Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Also see Jeffrey's review of The Most Happy Fella
This marks the return of the tour after a brief hiatus, featuring many new performers and chorus members. From the moment one enters the theatre and sees the Kit Kat Girls stretching and warming up, one is transported to New Year's Eve in Weimar Germany. Robert Brill's lone set design encompasses the Kit Kat Klub throughout the evening, as well as turning into various other locales (hotel room, fruit store, etc.). The lighting design by Peggy Eisenhauer and Mike Baldassari is integral to the feeling that "we are not in Kansas anymore."
All technical aspects of the show are of the highest possible caliber, from the costumes of William Ivey Long to the choreography, which was recreated by Cynthia Onrubia. The Broward Center can be problematic aurally, but the sound design by Keith Caggiano is ideal.
The cast (and the casting!) holds several surprises. I have always thought that the role of Cliff Bradshaw was the dullest ever written. Ditto for the role of Ernst Ludwig. Under the leadership of director BT McNicholl, both roles are standouts. Benjamin Eakeley, as Cliff, is handsome, amusing, and sings beautifully. A very good actor, it was the first time I could really appreciate the breadth of the role. As for our (soon to become) Nazi, Herr Ernst, Patrick Vaill made me totally forget his transformation as he starts as a German "boy next door" and is totally likeable. His "turning" is subtle and appropriate. Kudos to both actors for changing my mind about these roles.
Mary Gordon Murray and Scott Robertson, playing Frau Schneider and Herr Schultz, are the heart of the play. Their middle-aged romance, which appears so promising early, can never be, he being a Jew, albeit a German Jew. Robertson is a delightful Schultz with his rich baritone and savvy underplaying. Ms. Murray is one of the two standouts in the cast. Possessing a major belt (I saw her as Belle Poitrine in Little Me many years ago and can still remember that voice), her landlady is wonderfully played. The emotional highlight of the evening is her rendition of "What Would You Do?," which explains her hopelessness under the political circumstances.
Sally Bowles is an extremely difficult role. I saw Jill Haworth, Anita Gillette, and Penny Fuller as Sally and they all managed to convey the sheer lack of talent that Sally is saddled with. Our current leading lady, Andrea Goss, possesses a major voice and a graceful dance talent. Due to her not subjugating her obvious prodigious gifts, I felt nothing for what she was going through. Sally is a wannabe who thinks she's far more talented than she is. That is why she is stuck at the Kit Kat Klub for all these years. I feel that if the talented Ms. Goss would hold back on the grating British accent and concentrate more on the hopelessness of the situation, due, specifically, to Sally's lack of talent, her portrayal would be more meaningful and true. I know I am being picky, but Sally is the leading lady. Ms. Goss is quite petite and holds her own in her scenes, but when Mr. Randy Harrison is onstage with her, watch out!
Harrison is impossible to take one's eyes off of. Joel Grey, Alan Cumming, and several others are ingrained in our minds as the Emcee. Mr. Harrison makes the role his, and then some. The fact that he sings beautifully is a wonderful surprise. Blessed with a rich baritone, he sings the songs as written, moves like a dancer, and his face coveys every emotion without ever resorting to overacting. His Emcee is more self-delusional than others I have seen. His anti-Semitism is obvious from the start and at the final curtain, when he removes his leather coat and turns to the audience with the most horrific and pitiful look on his face, my breath was taken away. Grey and Cumming both won Tonys for the role. Harrison would be a shoo-in. I can only hope that in the next Broadway revival (and you know there's going to be one ... someday) Randy Harrison will headline.
A word about the musicians who are an integral part of the production. Perched above the set, conducted by Robert Cookman, they play roles as well as instruments. Michael Gibson's orchestrations of the Kander & Ebb score never sounded so good.
Dare I say it? "Come to the cabaret, old chum." You'll be glad you did.
Cabaret runs through Sunday, January 22nd, 2017, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Located at 201 Southwest 5th Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. 33312. Their hone number is 954-462-0222 and their website is at browardcenter.org. For more information on the tour, visit www.cabaretmusical.com.