All words: Derek Mong
“Life is a Cabaret, old chum, come to the Cabaret.”
As the lyric from the title song of Kander and Ebb’s Tony Award-winning musical “Cabaret” beckons, leave your worries at the door of the Church Street Theater and join the titillating cast of the Keegan Theatre’s “Cabaret” as they take you for an exhilarating 2-hour-long excursion into the scandalous nightlife of the Kit Kat Klub in Weimar, Germany. With innuendo at every turn, it’s the musical that intoxicates and captivates from the very first note—leaving you feeling just the slightest bit naughty that you came, but oh-so-happy that you did.
The show takes place on the eve of Hitler’s rise to power and dovetails between the stories of a cabaret singer (Maria Rizzo as Sally Bowles), an American novelist (Bradley Foster Smith as Clifford Bradshaw), and a host of Berliners amidst a changing social order. Directed by Keegan company members Christina A. Coakley and Michael Innocenti, the Keegan Theatre’s “Cabaret” transports audiences to the dodgy Kit Kat Klub—a sleazy and uncomfortable scene expertly detailed and navigated by Paul Scanlan as the enigmatic and cunning Emcee.
The Keegan Theatre’s run is not your typical theatrical experience or the one that the Glee generation might be accustomed to; it’s no happy-go-lucky Kidz-bopped, bastardization of the 8-time Tony Award winning musical. The songs and dance numbers are intentionally explicit, deliberately raw, and jolting—it’s musical theatre in its purest and freshest form.
Perhaps the only thing barer than the cast members themselves is the minimalistic stage in which the scene is set. With the orchestra on a platform upstage and stairs fixed on one side of the stage, the relatively simple set and few props allow the cast members to shine without superfluous distraction. And, shine they do. Maria Rizzo masterfully portrays cabaret singer Sally Bowles, both powerfully and sensitively delivering the title song “Cabaret” and the musical theatre standard “Maybe This Time.” Paul Scanlan as the Emcee similarly delivers a powerful performance, cleverly portraying one of the most enigmatic and complex characters in the entire production with attentive nuance and intricacy. With Rizzo and Scanlan leading the pack, the full ensemble of “Cabaret” delivers a powerhouse performance that arouses all the senses in the most gratifying (and literal) of ways.
“It isn’t just that ‘Cabaret’ is a beloved and compelling piece of theater and the winner of 8 Tony Awards,” says Mark A. Rhea, Keegan’s producing artistic director and founder. “It’s set in a seedy nightclub, with characters that are not only complex and dark, but funny and delightful – all in all, deeply human.”
However foreign it may seem, “Cabaret” has something to offer all of its patrons (or at least those older than 16 as recommended by the Keegan Theatre’s website). But, don’t take my word for it; check it out for yourself. Come to the “Cabaret.”
“Cabaret” runs through February 23, 2013. Call 703-892-0202 or visit www.keegantheatre.com to reserve your tickets today. The Church Street Theater is located at: 1742 Church Street NW, Washington, DC 20036.