Photo by Tom Killips
It’s not something we should be proud of, that the musical Cabaret is so timely and hits so close to home in 2017. Yet here we are, 51 years after the original Broadway production (and 78 years after the original short novel on which it was based) watching a show where one of the main characters says “If you’re not against all this [referring to the Nazis], you’re for it – or you might as well be.” The “this” can easily be replaced, in our minds, with any one of the atrocities going on politically at the moment – and how brilliant a show that still carries this weight after all this time. Schenectady Light Opera Company has not only chosen a good time to stage Cabaret, but has done a great job with the production itself.
Cliff (James Alexander), an American, arrives in 30s Berlin to write a novel. One of his first stops is the Kit Kat Club, a somewhat seedy cabaret, where he meets Sally Bowles (Brittany Leigh Glenn), the headliner. Once she loses her job, she moves in with him. The politics of the time loom large over the city, affecting everyone in different ways, with the emcee of the club (Oliver Ord) acting as omniscient narrator throughout.
Director Peter Caracappa, music director Daniel Gallagher and choreographer Gregory Theodore Marsh had to truly work hand-in-hand on this production to make it work; the music, choreography and acting need to all be center stage at all times, and none can overwhelm the others. They meshed perfectly here. The choreography was on point; this was some of the best dancing I’ve seen in an area production in some time: sensual, crisp, and creative. None of the performances were throwaways – with a large ensemble, it’s easy to have people fade into the background, but none of the cast here did that. The music was beautiful, as well – there is some serious talent on that stage. Additionally, the choice to set the theater up with some cabaret seating was a good one for this production.
Glenn blew me away as Sally. Her character arc was so well-defined and her passion was glorious to watch. Her performances of “Maybe This Time” and “Cabaret” were standouts – heartbreaking, mournful, powerful and gorgeous. Ord’s Emcee was a bit scaled back from what I’m used to – I’ve seen frenetic, I’ve seen a Puck-like character, I’ve seen a mentally-ill dead-eyed mannequin (the character choices seem to be endless for this role) – but it didn’t take away from his performance. I like watching what the Emcee will do, and Ord didn’t disappoint. His final scene was perfectly painful to watch, as it should be.
I often get tired of the same old shows, and anyone who knows me knows I’m not a huge fan of older musicals – but Cabaret will always be a favorite, and SLOC has done a stellar job with this production. It’s a strong show and an excellent choice with which to open their season.
“Cabaret”, Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady, September 22 – October 1, $28-$22, Run time: 2 hours and 35 minutes with a 15-minute intermission, (877) 350-7378, http://www.sloctheater.org/