Life in the Spotlight
|Address:||30 Siri Francis Drake Blvd.- The Barn
Ross, CA 94957
|Phone:||415-456-9555 ext. 1|
CABARET—Ross Valley Players put life in the spotlight
Review by Judith M. Wilson
Photographs by Robin Jackson
1930s Berlin was an alluring place, with music, laughter and good times. But it was also sliding into dark times, and Cabaret does a masterful job of capturing the changing mood of the time with astute observations on human nature and the political oppression that occurs when power falls into the wrong hands. It’s the opening play for Ross Valley Player’s 88th season, and with James Dunn’s direction, it’s a winner.
The action opens with the carefree and decadent cabaret lifestyle of post World War I Europe at its height, and it revolves around the Kit Kat Club and the people in its sphere, who offer different perspectives on life in Germany as the Nazis become increasingly dominant. The cabaret serves as a metaphor, with life in the spotlight, and the themes are weighty, but catchy tunes, well-drawn characters and a good story make it an audience favorite.
It’s all fun and games at the beginning, when American writer Cliff Bradshaw, played by Izaak Heath, arrives in Berlin and meets and becomes involved with Sally Bowles, a minimally talented cabaret singer who performs at the Kit Kat Club. Izaak Heath, a College of Marin drama student who has turned in solid performances at both COM and RVP, plays Bradshaw, and the glitter of the cabaret scene enthralls him at first. He’s a moral man and a keen observer, though, and can’t help but recognize the signs that Germany is rapidly becoming a dangerous place. Emily Radosevich (left) is Cliff’s opposite as an engaging Sally Bowles, a young woman who’s deluded about her own talent and dismisses Cliff’s concerns. Ultimately, she conveys a kind of sadness that things can’t work out they way Cliff would like, but she always puts her own needs first. Erick Batz (below right) is a standout as the Emcee, who sings and dances, but also scores political points, and Ian Swift as Herr Schultz and Maxine Sattizahn make the most of a subplot about a mature, but bittersweet romance. The performances of all the performers are all finely-honed, creating a well-crafted, appealing show.
The music, with a live orchestra under the direction of Debra Chambliss, enhances the story with tunes that reflect the mood. “Cabaret” and “Money” are crowd-pleasers, and “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” is particularly telling in two renditions that underscore the dramatic changes in German society and the people view the world.
Scenic designer Ron Kremptez’s set is simple but effective, allowing easy transitions to the various locales, including the Kit Kat Club, a train, a boarding house, Herr Schultz’s store and street scenes. And Michael Berg pays attention details in the period costumes, which include a fur coat that has a meaningful role.
This version of Cabaret is the 1998 Broadway revival, a Tony Award winning show that reworks the original musical from 1966, adding to the drama, but retaining its power and musical favorites. Written by Joe Masteroff, it’s based on author Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories, published in 1945 with the benefit hindsight, and playwright John Van Druten’s I Am a Camera (1951), which was based on Isherwood’s novel Good Bye to Berlin. It’s a look back at one of worst times in the world’s history, and through its characters, it shows the various reactions of people to political change—fear, sadness, acceptance, dismissal, obliviousness to danger and taking advantage of power to bully and oppress others. As such, Cabaret delivers a message about the need to learn from past mistakes and not repeat them. And the Ross Valley Players deliver that lesson in a most entertaining way.
Cabaret plays at The Barn Theatre at the Marin Art & Garden Center in Ross through Sunday, October 15. For information and show times and to order tickets, go to www.rossvalleyplayers.com.