It all started with Goodbye to Berlin, a novel by Christopher Isherwood. Isherwood published his semi-autobiographical novel of his pre-Nazi experience in 1939. John Van Druten adapted it into a play in 1951 titled I Am A Camera. A less successful film by that name followed in 1955.
The musical version, Cabaret, emerged in 1966 on Broadway and 1972 in film.
The Laboratory Theater chose Cabaret as its first musical. And what a brilliant choice it is in the 70th year since the concentration camps were liberated.
Director Brenda Kensler has chosen a cast that is absolutely fearless, unafraid to expose themselves physically and emotionally.
Taylor Adair is in her first leading role as Sally Bowles. She has some big shoes to fill. The role has been portrayed by some heavy hitters: Julie Harris, Judi Dench, and Liza Minelli among others. Adair quivers with manic energy born of cocaine mixed with too much gin. Her version of the title song is not a jaunty ditty about her old chum from Chelsea. It is raw desperation.
Ty Landers is suitably slicked back and slimily gleeful as the Emcee. Jason Drew as Cliff (Isherwood’s alter ego) is filled with all American earnestness as he searches for a plot for his novel. The Kit Kat Girls and Boys project world weariness, cigarettes drooping from their lips, even while they are doing the set changes.
Beverly Canell as Fraulein Schneider and Joseph Loiacono as Herr Schulz very nearly steal the show as the landlady who chooses survival and her Jewish suitor who is sure everything will be just fine.
When it comes right down to it, Cabaret is a terrifying look at what happened without any reassurance that it couldn’t easily happen again.