Athletic and sensual, loud, raunchy, involving, slightly confusing and more than a little intimidating …. describe CABARET being presented by the Milburn Stone Theatre at Cecil College. Go and be involved in this rousing production!!
S. Lee Lewis has directed another spirited and feisty theatrical event. Lewis made a decision to combine the separate environments of the plot into the single space of the Kit Kat Klub. Lewis then uses the Emcee (played and sung with great aplomb and elan by Eyvo) as an unseen character manipulating action taking place outside of the Klub. Lewis’s decision required set piece movement and some inevitable delay from scene to scene and this was not distracting until toward the end. Being a long production (close to three hours including intermission), speed needed to be of the essence as the play wound down. Instead it became slightly logy as the denoument unfolded with multiple set changes in rapid succession.
The well-displayed pieces of multi-media help bring the involvement and intimidation of Germany losing its way to the audience. C. Juston Stockton presented vintage footage and merged it with “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” in a way that emotionally impacted those watching it. Bob Weir (sound) and Conor Mulligan (lighting) overall provided the ambience of smoky societal uncertainty but the necessary sense of impending doom in Act II was unconvincing.
The choreography is an athletic and sensual treat. The dancers are all well rehearsed and do not falter in the increasingly demanding Fosse-like steps required by Bambi Johnson. Johnson has built another character for this production as these dancers (well done, ladies and gentlemen!!) and their physical manipulations add much to the sense of extreme.
Of course, the music is key to making this production work and the musical direction of Anthony Vitalo to capture the era is obvious as it kept toes tapping. The music itself is played by the Kit Kat Klub band, i.e., Marji Eldreth, Daniel and Jake Choynowski, Andrew Bedell and Derrick Kelley. From the pre-show period music being heard until their well staged, dark and disturbing departure at the end, these musicians added much. As the Klub men and women are up close and personal not only walking through the audience but also serving the onstage tables containing additional audience, it is clear there is nothing to be hidden by these costumes. Patricia Egner has practically bared it all! All of the women are to be congratulated for their braveness (ok .. maybe it is brazenness!) as they strut with confidence and panache. A special kudo to Danielle Finlay as she portrays and sings Fraulein Kost expertly and seductively while also serving as one of the Kit Kat Klub “girls”.
The Lewis vision of this production was a mechanical masterpiece but that left the relationships slightly unattended. The Schneider/Schultz romance picks up emotional height as the Nazis emerge on the seen in Act II but the scenes and songs as performed by Eileen Law Stewart and John Mulvey were always compelling and interesting to watch. The Sally Bowles/Cliff Bradshaw romance didn’t really come together. Lauren Spencer-Harris and Anthony Vitalo both sang and presented their characters with emotion and flair. Spencer-Harris was especially dramatic and effective during her rendition of the title song, “Cabaret”, in Act II. Perhaps it was not removing them from the background of the Klub to help them find the other societal pressures working on them but even their break-up scene was missing something.
But whatever was missing was minimal compared to WHAT WAS THERE on the stage for this CABARET. Don’t miss this theatrical treat!
Book by Joe Masteroff
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Directed by S. Lee Lewis
June 15 – 24, 2012
Milburn Stone Theatre
at Cecil College
One Seahawk Drive
North East, MD 21901
Box Office: 410-287-1037