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Cabaret, by Kander and Ebb
Willkommen to Atlanta
Monday, February 14, 2005
4.0
There are three things in this show that deserve a huge round of applause, and big thank you for allowing us to enjoy it from an audience's perspective. The first thing about this production that will make you come completely unglued is the incredible choreography. Choreographer Jen Millman MacQueen has created some of the darkest, raunchiest, Fossee-esque style dancing that is so spot on, and in my opinion the only thing that holds together the theme of this show. I have been a patron of many Atlanta shows for the 13 years I have lived here, and I have to say this is some of the best dancing I have ever seen produced on any area stage.
The second must see of this show is the dynamic chemistry between the Kit Kat girls who breathe real life into Cabaret. Even though the leads are doing great things onstage, you rarely want to take you eyes of the Kits Kats!! From their moving the stage pieces on and off to their incredible chemistry when dancing and exiting the stage. They leave you wanting more and more, and are some of the strongest characters created in the whole show. Of the six Kit Kat "girls" none are devoid of talent, vocal skills, or dance-ability, but there are two who really stand out in the crowd. The first is the red headed Collen Hargis who dances the audiences up into a frenzy, and then pierces right through the heart of each and everyone with her dark-cat-like stare. The second is the statesque and incredibly sexy Bethany Irby. While all the other girls go for the raunch and the rude, she brings a nice juxtapostion to the crowd with her Barbie like quality, smooth dance moves, and then her sudden look of sheer terror and hatred.
And then of course how can you talk about the good of this show without mentioning the three very talented young leads of the show. David Rossetti brings so much energy mixed with darkness to the role of the Emcee (almost that of a dark pied-piper), and such heart that just draws you in and sucks you dry. The chemistry between the incredible actor/singer Brandon O'Dell and the multi-talented Laine Binder is unmistakable. I had the pleasure of seeing Ms. Binder perform this role at Emory and am once again floored by the differences she has brought to the character. She has an unmistable Cher type quality and depth to her voice, but with stylings that she makes all her own. UNFORTUNATELY... I am not sure about many of the director's choices in staging and characterization for his lead Sally Bowles. Much of it seemed forced movement and not independent enough of the character, BUT hey that is just personal opinion.

Which leads me to my major gripe about the show. THE STAGING. My issues are not just with the role of Sally Bowles, but in almost all of the dialogue scenes. It lacks depth, direction, motivation. The choregraphy is so spot on, dark, and continuly deteriorates throughtout the show (as does set, light, and the incredible orchestra), BUT you never see the same theme happen in the staging. One convention the director used to get in and out of sccenes was a super slow motion that was just too distracting. Although it looks flawless, it makes no sense and seems to come out of nowhere. The slow motion has no tie to the show whatsoever, and seems to never really be done again after the first act until one song at the end. If you are going to make it a big section of the musical, make sure it continues throughout the show. Just like the musical direction (which, by the way there is no musical director listed so that may be the problem there) David Crowe's blocking seems lackluster and inapt, or better stated, the direction just is overshadowed by the tightness of the dance and undeniable structure to the choreography.
The musical direction of the show is also unclear. You have so many awesome voices on stage and all so different in styles, but they never seem to know where to go. The few group numbers just seemed undirected or unpolished or something, but meanwhile the solos were star moments. As I said before all songs had incredible staging so once again Kudos to MacQueen. For all you yet to see it, wait for the breathtaking Mein Herr, beautiful Why Should I Wake Up, and the haunting I Don't Care Much.
The other four supporting actors all do fine jobs in their respective roles. Dejie Johnson has incredible moments throughout the show, but never quite lives up to the damaged character that is Frau Schneider. She seems too often to sing straight to the audience in theatrical conventions of yester-year, which may in fact delight some of the older patrons, but in a show where you want complete reality and total truth just does not work. Michael Shikany, although looking ever bit the part, delivers an almost unintelligable offering of Herr Schultz with an accent that runs the gamut of German, English, Swedish and who knows what else, BUT still manages to pull of an endearing character. The roles of Kost (Tracey Holden) and Ernst Ludwig (Patrick Haase) both come across as two very believable characters, but lack greatly in speech patterns. Kost's accent is off but not hopeless, and Ludwig flies through his lines at rates so fast you can hardly understand what his character has to offer. The two latter actors should settle into their roles as the run continues.
The set, lights, and orchestra all add so much to the darkness of this show. The bleak black stage (minus the blue drawings on stage right and stage left), the few set pieces that move on and off, the beautiful contrasting lights on the back cyc, the hollow single spot light and floor lights, are all so very reminiscent of a Kander and Ebb musical a la Chicago. The beautiful orchestra is flawless (minus the one character who continuly enters and exits the scenes- too distracting). The other production quality that added so much to the show was costuming. Although the dresses choosen for Sally Bowles needed to be rethought, the costuming for all Kit Kats (or lack there of), and other Cabaret workers in black and white, and for all scenes outside the Club to be in muted tones where a great touch.
All in all this show has what it takes to be an incredible offering to the Atlanta area it just lacks some polish in the opening weekend. If you have a chance to go and see it by the second weekend GO! The Kit Kats are worth the price of admission alone.

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