Tolerant and I decided to get some culture into our mundane lives, so we went out last Friday to see the Portland Center Stage’s rendition of Cabaret, starring Storm Large as Sally Bowles and Wade McCollum as the EMcee.
Cabaret is set in Berlin during the rise of the Third Reich, a time when Berlin had become home to the strange and eccentric. Life outright sucked in the late 20′s for your average Berliner, and entertainment had to be suitably exotic to take your mind off your woes. As the program they handed us mentions, “if we actually put on stage tonight what was happening in those clubs in Berlin – we’d be shut down.” Thus we enter the Kit Kat Klub, one of the more notorious nightspots Berlin had to offer.
Clifford Bradshaw is a young American writer who has been traipsing around Europe and England living the Bohemian lifestyle and trying to find himself as much as anything. On his way to Berlin, he meets Ernst, an German businessman who introduces him to his favorite nightspot, the Kit Kat Klub. There Clifford meets Sally Bowles, a singer from England living life as much as she can in the Dionysian extravaganza that is Berlin. The two get wound up in the middle of this craziness just before things truly start to fall apart.
Based on the play by John Van Druten (itself based on the stories of Christopher Isherwood) Cabaret is probably familiar to many of you, and from what I can gather, this performance holds much in common with the original Broadway production starring Liza Minelli – but not so much in common with the movie of the same name. With a good script, all you need is a group of performers that don’t suck to pull it off. In this case, they had a great script – the author set out with the purpose of knocking your worldview just slightly out of whack, and he keeps it there throughout.
For this production, this excellent script had the benefit of a very talented cast of performers to staff the Klub, and the whole thing went off extremely well. All of the Players in the troupe gave the show their best, and they work very well together. Cabaret is a whole string of ups-and-downs, and the cast are very adept at riding that roller-coaster. I would be very hard-pressed to pick out a favorite, despite my being a big fan of Storm Large’s singing.
To top it off, the Gerding Theater at the Armory is an excellent place to put forth this production. The theater lends itself very well to a period play such as this, as there is a preponderance of exposed brickwork for the crew to work around, really giving you the feel of being in a run-down portion of the city. While the acoustics of the auditorium are very good on their own, the cast had the benefit of portable microphones the size of a Q-Tip, so their speaking voices didn’t have to have the usual “I’m yelling so the folks in the cheap seats can hear me but really I’m whispering” effect and they didn’t have much in the way of visible technology ruining the ambiance. Wade put this tool to excellent use throughout the play.
The only thing that I think would have improved it would have been to run the show as dinner theater, so you would really get the feeling of being in the Kit Kat Klub. That would limit seating down to about 50 persons though, so I can understand why they wouldn’t want to go that route.
While tickets might be a bit spendy for your budget, I would still recommend seeing this show. I give it 4 out of 5 Paws.