Reviewer: Howard Steven Frydman aka “The Howard”
Theater: Connecticut Repertory Theater
Book: Joe Masteroff
Music: John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Director: Scott LaFeber
The Howard’s Exhale – “A Sizzling Summer Sensation – Provocative, Passionate, Seductive
Does anyone want fresh luscious fruit – an orange, a pineapple, maybe a KitKat kutie? If so, then come to the “Cabaret”. Yes- Willkommen to this “soak it in” sizzling sweet confection of the Tony Award Winning Musical – “Cabaret”, presented by the Connecticut Repertory Theater (CRT) as part of their Nutmeg Summer Series under the direction of Scott LaFeber featuring music and lyrics by Kander and Ebb, and starring Laura Michelle Kelly (Broadways original “Mary Poppins) as “Sally Bowles” and Tony Award nominee for the “Scottsboro Boys” Forrest McClendon as the “Emcee”.
Now folks let’s get down to the real nitty and gritty here – the songwriting team of Kander and Ebb handle controversial subjects in a most ingenious and creative manner- making YOU the audience reflect and become one with their host of creative characters. Their musicals, which includes, “The Scottsboro Boys” and “Chicago” – oftentimes present the underbelly of society in a bright golden hue, yet ultimately revolve around truth, justice and keeping always observant. There are times, that I am so certain that Kander and Ebb are today’s Nostradamus, seers describing past events in musical form that remind us of what may come, or that we should never forget and be vigilant of securing the rights of all people and our democracy- as they say “All Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
“Cabaret” is indeed the second live Kander and Ebb musical I’ve seen in two weeks, – (“The Scottsboro Boys” is currently showing at Playhouse On Park being the other) – I freely admit I have only seen the 1972 film version starring Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey and never a live musical production. The original musical, winner of eight Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Score for K & E, opened on Broadway in 1966 at the Broadhurst Theater, as you can imagine, this CRT offering is indeed a treat for a newbie like myself.
When one conjures up thoughts of “Cabaret”, you immediately think of pre-WW II Germany, the infamous sleazy underworld of the “Kit Kat Klub ”, it’s lead singer, Sally Bowles (Laura Michelle Kelly), that suave, decadent “Emcee” (Forest McClendon), the innocent American writer abroad- Clifford Bradshaw (Rob Barnes), The Kit Kat Gals & Guys, and of course the great K & E tunes including: the musical’s namesake song, and such memorable tunes including “Willkommem”, “Mein Herr”, “Maybe This Time”, “Money”, and the frightening “If You Could See Her” aka “The Gorilla Song” – “funny she doesn’t look Jewish” – absolutely terrifying in its connotation in how we except prejudice. As the Emcee states – “In here life is beautiful, The girls are beautiful, Even the orchestra is beautiful, And now presenting the Cabaret girls, each and everyone a virgin”. You soon realize – nothing is beautiful. One initially and eerily forgets that this musical is about the rising of Nazism, disenfranchisement, antisemitism, intolerance, dark and dire political developments, policies of hate, them vs. us – sound familiar??
“Cabaret” is the final entry in this year’s Nutmeg Summer Series, and we so heartedly applaud both CRT and Artistic Director Terrence Mann for another excellent season of theater. Once again we send standing ovations to our superb cast and energetic ensemble of actors. We must take note of our two leads – Miss Laura Michelle Kelly is a sublime “Sally Bowles”, sympathetic one moment, sultry the next. “Emcee” Forrest McClendon” IS “Cabaret” he sets the tone for the entire evening- and makes one believe we are part of the decadent Kit Kat Club – an exquisite and stunning performance.
We humbly present the coveted “Howard Noticed You Award” to two cast members of “Cabaret”, first to Miss Dee Hoty as “Fraulien Schneider” – a tender, sensitive performance that tugged at one’s heart – beautiful! And second, Mr. Johnathan Brody as “Herr Schultz”, a “down to earth” real life portrayal – so sympathetic and realized. Both actors arguably stole the show whenever they appeared on stage – at times we wished “Cabaret” was more about “Herr Schultz” and the landlady “Schneider” but that would be an entirely different K & E tale – Excellent performance both!! Enjoy.
This production will take place at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theater located on the campus of the University of Connecticut. CRT is the professional producing arm of the Department of Dramatic Arts at the University of Connecticut- Storrs, CT. For ticket information or to purchase tickets by phone: 860-486-2113 or visit online at www.crt.uconn.edu.
Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at TheHoward24@gmail.com.