Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Cabaret is an examination of racism and unfamiliarity, self-involvement and extravagance, that is so relevant during this time of ferocious political rallies and mob mindset. There is an almost perfect score by Kander and Ebb, with no padding or bad songs.
Cabaret is the complicated love story between struggling novelist Cliff Bradshaw (Lee Aaron Rosen) and nightclub singer Sally Bowles (Andrea Goss) against the rise of the Nazi Party in 1930s Berlin. There is a subplot of older lovers, landlady Fraulein Schneider (Shannon Cochran) and her Jewish fruit-store-owning suitor Herr Schultz (Mark Nelson), who have to face the rise of the Nazis. All of this is controlled by the sassy and menacing Emcee (Randy Harrison).
There are several songs missing from the original score, particularly "The Telephone Song," performed in a cabaret with telephones at tables which was prevalent in Berlin at the time, and Cliff's song in the first act. The young boy coming stage forward to sing the convincing fascist anthem "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" is missing and in this production it is merely played on an old record player with the Emcee singing and frighteningly staring out at the audience.
Randy Harrison from "Queer as Folk" is outstanding as the Emcee. He adroitly holds the show together in this essential role. Randy hardly leaves the stage as he projects the nauseous level of the Emcee's oily and sarcastic magnetism to the audience. He has a captivating, confident voice singing the opening "Willkommen," as well as "Money" and "If You Could See Her."
Andrea Goss, with her oversized fur coat and brown paper bag, gives a charismatic performance as Sally Bowles. She plays the role differently, as a gauche, poignant character who is unsure of herself. She has marvelous vocal cords when belting out "Don't Tell Mama", "Mein Herr" "Perfectly Marvelous," and of course the title song at the end of the musical, as a worn character.
Shannon Cochran as Fraulein Schneider and Mark Nelson as Herr Schultz are beautiful together and they have pitch perfect resonance singing "It Couldn't Please Me More" and "Married," while Shannon Cochran is poignantly wonderful singing "What Would You Do?" They are the emotional heart of musical.
Lee Aaron Rosen gives a splendid performance as the idealistic and sympathetic Cliff who denies his own bisexuality. He has impressive vocal cords while singing "Perfectly Marvelous." Alison Ewing as Fraulein Kost is perfect with her beaming German-language version of "Married" and Ned Noyes is excellent as the smooth but deceitful Ernst. The scantily clad Kit Kat Girls and Boys are daringly sexual rather than sexy. They are also members of the large orchestra who are situated on the second tier of the stage under the direction of Robert Cookman, providing brittle and coordinated accompaniment.
The touring Cabaret is all about Randy Harrison and the great ensemble around him, the erotic choreography by Cynthia Onrubia that is reminiscent of the work of the late Bob Fosse, and the cunning and aggressive direction by BT McNicholl. It's a disturbing, touching musical that will stay with you long after the austere finale.
Cabaret plays through July 17, 2016, at the Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor Street just off Market and 6th, San Francisco. For tickets go to www.shnsf.com or call 888-746-1799. For more information on the tour, visit www.cabaretmusical.com.