Theater Latté Da’s “Cabaret” at the Pantages Theatre celebrates life in dead of winter

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Photo Courtesy of Hennepin Theater Trust, ©2014 Michal Daniel

It’s not every day that you get to see a flawless trapeze act going on immediately above a gang of Nazis as they pummel a poor, American fellow.  However, little spectacles like this made Theater Latté Da’s Cabaret one of the most haunting productions I’ve ever witnessed.  With a irony as heavy as the Emcee’s makeup, and a healthy dose of sensuality, Cabaret was tailor-made to high-kick-off the New Year. Although a traditional choice, Theater Latté Da made several modern translations that can only be described as “powerful.”

Leading up to opening night, I followed Latté Da’s videos of rehearsal, and was impressed by the vocals, and the energy. Seeing it come together onstage was a different experience entirely. Peter Rothstein used the space in the Pantages in a way that most productions do not. Even those of us in the balcony were graced by The Emcee’s presence. Streamers rained from the box seats, and the audience was completely integrated into the experience (and a few in the front row even participated).

The Cabaret world was actualized by several well-executed elements.  The set was like an copper-toned outline that you could fill in yourself. I loved pieces like the stained-glass passenger train. (A big hats-off to Kate Sutton-Johnson and Marcus Dillard!)  I enjoyed the costumes, however, one of Miss Bowle’s costumes looked a bit like a 70’s disco suit, and took me out of the 30’s facade. Theater Latté Da’s production gave the orchestra a well-deserved spotlight, with all the instruments onstage, and the musicians in costume as well.

The final element that made Cabaret so unforgettable was the cast.  Tyler Michaels as the Emcee astounded, as a singer, actor, dancer AND trapeze artist. He was a curious and complex Renaissance talent, that I would certainly go back to see again.  Kira Lace Hawkins played a rather Liza-esque Sally Bowles, but she was delightfully smart in her role.  A friend of mine noticed that Aeysha Kinnunen (as Fraulein Kost) was also an understudy for the role of Sally. Although she was intriguing and beautiful in her role, there is not a doubt in my mind that she would make clever Sally Bowles as well.

It should be mentioned that Cabaret contains one of the most unsettling scenes in theater; the number “Through My Eyes” was more shocking in person than Wikipedia could have ever foretold. Cabaret fans will remember the scene well: the Emcee dances with an actor in a monkey costume, a representation of the Jewish image in 1930’s Berlin. The final line, cut from the original script, was the catalyst that turned Cabaret into a statement.  My level of dismay was such that I couldn’t unfreeze my muscles enough to applaud afterwards.  It has been a long time since the last time I was moved by a piece of theater, especially in the way that Cabaret moved me.

Cabaret was an illustration of the best our community has to offer, in the way of talent and creativity.  By the final curtain, I was positively overflowing with hometown pride, knowing that Theater Latté Da and its affiliates are fellow natives. It was a welcome celebration and lamentation of human life, especially in the dead of a Minneapolis-in-January night.  If you’re a Minnesotan theatergoer, you’ve likely heard this from friends already, but I proudly repeat: GO SEE CABARET.