When a classic Broadway musical comes to Iowa, it is a must-see during its weeklong stint at the Des Moines Civic Center. “Cabaret” originally hit the stage in 1966; set in 1931 Germany in the time just before the Nazis took power, the show has stood the test of time and is still a joy to watch on stage.
Joel Gray originated the part of “The Emcee” winning a Tony and an Oscar for the role. It is an absolute essential part for the production. He becomes the omnipresent figure of the show, keeping the storyline moving along from scene to scene and marking the passage of time. The part gives him a license to say and do pretty much whatever he wants.
The outrageous and eccentric part was brought to life in Des Moines by Randy Harrison. He is a phenomenal talent and commanded the stage when he was performing. I had a little trouble understanding some of his dialogue in act one. I’m not sure if his German accent was a bit over pronounced or if there was a sound issue, but it was only during a few of his speaking parts. I could hear his singing just fine. Whatever the issue, the problem was fixed in act two.
The main character of Sally Bowles will forever be associated with Liza Minnelli, who played her in the 1972 film and earned an Academy Award for her performance. Sally is the heart of the story as you find yourself rooting for this self-destructive woman living life as though the troubles of the world could never reach her. Andrea Goss as Sally was the best part of Tuesday’s performance. I was hooked from the moment she stepped on stage through the final scene.
“Cabaret” is one of the most unique productions I have seen. It is one of the few musicals where the orchestra is a part of the show.
The show’s curtain time was 7:30 p.m., and normally the stage remains empty until the lights dim and spotlights hit the stage. However, as theater-goers began taking their seats, the dancers and musicians came out on stage and did their warmups and stretching exercises, as if you were backstage at the Kit Kat Club.
The musical is in its 50th year and yet the themes of the show remain relevant today. The show begins as this nonsensical romp in Berlin where people are living life and are asked to check their troubles at the door. Then in one scene, that all changed. As soon as the bright red Nazi armband was revealed, the world’s problems came crashing down on the party.
As an audience member, you know as soon as the Nazis take full power in Germany, those at the Kit Kat Club will no longer be able to live as they were. The openness of sexuality displayed at the club would soon be persecuted in the same way the Jewish people were.
The LGBT community still fights discrimination today.
In “Cabaret” these people hide themselves in the dark of the Kit Kat Club; but as soon as they are out in the light, they are subject to intolerance. I’m not saying today’s world is like Nazi Germany: World War II did its job to stop that extreme from happening. Nevertheless, it is impossible to deny that bigotry, prejudice and racism still haunt us. When will the time come when we realize, all people of different races, colors, creeds or religions are just people and deserve to be treated fairly?
“Cabaret” is one of the most memorable shows I have ever seen. The singing, dancing and acting tell a compelling story that will continue for many years to come.
Contact Pam Rodgers at 641-792-3121 ext. 6531 or firstname.lastname@example.org