To the Cabaret

Reduxion Theatre Company’s production of Cabaret is a little show in the tiny Broadway Theater, but, brother, it packs a punch.

And if that isn’t enough, the show includes six nubile lasses prancing around in bras and panties while smoking cigars (real ones!) and a couple of cute chorus boys to boot.

What’s not to like here? The answer is nothing. With music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb and book by Christopher Isherwood, Cabaret remains a pillar of the repertory. The director/choreographer Matthew Sipress has reduced this classic musical to its essence, telling the story with powerful simplicity. His smooth scene transitions keep the action moving in the intimate Broadway Theatre space. The score is great, and the voices in this cast are up to the task, if just so. But almost everyone sounds good from 15 feet away.

The show features three outstanding young actors in lead roles. When theatergoers hear about a new production of Cabaret, everyone wonders who plays the emcee. Here, it’s Kaleb M. Bruza, who has done yeoman’s work in supporting roles in many productions. In Cabaret, he
shows off his talent in one of musical theater’s signature roles.
Bruza’s drag performance of “I Don’t Care Much” leads effectively into
Sally’s equally disturbing “Cabaret.”

Rachael L. Barry as
Sally Bowles brings a tragic fragility to the role that’s more
pronounced than you may have seen by other performers. As a dissipated
Sally, she sings the title song at the end with the bitterest irony.

Life
is decidedly not a cabaret, old chum. Life includes the atrocities
perpetrated in 1930s Germany, where the show is set, and where they
continue today.

The handsome Haulston Mann plays aspiring novelist Cliff Bradshaw with the aw-shucks charm of James Stewart in It’s A Wonderful Life. In this revised version of Cabaret, Cliff
is explicitly bisexual, so the character harbors a secret. Later, when
Cliff has to get tough, Mann handles the role with credibility.

Now for the adults in the room — Elin Bhaird played Fräulein Schneider in Lyric Theatre’s Cabaret in 2006 and, thank goodness, Sipress has cast her in the role again.

Her
“What Would You Do?” chillingly reflects the dilemma facing good
Germans at the time. Put yourself in their place. You abhor the Nazis,
but how much are you willing to sacrifice — in reality, not in the
abstract — to do the right thing against inexorable political forces?
Bhaird gives a powerful performance.

Veteran
actor Terry Veal is fine as Herr Schultz, the Jewish fruit vendor.
Schultz sees himself as much a German as a Jew, but we all know the
futility of that view.

In
the finale, Sipress has most actors remove their shoes and leave them
about the stage to represent the millions of shoes to be emptied in the
coming Holocaust. It’s a striking scene.

Larry Laneer

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