Cabaret is one of those musicals that has kind of become a classic. I saw the show in Toronto a few weeks ago as part of Roundabout Theatre Company’s 50th Anniversary tour of the show. It was one of the most unique and interesting shows I have ever seen. The show is set in the 1930s between the World Wars and the Nazis are starting to rise to power. The two main plots of the story are a failed romance between Fräulein Schneider (Mary Gordon Murray) and her elderly suitor Herr Schultz (Scott Robertson), a Jewish fruit vendor and a failed romance between American writer Cliff Bradshaw (Benjamin Eakeley) and cabaret performer Sally Bowles (Leigh Ann Larkin) and the Emcee (Randy Harrison) narrates the story.
In this show, there are some amazing solo numbers that get performed including “Maybe This Time,” sung by Sally and “What Would You Do?” sung by Fräulein Schneider. They are strong and beautiful numbers. Nothing else is happening on stage this time. The characters are frozen in tableau and there’s a spotlight on the singer while the rest of the stage is darker, but the characters are still visible. Either way, all the attention is focused on the soloist and they both did amazing jobs.
As someone with a dance background, the choreography of this show was mesmerizing to me. Because the show set to pretty classic, stereotypical Broadway sounding jazz, which was popular in the ’30s, it’s easy to choreograph something really good. I loved the classical jazz dances and of course the numerous kicklines. Everyone was so in sync and every beat of music had a movement from someone on the stage. Overall, the choreography was just really well done and really fun to watch.
I also liked the overall trajectory of the show. It started off being focused on the fun, nightlife style of the time. The Emcee even has a line that was something along the lines of “leave your worries at the door because we’re just here to have fun.” But like most musicals, it’s all fun and games until you get to act II. The act I finale is actually pretty dark and the story gets darker from there; relationships fall apart, Nazism spreads, shady deals go down, etc. I think it’s important understand that this show is a reflection and commentary on the politics and other things that were happening in Germany at the time. It’s just crazy how people use the theatre for politics (not that that’s a bad thing necessarily, I mean look at The Sound of Music or even Hamilton) and make such bold statements about sensitive topics. But that’s one of the whole reasons I love the theatre is because theatre can do that and somehow people leave remarkably unoffended.
Overall, I thought this was a good production. The sets, lights, and sounds were all wonderful and added so much to the performance, the cast was wonderful, and it sent a strong message. It was definitely one of the more artistic shows I’ve seen rather than narrative, but it was still really well done.