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Theatre Review: Cabare -- The classic returns to the Hasty Pudding Theatre.

CABARET

The Cambridge Theatre Company at the Hasty Pudding Theatre.

Music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb.

Starring Becca Ayers, Christopher Yates, Spiro Malas, Marni Nixon, and Jonathan Hammond as the Master of Ceremonies.

Choreographed by Hope Clarke.

Directed by Julianne Boyd.

Through November 23rd.

By Vladimir V. Zelevinsky
Staff Reporter

"Berlin's nightclubs were the most uninhibited in Europe Above all, Berlin in the 1920s represented a state of mind, a sense of freedom and exhilaration." - Otto Friedrich, Before The Deluge.

The eighties were the age of Andrew Lloyd Webber, the nineties are the age of Kander and Webb. Chicago gets all the raves, Steel Pier opened with hype, and now the Hasty Pudding Theatre, Harvard Square, is putting on the revival of Cabaret, and the show still resonates with the same angry power, as much as it did when it opened, and as much as it did in 1972, when Bob Fosse made it into a famous movie.

Welcome to cabaret, ladies and gentlemen. Here you'll forget all your troubles, here the girls are beautiful. Even the orchestra is beautiful. And each and every one of them is a virgin!

You'd be right not to believe this, it's as much of a lie as everything else said by the demonically clowning Master of Ceremonies, who invites the audience into the seductively garish world of the Kit Kat Club. The time is 1929, the place is Berlin, and the world is on the brink of a catastrophe and about to realize that such an abstract thing as politics can influence the lives of normal people.

Clifford Bradshaw (Christopher Yates) is a struggling novelist who arrives to Berlin from the States to earn some money and get a start on his novel. He meets Ernst (Patrick Emerson), a friendly German with no regard for the law and an unclear political agenda, who points Clifford to two places: a cheap apartment, run by Fraulein Schneider (Marni Nixon), and a cabaret, where the main attraction is a young British singer Sally Bowles (Becca Ayers). Fraulein Schneider proves to be quite agreeable, and Clifford moves in; Sally proves to be even more agreeable, and moves in with Clifford. But Sally's and Clifford's desire to lead a perfectly marvelous insulated existence clash with the changing world outside, where the people are content to sit passively and watch while the ambitious guys with swastikas acquire more and more power.

The cabaret itself mirrors the outside world, with its darkly manipulative M.C. staging elaborate production numbers, which work both as parodies and comments on the events in the rest of the show. Some of these songs are stunning, especially "Tomorrow Belongs to Me", which starts as a lyrical folk song and gradually acquires the military rhythm of a fascist march.

It comes as a slight disappointment that the central plot, the romance between Clifford and Sally, is extremely episodic. While there is nothing wrong with each separate scene, they sorely lack the psychological connections and come across as plot points and not as believable developments. On the other hand, every other plot line is developed nicely, especially the secondary romance between Fraulein Schneider and an elderly Jewish fruit seller Herr Schultz. This is perhaps due to the confident performances of Spiro Malas and Marni Nixon (who dubbed vocals for both Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady" and Natalie Wood in "West Side Story"). The rest of actors turn in good work as well, being impressive without replicating the performances of Fosse's definitive version.

However, the most impressive aspect is set design: while the stage is relatively small, the swinging walls make it into four different locations. The orchestra is also dressed up (half of it in drag) and feels like the part of the show. And so does the audience; by being the spectators of the cabaret show, we feel like the patrons of the cabaret, and as such, we are as much a part of the show as Sally and Clifford. And because of this, the events on stage - how the passive onlookers allowed a great evil to assume the power just by their inaction - concern us as well.