RTP’s “Cabaret” is Fantastic
I have been in love with the musical “Cabaret” since I was 17-years-old.
I saw it for the first time at Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg, and I believe, at that time, it was still Mary Washington College, but don’t quote me, and it was the raciest thing I had ever seen live.
I became obsessed with the soundtrack from the movie, starring Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey, and even performed “Maybe This Time” at a local piano bar here in Richmond (which has long since closed). So to say I had high expectations of the Richmond Triangle Player’s performance would definitely be an understatement.
Thankfully RTP’s production of “Cabaret,” book written by Joe Masteroff with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, is fantastic.
“Cabaret” is set around the lively and risqué Kit Kat Klub in Berlin, Germany just before the Nazi party’s rise to power during World War II. Cliff Bradshaw, played by Stevie Rice, is a young American author who is visiting Berlin hoping to gain inspiration from his travels for his new novel. When visiting the Klub he meets a vivacious English performer, Sally Bowles, played by Nicole Foret Obertleitner.
When Sally is kicked out of the club by her jealous boyfriend Max, she seeks refuge at Cliff’s, hoping she can move into his small room in a boarding house operated by Fräulein Schneider, played by Jeanie Rule. Fräulein Schneider is at first not very keen on the idea, but is eventually persuaded and Sally moves in.
Soon, Cliff and Sally become romantically involved. Sally tells Cliff she’s pregnant but she doesn’t know who the father is. Cliff acknowledges that it could be his and tells Sally he wants to help her raise the child. Meanwhile, Fräulein Schneider has taken up a romantic relationship with one of her boarders, Jewish fruit-shop owner, Herr Schutlz, played by Doug Schneider. In order to keep her from being chided by her promiscuous border, Fräulein Kost, played by Layana van Dreisen, Herr Schutlz tells Fräulein Kost that he and Fräulein Schneider are to be married.
More drama unfolds as the Nazis move in, and the once vivacious Emcee of the Klub, played by Chris Hester, goes through his own personal battles.
Hester gives a powerhouse performance in a role that can be very emotionally taxing. I just wish he would have taken it a tad more creepy, not in a scary way, but more lecherous.
Obertleitner is marvelous as Sally Bowles. Her command of the stage always astonishes me and she adds such authenticity to the role. And as cliché as it sounds, Obertleitner is a true triple threat.
Rule and Schneider are charming in their roles of Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz. Their sweet relationship serves to anchor the story and highlight the intense sadness experienced when you have everything, only to lose it.
Beautifully directed and choreographed by Penny Ayn Maas, “Cabaret” at RTP is the perfect finale to their 2013-2014 season. Maas performed in the most recent revival of Cabaret at Studio 54 and her experience is evident in this production. The set by Frank Foster is very versatile, changing from the Kit Kat Klub to Fräulein Schneider’s boarding house requiring hardly any set changes. Holly Sullivan’s costumes are magnificent as always.
“Cabaret” is playing at Richmond Triangle Players through July 5th and many of the shows are selling out fast – visit www.rtriangle.org for information and to get tickets.
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.
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