A second look: Winding Road's "Cabaret"

2013-12-20T22:19:00Z 2013-12-21T16:44:08Z A second look: Winding Road's "Cabaret"Kathleen Allen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 20, 2013 10:19 pm  • 

It's a critic's perogative to change her mind. Isn't it?

Earlier this month, I saw the opening night of Winding Road Theater Ensemble's production of "Cabaret" and though I felt it was chilling and powerful, I had a few problems with it, from pacing to uneven acting.

I saw it again tonight and I found none of those problems.

Maybe it was me; maybe it was the production on opening. But here's what happened tonight:

The pacing was perfect. The first act laid out the landscape: Pre World War II Berlin. The Kit Kat club is hopping. The Nazis are growing louder. And Sally Bowles, desperate for love, approval, thrills, and to fill some sort of void in her life without working for it, is the headliner at the Kit Kat Club. She's not a grand singer, but she's a big personality. Lucille Petty's Sally was all glitter and desperation. And fear. Big fear. She knows, on some level,  that what she yearns for will never be hers. Petty embodied that desperation, that longing.

Susan Arnold as Fraulein Schneider and David Alexander Johnston as Herr Schultz were our window into the mood of  Germany. The elderly couple love each other. He   is Jewish and doesn't believe the Nazi party has any staying power. She isn't Jewish and senses that big, painful changes are coming to her country. This is a love that can not be, she is convinced. Arnold and Johnston underscored the tragedy that comes from lives abruptly altered in such a devastating way.

Dani Dryer as the budding Nazi Ernst and Nick Trice as the American who can step back and see what's happening in Germany, were strong, as was the ensemble of dancers and singers.

But it is Christopher Johnson's Emcee that brings the decadence, the willful ignorance, and the tragedy home for the audience. 

When the lights went up after tonight's performance, the audience sat still. And silent. The content of what we just saw could not be applauded; it was just too distressing. It took several seconds before they rose to their feet to applaud the exhausted cast.

I wish the opening night performance had been this settled, this powerful.

But mostly I'm glad I decided to see it again. "Cabaret" is a brilliant musical. This production understood that it's not a feel-good piece; it is a peek into a dark, damaged world, one we must never forget.

This play isn't entertaining — it shouldn't be. But it is profoundly moving.

This is the last weekend for the production, and though an extra performance has been added, Winding Road is sold out. Still, it's worth getting on a waiting list, or hanging around the theater door at the Temple of Music and Art's upstair Cabaret space and begging to be let in. Call 401-3626.

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