“Cabaret” has been a hit since it first appeared on Broadway in 1966. It has undergone many transformations, including the Joel Grey/Liza Minnelli motion picture. This production is the Tony Award winning revival that the Roundabout Theatre brought to Broadway in 2013, produced by Academy Award Winner Sam Mendes (director) and Academy Award nominee Rob Marshall (codirector/choreographer).
Stepping back in time to 1931, “Cabaret” follows American writer Cliff (Lee Aaron Rosen) as he explores the fading glory of Wiemar Berlin. Taking place alternatively between the anything goes Kit Kat Club, where we meet our Emcee (Randy Harrison) and burning out star performer Sally Bowles (Andrea Goss), and an equally fading boarding house run by Fraulein Schneider (Shannon Cochran). Act One follows our protagonists as they fall in love, make plans, and settle in, ignoring the rising tide of Nazism – it’s a phase, it can’t happen here, we’ve survived worse – all of the denial and disbelief anyone could muster at the time.
Sally is optimistic about her relationship with Cliff, and belts out the showstopper, “Maybe This Time” and Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schulz (Mark Nelson) sing of marriage and the end of loneliness. Their duet “Married” is as heartbreaking as it is lovely, as the audience knows where this romance is heading. It is only during the last scene of Act 1 at Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schulz’s engagement party that the precarious nature of their happiness starts to collapse.
Act 2 is the fallout of Act 1. Cliff realizes things are too dangerous in Berlin, and makes plans to escape to Paris. He wants nothing to do with Nazis and realizes Berlin’s status quo has faded. Sally makes her own choice, leaving her singing a heart-rending version of “Cabaret” before she staggers home to Cliff. The Emcee makes one last tragic appearance, and the final scene is stark and shocking, rendering the audience stunned and chilled.
Brilliant performances glitter throughout; Randy Harrison as the Emcee steals the show (his stunning, rousing “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” is another showstopper), with as Goss as Sally Bowles hard on his heels. Frau Schneider and Herr Schulz are stellar as the aging, unrequited lovers. The set is minimalist, which works in the show’s favor (especially at the end), and the orchestra, seated above the main staging, is fantastic and every bit as much of a character in the production as those performing beneath them.
Overall this is a dynamic and dynamite show, relevant still to our time. Come to the Cabaret old chum. It just might awake or break your heart.