Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
This Arden Theatre Company version of Cabaret uses the Roundabout Theater Company's excellent 1998 revival script. The scenes that move the plot (book by Joe Masteroff) between the characters are cleverly interspersed with numbers performed at the Kit Kat Klub. The salacious cabaret performances are loads of fun and all have a nexus of connection with the larger story. John Kander (music) and Fred Ebb (lyrics) favorites, including "Willkommen," "Money," and "Cabaret," are deviously delightful thanks to strong performances by John Jarboe (who plays the iconic Emcee with unexpected empathy and restraint) and the Kit Kat Klub boys and girls. Unfortunately, Jarboe's recherche interpretation of the Emcee is undermined by some sound problems. It hard to hear when Jarboe is singing quietly or rattling off ribald one liners.
If Jarboe is elegant intensity, Hogeland is white hot passion. Her fierce energy radiates through titillating burlesque numbers and deeply emotional ballads. The spirit Hogeland brings to the role makes her an exceptionally impressive and sympathetic Sally Bowles. One female lead of this caliber may be enough to make a show worth seeing, but director Matthew Decker's Cabaret can boast two. Scallen gives a thrillingly powerful performance as the old battle ax Frau Schneider. Her rendition of "What Would You Do?" is particularly haunting. Fredrick is well cast as idealistic and awkward author Cliff. Mullen is impeccable as Ernst. Suli Holum and Kenny Morris provide a much needed dose of humor throughout.
The only thing missing from the production is an authentic sense of sensuality. Oh, there's lots of skin, some exquisitely erotic choreography, and myriad playful pats on the bottom. Yet I got the sense that the cast members are uncomfortably going through the motions and trying to touch each other as little as possible.
Thoroughly enjoyable and tragically relevant, Cabaret speaks to our current moment in history with merciful eloquence. Get tickets asap so you can come out and see for yourself. What good is sitting alone in your room anyway?
Cabaret runs through October 22nd, 2017, on the Arden Theatre Company's F. Otto Haas Stage at 40 N. 2nd Street in Philadelphia. For tickets Call the Arden Box Office at 215.922.1122, or visit www.ardentheatre.org.