‘Cabaret’ at Damascus Theatre Company by Amanda Gunther

FOUR AND A HALF STARS
Willkommen! Beinvenue! Welcome! Sit back and relax and the Damascus Theatre Company will be your host to Kander and Ebb’s most scandalous musical as they present Cabaret for their spring musical. Directed by Keith Tittermary, this wildly entertaining musical encourages you to leave your troubles at the door as you explore the warm steamy nights of the Kit-Kat Club whilst the cold winter of Germany’s rise to power is knocking at the window. A dashing daring musical with saucy numbers, a peculiar MC, and the toast of Mayfair all under one roof; a splendid time is guaranteed for all!

The cast of 'Cabaret.' Photo by Ellie Swink.

The cast of ‘Cabaret.’ Photo by Elli Swink.

Costume Designer Flo Arnold brings just the right level of sexuality to the designs for both the Kit Ka-Kat Girls and Fraulein Sally Bowles. Touches of shimmy shake satin and lusty lace make their jobs as nightclub dancers enticing and titillating without being whorish or trashy. The costumes have a found feeling to them, recreating the idea of what dancers in the 1930s would have used— whatever they could find. The glitz and the glamour are kept to subtle hints of fiery red for Sally’s lounge dresses, and tasteful black fishnets for the girl, leaving the shine to come from the talent of the girls’ singing and dancing.

A setting most intimate will complete your trip to The Kit-Kat Club as you are able to snag an actual cabaret table (complete with sparkling water and snacks!) right in the throng of the action, and you never know who might pop over to your table. Set Designers Bill Brown keeps the atmosphere friendly and inviting; allowing the audience to have a more involved experience. Brown keeps the remaining set pieces simple— a bed and vanity where needed, not wanting to get trapped in the laborious process of heavy scene changes.

Choreographer Laurie Newton brings excitement and thrills to the table with her routines, especially the flashier ones seen in numbers like “Don’t Tell Mama.” Newton’s work provides the flare and pizzazz that is expected of night club dancers; infusing eager entertainment with a high flung kick or flirty spin. The use of the disjointed kick-line is a particularly impressive move that features in the opening number with the girls on the floor doing high kicks whilst in their own little areas. A fully united kick-line kicks off the opening of Act II showcasing the girls (and the boys) ability to perform synchronized dancing with zest.

The one thing that made it difficult to enjoy at this performance was the overpowering orchestra. Even they may be beautiful with a terrific tempo and near-perfect pitch, and fine musicians, but they practically drowned out any number that wasn’t  a belt song. And even some of the belting moments from Fraulein Schneider and Sally Bowles got swept away in their orchestrations. I am confident that this problem will be corrected before the next performance.

In a group of energetic dancers and enthusiastic singers it is often difficult to single out one sensational ensemble performer but this production makes that easy as Megan May will catch your eyes every time she’s on the stage. With facial expressions that just pop, May’s exuberance radiates through her whole being as she’s flinging herself about in the big group numbers. And when it comes to having fun with the audience she’s a saucy flirty fun-loving gal with just enough coy cheek to leave you laughing as she passes your table. An overall brilliant shining star beaming straight from the ensemble, you won’t be able to miss May when she dances on by.

Two finer young male voices you will not find than the Kit Kat Boy (DJ Wojciehowski) and Ernst Ludwig (Matt Kopp). Both are featured in a solo performance, albeit at different renditions of the song, for “Tomorrow Belongs To Me,” providing hauntingly crisp clear vocals. In addition to his singing voice Kopp gets to showcase his acting talents by presenting a subtle German accent over his broken English. Starting off the play as a seemingly innocent man of business, Kopp’s character quickly reveals his true colors and vicious dark side emerges in his performance.

For this particular rendition many of the original songs were revived, including “Meeskite,” performed in a foggy drunken stupor by Herr Schultz (Mickey Goldstein). Lively importing flavor and a unique sense of pride into this particular song and his character overall, Goldstein brings a softly comic edge to the production whilst maintaining the integrity of his character’s nobility. Paired off with the incomparable Frieda Enoch as Fraulein Schneider, Goldstein makes sweet music with her highlighting their subtle feelings of love for one another in duets like “It Couldn’t Please Me More” and “Married.”

Enoch all but steals the show with her flawless rendition of the stalwart German spinster. A weathered edge to her character’s tongue, Enoch provides a stunning German accent, each word articulated so she sounds truly authentic. And when she sings it’s with the purest of sounds and the deepest of emotions. Even her humorous apathy in “So What?” is laced with deep nostalgic tones and a fondly forgotten bittersweet feeling. She provides a versatile character, charming but willing to haggle or to lay down the law when necessary, breaking at exactly the right moments. Enoch shows a true understanding of the character’s development and is a knockout for her more morose number “What Would You Do?”

Frieda Enoch (Frau Schneider) and Mickey Goldstein (Herr Schultz). Photo by Ellie Swink.

Frieda Enoch (Fraulein Schneider) and Mickey Goldstein (Herr Schultz). Photo by Elli Swink.

The literal ringleader of the show takes form as the M.C. (Jason Damaso) welcomes everyone to the club and never really leaves your sightline thereafter. Even in scenes where his characters is not prominent Damaso is lingering just at the edge of the stage giving his character that extra creepy edge of being omnipresent and always watching. Being a difficult character to master, Damaso does so with a scandalous charm, flirting with the Kit-Kat girls and entertaining the audience with his bizarre sense of humor. His character is meant to be awkward and slightly creepy and Damaso finds the balance of this strange entity, particularly for numbers like “Two Ladies” where he showcases his vocally talented side.

Wrapping up the focus of the show is the toast of Mayfair Fraulein Sally Bowles (Amanda Spellman) and her flavor of the show, American novelist Clifford Bradshaw (Carl Williams.) The pair make for an intriguing juxtaposition; sin and simplicity clashing together like lightning striking a tree. Spellman plays the wildly flirtatious headliner at the night club whereas Williams is the subdued depressed writer. Williams is a nice addition to Spellman’s rendition of “Perfectly Marvelous” but really showcases his belting ability in “Why Should I Wake Up?”

Spellman has a rich British accent, giving her the sound of high society London whilst she carries on with a naïve gaiety; her troubles a million miles away and not worth a second thought. Her scintillating rendition of “Don’t Tell Mama” is performed with flagrant sex appeal. But Spellman shows the depth of her character (as well in the more subdued opening of Cabaret) – the brokenness of her soul ringing through her voice, quickly patched over by her go-get-‘em attitude. A singing sensation that will bring you out for a night of solid fun in this Cabaret.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission.

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Cabaret plays through February 24, 2013 at Olney Theatre Center’s Mulitz-Gudelsky Thatre Lab— 2001 Olney Sandy Spring Road in Olney, MD. For tickets call (301) 253-6210, or purchase them online.

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