I had the opportunity to go see "Cabaret" at the Hult Center in Eugene this week. After hearing the rest of my party go on and on to everyone about how bad it was, I feel I must write my review and defend it. Unlike the rest of the group, I went to the show already understanding it was a story set in Berlin during the Nazi era of Germany. I own and listen to the CD, so I knew this was not going to be a light-hearted show about flapper girls with no plot. So with that said, here is my review!
My initial experience upon entering the theater -- the usher refused to give me a program. I was told to share with my mom. Then we learned the cranky woman wanted five others in our group to also share our program. What?? I have been to many, MANY shows and always get my own program. My mom and I are the people that actually do read through the programs and check out the cast bios. Sharing was weird. The usher was more weird. Okay - on with the show.....
Our seats were great! Row eleven, dead center! I thought the set looked like a "Hidden Mickey"... this would distract me throughout the show. The set was simple - no curtain, so we were able to watch the subtle changes with the minimal props. The music began, and on to the stage came Zac Mordechai, the Emcee. He was the show! The best part. Without him there would be no joy or life in this production.
I was the only one in our group to like the show. I suspect this is because the rest may have gone into it with the opposite expectations of how the story really is. Why did I like it? I think because it is a show that does catch you off guard. You think it is all sin and lust at the Kit Kat Club until right at the end of the first act when we see our first Nazi swastika. There were hints to the Nazis at the start, but if you don't know the setting you could have easily missed it I suppose.
I felt the first act was all build up, looking at the lives of the characters. Relationships were formed and things seemed to look good for them. We have naughty songs, celebratory songs, silly songs about pineapples??? -- not much substance, but a whole lot of nonsense!
Act two started great! If you enjoy cabaret dancers and androgynous men in drag, you'd like it, too! But then the fun stops. We see the characters dealing with real life issues in that time period. Love is tested when the Nazis gain more power. Safety is questioned. Equality doesn't exist anymore. People are struggling to make enough money to survive. Prostitution. Abortion. Real life issues. Some want to flee, others are in denial of what is really happening around them.
The Emcee acts as our way of knowing what is going on politically. He shows us how we are all the same - but also the harsh reality that if you are Jewish (or gay) you are not equal in the eyes of the Nazis. If you really watch and understand and have any compassion, it is a story with a really powerful message that can still be applied today. And that is why I liked it. I like a show that makes me think and feel emotions - good or bad. Cabaret struck a chord with me and overall I enjoyed it!
Now with the bad.... there is overacting and then there is OVER ACTING!! One character is supposed to be dramatic, but the female lead just did it too freaking much. It became almost unbearable at times. Some scenes felt long or unnecessary for the story line progression. These are the times I stared at the Hidden Mickey. The music itself isn't as catchy throughout the show as I'd like. They don't all have to be showstoppers, but some just lacked any wow factor for me. Whoa - did I just turn this into one of my bitchy American Idol reviews??
Would I go see Cabaret again? Probably not - unless Alan Cumming was reprising his role as Emcee, but that's just 'cause I'd love to see Alan Cumming do anything! Our Emcee was great, however. He alone earned my standing ovation. I will, continue to listen to the CD and watch Youtube videos of it. Really it was the dialogue of the show that slowed things down, not the music.
Overall rating - taking into consideration the acting, production, pace, music, yada yada yada .... I'd say C+. (Coming from me, I'd say C+ is pretty darn good. Not every show is Starlight Express. They can't all get an A+!) A few minor things would have bumped the rating way up. The singing and dancing was great. I loved the cabaret girls and the musicians!! Costumes - great. General acting from some key players - not so great.
Thank you, Zac Mordechai - you really made the night!!