Cabaret, the artful musical theater study of how we try to make it through dire times, has been part of the cultural conversation on and off since it first bowed on Broadway in 1966.
Its original run lasted 1,165 performances; the sexy, bold 1998 revival ran for 2,377. And the current revival of that revival has chalked up 316 performances and counting.
The show has been a career-maker for actors, too, winning an Oscar for Liza Minnelli as cabaret singer Sally Bowles, a Tony Award for Alan Cumming as the Emcee in the revival, and a Tony and an Oscar for original Emcee Joel Grey. When Grey, now 82, told the world this week that he’s a gay man, his history with Cabaret was part of most stories.
On the day the Grey news broke, Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs officially opened its production of Cabaret, a show director Dan Kelley has long wanted to stage. Kelley’s take on the show is, like that of revival director Sam Mendes, erotically charged and reflective of Berlin cabaret performers’ lives (onstage and off) as the Nazis rose to power.
One key difference is that the Stage Door cast doesn’t double as the orchestra at the show’s fictional Kit Kat Klub. The chorus guys and gals restrict themselves to acting, dancing and singing, with Michael Larsen serving as musical director. But all the performers sing along to recorded tracks, shutting down any in-the-moment give and take between actors and musicians. Go to any show with live music — Slow Burn Theatre’s Bonnie & Clyde and Ragtime at Actors’ Playhouse are just two currently running — and you’ll feel that difference.
Kelley, who doubles as the show’s costume designer, has cast his production well, mixing Stage Door first timers with familiar faces.
Ronen Bay, flirtaceous and pointedly androgynous, is appealing and in control as the Emcee. He offers a come-hither Willkommen, a tart Money, an amusing if disturbing If You Could See Her (though he swallows the lyric punchline at the end of the song) and a haunting I Don’t Care Much.
Kit Kat headliner Sally Bowles, billed as “the toast of Mayfair,” is played by Carbonell Award nominee Katherine Amadeo. Minnelli, with her razzmatazz style and powerhouse voice, was unforgettable but not quite right for the role; Sally is supposed to be an impulsive young Englishwoman of modest talent trying to make it in 1929-30 Berlin.
Waif-like and strikingly lovely, Amadeo has a sweet, small voice, one that works best when she’s singing with the Kit Kat gals on Don’t Tell Mama and Mein Herr. Selling her solos on Maybe This Time and the title song is a bigger challenge, but Amadeo paints with all of Sally’s colors in the show’s non-musical scenes. She creates a woman who is sexually voracious, pragmatic, exploitative, self-deluded, impractical and irresistible.
As Sally’s sexually conflicted suitor, the American writer Cliff Bradshaw, Pierre Tannous is a riveting presence. The audience sees the decadence and danger of prewar Berlin through his eyes, and he’s convincing in every moment of that journey. Sadly, he sings just part of one song — Perfectly Marvelous, sung with Sally — and Tannous’ terrific voice makes you wish Cliff had more to say musically.
Elissa Solomon and Michael H. Small are appealing as Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, the older couple whose attraction is doomed by the rising Nazi tide (Solomon, however, sounds more Russian than German when she speaks the character’s accented English). Katrina Michaels luxuriates in the brazenness of Fräulein Kost, and Ben Prayz finds the balance of charm and menace in Ernst Ludwig.
The Kit Kat gals (Krystal Millie Valdes, Laura Gill, Lauren Kay, Alexandra Dow, Emily Tarallo and Sandi M. Stock) and guys (Keagan Tanner, Ben Solmor, James Giordano and David Vogel) execute Solmor’s choreography with verve, and they all look good in Kelley’s costumes.
With feelings of menace and unease so widespread in the world today, with the ugly resurgence of antisemitism, Stage Door’s Cabaret may seem particularly relevant and resonant to many who see it. Yes, it’s a musical, and it’s entertaining. But it endures because it is an insightful piece of art.
If you go
What: ‘Cabaret’ by John Kander, Fred Ebb and Joe Masteroff.
Where: Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Margate.
When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday-Sunday, through March 15.
Information: 954-344-7765 or www.stagedoortheatre.com.