Incline Raises the Bar with “Cabaret”

Review by Laurel Humes of Cabaret: Incline Theatre

‘Come to this Cabaret, my friend.’ A fantastic production at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater through Oct. 15.

Incline has staged a near-perfect production of the acclaimed musical, first seen on Broadway a hard-to-believe 50 years ago and revived there at least three times, most recently in 2014. But no matter how many times and what versions you’ve seen of Cabaret, this one is not to be missed.

We are in capable hands from the moment Matthew Wilson appears as the Emcee of the Kit Kat Club in 1931 Berlin, smoothly singing “Willkommen” and promising us a chance to forget our troubles and be entertained. We meet the Kit Kat Girls and Boys, all good-looking and sexy, and not necessarily in girl-boy pairs.

When Sally Bowles, the star of the Kit Kat and Cabaret, does her first number, “Don’t Tell Mama” – well, this show is going to be a hit. Hannah Gregory is incredibly accomplished as a singer, dancer and actress.

But then, so is every member of the 14-person cast, half in multiple roles. What an absolute pleasure.

Berlin in 1931, at least at the Kit Kat Club, is a free and easy, anything goes society. Our hero is the American Cliff (Rory Sheridan), who has come to Berlin to write his novel. He quickly makes Sally’s acquaintance, and their unorthodox love story begins.

The show’s second love story is between an older couple. Fraulein Schneider (Helen Anneliesa Raymond-Goers) is landlord of the rooming house where fruit merchant Herr Shultz (Jeff Richardson) lives. This is a well-matched stage pairing of two skillful actors with beautiful voices; a highlight is their duet “Married.”

So Act I is mostly fun, love, good times, sex. To my view, co-directors Angela Kahle and Tim Perrino have taken the middle road on the Cabaret raunchy meter, which has veered up and down over the years, depending on the production. The double entendre lines are all there, but not shouted. The Emcee is flamboyant, but not dirty. The choreography is risqué, but not embarrassing.

Then the fun ends, and we see what’s coming. A Nazi in our midst is revealed. We know – before the characters do – what will happen to the Jewish fruit merchant and the gay performers at the Kit Kat Club. There is a stunning visual conclusion to the show.

A centerpiece of Incline’s Cabaret is the 7-piece, terrific and lively band that actually sits center stage, surrounded by well-used stairs and a catwalk. The bandstand is part of scenic designer Brett Bowling’s inventive set, which includes rolled-on pieces to depict the rooming house and a dressing room.

Costume designer Caren Brady has again outdone herself with lovely costumes. Not a quibble, just an observation – the Kit Kat Club is hardly tawdry and Sally Bowles cannot be poor with such great clothes!

I urge you to see Incline’s superb staging of Cabaret.

Cabaret continues through Oct. 15 at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater, 801 Matson Place, in the Incline District of East Price Hill. For tickets, call 513-241-6550 or go to www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com.

 

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