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Marriott Theatre gives another interpretation of 'Cabaret'

It will likely be hard to watch "Cabaret" at Marriott Theatre now through March 16, 2014, without thinking of Joel Grey or Liza Minnelli in the 1972 Bob Fosse-direct film or how Minnelli continues to do its songs in nightclub acts and on TV.

However, even though Stephen Schellhardt has played several characters in Marriott shows, he dons the Emcee of the degenerate Kit Kat Klub role as if born to play the part. And New York musical-theater actress Megan Sikora has the right moves as the 19-year-old British Sally Bowles who is trying to hold on to a job and, possibly, a guy.

The challenge is how to do "Cabaret," a dark musical presented several times with a variety of endings, in a way that audiences leave satisfied.

Audiences tend to like happy endings where a girl will leave a bad scene and everything turns out OK. But Bowles continues to pretend everything is all right and won't leave. Her lover, American writer Clifford Bradshaw (Patrick Sarb), realizes what is happening and does leave so he can write.

Fraulein Schneider (Annabel Armour), owner of the boarding house where Bowles moves in with Bradshaw, breaks an engagement to lover Herr Schultz (Craig Spidle) because he is Jewish. Schultz thinks everything will be OK because he is German.

Schneider was warned against the relationship when their engagement party was broken up by the once, seemingly nice, Ernst Ludwig (Jameson Cooper) and boarder Fraulein Kost (Christine Sherrill).

The threatening feeling continues with dance numbers. The choreography of “Money,” with the ensemble bent over like money grubbers or old, poor immigrants, adds to the dark side. "If You Could See Her," song and dance of Emcee and the Gorilla, is a twist on the Kit Kat Club's tongue-in-cheek open love versus the country's prejudice.

Indeed, the show is about ironic contrasts. “Life is a Cabaret, old chum” sounds lighthearted. After all, it seduces with “come hear the music play.” But that is to the background menace of drums, goose-stepping and the threatening world domination intent of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.”

The Marriott show, directed by David H. Bell with choreography by Matt Raftery, is an accomplished piece of musical theater but audiences are bound to leave with different reactions depending on their age, and even, family history.