FRONT ROW CENTER
By Michael Warren
CABARET
Directed by Anya Flesh
Music directed by Audrey Hoffnung

     This was a great show! Anya Flesh and her team are to be congratulated on successfully bringing this unusual musical to the LLT stage. The story is adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s 1929 book Berlin Stories and John Van Druten’s stage version I Am a Camera, and the setting is Berlin at the beginning of the 30s—decadent and sleazy, with an undercurrent of menace as the Nazis begin their grab for power.
     Allen McGill (“Master of Ceremonies”) caught our attention immediately as he strutted about the stage of the Kit Kat Klub. Allen is a talented singer and dancer, and was ideally suited for this part. The musical numbers were slickly handled, and flowed naturally with the story (so often a problem with musicals). The two younger leads, Ana Ward (“Sally Bowles”) and Rex Wilson (“Clifford Bradshaw”), are not natural singers, but they managed to incorporate their numbers into the dramatic action.
     At the end, Ana Ward achieved a minor triumph with a very emotional rendering of “Cabaret”—not quite Liza Minnelli, but she sure left us all choked up. Amy Friend (“Fraulein Schneider”) and Andrew Krumbhaar (“Herr Schultz”) were touching and effective as the ill-fated older couple, and both sang with some skill. For Schultz, love was not enough if you were Jewish in Germany in 1930. I should also mention Martha Reuter who was entertaining as the prostitute “Fraulein Kost” and has a splendid soprano voice; and John Herbert Jones who was suitably sinister as the smuggler and crypto-Nazi “Ernst Ludwig.”
     The male chorus was very well rehearsed, and I particularly enjoyed their rendering of “Tomorrow Belongs To Me.” The ladies ensemble performed adequately, but of course Jim Collums stole the show as a cross-dressing Kit Kat Girl. Well, they catered to all tastes in Berlin in those days! Trish Conner did triple duty as a cigarette girl, and as Brunhilda in a comedy sketch with the Emcee, and finally as a rather cute gorilla. (“She doesn’t look Jewish at all!”) The music was unobtrusive and well handled throughout—congratulations to Audrey Hoffnung and to Doug Livingston (the Band Leader) and to all the musicians.
     In the staging of this show, there were several neat touches—in the interval the cast remained on stage, having drinks in the Kit Kat Klub; also there was a cat-walk around the orchestra pit (used by Sally Bowles and by the Emcee); and finally there was a very dramatic complete black-out at the end of the show. No curtain, no bows from the cast, just a complete black-out as Germany descends into the abyss. The audience left the theater somewhat stunned.
     Some may have found this rendering too somber, but it was true to the spirit of the story, and I enjoyed the show. If I have a small criticism, it is that the first half was too long. I know that the mood changes in the second half, but there were places where the first half could have ended after about an hour. Ninety minutes is too long.
     An enormous amount of work goes into a production like this, and I thank all those involved. Unfortunately, space does not permit me to mention everyone by name—a special mention however to Stage Managers Ruth Boyes and Jane Isbell, who kept the show moving along smoothly. And, as always, Anya Flesh performed miracles with the staging of a big musical in a small community theater. You can all be proud.