Monday, May 16, 2011

Not a Review: Cabaret

Hard to believe, but though I knew the songs and story, I had never seen a production of Cabaret.  Which may give me a unique perspective on the Dallas Theater Center's version.

Singing, dancing, choreography...  amazing!  The first glimpse of the show is the M.C.'s arrival - memorable - then his "girls" and "boys."  (These and the jokes were as tawdry as expected, the physical gags rather more so.)  Story lines were fascinating: Sally Bowles and her writer; the landlady and her fruit-vendor suitor; the prostitute who up-grades from sailors to a nice Nazi-supporter.  The acting was so good that my heart broke first for the fruitier, then for his sweetheart, until I left nearly as bruised as the writer.  I wanted to shake Sally till her teeth rattled.  Both the prostitute and the Nazi were, if not exactly sympathetic... real-life sized and believable.  You could feel - way up in my balcony - the retired-tart just reveling in her new fur coat.  The Nazi...?  Believable.  And the ending tableau (which I won't spoil) was strong.  A powerful, beautifully realized production of a show whose fame I now understand, by director Joel Ferrell.  Go!  Buy tickets!

Bob Lavalee's set supported this well.  Nice to see an asymmetrical thrust in this space - a spare, well detailed arrangement of that thrust stage with a wider stage behind it and, behind that, the band on risers rather like restaurant booths.  Furniture and a doorway rolled in and out to furnish "rooms" on the thrust.  Behind and beside the band, stairs wound round to a L shaped bridge that worked perfectly as the boarding house hallway (occasionally clogged with sailors) and other "off" locations.  Behind this bridge a tall semi-sheer curtain sequestered further-off-stage acts like the writer's beating; from my seat, actors behind it were not always visible, but their gigantic shadows added a lot.  At the end, bridge and curtain played a very effective part.

A few quibbles and a little Dallas boosting: I got a little tired of furniture moving (show writers - do you think about multi-settings?).  I've heard some sight-lines are terrible and believe it - folks seated under the bridge can't see much of those scenes, for instance.  But my seat was okay, so why should I care?  (A very Cabaret viewpoint, that.)  The boosting?  How good to see Dallas talent put to use!  Mixed with visitors were many local actors/singers/dancers plus a local set designer and director.  Finally the DTC is becoming the foundation it should be for our arts community.

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