Since making its premiere on Broadway in 1966, "Cabaret" has become a true musical theater classic, thanks to music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb and book by Joe Masteroff. The latter based his work on the play by John Van Druten and stories by Christopher Isherwood. Set in Berlin at the peak of its decadence and just as Hitler and the Nazis were rising to power, it personalizes both situations through unforgettable characters.
Broadway By the Bay is presenting a solid production of the show under the direction of artistic director Brooke Knight, aided by Pat Parr's musical direction and especially by Berle Davis' choreography. Joe Duffy is an insinuating Master of Ceremonies, the character immortalized by Joel Grey on stage and in the 1972 film. He sings and dances well, as shown in songs like "Money" and "If You Could See Her." Sally Bowles, the British expatriate-showgirl played so memorably by Liza Minnelli in the film, is here portrayed by Erica Wyman. Wyman is a veteran of San Francisco's long-running musical revue, "Beach Blanket Babylon." Her show biz experience is evident in her confident stage presence, excellent singing and good dancing. However, she doesn't convey the vulnerability beneath the veneer that's so essential to the role. In addition, the English accent she uses makes her sound stilted rather than spontaneous, another essential quality for Sally. Finally, she doesn't seem to connect well with Clifford Bradshaw, the American writer (and Isherwood alter-ego) played by Brian Couch. Couch, for that matter, seems a bit stiff.
A major subplot in the show is the bittersweet romance between Fraulein Schneider (Patti Appel), who runs the rooming house where Cliff lives, and one of the other roomers, Herr Schultz (Martin Rojas-Dietrich), the Jewish owner of a produce store. Neither of them is young anymore, and neither has been married. Nevertheless, they become engaged, but their happiness is short-lived, sabotaged by anti-Semitism. Appel and Rojas-Dietrich are well paired, and Appel delivers a song well, as shown in "What Would You Do?"
Other supporting characters are well played by Angela Nuttman as Fraulein Kost, a hooker who lives at Fraulein Schneider's (she's a standout in the chilling reprise of "Tomorrow Belongs to Me"), and Ray Renati as Ernst Ludwig, the Nazi operative who befriends Cliff. The female and male ensembles are super, especially in the precision dancing of "Willkommen."
Although the singing is first-rate, the orchestra has some rough patches. Lighting is by Michael Ramsaur, sound by Sound on Stage and costumes from The Theatre Company. Sets from The Set Company work relatively well, given the expansive stage. However, the overall size of the theater works against the show, which seems better suited for a smaller venue. Nevertheless, it's a creditable production that serves the creators well.
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