For all its age, “Cabaret” remains an invitation to remember and realize how, in many ways, some lessons of history and life still need to be learned. That’s part of “Cabaret’s” timelessness and value to an audience. It originally opened on Broadway in 1966.
The Rep’s new production has chosen a St. Louisan and Graduate of The Webster University Conservatory of Theater Arts, Nathan Lee Graham, in the role of the Emcee. Graham is delicately comedic and a performer with endless expressions. He sings beautifully and as an observer of the musical’s story he is a sometimes haunting presence. His dance number with a gorilla, “If You Could See Her,” is both funny and provocative. His opening number, “Wilkommen” with the ensemble is a fabulous opening.
In the roles of Sally Bowles, the amoral night club singer at the Kit Kat Club, and Cliff Bradshaw, the somewhat aimless American author looking for inspiration, are Liz Pearce and Hunter Ryan Herdlicka. They are strong individual performers, but you won’t necessarily find yourself rooting for them as a couple. As displayed, their “love” is immature, insincere and impossible. Their love energy is tepid, Pearce’s number “Cabaret” in Act II is not the showstopper you might expect.
A real highlight of the show, and as originally written, this musical’s warm spot, are Mary Gordon Murray, Sally’s landlady and Michael Marotta as Herr Schultz, a small store owner. They are both survivors of similar struggles. Their winter romance is authentic and revealing. Murray and Marotta bring the house down at the curtain calls, and rightly so.
The historical sting of Nazi Germany is well reflected in this production. The bleakness and impending decay are always present.
The Rep’s “Cabaret” is a first-class show. It’s production values are, as always, an eyeful and very authentic. A six piece orchestra is on stage, in costume no less. There’s no good news in “Cabaret,” but there are good lessons. Director Marcia Milgrom Dodge makes certain we don’t miss them.