“Cabaret” is a Hollywood classic. It’s no surprise it took the Tony Award in 1967. Now entering its fifth decade on stage, the musical is still as scintillating as ever. For those who don’t know, the story is cast against the rise of the Nazi Party in Berlin—think end of the 1920s into the ’30s. An American writer, Clifford Bradshaw, arrives looking for a cheap place to live so he can work on his craft. He rents a room from Fräulein Schneider, an older woman who has never married.
On his first night he wanders into the Kit Kat Klub and is sucked into a world of cabaret dancers. There he meets Sally Bowles, an English woman and a premier dancer. In a plot that is very similar to “Moulin Rouge!” The two fall in love. However, life isn’t all rosy-tinted glass. Bowles ends up pregnant and eventually has an abortion. Distraught and disenchanted by the growing Nazi Party, Clifford flees Berlin. The musical ends on a very dark note, which will remain unspoiled here.
Amid the main story of Clifford and Sally, there is the heartwarming love story between Fräulein Schneider and one of her tenants, Herr Schultz. In contrast to the whirlwind lustful relationship of Sally and Clifford, the budding romance between Schneider and Schultz is sweet, tender and authentic.
Leading us through the story is the ringleader, simply dubbed “Emcee.” He guides the story along much like Dr. Frank-N-Furter in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” (Yet another musical that seems to take pointers from “Cabaret”). He is quick, clever and liberal with innuendos.
Fans of “Cabaret” will enjoy this tour. The cast is small but strong. Benjamin Eakeley plays Clifford. He is earnest, youthful and naïve, and instills Clifford with a sense of American optimism.
Sally is played by Andrea Goss. Sleek and fierce she does an admirable job of playing the part of the wayward showgirl. However, her English accent is noticeably poor. Her performance started off cold. It wasn’t until her big ending number (also titled) “Cabaret” that she really seemed to own her part.
However, it was Mary Gordon Murry as Schneider and Scott Robertson who really stole the show. Their parts were magical but their emotions felt real. More real than Sally and Clifford’s shame relationship. They commanded your complete attention while on stage and made you laugh (particularly with the pineapple song) and they made you cry.
Randy Harrison as the Emcee was utterly brilliant. His performance stole the show and he kept you wanting more. I would have been utterly enchanted to have a show solely based on him and his character and have walked away happy.
“Cabaret” is playing at ASU Gammage, 1200 S. Forest Ave., now until Sept. 18.
– Mesa resident Kaely Monahan is a freelancer writer.