“Cabaret” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – January 12, 2020


Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

The 1966 musical “Cabaret” is a harsh indictment of 1930s pre-Nazi Germany.  The historic period brought major societal changes to the “anything goes” freedom that disappeared as rigid and highly discriminatory political control by a bigoted anarchist took hold.

The show brought new depth to the American musical theater as its rough theme had always been avoided by glitzy Broadway fare.  The story, still a reminder of what can happen when a biased ruler dominates a country, deals with Jewish intolerance that infested Germany.

Arizona Theatre Company mounts a strong production with a spot-on cast but with an amazingly stark production that doesn’t show the period’s artificial excesses as it shifts to reality devoid of flagrant extremes.  Without these visual clues, conveying the transitioning society is left solely to the performers who, without exception, marvelously display this period’s overindulgence and the struggle to change.

Director Sara Bruner transitions the show from the elaborate artificiality to the coming Nazi furor smoothly as does choreographer Jaclyn Miller who moves from swirling dances to goose-stepping with unbending rigidity.  The remarkable cast subtly and slyly moves the show from the acceptance of anything to the severity of the political storm that destroyed the country.  If only the sets could have provided as rich a visual evolution.

The story focuses on tawdry and promiscuous nightclub singer Sally Bowles who falls hard for American writer Cliff Bradshaw who arrives in Berlin to fashion his latest novel.  Sally works at the tacky Kit Kat Klub where a shoddy chorus line of questionable ladies is introduced by an Emcee.  Sally and Cliff live in Fraulein Schneider’s boarding house where the landlady falls for Jewish produce store owner Herr Schultz.  Soon Schneider realizes what marrying a Jew may net in the changing political environment.  Plot turns and twists are obvious but Kander and Ebb’s rich score gives a German flavor to dynamic musical numbers.

Sean Patrick Doyle’s Emcee slithers around as he subtly previews future events.  Madison Micucci is a superficial Sally as she artfully depicts the character.  Her triumphant singing of the title tune stops the show.  Brandon Espinoza is straight-laced as Cliff while Lori Wilner is an accepting Schneider.  The rest of the cast add unique touches to supporting roles.

If only the design worked as well as the production and cast, ATC’s “Cabaret” would be “perfectly marvelous” to quote a show tune.  As it is, appreciate everything except the show’s appearance.  “Cabaret” continues through January 26.  For tickets, contact the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 602-256-6995 or order tickets online at www.arizonatheatre.org.

Grade: B+