Nazis and Jazz Hands
Cabaret pushes the envelope on sex, glitz & tyranny
by Anna Grace
Opening to shocked audiences in 1966, Cabaret was one of the first musicals to combine social commentary with song and dance. Set amid the intra-war turmoil in Weimar Germany, the characters drink, dance and have fun while around them the Nazis ascend to power. Stuffed with razzle-dazzle dance numbers and seedy sexuality, Cabaret is simultaneously entertaining and uncomfortable, drawing you in and then smacking you with your own compliance.
Director Peg Major obviously appreciates the richness and nuance of this difficult script. There are a number of small details that elevate her production. Fe02’s set is a succulent red and gold, art nouveau-inspired masterpiece. Major has chosen to cast women of myriad shapes and sizes for the Kit Kat Klub girls, and the realness of these women lends a vivid, earthy feel to their overtly sexual dance numbers.
Speaking of vivid, earthy sexuality, Ecaterina Lynn sings the deep alto of Sally Bowels with electricity; the audience literally leaned forward as she belted out “Life is a Cabaret.” Kory Weimer is magnetically creepy as the Master of Ceremonies, moving easily from simple, silly songs like ‘Two Ladies” to the morally obscene ‘If You Could See Her.” And Tracy Nygard brings an interesting complexity to the sailor-seducing Fraulein Kost.
Supporting these performers is a vocally strong ensemble. Unfortunately, however, some of the actors seemed to be performing in an entirely different play than the one Major has envisioned. Pacing drags at times, and I had the urge to set a quicker metronome just behind the curtain to speed things up.
If you haven’t seen Cabaret (and no, the film doesn’t count), take this opportunity — it’s a fascinating play. Hopefully, those performers who didn’t seem on board opening night will warm up as the run continues. Just don’t expect to get comfortable in your seat.
Cabaret runs 8pm Friday-Saturday and 2:30pm Sunday through Nov. 6, at Cottage Theatre in Cottage Grove; info and tickets at cottagetheatre.org or 541-942-8001.