Metropolis Performing Arts Centre is starting off its 2022-23 season with a bang. A big bang.
With high intensity, feverish dance, and exceptional singing, Metropolis’ production of Cabaret is one of the best musical outings they’ve done in years.
Cabaret features a book by Joe Masteroff, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. It is a bawdy style of music, with bullet fast lyrics, syncopated rhythms, and blaring horns.
At Metropolis, a stark set with a few suggestive adornments brilliantly sets the tone of the evening. We start the show in the interior of the Kit Kat Klub in 1929 Berlin, Germany. The city is at a crossroads. The Nazi party has not yet taken control of the country, but as the story goes on it becomes inevitable.
Clifford Bradshaw is a would-be novelist who has traveled from America in hopes of finding inspiration in Berlin. There he meets a wide variety of interesting characters.
Cliff’s first friend upon arrival in Berlin is German Ernst Ludwig who arranges for the American to board in a building owned by Fräulein Schneider.
Soon Cliff comes to find himself at the Kit Kat Klub, a seedy nightclub that is equal parts alluring and off putting. Duality is a running theme in the show – sometimes subtle and other times right in your face.
There at the Kit Kat Klub, Cliff meets a British chanteuse by the name of Sally Bowles. She is a user of many things – including people. Even knowing this, Cliff can’t help but fall for her.
Presiding over the festivities at the club and serving as a navigator of the overall story is the Emcee.
The role of the Emcee is traditionally played by a man, but with an almost androgynous appearance. For the Metropolis production, director Robbie Simpson has gone with a nonbinary performer who physically presents more female than male. The casting choice necessitated a few small accommodations, but they don’t heavily impact the show.
As the Emcee, Maria Alexandra is an explosion of talent. Maria delivers every line of dialog, ever step of choreography, and every note and lyric with precision. It is a performance that demands to be seen.
The role of Clifford requires a likability factor, which Tim Foszcz supplies to spare. He’s American without being offensively so. He’s artistic but with an understanding that the bills must be paid. He’s levelheaded, but at heart a romantic. Foszcz captures all that, and more. He is very believable.
Nightclub singer Sally Bowles is a role many women dream of playing, that only few really have the talent necessary to do justice. Famous actresses to play the role include Natasha Richardson, Judi Dench, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Deborah Gibson, Teri Hatcher, Molly Ringwald, Brooke Shields, Emma Stone, Vana White, and Lea Thompson.
Liza Minnelli won a Best Actress Academy Award for her film version of the character. However, the film is very different than the stage play. The Metropolis current stage production, though, includes some scenes, characters, and storylines that appear to be taken from the movie and inserted.
As Sally Bowles, Kristin Dotty makes the Metropolis production of Cabaret required viewing for any musical theater fan. Dotty is staggeringly talented. She has an incredible voice with an ability to evoke many emotions with her delivery. As an actress, she is 100% believable. And she’s no slouch in the dance department either.
Daniel Leahy is perfectly cast as Nazi smuggler Ernst Ludwig. He has the right Aryan look and eerily authentic German accent and fascist aura. The credibility of his characterization as a Nazi is unmatched.
As Clifford’s landlord Fräulein Schneider, Rosalind Hurwitz commands the stage like it was custom made just for her. She has an impeccable accent, fully convincing character, and a stunning singing voice. The audience treasures every moment she is on stage.
As Schneider’s love interest Herr Schulz, Anthony Whitaker gives a nice interpretation of a Jewish man so proud to be a German that he can’t fathom his countrymen would ever allow a cult like Nazism to take over. Whitaker has a lovely tenor voice.
Also a standout is Melissa Crabtree as Fräulein Kost, one of the other tenants in Schneider’s boarding house. Nor can we forget about the Kit Kat dancers: Brandon Acosta, Annika Andersson, Angel Diaz, Morgan DiFonzo, Lizzie Mowry, Amber Parker, Kaity Paschetto, Olivia Pryor, and Melody Rowland. Each stands out in their own way.
Director Robbie Simpson and his team of performers and staff knock the ball out of the park with this production of Cabaret.
Music director Jake Harge deserves praise for his work preparing the performers to blow audiences away. Harge also serves as conductor and pianist for the orchestra. The other musicians include Ryan Adams (trumpet), Sophie Creutz (reeds), Anthony Scardora (drums), Mike Lockler (guitar/banjo), Bobby Dietz (keyboards 2), and William Kort (trombone).
Choreographer Jenilee Houghton, who also serves as Associate Director, has put her dancers through their paces, and they have responded. The dance routines are sharp, and the dancers never loose their characters no matter how hard the steps. In fact, lighting designer Sam Stephen seems to have really keyed in on Houghton’s choreography, matching the lights to the dance.
Samantha Sharp (Costume Design) and Mary Baca (Costume Assistant) have upped Metropolis’ game with this production. The costumes are really well done.
Sound design is by Matt Kania, props are by Patrick McGuire and Kelly Neuls, and scenic design is by Eric Luchen. Technical director is Josiah Tennant.
Since it’s Broadway debut in 1966, Cabaret has been awarded multiple Tony, Drama Desk, and Laurence Olivier Awards. The Metropolis production gives audiences a glimpse of why.
Cabaret plays through October 22, 2022. Performances take place at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, located at 111 W Campbell St, Arlington Heights. For tickets visit www.MetropolisArts.com, call (847) 577-2121, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peace, Love. Trust.
Rikki Lee Travolta
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