Audiences visiting the Ordway Center through Sunday will be transported to the Kit Kat Klub in 1930s Berlin, where “life is beautiful, the girls are beautiful, even the orchestra is beautiful.”
And a beautiful production of the John Kander and Fed Ebb musical it is, with a flood of red costumes and scenery cascading across the stage. Cabaret, which first opened on Broadway in 1966, tells the story of Clifford Bradshaw, an American writer who visits Berlin seeking inspiration for his new novel and finds himself in the city during the rise of Nazi power.
Cabaret, playing at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts through May 18. For tickets ($20-$65) and information, see ordway.org.
As Bradshaw, Louis Hobson is likeable and a strong enough singer, but not very memorable. Tari Kelly stars as Sally Bowles, the British Kit Kat Klub singer who charms Cliff (never mind his hinted-at homosexuality, which after a brief mention is not addressed again). Kelly was strongest when singing, particularly in the title song, where she movingly portrayed the pain and acceptance of her refusal to journey to America with Cliff and instead to return to life at the cabaret.
At one point, the emcee told an audience member that he could easily dive into her shirt.
The true stars of this production, though, are supporting actors Suzy Hunt and Nick Garrison. Hunt plays Fraulein Schneider, Clifford and Sally’s landlady who shares a doomed romance with a Jewish fruit-shop owner. Hunt provides the emotional epicenter to what truly is a tragic story. Nick Garrison is enchanting as the over-the-top emcee who serves as the audience’s guide to the cabaret and beyond. Garrison opens the show’s second act by talking to audience members and reminding them this is live theater. At one point he noted to a colleague of mine that he could easily dive into her shirt—a moment that was fondly remembered for hours post-show.
However, not everything about this production is as successful as the strong performances. Unlike in the 1998 Tony Award winning revival, this co-production by the Ordway Center, Seattle’s 5th Avenue Musical Theatre, and the American Musical Theatre of San Jose is lavish and flashy—but the overall experience is not as powerful. The earlier production created an ever-present overtone of the looming political situation; though this new production eventually gets there, the build-up is less effective.
Nonetheless, the sheer size and scope of this production is enough to make one eagerly anticipate future Ordway Center productions.
Rebecca Mitchell is a graduate of the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. She lives in Uptown Minneapolis and is currently working in public relations.