Just thinking about the final scene makes me shudder.
“Leave your troubles outside. So life is disappointing? Forget it! We have no troubles here. Here, life is beautiful,” the Kit Kat Klub Master of Ceremonies (Jon Peterson) urges during the opening number of Cabaret.
It’s easy to be drawn in by his smooth speech and animated, carefree demeanor. Although it’s certainly seedy, there’s an intriguing level of allure to the Kit Kat Klub and its crew, including British songstress, Sally Bowles (Leigh Ann Larkin). She too is very confident and happy-go-lucky, as is the American writer, Clifford Bradshaw (Benjamin Eakeley), who she takes an interest in not long after he arrives in Germany. Next, the audience meets Bradshaw’s new landlord, Fräulein Schneider (Mary Gordon Murray), who we quickly learn has hearts in her eyes for one of her other tenants, Herr Schultz (Scott Robertson), a Jewish fruit vendor.
Of course, few things are ever as perfect or problem-free as they initially appear.
As the first act comes to a close, the mood of the play significantly shifts when the actions of one character serve as a painful reminder that this is 1930s Germany we’ve been transported to. The conflicts unfolding onstage—such as Sally’s unplanned pregnancy or Fräulein Schneider’s ongoing bickering with a tenant who is sleeping with various sailors for money—are small compared to the ominous political changes taking the region by storm. It’s brought to Fräulein Schneider’s attention that her relationship with Herr Schultz could endanger them both. This intensifies Sally and Cliff’s troubles because Cliff recognizes that any sense of decadence Berlin had to offer is already behind them. The party is over, and he knows it’s in their best interest to leave.
As I consider the shows with memorably powerful conclusions that I’ve seen in the past, I believe the ending of Cabaret is most haunting yet. The Emcee’s opening words about the beauty of life in Berlin become chilling, and I shiver simply recalling the last scene of the show before the lights went black. Personally, I was speechless when I stood to applaud. Others in the crowd were quick to chat about their concerns regarding America’s current political atmosphere. And naturally, words of praise for the production were being spouted from every corner of the theatre.
There’s not a single weak link or subpar production element in this run of Cabaret, a Roundabout Theatre Company production. It was no surprise to read that Peterson had previously appeared in Cabaret on Broadway. His performance as the Kit Kat Klub Emcee was out of this world. Although there were countless components effectively working together to transport the audience to a different time and place, he accomplished this single-handedly with his compelling (and, at times, almost eerie) stage presence. I know when I think back on this show Peterson’s performance will come to mind before any other aspect of the production.
Should you see Cabaret? Absolutely YES! But buckle up and prepare your emotions for a bumpy ride. | Megan Washausen
Cabaret runs at The Fabulous Fox through March 19. For ticket information, visit http://www.fabulousfox.com.
Photo: Joan Marcus