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Cabaret – Signature Theatre

Jordan Wright
May 20, 2015
Special to The Alexandria Times

Wesley Taylor (Emcee), Rachel Schur, Jamie Eacker, Colleen Hayes, Maria Rizzo, Jessica Thorne in Cabaret at Signature Theatre. Photo by Margot Schulman.

Wesley Taylor (Emcee), Rachel Schur, Jamie Eacker, Colleen Hayes, Maria Rizzo, Jessica Thorne in Cabaret at Signature Theatre. Photo by Margot Schulman.

Willkommen into The MAX for Signature Theatre’s production of Cabaret and you’ll be transported to post World War I Berlin in Set Designer Misha Kachman’s replica of the Kit Kat Klub where half the audience is seated on bentwood chairs at café tables lit with silk shaded lamps and set with vintage telephones – – all the better to see the slinky chorus girls in their red and black lingerie and gender-bending men in leather and lederhosen.   Close too, is a rotating stage rimmed in bare lightbulbs and backdropped by a Mylar curtain.  Kachman adds reflective industrial metal panels along the theatre walls and a two-story catwalk with a winding staircase for the show-within-a-show.  Off to one side two strapping bare-chested servers staff a wooden bar where patrons can belly up to German beer and Riesling at intermission.

As both Director and Choreographer, Matthew Gardiner doesn’t miss his cue when it comes to razzle-dazzle and flat-out sensationalism in this John Kander/Fred Ebb collaboration based on stories from Christopher Isherwood, that darling of Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury Group.  There are high kicks and undulating spines, reminiscent of Bob Fosse, and plenty of titillating duets and risqué ménages.  This may be the Kit Kat Klub, but there’s nothing kittenish about it.

Wesley Taylor (Emcee) in Cabaret at Signature Theatre. Photo by Margot Schulman

Wesley Taylor (Emcee) in Cabaret at Signature Theatre. Photo by Margot Schulman

Wesley Taylor plays the Emcee, a role that calls for major attitude.  His character is meant to be both alluring and dominating, and Taylor pulls it off with aplomb managing to affect a character of sadistic amorality and razor-sharp charm in an atmosphere so sexually charged a single match could set the whole theatre ablaze.

 Barrett Wilbert Weed (Sally) in Cabaret at Signature Theatre. Photo by Margot Schulman.

Barrett Wilbert Weed (Sally) in Cabaret at Signature Theatre. Photo by Margot Schulman.

Sally Bowles is played by the darling, doe-eyed Barrett Wilbert Weed – – a dizzyingly, captivating charmer with exquisite pipes that seems to have been recently sprung from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s imagination.  Her Sally is softer than most, more vulnerable and madly in love with Cliff, a Midwestern English teacher who has chosen a rather inopportune place and time, during the rise of the Nazi regime, to write a novel.  “I like this city,” he quips.  “It’s both tacky and terrible.”  Gregory Wooddell is masterful (and swoon-worthy) as Cliff – – managing to be both subtle and forceful in his interpretation of the lovesick innocent abroad.

Rick Foucheux (Herr Schultz) and Naomi Jacobson (Fraulein Schneider) in Cabaret at Signature Theatre. Photo by Margot Schulman.

Rick Foucheux (Herr Schultz) and Naomi Jacobson (Fraulein Schneider) in Cabaret at Signature Theatre. Photo by Margot Schulman.

But it’s grim times for the couple and their new friends, landlady Fraulein Schneider (Naomi Jacobson), Ernst the smuggler and Nazi sympathizer (Bobby Smith), Fraulein Kost, the prostitute (Maria Rizzo), and Herr Schultz (Rick Foucheux), the fruit seller.  Jackboots and turncoats keep encroaching on their merry life.  For Sally, it’s her last chance for a life outside the cruel reality of a seedy nightclub in a rapidly changing world.  But she is afraid to take it.  “One must keep mobile,” she gaily tells Cliff before launching into a goosebump-worthy version of the ballad “Maybe This Time”.

Wesley Taylor (Emcee) and the Kit Kat Boys and Girls in Cabaret at Signature Theatre. Photo by Margot Schulman.

Wesley Taylor (Emcee) and the Kit Kat Boys and Girls in Cabaret at Signature Theatre. Photo by Margot Schulman.

Look for all your favorite numbers – – “The Money Song”, “Perfectly Marvelous”, “Cabaret” and “Willkommen” to thrill as expected, especially as backed by a fabulous 9-piece orchestra led by Conductor and Pianist, Jon Kalbfleisch.  Costumes by award-winning designer, Frank Labovitz run the gamut from sexy lingerie, beaded flapper dresses and 1930’s hausfrau frocks, to the sinister uniforms of the Third Reich.

Through June 28th at Signature Theatre (Shirlington Village), 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206.  For tickets and information call 703 820-9771 or visit www.signature-theatre.org.

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