“Cabaret” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ September 15, 2016



Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage

Tempe, AZ

The Roundabout Theatre “Cabaret” revival opens the new ASU Gammage Broadway season.  The production’s raison d’etre was star Alan Cummings’ different slant on the Emcee who escorts audiences through a decadent look at corrupt and bigoted pre-Nazi Germany.  Since Cummings isn’t touring, Randy Harrison tries to duplicate the Broadway star’s interpretation but Harrison lacks Cummings’ sexy spark and sleazy style.

And it’s not just Harrison who fails to hold this revival together.  Especially disappointing is Andrea Goss’ lackluster Sally.  The role’s solos including the title tune don’t stop the show as they must.  Perhaps Harrison and Goss’ weak performances explain the many vacant seats on opening night after the intermission.

Benjamin Eakeley’s Cliff, the American writer who stumbles into the bizarre 1929-30 Berlin and falls for Sally, is fine as is the Jewish fruit seller, Herr Schultz, played sincerely by Scott Robertson.  Mary Gordon Murray is a touching Fraulein Schneider.

Sam Mendes original staging is blandly recreated and the show’s pokey pacing makes it drag.  Even the drab set looks cheap.  Cabaret” earns three stars out of five and continues through Sunday.  For tickets, call Ticketmaster at 800-982-2787 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

This first show in the local Broadway season raises issues.  Next up is the umpteenth “Sound of Music” revival.  Why?  The worst Broadway musical I’ve ever seen, “Finding Neverland,” comes later as does the family-oriented “Matilda,” that bored adult audiences in London when I saw it.  That leaves only three shows with potential this season.

“Beautiful” features Carole King’s fabulous tunes but the touring star, Julia Knitel, has only been a  Broadway understudy in the show.  Original star Jessie Mueller won a well-deserved Tony Award for interpreting King.  The tour originally featured Mueller’s sister, Abby, but she’s left the cast.  “An American in Paris,” duplicated the film’s marvelous dancing but it too arrives without the Broadway stars.  The Tony-winning play “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” demands an intimate theater so audiences can connect with it, but that’s not possible in the cavernous Gammage.

And what about several recent Broadway shows that tour this season but aren’t scheduled here?  “The King and I” revival and the raucous Shakespeare slap “Something’s Afoot” aren’t offered even though both shows play throughout the west.  Also missing but touring is “Fun Home.”  It recently closed on Broadway after winning a Best Musical Tony Award.

We are promised “Hamilton” and “Fun Home” next season after both shows play several major American cities this season.  Maybe the following local Broadway season will feature several smash shows; alas this season does not and the limp “Cabaret” opens this season negatively.  For the record, I requested an interview with Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, the local Broadway presenter, to comment on these issues but I was told she was unavailable.

Grade: C