Broadway Across America in association with the Roundabout Theater Company is currently presenting the Kander & Ebb musical "Cabaret" at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
The musical "Cabaret" has gone through many changes since it first opened on Broadway 50 years ago. Songs have been cut, songs have been added, a movie has been made, dialogue has been changed -- it is an evolving work.
It started out initially as a short novel written in 1939 by Christopher Isherwood, "Goodbye to Berlin." In 1953 John van Druten turned that novel into a play, "I Am A Camera." In the early 1960's Harold Prince acquired the rights to the material and brought in Joe Masteroff to write the book and John Kander and Fred Ebb to provide the lyrics.
There are two storylines in the musical, the first being that of the young, bisexual American writer Cliff Bradshaw and his romance with the hedonistic nightclub singer Sally Bowles, and the second being the story of the landlady, Fraulein Schneider, and her romance with the Jewish fruitmonger, Herr Schultz. Set this in the decadence of the late Weimar Republic era of Berlin and you have all the makings of a powerful musical.
This production is based, essentially, on the 1993 Donmar Warehouse revival and its subsequent 1998 Broadway production. A few numbers were cut and three numbers that were written for the 1972 film ("Money," "Mein Herr," and "Maybe This Time") were added. The song "I Don't Care Much," which was cut from the original production, was also reinstated.
If you are expecting to see a staged version of the iconic 1972 Liza Minnelli film, you will be disappointed. This "Cabaret" is raw and sexual, and it kicks you in the emotional gut in a way that the film only touches on.
"Queer as Folk's" Randy Harrison has some big shoes to fill in the role of the Emcee: Joel Gray created the role on Broadway and immortalized it in the film version, and Alan Cumming made the role his own in the '93 and '98 revivals. Harrison, however, does not disappoint. He frolics on stage manically and completely embraces the perversity and decadence of the character. It is a tour de force role, and he handles it perfectly.
Andrea Goss is a perfectly pathetic and tragic Sally Bowles. Her reedy voice is closer to that of Jill Haworth, the creator of the role, than the big belt of Liza Minnelli. In the number "Don't Tell Mama" she nearly comes across as a little girl with her pixie-like stature. She can be fragile and strong at the same time and her rendition of "Maybe This Time" was one of the best that I have ever heard.
Benjamin Eakeley is no stranger to the role of Cliff Bradshaw, having played it in the 2014 Studio 54/Roundabout Theater revival. He is tall and handsome, and while he doesn't have a lot of opportunities to sing, he plays the character with assurance.
Mary Gordon Murray played the role of Fraulein Schneider. Murray earns my biggest criticism of the show in that, while her singing was good, her "German" accent was atrocious and inconsistent. It is a completely nit-picky thing, but it was, for me, noticeably annoying in an otherwise perfect production. Vocally, Murray has a big strong belt, and her singing was entertaining.
The entire ensemble for this production was very good. BT McNicholl's staging, based on the original Studio 54 staging by Sam Mendes, and Cynthia Onrubia and Rob Marshall's choreography, made excellent use of Robert Brill's two-level set.
The orchestra, conducted by Robert Cookman, stays on the top level of the set throughout most of the evening and they are a tight ensemble who knows their music well.
This production of "Cabaret" is one of the sharpest and slickest tours that Broadway Across America has brought to the Broward Center.
A word of warning, while most musicals are kid friendly, this production of "Cabaret" is not. So leave the little ones at home and get ready to loosen your tie and journey to the decadence that was Berlin in 1929.
"Cabaret" runs through January 22 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW 5th Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312. For tickets and information, call 954-462-0222 or visit browardcenter.org.