Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Arden Theatre Company
Review by Rebecca Rendell | Season Schedule

John Jarboe and Cast
Photo by Mark Garvin
Cabaret takes place in the years before Hitler rose to power, when Berlin's progressive attitude made it a cultural mecca for artists from around the world. American author Clifford Bradshaw (Daniel Fredrick) is hoping the city will inspire him to finish his novel when he meets native Berliner Ernst (Christopher Patrick Mullen). Ernst tells Cliff about the hottest cabaret in town, recommends a place to stay, and gets him involved in a little no-questions-asked smuggling. Sally Bowles (the spectacular Charissa Hogeland) introduces herself to Cliff at the Kit Kat Klub and talks her way into the apartment he is renting from Fraulein Schneider (played masterfully by Mary Elizabeth Scallen). Schneider is skeptical about the coed roommates. Fortunately, her budding romance with fruit vendor Herr Schultz (Kenny Morris) keeps her too busy to care. We the audience know that Berlin's liberal glory days are numbered, but it is still heartrending to witness the growing influence of the third Reich.

This Arden Theatre Company version of Cabaret uses the Roundabout Theater Company's excellent 1998 revival script. The scenes that move the plot (book by Joe Masteroff) between the characters are cleverly interspersed with numbers performed at the Kit Kat Klub. The salacious cabaret performances are loads of fun and all have a nexus of connection with the larger story. John Kander (music) and Fred Ebb (lyrics) favorites, including "Willkommen," "Money," and "Cabaret," are deviously delightful thanks to strong performances by John Jarboe (who plays the iconic Emcee with unexpected empathy and restraint) and the Kit Kat Klub boys and girls. Unfortunately, Jarboe's recherche interpretation of the Emcee is undermined by some sound problems. It hard to hear when Jarboe is singing quietly or rattling off ribald one liners.

If Jarboe is elegant intensity, Hogeland is white hot passion. Her fierce energy radiates through titillating burlesque numbers and deeply emotional ballads. The spirit Hogeland brings to the role makes her an exceptionally impressive and sympathetic Sally Bowles. One female lead of this caliber may be enough to make a show worth seeing, but director Matthew Decker's Cabaret can boast two. Scallen gives a thrillingly powerful performance as the old battle ax Frau Schneider. Her rendition of "What Would You Do?" is particularly haunting. Fredrick is well cast as idealistic and awkward author Cliff. Mullen is impeccable as Ernst. Suli Holum and Kenny Morris provide a much needed dose of humor throughout.

The only thing missing from the production is an authentic sense of sensuality. Oh, there's lots of skin, some exquisitely erotic choreography, and myriad playful pats on the bottom. Yet I got the sense that the cast members are uncomfortably going through the motions and trying to touch each other as little as possible.

Thoroughly enjoyable and tragically relevant, Cabaret speaks to our current moment in history with merciful eloquence. Get tickets asap so you can come out and see for yourself. What good is sitting alone in your room anyway?

Cabaret runs through October 22nd, 2017, on the Arden Theatre Company's F. Otto Haas Stage at 40 N. 2nd Street in Philadelphia. For tickets Call the Arden Box Office at 215.922.1122, or visit

Emcee: John Jarboe
Clifford Bradshaw: Daniel Fredrick
Sally Bowles: Charissa Hogeland
Ernst Ludwig: Christopher Patrick Mullen
Fraulein Schneider: Mary Elizabeth Scallen
Fraulein Kost: Suli Holum
Herr Schultz: Kenny Morris
Max/Customs Official/Sailor: Steven Rishard
Lulu Alicia: Jayne Kelly
Helga: Phoebe Gavula
Texas: Cara Traecy
Rosie: Lauren Williams
Bobby/Rudy: Kevin Murray
Victor/Sailor: Jordon Dobson

Artistic Team:
Director: Matthew Decker
Music Director/Conductor: Alex Bechtel
Choreographer: Jenn Rose
Scenic Designer: David Gordon
Lighting Designer: Maria Shaplin
Costume Designer: Olivera Gajic
Sound Designer: Jorge Cousineau