Performing Arts ~ Cabaret kicks the doors in at PPAC

Cabaret
January 26 - 31, 2016
Providence Performing Arts Center
220 Weybosset St.
Providence, Rhode Island


heads-up: this one is not for kids.

What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play...

Life is a cabaret at the Kit Kat Klub in Berlin in 1931. As the Emcee who welcomes you to the show and oversees the goings-on with a kind of dark good humor. Leave your troubles outside, he tells the audience. Inside, everything and everyone is beautiful.

We're introduced to the dancers: bored women in cheap 30's lingerie and worn stockings, who gyrate and strike raunchy poses for the crowd, with varying expressions of hostility and listlessness. Even so, there's a foreboding stiff-leggedness to the dancing.

When aspiring American novelist Clifford arrives by train in Berlin, he meets and befriends Ernst, who helps him find a place to stay and introduces him to the Kit Kat Klub.

There Clifford meets Sally Bowles, a soloist and party girl who loves gin and cocaine as much as she loves anything else. And Sally loves Berlin, and "starring" at the Kit Kat Klub.

While Nazism is stirring in the city, Clifford and Sally exist in a bubble of parties and booze. "What has politics to do with us?" Sally dismisses. She's not the only one in denial.

But you can't escape reality forever, as Sally, Clifford and their friends soon discover. They all have to make hard life choices about their futures - a future that we know will be a tortured one.

If you haven't gathered, this is not a show for youngsters. PPAC's age recommendation is 16.

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photo: Cabaret via PPAC

As I left the theater, I heard comments like "dark" and "deep" and "intense." Cabaret is all that. Even though it's a musical, it's a drama set in Nazi-era Germany. We should expect dark, deep and intense. It's also funny, raunchy, and thought provoking.

Even so, there are plenty of laughs. Randy Harrison's Emcee is fantastic. First of all, he has a powerhouse voice. He's also got a fearless take on the role. Sometimes grinning devil, sometimes empathetic, the Emcee is dynamic even as an observer. He also (in makeup at least) looks a lot like Bill Hader from Saturday Night Live.

Andrea Goss as Sally Bowles brings to mind Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago in looks, but without the smolder. Sally is bubbly and up-beat, even when she's sad. In her opening number "Don't Tell Mama," she was very Betty Boop, so she surprised and impressed me when she blew the doors off the final chorus of "Cabaret."

After Randy Harrison, the real standout performer was Shannon Cochran as Cliff's landlady, Frau Schneider. She was strong yet poignant and had an amazing singing voice.

The sets are excellent, and the changes are well-handled. The whole cast was solid, and there's a lot of talent on that stage. If you're up for a well-told,  dark story that'll relieve the tension with a few laughs, Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome.


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