Cabaret at the Met Theatre

When referring to Kander and Ebb’s 1966 musical, Cabaret, it is difficult and almost impossible not to mention its 1972 movie version directed by legendary choreographer, Bob Fosse, and starring Tony, Oscar, and Emmy winning Liza Minnelli. And while that film has been a success, the original stage production is far more entertaining than Fosse’s film concept.

However, it is the film’s iconic signature style that most people associate with the musical. In the film, Fosse made some changes by segregating the musical numbers from the storyline and dropping a sub-plot. Still, it managed to win the Academy Award that year (among the eight, the honor went to both Fosse and Minnelli.)

In 1998, Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall reinvented and revived this musical-incorporating some musical numbers that were written for the film into the stage production and taking on a much darker tone than in the original production.

Now, the Musical Theatre of Los Angeles in association with Canary Productions has successfully mounted a wonderful production of “Cabaret” at the Met Theatre.

Even before the show starts, the theater is transformed into the Kit Kat Klub with the Kit Kat Boys and Girls serving cocktails and flirting with the audience. Once the show starts, though, it is pure delight from start to finish.

Cabaret is set in Berlin, 1931, on the eve of the Nazi’s rise to power. Based on the play by John Van Druten from the stories by Christopher Isherwood, the events center around a seedy night club overseen by the ever present Emcee (Eduardo Enrikez) where British cabaret singer Sally Bowles (Kalinda Gray) works. There she meets and begins a relationship with a young American Writer named Cliff Bradshaw (Michael Bernardi).

At the same time, Bradshaw’s German landlady, Fraulein Schneider (Annalisa Erickson), begins a doomed romance with Jewish fruit vendor, Herr Shultz (Jayson Kraid).

The strength of this production is clearly evident in director Judy Norton’s and choreographer Tania Possick’s incorporation of elements from both the film and the Mendes/Marshall production.

There’s a little bit of Fosse in the choreography (Mein Herr in particular) as well as some inspired original musical numbers that keeps the show light and funny throughout. But the more serious subplot involving the Nazi rise to power is handled with pathos by both Erickson and Kraid in their tender interpretations of their characters.

Gray may not have the best voice for the part, but that is not necessarily a flaw in production. In fact, it is an asset to her endearing interpretation of a fragile Sally.

Enrikez is not only one of the producers of the show, but interpretation is also wonderful to watch, as he portrays him with deadpan sincerity that elicits plenty of sympathy and disturbing shock by the end of Act II.

One notable exception is the smaller part of Fraulein Kost (Josie Yount). Yount, with the striking long red hair, makes her character a memorable one with her impressive vocals at the end of Act I (Tomorrow Belongs to Me).

The MTLA attempts to bring to the West Coast, big Broadway musical productions specifically tailored for the smaller 99-seat venues, and this production of Cabaret is palpable evidence that with the right producers, a top notch musical is viable on the smaller stage.

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About Obed Medina
Obed received his BA in Creative Writing from the University of California at Riverside. He has freelanced and volunteered at various theatre companies in Los Angeles since 2002. He launched his own workshop theatre company in 2008 and has produced six original one-act plays and one Off-Broadway hit. Currently, he is living in Ashland, Oregon working on his writing and founder of Collaborative Theatre Project.

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