As temperatures continue to drop and winter winds pick up in ferocity, an escape from the world-at-large is much needed. Thankfully, Marriott Lincolnshire’s deliciously fun production of Cabaret offers an artistic break from our frozen reality.
Granted, there is plenty of material for somber reflection in this award winning piece, as well. Based on Christopher Isherwood’s influential The Berlin Stories, Cabaret details the adventures of a struggling American author, Clifford Bradshaw, after he connects with a bohemian force of nature named Sally Bowles. As the two navigate their way through a timid yet life-altering romance, audiences experience the final glory days of 1930s Berlin through their eyes. The visiting Bradshaw soon realizes that the Nazi regime will change Germany’s hedonistic artiness forever. Bowles, meanwhile, remains in denial as such friends as landlady Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, a Jewish grocer, begin to feel Hitler’s wraith.
First produced on Broadway in 1966, Joe Masteroff’s book combines sensuality and sobering truth with aplomb. The score by Kander and Ebb, meanwhile, is an illustration of one of musical theatre’s most brilliant efforts. The Academy Award winning movie of 1972 engrained such well textured songs as “Maybe This Time”, “Money”, “Married” and “Willkommen” further into the public’s consciousness.
With solid verve, director David H. Bell creates the essence of a world on the brink of devastating change. Nancy Missimi’s costumes and Diane Ferry Williams’ lighting scheme help Bell achieve the script’s sexually charged social commentary with precision and deep emotionality. Choreographer Matt Raftery, meanwhile, encourages his flexible cast to bring forth the sordid atmosphere of the nightclub which serves as the story’s prime locale.
Megan Sikora, a frequent sight on Broadway stages, brings a nice sense of carefree sass and rough hewn energy to Sally Bowles. This is especially commendable as many forget how difficult this role is to pull off. Both the show’s original creators and the masterminds behind the acclaimed 1998 revival maintained that, as stated in the script, Bowles has little talent, sleeping her way into her singing gigs. While Sikora definitely whips out her arsenal of skills, there is enough grit in her performance to appease those who prefer a more realistically awkward performer. As the Emcee, the show’s unnamed yet seductive narrator, Stephen Schellhardt shines with solid musicality. What he lacks in bizarre originality, here, is made up for with a joyous professionalism. Meanwhile, as the romantically challenged Schneider and Schultz, the profoundly subtle Annabel Armour and Craig Spidle nearly steal the show.