives special bits of fruit as if they were diamonds.

Heather Sheridan, the boarder who has a lot of “gentleman callers” has some projection problems, but otherwise does a good job.

Michael Manly, in his return to DMTC after a 9 year absence, is quite good as Ernst Ludwig, the German smuggler who befriends Clifford.

Wendy Young makes a fetching Gorilla (in “If you could see her through my eyes”) and Robert Coverdell sings a smashing rendition of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” the bone-chilling song that epitomizes the rise of the Nazi Party.

Michael Miiler is the choreographer for this show, with lighting design by Isaacson and Dannette Vassar.

Jeannie Henderson did her usual outstanding job of costume design.  The gown for Sally’s closing number was spectacular.

Cabaret is an entertaining evening of theater which, everyone hopes, is REALLY the final DMTC show to be presented on the Varsity Theater stage.

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