It seems that most of the shows that I have seen recently in the Twin Cities speak to our current times by reflecting on our country's past. Ragtime by Theater Latte Da, The Parchman Hour and Hold These Truths, both at the Guthrie, all serve this purpose. Cabaret which started its run in Minneapolis last night at the Orpheum Theater also serves as a mirror to our present. Instead of being set in our own country it is set in Berlin, Germany from 1929 to 1930.
Cabaret takes place during the end of an era in Germany. One that saw advancements in both the science and the arts, and was followed by the rise of nationalistic sentiment and the Nazi party. It is based off the play I Am Camera adapted from Christopher Isherwood's semi-autobiographical novel Goodbye to Berlin. It takes place in a Cabaret, your host is the Emcee (Randy Harrison) and the headliner is Sally Bowles (Andrea Goss). Sally becomes enchanted with an American writer Cliff (Benjamin Eakeley) who is staying at Fraü Schneider's (Mary Gordon Murray) boarding house. Fraü Schneider is being courted by a Jewish fruit seller, Herr Schultz (Scott Robertson). As political pressures rise we see things both inside and outside of the Cabaret start to crumble.
Randy Harrison as the Emcee and the 2016 National Touring cast of Roundabout Theatre Company’s CABARET. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Cabaret is a haunting story, and the Roundabout Theater Company's production design seems to center around this element. The costumes could be described as burlesque, with the cabaret performers wearing lingerie, but there is always an underlying tone of run down desperation. Even the set, which involves multiple levels and an illuminated frame, rides the line of being glitzy while still maintaining an uneasy and haunted air. The design is so consistent that even the band maintains the esthetic, performing in costume on the second level.
Cabaret is filled with many popular songs, recognizable to any musical theater fan, including "Willkommen," "Maybe This Time" and "Cabaret." The touring cast of the Cabaret gave beautiful vocal performances of these songs. Randy Harrison as the Emcee imbued his performance with both warmth and anger. It is his job to both welcome the audience and set the tone for the evening, and he performed these jobs wonderfully. Andrea Goss's performances of "Mein Herr" and "Cabaret" were unique to anything that I had heard on a recording. Unique in their timing, which brought the necessary weight to what she was singing about.
The tour of Cabaret currently playing at the Orpheum is a daring and cohesive production that tells a haunting story which reflects on the dangers and challenges of our current time.
Cabaret is running at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Minneapolis until October 23.
Links to check out before or after the show:
Article about lyric change in "If You Could See Her"
Randy Harrison Transforms into the Emcee
Andrea Goss Transforms into Sally Bowles
Thank you to Hennepin Theater Trust for inviting me to this production.