by Terrance Mc Arthur
“Life is a Cabaret, old chum!”
You remember it, right? Liza Minelli as Sally Bowles, Joel Grey as the coy, androgynous master of ceremonies of the 1930’s-Berlin Kit Kat Club, and all those wonderful songs. Then, Sam Mendes reimagined it in the 90s with Alan Cumming as a sexually-aggressive bisexual emcee.
The in-your-face qualities of the Mendes production are on display in J. Daniel Herring’s staging at Fresno State’s University Theatre through December 13.
Based on Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin stories, filtered through the John Van Druten play I Am a Camera, transformed into a Broadway musical by Kander & Ebb & Masteroff, filmed by Bob Fosse, and given the Mendes treatment, the show emerges from its newest cocoon oozing decadent sex, stripped of some Broadway songs and with a few movie tunes grafted onto the framework. Matthew Schiltz, recently a benign Antipholus in the Second Space Comedy of Errors, stands tall on the two-tiered set, strutting and challenging and partially exposing.
Aubrianne Scott has more talent than Sally is supposed to have, with a girl-woman look like Blousy Brown in Bugsy Malone. She has good pipes and uses them. Joel Abels provides gentleness amid the strident surroundings as a Jewish fruit seller seeking happiness, and Tessa Cavalletto is transcendent as the landlady who does her best to accommodate the changes of Germany as it spins toward Nazism, a tragic version of Imogene Coca.
I saw this production the night after seeing the tender and uplifting Pedro, the Angel of Olvera Street, and the difference was whiplash-causing. This Cabaret is offensive, depressing, shocking, thought-provoking, and not to be missed. For more details and to purchase tickets check out their website.
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