Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Having seen more than a few regional theatre stagings of Cabaret over the last few months, I really didn't know what to expect with this one, especially with Fairfield Center Stage's choice of presenting this show in a bar. Fortunately, everything works out splendidly, starting most crucially with the extraordinary company of actors. Even before the show starts, the performers, clad in lacy black costumes (wonderfully designed by Jessica Camarero), intermingle with the audience, moving between the tables and chairs that are grouped around the edges of the stage. While audience participation is not a favorite of mine when I go to the theatre, using this device summons up the proper atmosphere of decadence and desire that should epitomize any revival of Cabaret.
Playing the Emcee, the sinuous Matthew Casey looks great with blond hair and tattoos on his arms. His opening number, "Willkommen," sets the tone for a sexy Cabaret. Casey also scores leading the songs "Two Ladies" and, especially, "If You Could See Her," with his gorilla-costumed partner in the latter number, Bonnie Gregson, being particularly lively.
Playing Sally Bowles, Arielle Boutin is a wonder. Dressed in risqué clothes and various colored wigs, Boutin delivers the title song in a full-out, astonishing voice. Even before she gets to this song, she personifies her character ideally, sparkling in the group numbers "Don't Tell Mama" and "Mein Herr," as well as a heartbreaking and desperately hopeful "Maybe This Time."
With two terrific leads, this production of Cabaret is running on all cylinders, and the performances by the supporting actors only add to that effect. In an unusual twist, Ben McCormack adroitly plays Cliff and serves as musical director of the small orchestra. He succeeds on both fronts. Nick Kuell is an ideal Ernst, being both amiable and slightly scary, as befits the character. Alexis Willoughby is a riot as Fräulein Kost and she delivers a truly terrifying "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" at the close of the first act.
Perhaps the most touching performances are given by Marilyn Olsen and Steve Benko, as Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz. With these two actors in these roles, "It Couldn't Please Me More" and "Married" are delightful and warm, making this couple funnier than most. By playing up the comedic aspects of the individual characters, it makes the eventual outcome of the pair all the more crushing. Olsen's singing of "What Would You Do?" is truly frightening and a real standout moment in the show.
Eli Newsom's versatile direction is right on the money throughout the show. The onstage band sounds fabulous and the show is also helped by the atmospheric and incisive work of scenic designer Perry Liu and lighting designer Jeffrey Whitsett. The dances choreographed by Lindsay Johnson are like icing on the cake and the entire production is glittering and sharp as a knife.
Fairfield Center Stage's Cabaret is most highly recommended, offering both a good time and a troubling outcome that feels all too relevant to our current times.
Cabaret runs through September 28, 2019, at the Trevi Lounge, 548 Kings Hwy Cutoff, Fairfield CT. For tickets, please visit www.fairfieldcenterstage.org or call the box office at 203-416-6446.