Theater Review: Playhouse Production Of 'Cabaret' Offers Stunning Night Of Music, Dance And Performance
SHERMAN — The Sherman Players have mounted a striking production of Cabaret, with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Joe Masteroff. Under the direction of the multitalented and skilled Bradford Blake, performances pulsate with raw emotion and candor. This is a captivating and tragic cautionary tale.
The Kit Kat Club in central Berlin is home to the wanton nature of its Emcee, played by an enigmatic Richard Damaso. He and his girls and boys circle and gather, sharing mindsets and bodies in this sultry place of festering fascism.
New to Berlin, Clifford Bradshaw (Michael Schaner), an American author in the making, settles his shy, naïve self into the culture of these environs. Introduced to the club by a German traveler, Ernst Ludwig (Sean Coffey), Clifford becomes enamored by the Kit Kat’s leading lady, Sally Bowles (Samantha LaMendola).
Fortunately, Mr Bradshaw is able to find cheap housing, which he comes to share with Ms Bowles. They both seek unattainable comfort and security.
Landlady Fraulein Schneider (Tracey Marble) spends considerable time using her sharp mouth to eradicate the rooms of sailors visiting a certain lady of the evening, Fraulein Kost (Anya Caravella).
On the sly, Fraulein Schneider entertains a sweet certain someone, Herr Schultz (David Halliwell), who adores her. Theirs is a star-crossed affair.
The intrigue and sex abound in this take on the time between the wars, when hate rankled until it became a vicious reality.
In the leading role of the Master of Ceremonies, Richard Damaso is incredible. He commits completely to this diabolical role and is entirely convincing. He incorporates sly humor and sexuality into his political development with ease. He is at once sleazy and masterful.
Playing Sally Bowles for all she is worth, Samantha LaMendola is in turns the little lost girl and the sexpot maven. Her performance of “Maybe This Time” is saturated with hope for a life in which she can allow herself to be loved. As she turns to the title song, she is so consumed with despair it permeates the room. This performance evokes chills.
Sally’s lover is woeful in his frustrated efforts to create a life with her. Mr Schaner is lovely and heartbreaking.
On the other hand, Mr Coffey’s Ernst Ludwig is cunning and cold. He dupes everyone in his midst. He is frighteningly authentic in this role, as is his superb German accent.
As the strict landlady with a heart, Tracey Marble is divine. She is a gifted comedian with a wry sensibility. Her character yearns for comfort and security, which is impossible in these troubled times. Her performance is heartfelt, as is that of her lover, played by David Halliwell. His sweet, gentle nature is vulnerable to the horror that is brewing. Mr Halliwell plays this role so sincerely that the audience is fearful for Herr Schultz.
Anya Caravella is wonderfully sexy, seductive, and smart as Fraulein Kost. Her vocal prowess is on full display, and her command of German lyrics was impressive.
The Kit Kat Girls — Jillian Kelsey, Kate Morris, Daisy Stott, Devon Strein, and Melissa Weiner — are all terrific as they slink around in sexy lingerie. Tyler Holm and Charles Roth both played sailors and Kit Kat Club men. All the roles were played with deep commitment to character and content. Choreographer Brad Blake put them to test with some demanding combinations that were well-executed.
The costumes are well designed by Terry Hawley. The spare set designed by Al Chiappetta and Bradford Blake ideally serves each scene.
A live orchestra directed by Charles Smith has been expertly incorporated into the set, and its accompaniment was perfectly arranged.
It was a stunning night of music, dance, and performance in a play that thoroughly disturbs as it entertains. You must visit to the Cabaret!
Performances continue weekends through October 12, including Sunday matinees September 29 and October 6. The Sherman Playhouse, at 5 Route 39 North in Sherman, can be reached at 860-354-3622 or shermanplayers.org for ticket details, reservations, and other information.