Sex and Nazis. If asked, those might be the first two words I would use to describe Theater Latté Da’s production of Cabaret, showing now until February 9th at the Pantages Theatre. Cabaret juxtaposes two inherently uncomfortable topics (sex and Nazis) by blending them into one place: Berlin on the advent of World War II featuring both a rented room near the U-Bahn and the burlesque Kit Kat Klub (alternatively Kit Kat Club). Contained within the walls of the club are the gender-fluid Emcee (Tyler Michaels) and the Cabaret girls. The other part of the story involves the rented room and two couples facing relationship troubles, including the rise of Nazi power. The majority of the songs are very entertaining, however it is mentionable that some of them don’t add much to the plot and are presumably there to give the Cabaret girls time to change costumes.
Michaels plays the part of the Emcee with a captivating flourish, bringing both entertainment and depth to the role. He allows the audience to connect emotionally (and sometimes physically, in the case of breaking the fourth wall for audience interaction) with the show. He is capable of gifting the audience with both laughs and reflection, in the case of the song “If You Could See Her,” where he sings of his unaccepted love for a gorilla. He ends on the line, “If you could see her through my eyes – she wouldn’t look Jewish at all.” The Emcee is broadcasting the anti-Semitism so rampant in Berlin at the time, and brings the show into context.
Other notable characters included Sally Bowles (Kira Lace Hawkins) with her life decisions weighing on her in a palpable way. This was especially true during her hallmark song, “Cabaret,” where her body and expressions were so illustrative of her mental state at the time. Another performance worth noting was that of Fräulein Schneider, played by local talent Sally Wingert. She was a multi-dimensional, brassy woman that could melt even the coldest of hearts with her duet of “It Couldn’t Please Me More” with Herr Schultz (James Michael Detmar).
And while the actors brought heart to the show, the set designer (Kate Sutton-Johnson) brought absolute beauty. The color palate lent itself to both industrial interwar Germany and the interior of the slightly skeevy Kit Kat Klub (which, interestingly enough, is based off of a group called the Kit-Cat Club that was formed in London in the 18thcentury that pushed for the advancement of liberal politics). Another ingenious part of the set was the doors, which were pipes serving as door outlines on hinges. The lack of a physical door meant that everything behind the door was visible and no part of the stage was being sectioned off. It is a minor element that led to the total appreciation of the set.
Aside from the occasional sound glitch with the microphones that didn’t detract from the show and could probably be ascribed to the fact that it was a preview show, the technical side was done in a way that both enhanced the show and put the spotlight (often literally) on the actors.
In total, Theater Latté Da’s production of Cabaret juxtaposes the introspective elements of the Nazi era with the seemingly-lighthearted Kit Kat Klub, all brought together by the Emcee, who showed two sides to whole show: sex and Nazis