Life is still a cabaret | Entertainment

Cabaretbook by Joe Masteroff, music and lyrics by John Kander & Fred Ebb, Hangar Theater through July 16


With that word, a lusty master of ceremonies starts a small revolution in the American musical like Kander & Ebb’s Cabaret opened the 1966 Broadway season.

With that said, the Hangar Theater invites us back inside its beautiful stage, after three years of empty space, for a powerfully sung, well-acted, instrumentally swinging and generally solid performance of the show, directed and choreographed by Sanaz Ghajar and Ben Hobbs.

By ex-gay Englishman Christopher Isherood Berlin storiessketches of a delirious Weimar Berlin suffered from the giddy, hedonistic 20s into the rising Nazi fascism of the 1930s, John Van Druten shaped the play and film, I’m a camera immortalizing game, the vivacious cabaret singer Sally Bowles.

The genius of the musical, as conceived and directed by Harold Prince, was the addition of the lead; CabaretThe creators found in the Kit Kat Club a means of creating an ironic and highly seductive commentary on the unfolding events of history.

With variations, three cabarets exist: the original, the amazing Bob Fosse film (1972) and the 1993/1998 London revival in New York, which housed the audience in a version of the cabaret club. In the 1960s, Cliff Bradshaw (Isherud’s character) was heterosexual, in Fosse’s film he was bisexual with shining eyes, and in the 1993/98 remake by Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall, bisexual again. Meanwhile, the Kit Kat Club got a polyamorous, queer makeover.

Along with the three-plus cabaret, there are two leads: either Joel Gray’s original sly, meandering unforgettable roller, or the downright weird, hurt trickster created by Alan Cumming.

So Cabaret both forever changed and haunted by its famous ghosts. The hangar has opted for the revised version of 93/98, but (with Covid still a reality) unfortunately minus the immersion of the audience into the performance.

Trevor McQueen ably commands the stage as the genderqueer Emcee. Sharp and imposing, lithe and steely, McQueen combines a wickedly calculating gaze at the audience with a strangely compassionate cynicism and a deft physicality as he sings and spits his songs.

Candice Hatakeyama is delightful as Sally. Her gorgeous voice alternately caresses and sings the famous tunes (especially “Maybe This Time”) as she flirts and cackles with easy confidence.

Yet it’s the faltering, doomed romance between world-weary survivor Fräulein Schneider (Heidi Hayes) and her shy, suave suitor Herr Schulz (Fred Frabatta), the Jewish grocer, that captures our hearts. A romance torn apart by Nazi sympathizers Fraulein Kost (fierce, funny, raw Emma Zivkovic) and Ernst Ludwig (politely amoral Caleb Wilson Schaaf.)

Frabatta – a man who wears his heart on his sleeve – and Hayes – the cautious, scarred veteran of too many changes – beguile in their light, airy duets with a hint of a Viennese waltz, an antique grace foreign to the Germany they now inhabit. Hayes also thrillingly imbues his solos with all the layers of pain and wry wisdom they carry.

Alex Hanna plays Cliff (the least well-written character) as the slightly primal (and titled) genius the script implies, which leaves the actor free in the darkness of Act 2.

Ghajar and Hobbs have a strong, visually emphatic vision that nevertheless insists on the macabre from the outset. The Kit Kat Girls and Boys go beyond the corny and tasteless to the grotesque, and the choreography often favors fun, painful expressionism over dance aimed at entertaining Kit Klub patrons. What’s more, the set (Meredith Rice), with its silken patchwork drapes and busy shifting of the borders of the video display panels (projections by Stivo Amozzi), hampers the sense of place (the inclusion of a modernly dressed orchestra doesn’t help.)

Maybe the creative team wants to engulf us in a literal nightmare, but that goes against the actual structure of the musical.

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