Cabaret may be a play set in the 1930s that was written in the 1970s, but it sure is timely for 2016. This dark musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb (produced in this current revival by Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall) is set in the last, decadent days of Weimar Berlin during the rise of the Nazis, but its themes of totalitarianism, intolerance, political violence and sexual freedom resonate loudly in the America of Trump and Twitter.
The Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Cabaret brings the audience into the seedy Kit Kat Club, where “life is beautiful, the girls are beautiful, even the orchestra is beautiful.” So says the polymorphously perverse Emcee, played by Randy Harrison in a leather trenchcoat, black lipstick and aura of sinister bemusement. Alongside him are the Kit Kat Girls, who do double duty as a hip-shaking chorus line and house band and make fine work of both.
Andrea Goss’ Sally Bowles is the flapper as manic pixie dream girl, valiantly clinging to notions of move contracts and luxury hotels even as her world declines into a sleazy nightmare. Her “Don’t Tell Mama” number has a nice tawdry Betty Boop aura and she managed to balance Sally’s ostensible lack of talent with her own authentic abilities.
The relationship between landlady Fraulein Schneider and tenant Herr Schultz supplies the play’s emotional and political heft. They are tow lonely people who meet late and life and look forward to growing old together, until the resident Nazi thug “advises” the lady against marrying a Jew. As Fraulein Schneider, Shannon Cochran conveys an aura of shabby elegance and world-weariness that makes her brief moment of romantic hopefulness that much more touching—and her heartbreak that much more devastating. Mark Nelson gives Herr Schultz a nice comic touch that is welcome amidst the play’s darkness.
Not quite your usual pleasant evening of musical theater, Cabaret is a show that provokes. You’ll leave humming the songs, but also thinking about the story.
Through June 19, multiple showtimes at The Smith Center, $29-$129, 702-749-2000, TheSmithCenter.com