Musical Theatre of Los Angeles in association with Canary Productions has done it again. Their current offering of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret is truly delightful, a high-energy, sexy treat.
The version that they are presenting, and there are many, is essentially that of the Broadway revival with Natasha Richardson and Alan Cummings, combined with snippets of the original, some of the Berlin Stories by Isherwood, and the play by Van Druten. But whatever its source, the production works splendidly.
For those who've seen only the movie, it was very, very different than the Broadway version. Both Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey are dynamite performers, but in the original stories, their characters are seedy, on drugs, and third-rate, and this is hard for the performers to bring off, especially the actrss playing Sally Bowles.
Jill Haworth, the first musical Sally Bowles, was trashed in the reviews. Natasha Richardson fared better, but risked singing badly and depended on her acting to carry the day. The current Sally, Kalinda Gray, takes a stance somewhere in between. She is not a great singer, so don’t expect Liza, but she is closer to the character, and really does a terrific job with the title song.
Eduardo Enrikez, who is also one of the producers, manages to strike a balance between tacky and talented. He does a masterful job as the emcee, and is surrounded by a great group of Kit Katters both male and female. They entertain us from the moment we enter the theatre space, never dropping character, and they have a great time of it.
Annalisa Erickson is a truly marvelous Fraulein Schneider. Josie Yount, a lovely girl and singer, does marvels with Fraulein Kost, both sexy and sleazy. Michael Bernardi, Hershel’s son, is terrific as Cliff. In this version he doesn’t get to sing much (though he can sing) which then balances out his role with Sally. His songs in the original were wonderful, but the character tended to overshadow Sally.
Craig Bachman is a scary Ernst Ludwig, a Nazi. Jason Kraid is a sympathetic Herr Schultz. Special praise goes to Danielle Soibelman as Anna Ludwig, who sings “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” in a clear lovely voice, and is actually one of the best performers, as she was in Ragtime with this group.
Thanks are due to Bonnie McMahon, by far the best dancer on stage, for taking on a smaller role in order to be free to produce. This is no vanity effort, but a production by people who really care about the musical art form. Judy Norton does a superb job of direction, using the space well and keeping the characters clear and on course. Greg Hakke provides wonderful musical direction, and the choreography of Tania Possick knocks your socks off. All told this is a very successful production and lots of fun.
Cabaret plays at the Met Theatre until August 9th.